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Home | Tag Archives: El Paso ISD

Tag Archives: El Paso ISD

Microsoft computer science mentors help Young Women’s Academy students

Ninth-graders at YWA this year have teamed up with Microsoft to bring female professionals in the world of computer science to share lessons and advise about thriving in a male-dominated field.

Two San Francisco Bay-based mentors with Microsoft Philanthropies’ Technology Education and Literacy in Schools, or TEALS, program have worked with YWA students since the beginning of the school year using special distance learning software to impart instruction on computer science initiatives.

This week, though, the two professions flew to El Paso to meet with the students face to face and do some hands-on mentoring and teaching.

“It’s a very innovative approach of having remote instructors and classroom teachers work together to ultimately develop both the students,” said YWA teacher Pete Delgado. “Right now, I’m being developed as a computer science instructor and I’ll eventually be able to deliver the instruction with minimal assistance from the volunteers.”

TEALS connects classroom teachers with tech-industry volunteers to create sustainable computer science programs in high schools throughout the country.

Coronado, El Paso, Chapin, Austin and Andress high schools also work with TEALS. However, YWA’s all-girls enrollment allowed Microsoft to assign a uniquely all-female mentoring team to the school.

“The volunteers serve as role models who can provide actual real-world experience, teach some of the skills and some of the things that are required in the field and can share what career opportunities are available,” Delgado said. “Our students will begin to realize that some of the interests that they might have in computers –whether it is from playing games or doing some programming – can develop into an actual career.”

Volunteer Rachel Okun’s passion for coding is infectious.  The Bay Area software engineer with Course Hero recalls the excitement she felt making the words “Hello World” come to life on her computer screen during her first CS course as a young girl.

“I hope the students gain an understanding of what coding is and how you can make small changes on your screen, give instructions to the computer and have the computer do something,” she said. “Making the computer do something is so cool to me.”

Tiffany Chiao, who works on YouTube TV, didn’t initially think about computer science as a career. The University of California, Berkley, alumna took computer science boot camps and online courses to become proficient in the industry after earning a literature degree.

“It’s so inspiring to see others who are doing the work you are thinking about doing,” Chiao said. “I didn’t know any women who did (computer science) so I think that’s why it never came up to me as a possible career. Now, I’m showing female students that it’s fun and that it can be done.”

Both Chiao and Okun are part of a four-member team of women working with EPISD’s all-girls school. They spent Monday and Wednesday meeting the students in real life after weeks of teaching lessons remotely

“Having a female role model and seeing that we are in this field and do good work in this field is so important,” Okun said. “We were so excited to be put together as an all-female team and work with these students.”

Freshman Nohemy Guzman already had an interest in learning about coding before joining the class. She and her classmates were huddled around their MacBook Airs deep into the program as Okun stood behind offering guidance.

“It’s very inspiring knowing that there are females working in something that you could possibly want to do,” Guzman said. “It’s been amazing having them here helping us and working with us one on one.”

Freshman Natalie Galeano enjoys editing video and can possibly see a career in CS down the line. The nurturing from the all-female TEALS team has been inspiring for her.

“The program is a great opportunity for us,” she said. “They are helping us become better with technology. It’s empowering when we see what they can do – knowing we can be successful in the field just like them.”

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

El Paso ISD part of ‘New Tech Network’ initiative to improve college access

Officials with El Paso ISD announced on Tuesday that the district is part of a new multi-district initiative from the New Tech Network to improve college access through improved science practices.

“The purpose of this work is to collect and analyze data, identify new ideas and implement specific changes to all schools involved in order develop and share best practices for college access to students,” said Scott Gray, EPISD’s New Tech director. “Specifically, the program hopes to improve outcomes for African-American, Latino and low-income students.”

The initiative, which is set to last for several years and will benefit several schools throughout EPISD, is supported by a Networks for School Improvement.

New Tech Network has invited six EPISD high schools to participate in its first cohort. This includes juniors and seniors at El Paso, Austin, Chapin, Andress, Irvin and Burges high schools.

Although only two of the six EPISD schools that will participate in the program implement the New Tech curriculum, the initiative is meant to improve teaching and learning throughout the District.

