The seeds have been planted; the sun is shining. There is hope.
Pueblo High School’s Garden Club has big plans for the 2021-22 school year, and they have already begun to plant new vegetation—setting their goals high for a productive year and a promising future.
The club will continue the reconstruction of the garden and discuss new directions for Pueblo’s little acre of botanical bliss.
One of the club’s primary goals is to continue to clean and clear the garden after it was destroyed two years ago. (Those responsible for the garden’s “massacre” have never been determined.)
With new enthusiastic sponsors and a tenacious group of students, everybody in this club is ready to roll up his and her sleeves and get a little dirty.
Pueblo science teachers Mr. Nicolas Pitts and Ms. Melissa Espindola, this year’s Garden Club sponsors, are eager to provide learning opportunities for students this school year and for years to come.
“We don’t know exactly what happened to the garden two years ago, but everybody in the Garden Club is excited to make the garden better than ever,” Espindola said.
Garden Club member, sophomore Jolette Coronado, said, “Working on this garden provides new opportunities to learn. We are planting foods that we can actually eat as well as learning how to nurture to everything that we grow.” She paused and said, “Everybody in the club is excited about our harvests after all of our hard work.”
Pitts said, “The Garden Club will definitely live on but in a new direction.” He added that the garden will take multiple years to return to its original state, but he hopes that new students in the club will be creative and add their own footprints to the garden.
Every student is welcome to join the club; meetings are held Thursdays after school. Everybody is encouraged to share ideas how to resurrect the garden and bring new life to the northwestern corner of Pueblo’s campus.
“We already have all the garden beds working,” said Pitts. “We’re on our way to making this garden a new learning environment for all teachers and students.”
During this 2020-2021 school year, Pueblo’s Student Council has faced many challenges and jumped over many obstacles due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has prevented this club from performing normally.
Mr. Gregory Obregon, who teaches Algebra 1 and 2, is once again this year’s Student Council advisor/teacher. Like many at Pueblo, he has expressed his frustrations of online instruction and trying to ensure that Student Council continues to be functional.
“We [students and teachers/sponsors] may not be able to be with our students in person, but the work we still need to do really does matter,” Obregon said.
However, he does have hope that this situation will not last forever but wishes he had had more time to prepare for a remote learning environment.
“It [Covid-19] will pass,” he said.
Franchesca Fernandez, a senior and this year’s Student Council president, has also encountered her share of challenges this school year. She said that insufficient student participation has affected her job, and she has had difficulty contacting people. She said that she conducts meetings by planning schedules and having business meetings on Thursdays, and afterwards allows members to be in their committees.
Fernandez said that this year Student Council is looking at online alternatives to raise money, including Percentage Night Fundraisers. She hopes to continue raising money for the club throughout the entire school year.
“Student Council is there for them [students],” Fernandez said. “We are trying our hardest amidst the pandemic to keep pushing, and we will eventually get through it.”
Obregon said that he misses an in-person Student Council a lot—as well as all the activities, group work and just hanging out with his club members.
“Showing school spirit is quite hard during the pandemic,” Obregon said, “because we are unable to decorate the hallways and put up posters.”
He expressed sadness on not being able to give students a real Student Council environment.
“Despite the hardships, we’re all together in this,” he said.
Even though Pueblo High School has officially closed its campus this first semester of the school year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, that does not mean that there are not great acts occurring.
On Thursday, October 29, several members of the Class of 2019, along with students from Ms. Espindola’s Garden Club and other volunteers, planted 23 trees around the school.
Graphic design teacher and Class of 2019 sponsor Mr. Ernesto Somoza said, “The senior class gifted me this project back in 2019, and they had to remind me several times that the project needed to get done. I felt like the student in this case.”
Class of 2019 President Sam Lopez said, “The idea of planting trees was definitely something we have wanted to do since our freshman year. I believe the idea originally started back in a conversation between my mom and me during my first few weeks of high school. From there, my best friend and future Vice President Aylin [Coronado] and I brainstormed ways of leaving something that will embody the spirit and
growth that the class of 2019 had. Planting trees was the most symbolic thing we could think of. With the help of our amazing sponsor, Mr. Somoza, we were able to pull this all together.”
Most of the trees were planted in the north section of the school, but some were planted by the tennis courts and a few in the front of the school. Prior to the “big dig” event, Somoza and Lopez initiated the project by shoveling the earth, as starters, and realized that the task of planting nearly two dozen trees was going to be challenging for the incoming crew.
“The ground was very hard,” Somoza said, “so for the days leading up to planting the trees, Sam [Lopez] and I—along with his mother—went to Pueblo to pour water in each of the holes to soften the dirt.”
Eventually, after the dirt was softened, other participants from the Class of 2019 included Aylin Coronado, Mary Rose Bourbon, Jovan Miller, Kendall Ervin and Jasmine Bojorquez, could start digging holes and planting the trees. Many other people were involved in this project, including parents, underclassmen and several volunteers from the Tucson Clean and Beautiful Organization.
