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Tag Archives: Burges High School

Burges Student-led Thrift Shop Celebrates Anniversary

A project that began as a community service outlet for two sisters a year ago is now flourishing into a full-fledged service under the direction of the two girls’ younger sister.

Bella’s Bargain, a thrift store that opened at Burges High School to give all students access to stylish and affordable clothing regardless of income, celebrated its first anniversary earlier this month.

The store is the brainchild of Burges alumnae Arabella and Isabella Cadena, twins who are now freshmen at the University of Texas at Austin. Bella’s Bargains provides donated clothing free of charge to any student in need, while those who can afford it pay a minimal charge.

The twins younger sister, Burges sophomore Mia Cadena, is now the president of the school organization that operates the thrift shop.

“It’s been amazing to see Bella’s Bargains grow over the last year. We have had thousands of donations from hundreds of people, Mia Cadena said. “I really do feel like the store makes a huge difference.”

Burges Early College counselor Alice Drury said the store has had a significant impact on the lives of students.

“We’ve been able to address the needs of some students who were very much in need of clothing,” she said. “The best part is that this store has become a symbol of the spirit of giving among not just our students, but the neighborhood and business community here at Burges, too.”

As Bella’s Bargains moves into its second year, student organizers hope to continue expanding the services it has provided.

The store, which is housed in Burges’ former custodial house, continues to gather donated clothes that may be useful for teenagers. In order to help students who may wish to attend end-of-school year celebrations, Bella’s Bargains hopes to collect as many used prom dresses and suits as possible.

Students and adults who wish to donate clothing , may drop it off at the school.

Story by Gustavo Reveles |  Photos by Leonel Monroy – EPISD 

Story in Many Pics: Northwest Texans Beat Burges Mustangs 48-14

The Burges Mustangs rode into Midland’s Grande Communication Stadium Friday night to take on the Northwest Texans for Round Two of the Texas High School Football Playoffs.

The Mustangs battled bravely, but the Texans were the team who came out on top 48-14.

David Lord, Special Photographer for the Herald Post, was there and we bring you his view of the game in this ‘Story in Many Pics.’

Hofstra University Honors Burges Debate Teacher

Burges teacher Keith Townsend speaks eloquently and passionately about his 30-year career in drama, forensics and debate – grinning with pride about his students’ accomplishments.

After only a few minutes of his time, it’s evident why New York’s Hofstra University selected him in its inaugural tradition of honoring forensic coaches regionally and nationally. He will be honored in March at the university’s Pi Kappa Delta National Speech and Debate Association Championship Tournament.

“At the tournament, we will present you with a certificate recognizing your leadership in and service to the debate and forensic community, a few little gifts from our Hofstra gift shop symbolizing our hope that you will be proud of your Hofstra connection, and a modest honorarium as a token of our recognition,” wrote Benjamin Rifkin, Dean of Hofstra College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, in his letter to Townsend.

The award also recognizes his role in supporting speech and debate in El Paso.

“It’s sort of neat to get that kind of a recognition. But it’s like, okay, this is absolutely the last coaching award. There are no more that exist,” he chuckled. “It’s when they start giving you awards like this, it’s like ‘wow, okay, I guess my career is over.’”

But the Burges teacher still has too much fire to retire – committed to coming to work before the sun rises every day to prepare for class and his students, as well as getting that ideal parking space.

“I’m having a good time with this and I can’t even tell you how great the students are,” he said. “I’m just really impressed with these kids. I have a job that I look forward to coming to everyday. That’s what makes this so good.”

Townsend’s career took a 360 turn from being a first-year teacher at Burges in the 1980s to spending seven years at Bowie High, moving on to Bel Air High during its reconstitution days, teaching at El Paso Community College for 17 years and then returning in 2017 to teach more generations of Mustangs.

Townsend lights up reminiscing about his Bowie student who won a state and national championship in persuasive speaking. Then there’s Jacob Rodriguez, Bowie’s current theater teacher, who sat in his class in the 1990s and won second place in nationals in poetry.

“I begged to go to Bowie because they didn’t have a program,” Townsend said. “I said ‘I can get a speech and a theater program there.’ What we had for seven years was the top program in the city.”