“The goal is to help close the attainment gap for all students in the District, not just those enrolled in New Tech programs,” Gray said.

Every junior and senior in the participating schools will have access to Naviance — a comprehensive college and career readiness solution and software that helps districts and schools align student strengths and interests to postsecondary goals, improving student outcomes and connecting learning to life.

Comal ISD in Central Texas and Ector County ISD in the Permian Basin are the other two districts that were selected to participate in the program. EPISD will work with educators there to identify and address common problems that impact students in pursuing and succeeding in college.

“Our ongoing partnership with New Tech Network and this new opportunity to collaborate with other Texas districts benefits our community in two key ways: Not only are we adopting improvement science to directly support students who might not otherwise get to, and succeed in college, but our school teams are learning valuable methods that can be used for a variety of complex challenges,” said Superintendent Juan Cabrera. “We owe it to our community to design new approaches based on well-established methods in our quest to meet each student’s needs.”

New Tech will be supplying a coach for the campuses involved and create space for all three districts to communicate and network. Each high school will have a designated team identified by their principals to support this work.

And while the first cohort participating in this program includes only six of the 10 traditional and two specialized high schools in the District, Gray said a second cohort could include all high-schools in EPISD. EPISD hopes to include all high schools in the second cohort.

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

Gallery+Story: DODEA grant helps train EPISD Student Ambassadors

Students new to the District, especially those from military families, will get a warm and exciting welcome thanks to the training EPISD Student Ambassadors received this week during a fun-filled training.

The Department of Defense Education Activity-funded training brought students from several schools to the Region 19 Education Service Center to learn Social & Emotional Learning (SEL) techniques that will help them better serve any new and current classmates at their campuses.

The elementary, middle and high schools that participated in the training have a high concentration of military students.

“This kickoff event is really to help the Student Ambassadors know how to welcome kids,” said Jennifer DeGraaf, a staff administrator in Student & Family Empowerment. “With our military families, they are facing challenges that a lot of people don’t really understand.”

A big part of the training were ice breakers and topics related to peer relationships and SEL, which has been a big focus on EPISD. The teams of Student Ambassadors are made up of both military and civilian students.

“As we are transitioning into a districtwide focus on Social & Emotional Learning, we want our kids to be by our side,” DeGraaf said. “Ultimately, as adults, we can master SEL, but we also need for our kids to be well aware of the SEL competencies so that they can in turn go and be contagious for SEL and be contagious for positivity.”

Student Ambassadors have many roles on campus. They generally greet the new students and help them navigate the new school. Milam Elementary fifth-grader Jordin Hawk is a veteran ambassador and knows the importance of her role.

“I like helping people especially the new students,” she said. “They are confused when they come in and they don’t have friends immediately. It’s hard for kids who move a lot to make friends. We’re here to help them.”

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

El Paso High senior named National Merit Scholarship semifinalist

The prestigious and competitive National Merit Scholarship Corporation has named its list of semifinalists and an El Paso High Tiger is among the students selected.

Isabella Morales is one of 16,000 National Merit semifinalists in the country, and one of only five El Pasoans who made the cut.

“It’s exciting,” said Morales, a senior who currently is ranked second in her class. “I worked really hard for it, so I was really happy to get the news.”

Semifinalists compete for one of 7,600 scholarships worth more than $31 million.

Morales is EPISD’s only semifinalist and she hopes to use her potential scholarship to attend Columbia University in New York City next fall.

The announcement of finalists will be made in the spring.

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

Gallery+Video+Story: Construction begins on new school honoring Coronado principal Murphree

Longtime EPISD educator Charles Q. Murphree joined with the Johnson and Morehead communities this morning to break ground on the new campus that will soon bear his name.

The $35-million building funded through the EPISD Bond 2016 modernization program, will consolidate Johnson Elementary and Morehead Middle into the new Charles Q. Murphree PK-8.

Students will enjoy 21st-century learning spaces equipped with the latest technology.