Several varieties of trees were planted, including Red Push Pistache and Vitex. Three Texas Ash trees were donated by Pueblo High School Principal Mr. Frank Rosthenhausler (aka “Mr. R”). In the future, Somoza said that bench tables, a mural and flower beds may be placed in the same area to create a “Warrior Pride Plaza”.
In the short time since the trees have been planted, Somoza said that the spaces are already becoming habitats for wildlife.
“I saw a large red cardinal sitting on top of one of the trees and many other small wild birds using these trees as resting spots,” Somoza said. “The Vitex trees have already brought some butterflies, a praying mantis and a few lady bugs. It is interesting to see how an area like this can change so quickly in just a week or two by introducing water and trees.”
He added, “The entire project process was beautiful. I really enjoyed seeing former students working with new students to make a positive change on our campus and in the world.”
“Being a student at Pueblo High School and being part of the Class of 2019 definitely had the biggest impact on who I am today,” Lopez said. “My time here at Pueblo, although short, were the best times of my life. It felt right to give back to something that has given so much to me.”
Lopez added, “The callouses on Mr. Somoza’s hands will definitely serve as reminders of all of the hard work.”
Wednesday, Feb. 12, Pueblo’s CCLC Program hosted a voter registration drive in
order for young voters to participate in Arizona’s Presidential Preference
Election next month; the deadline to register for the March 17 election is next
Tuesday, Feb. 18.
teacher and CCLC Coordinator/sponsor Mary Wallace said, “We partnered with folks
who were familiar with the voting process to help us with the drive, including
Mi Familia Vota and the League of Women Voters.”
order for Pueblo students to register for the general election in November,
they must be a U.S. citizen, be 18 by November 3 and have no felonies. Warriors
who missed this opportunity to register will have another opportunity to
register to vote in another drive in September.
important to bring a form of identification to register,” Wallace said.
Warriors volunteered to make today’s voter registration drive a success.
partnered with [credit recovery teacher] Ms. Christina Benitez,” Wallace said,
“and without her wonderful help, the process of making the voting drive a
reality would have been difficult.”
said, “We feel a sense of accomplishment in being able to generate an interest
in the political process of voting. Our Pueblo students seemed very happy and pumped
to have the opportunity to participate in the upcoming presidential election.”
Wallace and Benitez hope that this enthusiasm continues with our young voters,
and she encourages our students to inspire their parents to vote,
too—especially in the general election (Tuesday, Nov. 3).
Selina Ramirez, the leader of Mi Familia Vota and a fervid member of the group
for the past four years, was present at Pueblo’s voter registration drive,
along with three other members of MFV: Mr. Victor Preciado, Shania Shelby and
[Mi Familia Vota] really want young people to vote,” Torres said. “The youngest
age group of voters is and has historically been the least active on election
days. We want to change that statistic. We especially want to appeal to
Hispanics, who have the lowest voter participation among all ethnicities.”
Familia Vota visits Pueblo sometimes as often as twice a month, and the group
has already registered many students who will be 18 by November. The number of
registering students has dwindled a bit due to the high number of students who
have already registered.
new registered voter means a great deal to us and the political process,”
added that she and her co-workers try to reach as many prospective Latino
voters to participate—even going door-to-door to educate and inform others to
“We welcome any Pueblo students who are 16 or older to help us spread the word,” Torres said. “Students can earn $15 per hour, up to five hours per day, by joining our group.”
If interested, get in touch with a local Mi Familia Vota office at: mifamiliavota.org.
Records are meant to be broken, and that’s exactly what five amazing seniors accomplished on Wednesday, Nov. 13. Seniors Aaron Kuzdal, Janice Salazar, Leonard Parra, Joel Bustamante and Reannah Rodriguez cycled for a city record of 17 hours, a record previously held by a Desert View student several years ago.
A sixth senior, Danielle Rojas, attempted to break the record, but she only rode for 12 hours, which is still considered to be quite a physical accomplishment!
According to Kuzdal, Bicycle Club sponsor Mr. Ernesto Somoza announced to the club the city record and challenged any of his cyclist team members to break it.
“Sometimes you wake up one morning and want to break records,” he said. “Once Mr. Somoza told us about this challenge, it was like, ‘Heck, yeah!’”
and Parra decided to commit to the record-breaking challenge just two days
before the event; the other four members committed just the day before!
At 6 a.m., in Somoza’s classroom, the six cyclists began their challenge.
“The only break students received was five minutes per hour to drink water, go to the bathroom and eat a quick snack,” Somoza said.
After two or three hours, all of the bicyclists admitted that they were beginning to experience excruciating physical pain.
Salazar said, “My legs, back and butt hurt horribly, and the pain was even worse after we had our five-minute break to go to the restroom and stretch.”
Another cyclist, Rodriguez, said, “Not only were we in great pain, we were being watched like zoo animals! Student Council came in to visit us, and a lot of them just stared at us like we were freaks.”
Parra echoed Rodriguez; he said, “It was difficult [cycling in the classroom] with other students because it was like we were on stage being observed.”
Unfortunately, Rojas couldn’t bare the pain any longer.