In his second stint at Burges, Townsend teaches dual credit speech, technical theater & design and musical theater. He comfortably walks through the multipurpose room – cans of paints, saws and other power tools strategically set throughout the room – watching his advanced students build sets in preparation for Burges’ upcoming show “All Hallow’s Eve Dream.” The dark 2075 adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream” will be staged beginning next week.

He and fellow theater teacher Fernie Arana challenged students to think outside the box during the development of their upcoming production. It took the students a couple weeks to transform their traditional mindset and go deeper into a more creative realm.

“I’d tell them ‘you’re on the right track but now take it further. Go as far as you can. I can pull you back, but I can’t pull you up. They had the most wild, outrageous ideas. Once I could get them to start doing that and trusting themselves, they came up with awesome ideas. We want to take the Burges program, get them to really think outside of the box and be really be over the top creative.”

Chloe Curtis, Burges senior, first met Townsend with his sister at EPCC shows and eventually performed under his direction there and with Viva El Paso. She’s currently taking his musical theater class.

“You can tell he has such a deep passion for what he does,” she said. “He cares about the kids and getting the story across.

Story by Reneé de Santos | Photos by Leonel Monroy – EPISD

Burges Students Compete in National JROTC Academic Bowl

Four JROTC students from this East-Central school packed their bags for a trip to Washington, but this was no vacation.

The incoming seniors competed in the 2018 Army JROTC Academic Bowl, also known as JLAB, where they won two of the nine competitions there and ranked among the top 3 percent of all JROTC teams in the country.

The Mustangs who competed were Camila de Leon, Jeremiah Davis Bell, Ryan Cruz and Dylan Jimenez.

“It’s a great honor to represent Burges JROTC and EPISD on a national level,” said JROTC instructor Jose Hernandez. “Our motto is ‘Our discipline got us started, and our passion keeps us going.’ That’s what got us this far.”

The competition officially started last November with more than 1,000 teams participating in Level I and Level II. Only the top 32 teams are chosen to compete at the championship.

“I believe we have a really strong team,” Hernandez said. “They know who’s good at what so they each can focus on their individual subjects.”

Cruz, who has been in JROTC the last three years, joined the academic team his sophomore year.

“As far as I know, this is the first time Burges has qualified for a competition like this,” Cruz said. “So, we are hoping this sets the standard for years to come.”

The team has been preparing by watching competitions from previous years and studying nonstop.

“It’s very rewarding because when we first started we didn’t expect to get this far,” Jimenez said. “We have been going over study material online. There’s nothing specific to study for because they will ask you anything from bodies of water around the world to Greek mythology. You really just have to be prepared for anything.”

Camilla de Leon excels at language arts – something she puts to good use as part of the academic team.

“Since we are not given specific things to study, we would get together and study things we are learning in class,” she said. “We also would drill each other on facts, anything from math, English, history and current events.”

For fellow teammate Jeremiah Davis Bell, the team has become much more than just academic achievement.

“We all have our own individual strengths, and we help each other however we can,” he said. “We are like family. We are brothers and sisters.”

He hopes the competition will help showcase the school.

“It feels awe inspiring to represent the District,” he said. “I see it as a chance to show other schools around the nation that anyone can make it if you put forth the effort.”

Story by Alicia Chumley  |  Photo by Leonel Monroy – EPISD

Video+Story: Burges Twins Open Thrift Store for Low-Income Students

Identical twins Isabella and Arabella Cadena brought new life into the old custodial quarters behind Burges High School, transforming it from a storage area into a new thrift store that benefits students who may not be able to afford clothes for school.

The twins officially dedicated Bella’s Bargains Friday giving the Burges community a new place to donate, trade and buy clothes for next to nothing or even free for those truly in need.

“The whole point of the store is for kids to come and get anything they might need, whether it be clothes or blankets,” Arabella said.

The idea for Bella’s Bargains came after years of community service projects as Girl Scouts and their involvement with clothing drives for the Rainbow Room, which serves children involved in Child Protective Services cases. As high school students, they realized the need within their own community when they started tutoring at-risk middle school students.