“The Johnson building will be renovated and that will allow them to create open spaces for collaboration and the new construction will also include spaces where middle schoolers can collaborate and use technology,” said Morehead and Johnson principal Peggy Gustafson. “It’ll also incorporate furniture and things that allow for modern skills.”

The school will be  named after Murphree, a legendary EPISD educator and administrator who dedicated more than 30 years to the children of El Paso — most notably as principal at Coronado High. It is not unusual to find 88-year-old Murphree, who many call the mayor of the West Side, in the stands at Coronado greeting his former students and cheering on a new generation of T-Birds.

“It is the best honor EPISD could give one of their own,” said Erlene Gordan, a former student and EPISD retired educator. “He is loved by his students. He is always there for them in good times and in sad times.”

Murphree proudly took the shovel and scooped up dirt with the other dignitaries, posing for pictures with his former students and future students of the new school.

The school mascot, the Firebirds, also was unveiled at the event. The Firebirds is a direct nod to the students who will attend the campus and will move on to become Coronado T-Birds.

“It’s a lot more exciting than I thought it would be,” he said. “The new colors and new Firebird are really exciting, too.”

While construction progresses, Johnson Elementary will begin the steps necessary to become an International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme so that students can begin the rigorous educational program in elementary grades and continue at through the already-established middle years program currently offered at Morehead.

“This is an exciting opportunity to offer a pathway for our kids to take advantage of our comprehensive programs,” Gustafson said. “By beginning IB in elementary school, our students will be ready for the IB program at Coronado.”

Fourth-grader Lorenzo Villatoro is one of the current Johnson students who will benefit from the new consolidation. He was among the students taking part in the ceremonial turning of dirt.

“The school is going to be cool and better,” he said. “I want it to look nice for the city so more people will come here.”

His classmate Esmeralda Segovia also got a chance to turn the dirt.

“I’m very excited,” she said. “When you combine the schools, it’s going to be a better school.”

Story by Reneé de Santos  |  Photos by Vanessa Monsisvais and Erika Reyes  |  Video by Raymond Jackson – EPISD

Video+Gallery+Story: Moreno Elementary celebrates Library Card Sign-Up Month

September is National Library Card Sign-Up Month and the students at Moreno got a visit from a famous, albeit furry, friend to help them learn more about the importance of using library services.

Chico, the bombastic and adorable mascot for the El Paso Chihuahuas, visited Moreno for a pep rally designed to help students better understand the importance of literacy in their lives. Chico was joined by his friends from the El Paso Public Library.

“EPISD is a leader in biliteracy and we’re happy to have our partners with the El Paso Chihuahuas and the City of El Paso here with us to celebrate our efforts to learn and read in two different languages,” said Robert Pancoast, Moreno’s interim principal.

Moreno librarian Eloisa Rodriguez surprised the students with the unveiling of a Little Free Library, a leave-a-book-take-a-book bookcase that allows students to bring books from home and take books they may not have read yet.

The little library will be a feature in the school’s beautiful foyer.

Students at Moreno also will be able to use any of the city’s branch libraries thanks to their important library card. The card gives them access to the city’s wide range of services at its libraries.

On Tuesday, the celebrations at Moreno ended with a cute picture of Chico and the unofficial mascot of the school: Mr. Pancoast’s service dog Lollipop, who also is a chihuahua.

Story by Gustavo Reveles  |  Photos by Leonel Monroy  |  Video by Raymond Jackson – EPISD

Lamar honors former student, El Paso Challenge creator

Teachers from this Central El Paso school gathered with one of their former students to celebrate the movement he created and join in the efforts to spread acts of kindness throughout the city.

About 35 Lamar teachers, all wearing custom-made El Paso Challenge T-shirts, gathered before school on Friday to take a photo with Ruben Martinez, the former Lamar student who created the challenge just hours after the August 3 attack at the Cielo Vista Walmart.

Martinez, who is now a sixth-grader at Wiggs Middle School, asked El Pasoans to do 22 acts of random kindness — one of each of the victims who died following the attack.

The challenge, which he dubbed the El Paso Challenge, inspired thousands of people throughout the country and gained national attention.

“Something as simple as saying good morning or opening the door for someone can be a good deed,” said Lamar Counselor Cindy Aguilar.

