Every year at the OELAS Conference, the Arizona Department of Education recognizes a group of students whose success in English language acquisition is noteworthy.
Winners of the award were introduced at the 2022 OELAS Conference in Tucson the first week of December. Their stories were shared with the conference attendees and Arizona Department of Education leadership. The students were also given the opportunity to speak briefly in front of the audience of teachers, administrators, parents and invited guests. The event was a wonderful opportunity to highlight the efforts of each student and their journey to English language proficiency!
The Arizona Department of Education celebrated students who made noteworthy accomplishments and academic achievements as recipients of the OELAS Conference 2022 Arizona Student Success Stories award. Please click the links below to preview the Awardees and Honorable Mentions.
Unique Populations at the Arizona Department of Education celebrated nominated students who made noteworthy accomplishments and academic achievement as a recipient of the HOPE Conference 2021 Arizona Student Success Stories award. Unique Populations is comprised of Foster Care Education, Homeless Education, Migrant Education, and OELAS.
9th Grade | Paradise Valley Unified School District
Esmeralda Loredo immigrated to the United States from Mexico. While in Mexico, she was responsible for caring for her younger brother while attending school full time. Esmeralda is a driven and determined student who worked diligently to learn a new language and assimilate to American culture. Over the past two years, she has received top marks in all classes, participated in after school programs, and attended after school tutoring on her own volition simply to "get some more practice." Recently, she passed her AzELLA test; proving she is proficient in English as a second language. While she has only been in the United States for a few short years, she has clearly worked incredibly hard to accomplish her goals and build a better life for herself.
Esmeralda is currently a member of AVID and the after-school theatre club at her high school. In addition to academics, she loves the ability to express herself through acting and performing on stage. She often works part time at her father's tire shop and is quick to sign up for any community service opportunities provided through her high school.
Esmeralda’s goal is to attend college after graduating high school. She hopes to pursue a degree from an Ivy League college in criminal justice or law. She wants to become a mother after she gets her degree and provide for her children in ways that she wasn't. She hopes to build a strong community that supports Mexican American immigrants and become a role model for students who come from similar circumstances as herself.
Peter never attended preschool and spoke only Spanish when he entered school for kindergarten. He spent his first two years of school learning in an EL classroom, but by second grade, Peter had tested out of the ELL program. He was now speaking fluent English and worked hard to learn in all content areas.
By third grade, Peter had earned a place in the district’s GAP gifted program. The GAP program is a privately funded cohort that allows high-achieving, hardworking students the opportunity to learn and experience things they otherwise would not have the ability to. Since entering the GAP gifted program 2 years ago, Peter has overcome many personal challenges while maintaining his grades and his drive to achieve a better life for his family.
Peter wants to become a doctor in order to help his mom when she is sick and take care of others in the community. He sees himself as unique because he has overcome all the tough times he has been through. Peter wants to learn to cook so he can help his mom and make life easier for her. He would also like to study mechanics to be able to fix the car when it is not working. Peter knows he is capable of success and has dreams of making money to help support his mom and make her life easier.
Peter is a true success story as he has maintained focus on his long-term goals by focusing on daily progress. In four short years, Peter grew from speaking one language fluently to speaking two languages fluently. Peter knows he is not bound to his present circumstances and that he has the power to dream big and see a better future for himself and his family.
Roberto Alvarado is an amazing student who has worked hard to overcome adversity to be successful. Roberto currently lives in a group home with no contact with his biological family. Despite this challenge, Roberto has become dedicated to doing well in school.
Roberto has not let academic challenges stop him from achieving growth in reading and math. His academic goals are to read more fluently, to multiply and divide, and to write a paragraph. His teacher states that he walks into class with a huge smile, a high five or a hug, and always gives a 1,000% effort. He is the first person to volunteer to help clean the room, try out a math problem, or answer a question, and to help others.
Roberto is actively involved in his school community. Roberto is the first self-contained special education student to join the school band as a trumpet player. He loves learning music and is so proud to be part of the band. Roberto’s long-term goals are to graduate high school and to be a happy, self-sufficient adult. Roberto could dwell in the challenging situations in his life, but he does not. He is always bright and happy and is a true success story.