“We felt there was a need in the community for a place that can provide clothes,” said Isabella. “We want students to know that it’s here for them. If they need it, they shouldn’t feel ashamed to come in. We’re here for everybody.”

Bella’s Bargain faculty advisor Alice Drury, who nicknamed them the Bellas, has been a fan of the twins since their freshman year.

“I admire and respect what they’re doing,” she said. “They are truly humble girls that really want to make their world a better place.”

Inside Bella’s Bargains, the girls and other volunteers decorated the former house with lights and signs to give the store an inviting, boutique-like look. They crafted a dressing room out of PVC pipes and curtains and set up racks organized by clothing size. Shoes, blankets and other items are neatly organized throughout the store.

“I think it is such a blessing to our community,” Drury said. “It brings awareness to students about providing clothing for those that are in need.”

So far, items in the store have mostly come from Burges faculty and staff. They are hoping for community donations, too, especially menswear. All items inside the tiny store go for $5 or less with funds raised going back to the store.

“Right now, we’re open to just the Burges High School community. Hopefully, in the future, we can open up for the entire EPISD community,” Arabella said.

The community service aspect is important to the Bellas, and they hope the store inspires students to make contributions and volunteer to make a difference for their fellow Mustangs.

“You’re helping people in your life,” Arabella said. “Maybe everything is good for you right now but there are people who don’t have a great life like you do. You can come in and donate clothes and participate in this community project.”

Drury also hopes more students will get involved in Bella’s Bargains.

“It is a valuable learning experience and kids genuinely want to help and give back and this is a starting place,” Drury said. “Who knows where it’s going to lead them? How it’s going to nurture their heart? How it’s going to inspire them?”

The twins expect to see the store grow and continue even after their graduation. They will be leaving their legacy in the capable hands of their freshman sister, Mia Cadena.

“I have to make sure it doesn’t die out,” Mia said. “Clothing was our first part because we saw the need, but there’s also a need for toiletries and school supplies. We are seeing more and more often that kids don’t even have pencils.”

Mia looks forward to making sure Bella’s Bargains becomes a Burges tradition, benefiting students for years to come.

“I’m just excited, and I’m so proud of my sisters for getting this done,” Mia said. “I will get to have this as well. It’s part of our family.”

Story by Reneé de Santos  |  Photos by Leonel Monroy | Video by Raymond Jackson/EPISD

Burges Students Compete in State UIL Congressional Debate Meet

Two Burges Mustangs were among the best current-events debaters in the state after their outstanding participation in the University Interscholastic League Congressional Debate in Austin earlier this month.

Senior Emilio Posada and junior Devin Cain went head-to-head against some of the top debaters in Texas at the state competition.

“The kids get a chance to sit in a chamber of their peers and debate topics that parallel actual topics that are on the floor of Congress. Topics like immigration and federal funding,” said Burges Coach Jacklyn Ochoa. “They get the docket with all the bills and research it on their own time and make speeches to compete.”

Posada and Cain were the only EPISD students to qualify for state.

“They did very well. They did lots of research and worked very hard,” Ochoa said.

Congress is an individual contest in a large group setting, which models the legislative process of democracy. Within the mock legislative assembly competition, students draft legislation and research real-world social and political policies prior to the contest to prepare their speeches.

The state meet gave the Burges students a glimpse into the tough state competition, which they said will help other future EPISD contestants do better in future years.

“I was complimented by other coaches on their demeanor, research and their ability to handle parliamentary procedures,” Ochoa said. “They acquire a lot of knowledge and are up to date on current events, which helps them become responsible adults because they realize how the impact of these issues.”

In addition to practice after school on Tuesdays and Thursday, students spent any free time researching and learning as much as possible.

“Information is the most powerful tool we have. The more informed, the more active the youth is, especially with current events, the more good can come to our communities,” Posada said. “Being part of the debate team has opened a lot of doors for me. I’ve had people tell me that for someone my age, it’s impressive I can speak professionally in front of so many people.”

Posada has been part of the debate team all four years – something he says has impacted his outlook on life.

“It really opens a lot of doors, learning to speak and obtaining information,” he said. “I’m very grateful for everything I have learned and all these experiences.”

This is the first year Cain competes at UIL state competition.