“At Lamar, we implement the ‘Lamar Challenge’ and try to teach students on a daily basis the importance of doing good deeds. As teachers and administrators, we are being good role models and show them what a good citizen should be doing.”

Story by Gustavo Reveles  |  Photos by Leonel Monroy  –  EPISD

Transmountain Early College students deliver school supplies to EPISD elementary schools

Student Council members from Transmountain Early College High School surprised Zavala Elementary students Friday morning with hundreds of school supplies collected during a schoolwide competition.

“Our whole school really came together to donate the supplies,” said TMECHS senior Sierra Quiroz. “I’m so glad we could do this for our community and do it as a school.”

The high-schoolers presented nearly 20 boxes filled with supplies to a class of fourth-grade students outside the historic South Side school. They posed for pictures before joining together to carry the boxes inside.

“It’s more than words can say to see that our community just supports one other,” said Zavala assistant principal Irma Fuentes.

“It means a lot to see the kids so happy and with the older kids. It shows that we are united and strong as a community.”

The generosity made fourth-grader Ely Hernandez smile.

“It feels good because they’re helping us with our learning,” he said. “We didn’t expect this.”

TMECHS collected enough school supplies to also donate to Crockett and Douglass elementary schools.

“We as a Student Council try to go community to give back and help kids in need,” junior Kiandra White said. “It’s rewarding. It’s not every day that you get to come out and give to kids. It was really nice.”









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

Gallery+Story: EPISD’s CrossFit health program expands to Henderson, Brown

The Raise Up the Bar program that grew out of Ross Middle School’s popular RossFit after school program expanded this year to classes at Henderson and Brown middle schools.

Coaches at all three campuses hope to see the momentum of Raise Up the Bar, or RUTB, spread even farther throughout EPISD, citing the positive effect it’s had on their campuses and students. RossFit and RUTB coach Bobby Macias beams with pride talking about the expansion of the program.

“Our program unites and strengthens everyone –not only physically, but mentally and emotionally,” Macias said. “It teaches self-discipline and helps kids to become resilient to the stress of school, life and the world in which we live.”

More than 400 students are enrolled in the elective course at Henderson and coach Adrian Herrera sees the program rising in popularity on campus. He already had been working with Macias because both schools share a principal.

“The kids absolutely love it,” Herrera said.

“We’re actually strengthening the core right now so we’re working on squats, push-ups, sit-ups – basic movements because we want to help physical education to improve our fitness scores,” he added. “We’re also trying to get the kids to understand that they can work out without having to go to a gym. They can use bodyweight movements.”

Henderson is building up its gym to support the more challenging movements the class will learn with bumper plates, sleds and barbells.

“I like it because it helps me compete against myself and become more confident,” eighth-grader Angel Granados said. “I believe that I can do more than I have already done.”

Herrera touts the positive energy RUTB generates and how it spills into the classroom.

“I’ve noticed that kids who were disruptive last year that have joined our class seem to be more motivated for their regular classes,” he said. “When they come here, they burn out all that extra energy and they’re more disciplined and ready to learn.”

Henderson eighth-grader Jasmine Flores sees both the academic and fitness benefit of RUTB.

“I love it,” she said. “It helps me concentrate more in school because it’s showing us discipline and how to focus. I already feel like I’m getting stronger.”

Regan Muñoz, also an eighth-grader at Henderson, hopes the program gets more students off the couch and exercising.

“Our generation has more technology and everyone’s on it 24-7,” she said. “I hope it encourages us to get off our devices and start doing more activities than we usually do.”

Across town at Brown Middle School, teachers and CrossFitters Jordan Sonora and Luis Tapia are leading the RUTB movement at the West Side campus. The program is incorporated into Sonora’s New Tech physical-education class.

Last year, some students got a taste of it when Tapia started RUTB as an after-school program. It is continuing as an after-school program and now a before-school program, too.

“I’ve seen how people’s lives have changed because of exercise,” Sonora said. “I feel like educating kids at an early age about how to take care of themselves and how to enjoy the exercise for the rest of their lives is going to benefit them.”

