The Franklin High Cougars certainly have plenty to roar about this week as both their Twirlers Director and the Twirlers Team were honored during the Texas State Championship meet.
Dawn Menchaca, a Business Teacher and Director of Star Twirlers and the Feature Twirlers Director for Franklin High School, was given the Texan Award by the National Baton Twirling Association of Texas.
According to the association, “She is not only awarded for being an outstanding coach, but for her dedication to revitalize Baton Twirling in El Paso.”
“Thank you to Bethany Tolley the contest director and director of the Twirlers of Texas Tech University in Lubbock…[and] thank as well to Marlene Torres who was the catalyst to get Dawn involved in bringing El Paso students to contests across the state of Texas,” Menchaca shared.
In addition to Menchaca’s honor, the Twirlers of Franklin High School earned a first place title at the NBTA Texas State Championship in Lubbock, Texas. These twirlers are the only High School group in El Paso.
Members include Maddy Chapa, Sidney Vallejo, Eleanor Schoenbrun, and Emmy Chapa. In addition to the competitions, the young women perform with the Franklin Star of the West Band.
In the past 2 decades she has taught Twirlers – ages 3 to 73 – here in El Paso where they participate in events such as the Westside Rotary Club 4th of July Parade, the Celebration of Lights Parade, and various philanthropic events in the city. She even had two twirlers at UTEP where they have not had any in decades.
By way of her coaching and training, Menchaca has given Twirlers of El Paso in high school the opportunity to represent their school and compete in UIL Twirling. For the past four years, she has assisted the participants in achieving 16 UIL Division 1 medals all at the State Solo and Ensemble Contest held in Austin.
Move over Lollapalooza and Coachella…Tuesday morning, Franklin High School was the home of one of the only music festivals to pay their hosts.
The High School Nation Tour stopped by Franklin to give students a two-hour music fest experience complete with musical stages, interactive booths and food vendors.
It was all part of a presentation by a national school arts program that picked Franklin as one of 25 schools nationwide to host the festival.
On top of top-notch music, art and fun, Franklin gets a $30,000 grant from High School Nation to create a music recording studio at the school.
The High School Nation tour is making its way across the United States to promote music, arts and sports at public high schools by giving students a positive musical experience on their own campus.
HSN Studios also provides campuses gear and software necessary to create a fully functional on-campus recording studio.
Students perfected their “nae nae” with singer Silento, as well as performances by up and coming artists Caroline Roman, Chocolate Punk and more. In addition to the main stage performances, students engaged in fun and educational activities, such as learning to play musical instruments or picking up information about the dangers of tobacco use from the Truth campaign.
El Paso ISD’s only twirling team is also a state-qualifier.
The Franklin High School Feature Twirlers – a team of four majorette-style baton handlers that are often associated with marching bands – will compete in the state tournament after earning a Division 1 rating in the Texas UIL Region 22 Solo and Ensemble.
The team is made up of senior Makenna Villanueva, sophomores Sidney Vallejo and Maddy Chapa and freshman Eleanor Schoenbrun. The four will compete in Austin over the Memorial Day weekend.
“The twirling team really puts a sparkle on the field,” twirling director Dawn Menchaca said. “It’s a matter of passion and dedication. It’s how much time you want to put in that passion that you have. They work a lot of hours preparing routines and actually compete across the state of Texas.”
“I have a passion for twirling. I twirled here in El Paso for many years, and I was hoping to extend that passion to somebody else,” she said. “It’s neat these four students have taken that task and create that legacy here at Franklin.”
Villanueva, who has competed and placed at state before, can’t wait to share that experience with her teammates.
“Twirling means a lot to me because I have been doing a really long time,” she said. “I love my team so much. We have become such good friends. I love the bonding aspect of twirling, so I am looking forward to spending time with them.”
The team practices every day during marching season, performing at games with the band. Menchaca is thankful to the band directors for welcoming the team with open arms.
This semester, they are working on perfecting their routine, fine-tuning their moves and adding new elements to wow the judges at state.
“We have to have a routine five minutes or less. They like the teams to have a clean routine, minimizing the drops,” Menchaca said. “It must be showy because of course that’s why people come to watch twirlers.”
Chapa credits her team’s success with their ability to work well with each other.
“With twirling there is that danger factor, so you have to be able to trust others,” she said. “You have to spend a lot of time together. You have to get to know each other, which makes our team and friendships stronger.”
Every year Coronado and Franklin high schools set aside their competitive spirit, coming together to collect toys, blankets and clothing items for an EPISD elementary school.
Student council members from both schools started the Holiday Blessings Drive four years ago at Zavala Elementary, picking a different school each year to visit. This year the students gathered items for the 310 students at Hawkins Elementary School.