“I was very happy to go. It was very challenging. One of the best things this year is how far we have gotten. You have to be prepared because you have to know everything and be able to back it up,” he said. “One of the biggest things I have learned is patience, but more importantly when to say things and when not to.”

Cain thinks people should stay informed, especially in today’s world where they are is a lot of information to digest.

“It’s important because it’s not really helpful if you’re in a society where no one understands what’s going,” he said. “If you understand current events and are familiar with public speaking you can talk in public with other people.”

His advice: “Always use multiple sources. If you use multiple sources that all same thing, it makes your point a lot more credible.”

Story by Alicia Chumley / Photos by Leonel Monroy

Burges One Act Play makes Historic Fifth Trip to State Competition

Burges High School theater students earned a spot in the one-act play competition with their rendition of Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons.”

The 15-member troupe will stage the one-act play one last time in Round Rock as they compete against seven other high schools this week for state honors. It is the second time Burges has earned a trip to state in one-act in three years.

“We’ve worked really hard,” said senior Priscilla Perez, who plays Ann Deever. “We would stay here long hours, come in on Saturdays. We just kept working and trying to improve to make the show better.”

The story takes place in the late 1940s and centers around Joe Keller and his guilt for his role in shipping defective airplane parts to the Air Force causing the death of 21 pilots. Keller justified his actions by saying he did it for his family.

“I want to tell the story and the story of these characters so the audience can feel it and understand what these characters were going through and what life was like for them,” Perez said.

041117Burges312Senior Samuel Apodaca, who plays Joe Keller, credits the groups work ethic, the Burges tradition and theater teacher Fernie Arana for the program’s success.

“We’ve come so far, working day in and day out,” said Apodaca, who will be making his second trip to state. “And it has paid off.”

Arana draws who may not ordinarily be comfortable on stage and molds them into solid actors.

“Mr. Arana breaks down barriers and gets students where they need to be,” Apodaca said.

Arana, who has been teaching at Burges for 15 years, has taken students to state in one-act five times and to regionals 12 times.

“It is a privilege and honor to go to state because these kids have been working hard all year long,” Arana said.

He has instilled in his students a solid work ethic and goal-setting to keep them focused and improving. For him, the Arthur Miller play is about setting a solid foundation with the classics.

“There are true life lessons in these classic plays,” he said. “They can apply them in their life as they grow.”

Burges Students earn Record Number of UTEP Scholarships

Thirteen Burges High School seniors earned academic scholarships to the University of Texas at El Paso — the most for any EPISD campus.

The students were notified of their scholarship during a surprise ceremony Wednesday that featured cheerleaders, the marching band and, of course, representatives from UTEP.

“Burges was the number one school in EPISD to get the most scholarships,” UTEP recruiter Danielle Garcia said. “With their outstanding academic caliber we are proud that they will be representing our institution, and we are honored to have them as part of our prestigious UTEP Scholars Excellence Program.”

news2_2597_mIn total, the students earned a total of $160,000 in scholarships.

“To say that I am honored would be an understatement,” Senior Seth Van Matre said. “This is a very big deal. I had no idea about this.”

Van Matre was awarded with the Tanzanite Award, which provides $2,000 per year or a total of $8,000, to go toward his college education.

“I am very glad that I am here, and I know that all the hard work I have done the last four years has led up to this moment,” Van Matre said. “I would like to thank everyone that has been on that journey, from my parents to my friends to the faculty and my teachers.”

If anyone knows about putting in a lot of work into academics it is definitely fellow student and valedictorian Jaymee Saldivar. She was presented with the Presidential Scholarship, the top scholarship for the program, totaling $32,000 over the span of four years.

“I am very strict with myself, with my schooling and my grades. I strive for excellence in my academic endeavors. I’ve put in the work all four years,” Saldivar said. “I feel very honored and privileged to receive this scholarship for my education.”

UTEP received more than 13,000 scholarship applications for the 2017 school year and only 330 incoming freshmen were awarded scholarships. Students are selected based on their academic achievements, test scores and overall school performance.

Senior Jaeden Fiocca beamed with pride, holding the scholarship certificate against his chest.

“I am very happy right now. This is first scholarship awarded to me. It’s very special,” Fiocca said.