Sonora, who owned a gym before becoming a teacher in EPISD, always wanted to teach a CrossFit-like program to students. He credits Macias for leading the way to develop this program at Brown and finds students enjoy it because it isn’t like traditional physical education class.

“It’s something new and different for them,” Sonora said. “It changes every single day for the kids. Everything changes from the way I warm them up to the workout we do.”

Some of the Brown students visited Ross in the spring to compete in a community-wide RUTB challenge – making them extra aware of the program.

“It’s fun and good for you,” said Bruce Salas, a Brown eighth-grader who competed in the spring at Ross. “I like working out. Push-ups are my favorite.”

His classmate Elizabeth Roi, a volleyball player, liked that the strength and conditioning.

“It’s fun and it gets you fit,” she said. “I’m glad they brought the program here because it helps you get ready for your games.”

Tapia enjoys seeing the progress of students joining in after-school and the marked improvements they made during the program last year.

“Kids are super excited to participate,” he said. “I’ve seen their confidence level from where they start to where they finish. It’s fun to watch. It’s such a well-rounded program to expose our students to,  and helps them to make better decisions health-wise.”

Macias is encouraged by the addition of RUTB at Henderson and Brown and hopes more EPISD campuses join in.

“We are a grass-roots movement started by kids,” Macias said. “When you become one of our campuses, you don’t just become part of a network you become part of a family.  I am so happy for the thousands of kids that RUTB is going to strengthen and help positively influence.”

To see more photos of the Raise Up the Bar program at Brown and Henderson, visit the EPISD gallery here.

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

EPISD’s Richardson Middle International Baccalaureate now accepting students

Now that the International Baccalaureate Organization has admitted Richardson into its Middle Years Programme, the focus at the Northeast school is to make the program available to as many students as possible.

The International Baccalaureate, or IB, is a high-rigor academic program that helps prepare students using international learning standards designed to help students succeed in a world economy. The Middle Years Programme, or MYP, helps prepare students for the competitive Diploma IB program at Andress or Coronado high schools.

“I’m really excited about the opportunity to offer this rigorous curriculum to our students,” said principal Ragen Chappell. “It’s a great segue for them to pursue IB programs in high school or any other magnet program they choose.”

The IB program at Richardson is open to any middle-school student in El Paso County. Interested students and parents can call the school for information about enrolling.

Richardson joins Andress, its feeder high school, Coronado High and Morehead and Lincoln middle schools as EPISD’s IB campuses. In the middle school program, the IB curriculum is schoolwide unlike in high school where students apply to attend.

“As an IB middle school, our students will be familiar with IB and the terms,” said IB coordinator Marisa Marin. “It’s a good starting point if they choose to go to Andress for IB.”

The rigorous curriculum will benefit all students regardless if they decide to pursue IB in high school.

“This is a great opportunity to explore any type of future endeavors that you might want to pursue because IB is not just a specific pathway like engineering or medical,” Chappell said.  “IB can be used in any type of field, so this is the best place to start.”

The MYP curriculum reinforces project-based learning, active learning and other district staples.

“It will give you the skills and experience to become a critical thinker and open-mindedness. Whatever your forte is, and we can help you expand upon that.”

The campus actually began training and implementing MYP curriculum a few years ago in anticipation of the official designation. Group projects and other service projects began at the sixth-grade level for the current eighth-graders.

“It’s good for the school to be officially designated,” said eighth-grader Anna Bustos, who plans to attend Silva Health Magnet for high school. “I’m a good student but IB is helping me become an even better student. I feel like it’s going to help me continue to grow as a student academic wise.”

Her classmate Desiree Rodriguez, also interested in Silva, finds the IB style gives her a broader understanding of the curriculum.

“I like the academics and sportsmanship,” she said. “It helps me communicate better with other people and I understand more things.”

Even though the students begin the MYP as sixth graders, new students can transfer in at any time during their middle school years and still take advantage of the program.

“New students won’t be behind the learning curve,” Marin said. “I think once they see and experience the group work, that way of learning, they will fit in. It’s not something they will struggle with. The middle school IB program benefits all learners.”

