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.”
“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.
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.”
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.
“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.”
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.”
“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:
Seth Van Matre
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.”
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.
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 other 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.”
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.