Fiocca shared his advice for other students hoping to earn scholarships.
“Just keep trying. It’s long nights every single day studying and on weekends too,” Fiocca said. “You have to sacrifice a lot. It just comes down to doing everything to the best of your abilities.”

For Burges college readiness coordinator Arthur Beck, the award ceremony was a proud moment. He, along with the counseling staff and administration, dedicate a lot of time in making sure students are applying for scholarships and looking at long term goals.

“Free time is always difficult for these kids because they are involved in everything, but you really got to make the time to get these things done,” Beck said. “The students have earned these scholarships with all the hard work they’ve done here at Burges. They went above and beyond.”

The 13 Burges Mustangs who received UTEP academic scholarships are:

Jaeden Fiocca
Michael Guillen
Arielle Mack
Marco Martinez
Seth Van Matre
Bianca Navarrete
Isaac Ortiz
Anthony Ramirez
Ryan Ross
Jaymee Saldivar
Olivia Valerio
Mark Williams
Elayne Winfield

Burges Yearbook wins Seventh Pacemaker Award for Excellence

Hoofbeats, the Burges High School yearbook won its seventh Pacemaker Award, a national accolade that is often referred to as the Pulitzer Prize of high-school publishing.

The award is given by the National Scholastic Press Association to high-school journalists who have excelled in online publication, newspaper, yearbook, magazine and broadcast. It is considered the top award for high-school publications.

For senior Jordan Steyer being part of an award-winning yearbook staff strengthens her resolve to study journalism at the University of Texas at Austin this fall.

“It’s great to be part of this staff and win such a prestigious award,” Steyer said. “The award brings national recognition not just for our yearbook staff but also our campus.”

Steyer hopes to use what she has learned in yearbook to succeed in college, where she plans to hone her writing and editing skills.

“I have learned the importance of organization, patience, and just the ability to deal with a lot of things at once,” Steyer said.

Senior Jonathan Castro will also attend UT-Austin in the fall and strengthen the graphic design skills he learned in high school.

“I have developed skills for the future. It’s something I am good at, and I am going to pursue in college,” Castro said. “The fact that we won the Pacemaker just cements my decision.”

The students feel the book’s bold design set their yearbook apart from the more than 300 entries.

“We always use clean and neat designs, but with the last two books we have been thinking more out of the box and taking more risks,” Castro said.

Ideas for the book’s design and theme come during brainstorm sessions during the summertime. The staff also does research and watches for trends in the media before solidifying their concept.

Yearbook advisor Pat Monroe credits the Pacemaker honor to her students’ creativity and teamwork.

“I knew it was an excellent book and that it would win an award. I get the satisfaction as a teacher to look at this beautiful thing they created,” Monroe said. “We never tire of winning, but we look at it as a way to do things even better the next year and how we can continue to improve.”

Junior Jasmine Tabler looks forward to the next year when her responsibilities for putting the 2017 book together and her journalistic knowledge grow.
“I feel like I played more of a role in this yearbook as assistant editor. My contribution made an impact,” Tabler said. “I love everything about yearbook, but it has really made me a stickler for details.”

Monroe knows this attention to detail will stay with the students the rest of their lives.

“They get to learn on the job. Journalism is one of the best professions to teach life skills,” Monroe said. “They have to not only learn to write, design and take photos but most importantly learn to talk to people and work hard as part of a team.”

The Pacemaker has given the staff a boost of confidence and encourages them to continue growing as writers, designers and photographers.

“Yearbook helped me decide what I wanted to study,” Tabler said. “Winning an award like the Pacemaker just helps reassure me to keep working toward something I really want to keep doing.”

Burges High School Actors Continue to Thrive on Stage

The Burges High School UIL One-Act Play troupe may have won a recent tournament in Snyder, Texas, but that doesn’t mean the student thespians are taking a break from rehearsals.

For the second straight year, the Burges theater group will compete in the University Interscholastic League regional tournament on April 21 in Lubbock for a chance to make the state tournament.

“I’m very proud of these kids and their accomplishments,” theater teacher Fernie Arana said. “Whatever happens from here is gravy, although state would be the ultimate for us.”