According to their website, the MYP develops active learners and internationally-minded students who can empathize with others and pursue lives of purpose and meaning. It empowers students to inquire into a wide range of issues and ideas of significance locally, nationally and globally. The result is young people who are creative, critical and reflective thinkers.

“The expectation for our students moving forward with IB is for them to be globally minded and for them to understand what’s coming in the world ahead of them,” Chappell said. “The world is always changing. Our generation is so different from what these kids will experience and IB is going to prepare them for that.”

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

Video+Story: New Bond 2016 school will honor Coach Archie Duran

EPISD officially broke ground Friday on the new $28.3 million Coach Archie Duran Elementary School that will unite the communities of Schuster, Dowell and Crosby in anticipation of the consolidation of the three schools.

The Duran family joined with the school’s future students at Dowell Elementary for the ceremonial turning of the dirt.

Their beloved Archie died in 2017 in a tragic bus accident on his way back from taking his Irvin High School track team to a meet in Lubbock. The coach and longtime teacher spent his career at Jefferson High School and his alma mater, Irvin High School.

The future Coach Archie Duran Comets will fittingly feed to Irvin.

“As we continue to celebrate his life it is just so fitting that the school is being named after him,” his sister Maria Biggs said during the ceremony.

She shared the spirit of her brother, known for being a gifted athlete and an inspiring coach.

“Archie taught us hope – unwavering hope. We share in the hope that future students of the Coach Archie Duran Elementary School are inspired to strive for more – for better,” Biggs added. “We will continue to persevere. We will continue to do great things by him because that’s what he taught us.”

The new campus, built for 900 students, replaces the 60-year-old Dowell with state-of-the-art amenities and modern architecture. EPISD this year consolidated Schuster with Dowell.  The students at Crosby will merge with Dowell to form Duran Elementary when the school opens in 2021.

“Just the building itself is going to have a lot of modern updates that are really necessary for the changing times,” said Dowell Elementary principal Yeni Ontiveros. “This is just going to be something great that we are able to offer our community and students.”

Crosby principal Alonzo Barraza also looks forward to how the updates will complement students’ current and future ways of learning.

“The building will be made for the new modes of education that are coming in, active learning and all of the technology that’s being implemented. Our students will be able to access more technology.”

Crosby second graders joined with their future peers at Dowell for the ground-breaking – some taking up pint-sized shovels to get into the ground-breaking action.

“It’s going to be awesome,” Sarahi Borges, a Crosby second-grader. “I feel good about it.”

Her future classmate Sabastian Aponte, currently at Dowell, looks forward to moving into the shiny new building and the aspect of the campuses uniting.

“I’m excited that I will get to meet new friends,” he said.

Students already see the early progress of construction crews on their new school, which is safely fenced off on the Dowell site. Duran Elementary marks EPISD’s 14th groundbreaking of projects funded through the $668.8 million.

“These new campuses and facilities are good for the community and necessary for the future of learning,” Barraza said. “We are grateful that the community stepped up and said ‘yes’ to the bond.”

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

Traveling to El Paso to deliver love

Chris Lowe felt a gravitational pull to El Paso as she drove her Fall Forward Across America RV throughout the southern portion of the United States.

The trip, which hopes to instill a desire in people to perform 22 random act of kindness, began on July 26 and took a detour toward the Sun City after the attack on the El Paso Walmart on August 3.

“This RV is about kindness and the energy behind it,” she said. “I felt compelled to come here knowing that this town needed to know there are kind people in the world thinking about them. Everything just brought me here.”

Lowe, a Florida native, chose the number 22 for the acts of kindness even before the attack in El Paso which killed 22 people. The 22 represents the age her son would have been when she began her mission to spread love throughout the country.

Inspired by media reports of two EPISD teachers who asked strangers from throughout the world to show kindness to their students by sending them notes of support via mail,  Lowe drove into Tom Lea Elementary on Friday.

She was joined by Tara Ijai of Love Glasses Revolution, who donated hundreds of heart-shaped sunglasses to students at Tom Lea and Hillside Elementary.