“This is a great project because it brings the schools together for a big and challenging project. It’s a good growth experience,” said Coronado student activities manager Kelly Groves. “They are so giving of their time, and they are so happy to do it. I could not be more proud of the kind of young people that we are producing.”
Coronado junior and StuCo president Nicole Plesant has participated in the project the last three years. She greeted each student with gusto, making sure they each took a pledge not to open the gifts until the 25th.
“It is the best feeling seeing the kids’ reactions. It’s such a heartwarming feeling. It brings tears to my eyes,” she said. “We aware that we are a blessed group of kids and this is something we can do to give back to the community and make a difference.”
The high-schoolers welcomed each grade level into the library, where stacks of boxes awaited each student.
“It’s been a really positive experience getting to help these students and bring a smile to their face,” Franklin sophomore Michael Fallon said. “I think it’s a great way to show that we care. It’s a common misconception that teens are self-centered, but it’s nice to help people that are less fortunate.”
This is the first year the sophomore participates in the event. He was impressed by the amount of planning involved in the project but above all the camaraderie between the schools.
“Coronado and Franklin came together on Saturday, and we were at the school for over six hours wrapping gifts nonstop,” he said. “No one complained. We just kept going because we all had the same goal in mind.”
Students at Hawkins said they were happy and grateful to receive the gifts.
“I felt loved because we didn’t ask for anything and the high schools kids gave so much,” said fifth-grader Rene de la Llave. “Not all schools do this, but Coronado and Franklin really made us feel special. Some people got big boxes but it doesn’t matter because they took their time to make us feel loved.”
Student Council students pick an elementary at the beginning of the school year, meeting with the principal and counselor to coordinate the project. The elementary in turn is responsible for providing students’ clothing and shoe sizes, as well as what the students have asked for on their holiday wish list.
“I’m really humbled and beyond blessed that our school was chosen for this project because now we know our kids are going to have a really great Christmas,” principal Adriana Ruiz said. “I think it’s reflective of our District that we want to help our kids beyond academics and work on their social emotional wellbeing as well.”
Franklin High School is launching a new magnet program that will focus on critical academic concentrations.
Known as STEAM, the program will feature rigorous and concentrated instruction in Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics. The program will begin this upcoming school year with freshmen.
Franklin is partnering with the Texas Tech Health Sciences Center El Paso to create a pipeline of students wishing to earn a registered nursing degree. The program also will have a legal preparation program that will emphasize in medical law.
An enhanced audio/visual production program will enhance the broadcasting and fine-arts offerings in EPISD.
Parents of current eighth-graders who may be interested in the program should attend an informational session at 5:30 p.m. on Monday, May 23, at the Franklin 9th Grade Center, 825 E. Redd Rd.
Some of Franklin High School’s best and brightest students will represent EPISD this month at two rigorous academic competitions that will test their knowledge and skills.
The Franklin High School Academic World Quest team will compete in nationals on April 23 in Washington D.C. The school’s Citizen Bee Team is headed to state competition on April 16 in Austin.
Franklin AP Social Studies teacher Jim Barton coaches both teams.
“Being part of these academic competition gives the students a chance to take a specific topic and study it more in depth,” Barton said. “I couldn’t ask for a better group of kids. Everyone is very cooperative and doing their fair share. These are good kids. “
Team members said they were looking forward to competing in Washington and Austin.
“Going to compete at nationals is definitely exciting,” student Sophia Gonzalez-Mayagoitia said. “We are going to be the first team from El Paso to compete at this national level.”
Sophia is a member of both the Academic World Quest and Citizen Been teams. Both academic teams require students to study an array of topics in order to answer questions in a quiz bowl format.
To study for the Academic World Quest the team divided the content among the four of them. They will be quizzed on 10 different topics, ranging from NATO to internet and food security.
“The students meet everyday at lunch to study. It ends up being several hundred pages of reading they have to do to prepare for the competition,” Barton said. “Getting ready for nationals they have been cross training each other so they can pick up what the others have been studying. That way they all have a more broad base of knowledge.”
Studying for the Citizen Bee is similar except the competition focuses more on civics topics, such as Supreme Court cases, U.S. history and general government knowledge.
Both competitions offer not only bragging rights but also the opportunity to win scholarship money. The Academic World Quest winners will be awarded a $20,000 team scholarship, while the Citizen Bee winners will receive a $1,000 scholarship.
For senior Matt Maldonado being part of an academic team paves the way for his success at the University of Texas.
“I enjoy these competitions immensely because they prepare me for the type of studying I have to do in college,” Matt said. “I really have to give a shot out to the teachers at Franklin. They take a lot of time out of their schedules, whether it is a lunch or after school, to help us by providing materials or a lecture about the topics we have to study.”
Matt encourages other high-school students to participate in these types of extracurricular activities.
“I think it’s really great for high schools to participate in these academic competitions,” Matt said. “Whether you win or not, learning this kind of information helps you become a good global citizen.”