2018 Arizona EL Student Success Story Winners

picture of Baraa Abedelghne

Baraa Abedelghne

Grade: 8th
School: Mohave Middle School
District: Scottsdale Unified School District
Native Language: Arabic


From his teacher: “He is one of a kind. His resilience and desire to not only succeed, but excel, is truly inspiring. He has a deep determination for academic knowledge. Baraa has been in Student Government for 2 years. During that time, he has demonstrated care for others, hard work, dedication, and leadership. He is always one of the first to volunteer for a project or help at an after- school event. Baraa is always smiling and in a good mood which makes everyone around him smile as well. Baraa has had a traumatic experience that could have easily stopped him from propelling forward. Instead, he has decided to use it to make him a better person by seeking knowledge and contributing in his community. Baraa stands out academically and personally. What makes me proud to nominate Baraa is that not only does he stand out to me, but among all his teacher’s that he has had in the two years at Mohave Middle School. He is one of those students that impacts the school. Something tells me that he will be one of those students who makes it a point to return to our school to share his experiences. Not to boast, but to serve his fellow students.”


picture of Houda Makansi

Houda Makansi

Grade: 12th
School: Palo Verde High
District: Tucson Unified School District
Native Language: Arabic


From her teacher: “Houda came to Arizona in 2016 and although she had done well in many of her subjects that were taught in Arabic, she of course, had to learn English her in her new environment. Her overall GPA is 3.75 and she has received As in courses like Environmental Biology and Algebra 2. She is currently enrolled in Chemistry, College Algebra, and English 12 where she is excelling. She entered school at the Basic overall proficiency level and tested Proficient in 1.5 years. Houda is a driven and motivated young woman. She strives to share her life experiences and learn from others to bring a sense of community among people of various backgrounds. Many of her writings and radio programs touch on shared human experiences and her desire for peace. Houda moved from Syria and has been very successful academically and becoming part of her new community here in Arizona. She is resilient, kind, and extremely hard-working. Houda’s background is one of stability and upheaval. She has been a positive, resilient student through it all.”


picture of Valeria Mendoza Marquez

Valeria Mendoza Marquez

Grade: 5th
School: Bret R. Tarver Elementary School
District: Cartwright Elementary School District
Native Language: Spanish


From her teacher: “Valeria is a very calm and peaceful person. Her sweet serenity brings joy and happiness to all of those that are lucky enough to know her and work with her. I am in awe of Valeria’s genuine kindness and thoughtfulness. She truly embodies our school motto: Tarver Dolphins S.W.I.M. together. The S.W.I.M stands for Succeed, Work Hard, Inspire, and Motivate. Valeria became our own class motivational speech giver. She would listen to the daily morning announcements by our principal, Dr. Joy Weiss, and write down the positive messages that she heard. After a read aloud, or some other literary experience, Valeria would capture the theme in her notebook. She would take these observations, quotes, and meaningful experiences home with her and create magic. She is an outstanding and creative artist. Then, she started writing short essays about how we could apply the SWIM motto in our classroom daily. It quickly became a routine event to have Valeria stand in front of the class and present a quick motivational speech. Valeria’s learning disability and language processing delays created minor roadblocks, but through her perseverance, she kept elevating her drive for success. She works harder than any student I’ve ever taught in 23 years of education. Valeria Mendoza Marquez has overcome some incredible obstacles in her young life. Her inspiring quest to become proficient in the English language helped launch her into an ELL reclassification. Through her determination to succeed she works hard in every aspect of her personal and school life. Everything Valeria does inspires others. She motivates students, staff, and her supportive family to achieve their own personal best. Spend just a moment with Valeria and you will be a better person for your time.”


picture of Ruiz Barron

Luis Ruiz Barron

Grade: 3rd
School: Esperanza Elementary School
District: Deer Valley Unified School District
Native Language: Spanish


From his teacher: “Luis was a shining star in his classroom: he modeled citizenship, tact, and a passion for learning. Whenever anyone would mention Luis’s name, a smile would come to that person’s face, because Luis is the kind of student whom you remember for the joy he spreads to everyone around him. He is self-motivated, thoughtful, and high-achieving. In Kindergarten, he passed his Azella test at the end of the school year. His parents, teachers, and siblings were so proud of his rapid growth! A self-starter, Luis has leadership qualities and enjoys playing soccer with his peers at recess and visiting the school library to read The Diary of a Wimpy Kid and other humorous chapter books. Despite his sense of humor, Luis takes his academic scholarship seriously and received a 100% on his first Reading Street benchmark test of the year, on the story, “Supermarket.” His grades are mostly As, and he is modest about his scholastic aptitude. In the future, you might see Luis on Student Council, mentoring younger students on our campus. It is my honor to nominate Luis for a recognition award for his many accomplishments. He is truly a model student who displays outstanding citizenship and outstanding academic achievements.”