Tom Lea fourth-grade teacher Teresa Garrett had partnered with Hillside Elementary teacher Elvira Flores on the notes of love project, which has continued to draw thousands of letters from across the globe to the school.

Both Lowe and Ijai had already visited Hillside. Lowe challenged students to do random acts of kindness – big or small – and explained how this movement can have a ripple effect throughout the community.

“When you’re kind to other people — no matter what is happening in the world — you can change someone’s life,” Lowe said, echoing the message she shared with the students. “You could change someone’s day or change someone’s thoughts. Just one little kind gesture or comment can really change someone’s whole life.”

Benefactors of her cross-country trek have gotten a full tank of gas, gift cards, coffee, lottery tickets and simple gestures of opening the door, smiling, compliments and kind words. She gave students headbands and wrist bands as reminders of her visit and challenge to do at least one act of kindness a day.

“If you think about what you could do for others, it makes your problems seem less significant,”  said Lowe, who began her journey in her home state of Florida. “The more you do it, the more you inspire others to do it and it becomes a wave of kindness.”

Along her journey through Arizona, she met Ijai who spreads love through her heart-shaped sunglasses. Ijai had only traveled throughout her state of Arizona gifting her sunglasses but felt a call to El Paso knowing the city craved her message.

“We want to show solidarity, love and support for those who need it,” she said, smiling at the sea of students sporting the heart-shaped glasses. “The teachers were asking for postcards but we felt we could do more.”

A few minutes before Lowe arrived, students received their glasses and quickly put them on — a reminder of their kindness and perfect shade from the hot summer sun. Ijai’s husband Adnane Ijai designed all the glasses and created selections in different colors and themes –all shaped in their signature heart frame.

“We are going to consistently rebel against hate and negativity,” Tara Ijai said. “Someone drove hours to deliver hate. We felt the natural antidote was to drive hours to El Paso to deliver love.”

The students gathered for photos showing off their new shades – the tag still hanging from most.

“These are the best glasses in the world,” said fourth-grader Kai. “They’re cool.”

His classmates appreciated the gesture and knowing people care about them and their city.

“I think it’s nice because of what happened in our city,” said Madison Miller, a fourth-grader. “It makes me feel protected in the United States of America. It makes me feel happy. I like the glasses a lot.”

Garrett is grateful for the Ijais and Lowe visit and the response the school has received from throughout the world. She spends hours every night reading and categorizing postcards and messages before sharing with students.

“You can’t put it into words,” she said. “The children are thrilled every single day and they are paying it forward. It’s been such an outpouring of love. Good people are truly still here. They outnumber the bad people and I think we’ve seen that.”

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

El Paso High magnets pin new freshman recruits

A new tradition began at the storied campus of the Lady on the Hill last week when the incoming freshmen of the three magnet programs at El Paso High School were ceremoniously pinned into their new academic journey.

El Paso High is home to three innovative and competitive magnet programs: the Dual Language, T-STEM and AP Capstone Diploma programs.

“It’s not easy to start a new tradition at a school like this one,” said Cecilia Phillips, the magnet coordinator for the school. “But we have wonderful leadership that is flexible and wants to give our students an experience unlike any other.”

During the pinning ceremony, students were pinned according to the magnet program to which they belong. The ceremony served as a reminder of the commitment they are making to their academic advancement.

Students at El Paso High can pick one or more magnet programs to best suit their interests.

The T-STEM Academy provides a forward-thinking and rigorous, technology-based curriculum that fosters creative and critical thinking in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math.

Dual Language Magnet students complete at least 12 dual language courses and two or more advanced measures during their four years at El Paso High.​

The AP Capstone is a diploma program from the College Board. It’s based on two yearlong AP courses: AP Seminar and AP Research.

Story by Gustavo Reveles  |  Photos by Leonel Monroy – EPISD

Richardson Middle now an International Baccalaureate school

The El Paso Independent School District will offer middle-school students from throughout the county one more option to get a world-class education.

Richardson Middle School this week become EPISD’s third campus to offer the exclusive and highly-competitive International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme.

The school was notified of its acceptance into the program following a rigorous application process.