Around 23,000 Texas school students participate in more than 300 UIL theatre contests starting in March so the competition is tough. Adding to the competitiveness of the contest, students are under time constraints, having only seven minutes to set up and seven minutes to strike the set for their 40-minute play.

“These kids have consistently done very well in the last 14 years, competing at area, regionals or state,” Arana said. “Last year we were one of the top eight schools in the state of Texas and number one in our region.”

The students performed the Pulitzer-winning play “Anna in the Tropics,” which is written by Cuban playwright Nilo Cruz and is the first Latino-written play to win the honor in Drama.

“I thought it was a great play for us to research. These kids have definitely done their homework,” Arana said.

They play explores Cuban-American culture through the lives of cigar factory workers in Florida. The owners hire a lector to read plays and classical works to the workers, many of which did not know to read or write.

“That is something we have learned throughout this whole journey. The Latino culture has always put an importance on education,” Arana said. “It was something we need to celebrate and a story that needed to be told in our community.”

Student Salvador Mendoza took to heart some of the lessons the characters learned in the play.

“The biggest thing I have learned is that you can’t let jealousy or impulses guide your actions. You should think things through,” Mendoza said.

unnamed (20)The senior hopes his time at Burges and all the competitions he has participated in will help him when he graduates and studies theatre in college, but for now he is focused on the regional competition.

“I feel a little nervous, but I am confident in our company that we will be able to come together and give our best performance,” Mendoza said.

Senior Hannah Perches found a personal connection to the play in one of the work’s main themes – the importance of family.

“It’s important to be there for your family when they need you,” Perches said. “I have also learned dedication. You not only have to work hard to keep up your grades in school but also work really hard at rehearsals and do the best you can,” Hannah said.

Working hard is something the Burges students know to do, rehearsing everyday after school and sometimes on the weekend, despite otherunnamed (22) extracurricular and personal commitments.

“These kids are in organizations ranging from Honor Society to athletics, and some even have jobs,” Arana said. “We work around their schedules and try to balance everything.”

Arana believes the arts are essential to the growth of EPISD students.

“They are not just athletes or students, they are artists, and they are well developed,” Arana said. “I think that says a lot about our district. We are concerned about these students as a whole.”

Junior Aaron Palacios agrees. He has been in theatre for two years, and he has seen a real difference in himself.

“Theatre is definitely a confidence booster. As an actor you are forced to be confident because you go on stage in front of a large audience,” Palacios said. “Not only that, but the discipline in our theatre makes us better students and better people.”

Burges Yearbook Nominated for National Award

The 2015 Hoofbeats – Burges High School’s award winning yearbook – has once again earned a slot among the finalists for the prestigious, nationally recognized Pacemaker Award.

Burges has won five Pacemaker awards in eight nominations in the past 23 years.

“It is a huge honor, and it’s nice to see the staff being honored for their commitment to excellence and dedication to their school,” advisor Pat Monroe said. “The students work so hard, putting in endless hours to create a beautiful publication.”

The National Scholastic Press Association recently announced the 2015 finalists in the Yearbook Pacemaker competition. The
Hoofbeats and other finalists were selected for their clean designs, strong photography and comprehensive coverage of local and national trends. The finalists also had clever and solid themes that developed both visually and verbally throughout their books.

“They understand the importance of a yearbook and what it means to the students,” Monroe said of her staff. “They don’t get the credit they deserve, so it’s nice that they are recognized on the national level for their work. I am so proud of them.”

The award itself is known as the Pulitzer Prize of high school journalism, the highest award a high school publication can receive.

“For the journalism department, it is incredible,” editor Jordan Steyer said. “We put so many hours to create the book, and it’s great that it is recognized on a national level.”

The staff beamed with pride when the announcement was made.

“They knew that all of the time and the work would pay off, and that was how,” Steyer said. “They also liked the recognition that it brought our program. We all spend so much time working on it, and it really is great to get this nomination.”

A team of judges comprised of experienced journalism professionals and educators chose finalists from five categories. From the 367 total entries, 89 were selected as finalists.

Pacemaker winners will be announced at the JEA/NSPA Spring National High School Journalism Convention, April 14-17, 2016 in Los Angeles, CA.

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