When one learns of Sara Zuleta Chaverra’s accomplishments in 2 short years since arriving in the United States, most are astonished. Her proficiency in English, excellent grades, and her contribution within her school community bely a false narrative that Sara is the product of a stable, affluent home when the reality is contradictory. In actuality, Sara was born in Colombia to a young, single mother. Sara’s grandmother, who provided some childcare assistance, moved to the United States leaving her career as a fashion designer to find employment as a nanny. However, the three were often struggling to make ends meet separately. The family then made great sacrifices to move Sara to the United States. When Sara enrolled in school, she had an extremely limited understanding of the English language but through her hard work and determination she tested proficient in English in August of 2021.
What makes Sara remarkable is her constant smile and sunny disposition while she tackles the next hurdle. Sara has a real and genuine gratitude for her education. Sara maintains all A's and B's so that she can earn a scholarship to attend college after high school. Sara is also an active member of the school community. She serves as the secretary of the Echo Canyon Student Council. As part of the student council, she volunteers for extra work that needs to be done and she shows up for all meetings and events.
Sara is well-loved by all her teachers. One of her teachers wrote... "she just "wowed" us all and she quickly became the highest student in class in most areas. She has been the hardest working student I have ever met. That girl is just the best.". Sara’s dream is to become a fashion designer, like her grandma. Although Sara's main goal is to someday bring her mom to live here in the United States. Her unfailingly positive attitude and commitment to her education will continue to bring her great success.
Octavio Miguel Cruz 3rd Grade | Deer Valley Unified School District
Martin Julian Padern Souza 6th Grade | Gilbert Public Schools
Kimberli Salgado Reyes 7th Grade | Scottsdale Unified School District
Elier Hernandez Roman 8th Grade | Mesa Public Schools
Ciara Montejano 8th Grade | Sunnyside Unified School District
Carlos Rojas Lopez 12th Grade | Marana Unified School District
Pedro Sis de la Cruz 12th Grade | Empower College Prep School District
Zack Wen 12th Grade | Scottsdale Unified School District
Grade: 2nd Grade School: Wilson Primary School District: Wilson Elementary District Native Language: Spanish From her teacher: Magali is truly a person of great character. Her kindness and respect for others is so apparent even at such a young age. She demonstrates honesty, trustworthiness, and compassion. Magali and her family are always involved in our school community events. She is always there to volunteer for jobs and/or help in any way. She always comes to school with a smile, always gives the best hugs, and overall makes my days (and I’m sure many other’s) so much better. I am so proud of her in every single way. I know she has a bright future ahead of her, and I cannot wait to help and watch her succeed.
Angel Benavidez Amaral
Grade: 6th Grade School: Challenger Middle School District: Glendale Elementary District Native Language: Spanish From his teacher: Angel is a positive student in class and can best be described as humble. He likes to help-out his classmates when he can, and he will be the first to volunteer to help teachers with anything. Angel is such a kind and respectful student and I never hear any complaints or negative comments about him. Angel demonstrates true perseverance and does not stop when he is confused or frustrated and is driven to become better every day.
Grade: 6th Grade School: Guerrero Elementary District: Mesa Unified District Native Language: Arabic From her teacher: Yara Alzehri would be described as a hardworking and dedicated student who always gives her very best to her work. She continually shows a determination and grit beyond her peers. Beyond her schoolwork she is a committed friend and will help her friends and family with anything they need. I would describe her as empathetic and caring as she helps her family read, write, and often translate English for them. When she finishes her work in class, she looks to help her friends at wherever they need. Yara is friendly and inclusive of all and she is always smiling. She wants to learn everything she can, she always has her materials ready so she can learn and has a book in hand because she loves to read. In a word, she is amazing! I think she will do something special and make a difference in the world. She is a bright, beautiful and kind young woman”
Heidi Del Rio Tirado
Grade: 12th Grade School: Franklin Police and Fire High School District: Phoenix Union High School District Native Language: Spanish From her teacher: This beautiful child, who has endured everything from abuse to abandonment, has the purest, most generous spirit I have ever encountered. She is bright, capable, and yet humble and free spirited. Her counselor acknowledges both her brilliance and her “fun-ness” in the same sentence: It is infrequent that you find someone who is as charismatic and genuine as Heidi at so young an age. She seems inexhaustible. She offers help without being asked and gives everything of herself if she can. She seems completely unaware how remarkable she truly is. She never has an unkind word to say of anyone. In simplest words, she lives what she believes. Where others make excuses, she made enormous strides, exceeding every expectation. Despite the challenges, Heidi continues to be positive and fun and perseverant