“We are delighted to continue our expansion of IB programming throughout EPISD. The Richardson program will create a pipeline of highly-motivated students into the emerging IB program at Andress High School,” said Superintendent Juan E. Cabrera.

“This middle-to-high school pathway for IB gives students on both sides of the mountain access to this internationally-recognized curriculum and sets our students to be successful in their academic career,” he added.

Richardson joins Lincoln and Morehead middle schools, who last year became the first schools to offer the IB Middle Years Programme in the county.

Two high schools offer the IB Diploma Programme: Andress and Coronado, which was the first school in El Paso to have this program more than 20 years ago.

The IB Middle Years Programme requires students to receive high-rigor instruction on eight subjects, including: language acquisition, literature, social studies, science, math, art, physical education and critical thinking/design.

Students in the program also must engage in a collaborative project involving two subject areas and complete a long-term project that includes their chosen field of study.

To learn more about the IB Middle Years Programme click here.  For enrollment information at Richardson’s IB program, call the school at 236-6650.

Story by Gustavo Reveles  |  Photos by Leonel Monroy  –  EPISD

El Paso ISD’s Young Women’s STEAM Prep welcomes first class of Freshwomen

EPISD has a new high school this school year, and this one is fueled solely by the power of women.

Young Women’s STEAM Prep, the District’s all-girls school, enrolled its first-ever class of freshwomen this school year. The Class of 2023 will lead the way year by year until the school becomes a full-fledged high school serving sixth- through 12th-graders.

The country’s only single-gender New Tech campus offers girls a unique opportunity for rigorous academics but also the opportunity to participate in UIL sports and extra-curricular activities.

“This is their second home,” Principal Dr. Cynthia Ontiveros said. “They already know our staff, our facilitators, and each other. So, when they came this year, they didn’t skip a beat. It’s not a drastic change like going to a brand-new school or having to make brand new friends.”

Even though this year marks their entry into high school, the ninth-graders have already accumulated algebra and language high-school credits – setting them up for intern and externships once they become upperclasswomen.

“We offer a full package where they still have the experiences that a typical high school would have minus the coed environment,” Ontiveros said.

The staff worked with the students to determine interests to ensure the girls’ needs are met.   “We are trying our best to make sure that we’re catering to those interests and meeting their needs academically, personally and professionally.”

The specialty campus, which opened with sixth and seventh graders in 2017, provides the students with an academically rich environment while also nurturing a close-knit bond among girls.

“Moving up grades, I have grown really close to my classmates,” said Sophia Tovar, who enrolled as a seventh-grader. “We’re going to graduate together and go to colleges. It’s the dream I want. That’s why I wanted to continue here with these girls because all of us together will push each other to be our best.”

She sees other benefits noting an academic atmosphere free from boys and a smaller cohort. The transition to high school was easy for her but she’s already experiencing the rigors of a high school class load.

“It is different from middle school but good different,” Sophia said. “This is going to help us be prepared for the work that we are going to receive.”

The comradery among the girls is key to freshman Hannah Conner.

“Everybody gets along,” Hannah said. “We interact and communicate with each other and we get more opportunities than you do in other middle and high schools because we’re a small school. I love the people here. I love my teachers, my principal and our facilitators. It’s really been good for me.”

The entry into high school also brings a whole new ball game when it comes to athletics. The campus hired Laura Pacheco, a former assistant at Chapin High, as head volleyball and softball coach and Jermaine Williams, former assistant Andress High, as head basketball coach.  Both coaches will grow their respective freshman teams into the varsity level. Already, they’re competing in volleyball with other freshmen at 6A schools.

“The girls are amazing here and I look forward to developing them from the ground up,” Pacheco said. “We are looking to see how they can develop athletically in addition to the academics here – to develop their mental strength and empower them.”

Throughout the county, Ontiveros promotes the perks of her small, single-gender campus with a STEAM focus. She hopes the concept appeals to more girls as the school continues to accept transfers for all grade levels available.

“I think being small allows us to form stronger bonds,” Ontiveros said. “While it’s still very competitive as far as making sure they’re meeting their marks, they still help each other to make sure that everybody at the school is successful.”

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

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