“We must all suffer from one or two pains: the pain of discipline or the pain of regret,” she said.
To help ease the indescribable pain from hours of cycling, students said that they sang—including “Bohemian Rhapsody”, Christmas songs and John Legend tunes to keep their mind off of their agonizing body parts.
This record-breaking event was hardly ignored by local media. Channel 4 (KVOA) and Channel 13 (KOLD) were on campus, and they covered the story for television; also, reporters from The Arizona Daily Star were present.
“Having a few local media channels here boosted morale,” Somoza said. “This [media coverage] really helped students complete their goal knowing that their school and entire community was behind them one hundred percent.”
The five cyclists completed their 17-hour event, breaking the old record by an hour.
“Way down inside of me, I really believed that we would be up for this challenge,” Bustamante said.
“I’m proud to have been part of this record-breaking experience, but I really wish—and I think we all wish—that we could have sat on a bigger, softer seat,” Kuzdal said.
As Pueblo marches well into the second quarter, and November is upon us, the weather is at last cooling off. It seems that for many, summer lasted longer than usual this year. Unfortunately, for many students and teachers, it felt like “summer” insidethe classroom as well for much of the first quarter.
During summer break, the
air conditioning systems are shut down to save money. However, when several
teachers returned to this new school year, they discovered that their
classrooms were hot; and they stayed hot sometimes for weeks well into late
Marketing teacher Dr.
Maria Bicknell, located in the Tech Building, is one of those teachers sweltering
in extremely uncomfortable conditions.
“I tried to be positive in
this hot classroom, but it was hard to manage at times,” Bicknell said. “There
were some days I felt sick when I left Pueblo at the end of the day—like I was
going to throw up.”
Bicknell’s neighbor and
another Tech Building teacher, English and journalism teacher for the past 28
years at Pueblo, Mr. Rana Medhi, said, “Our administrators and district
engineers need to ensure that we teachers and our students are comfortable on
the first day of school. There’s no excuse for hot classrooms year after year.
Students cannot learn in 92-degree classrooms, and old teachers can’t tolerate
the heat anymore.” He paused and added, “It seems to me that we educators
should feel confident about returning to a new school year with everything
working and having comfortable teaching environments.”
Medhi added that he was
fortunate that he had to teach elsewhere for just two weeks; some teachers
weren’t so lucky…
Mr. Valentino Martin,
Pueblo’s auto shop teacher—and his students—suffered in the heat since from the
beginning of the school year. He and his classroom had to be relocated to the
Special Projects Room, which was very inconvenient for his curriculum, although
students still learned about auto shop safety and other issues until students
were finally able to return to T-9 when the air conditioning was repaired.
Then, on Aug. 23, the
A/C stopped working again, and Martin and his students were relocated again.
Another Tech Building
teacher, photography teacher Ms. Emma Tarazon-Oetting, also had to be relocated
to other locations while air conditioning unit was repaired.
Other non-Tech Building
classrooms were also excessively hot during the first quarter across campus,
and several teachers had to be relocated until the air conditioning was
David Montaño said that before students and teachers returned for the new
school, all of the air conditioning units were working, but a major
thunderstorm just before school started disrupted several of the A/C units.
“Based on the age of
some of these A/C units, repairs are bound to be needed,” Montaño said.
However, summer did end
at last, which alleviated teachers and students in classrooms that still had
inadequate air conditioning.
Many other environments suffered
as well. Even though the weight room may boast air, the room is cooled only by
a swamp cooler and big fans.
Just the opposite
occurred in many classrooms as fall began in late September—classrooms
experiencing frigid temperatures.
Junior Sarahi Perez said, “There are some days when the AVID classroom was downright Arctic, and so was [science teacher] Ms. Amaro’s classroom. The AVID classroom is either freezing or hot—it’s never normal in there. It seems that it’s never a healthy environment in which to learn.”
sophomore Dezarae Valenzuela, said that the Student Council room [Mr. Obregon’s
classroom] is very cold. I’d rather it be cold than hot, but sometimes you need
a thick blanket to stay warm.”
Junior Angel Leeth said
that in her math class, taught by Ms. Rhesa Olsen, she sometimes has to borrow
her teacher’s blankets, which she keeps in her classroom.
“It’s very difficult to
concentrate in her frigid classroom,” Leeth said. “It’s so cold, I fall
The AC system in the
main building is controlled and set by TUSD at 76 degrees, but the question
remains: Why were the temperatures in some classrooms and the library 59
degrees or colder?
Pueblo has just one
engineer, Mr. Robert Fuentes, a 1997 Pueblo graduate, who has been employed for
the past 14 years; however, for the past 10 years, he has been the only engineer
He explained that the
new equipment to maintain Pueblo’s cooling and heating systems are working with
an old 1980’s pneumatic system. In other words, two different systems are
trying to work together, often unsuccessfully.
“I like what I do,”
Fuentes said, “but it’s frustrating maintaining an entire school by myself most
of the time.” He added, “I have to do what I have to do to make classrooms feel
comfortable for our students and teachers.”
He paused and added, “This
school needs to prioritize repairs on its cooling system.”