|Creativity through Challenges||8/7/2023 7:00:00 AM|| This summer, excitement buzzed in a Sunnyslope Elementary class as students cheered on their peers racing model sailboats. Participants blew through straws to push their sailboats across the tub of water to the finish line.
The activity was inspired by
Where the Wild Things Are , one of many classic stories studied in the “Storybook Creations” LEAP (Learning Engages All Possibilities) class. Itzel Alanis’ first and second-graders recreated elements from those tales to give them a new perspective on the message. “The goal is just to get them to explore and be creative,” Ms. Alanis said about her class.
The class assumed they would create a monster after reading Maurice Sendak’s classic story. Instead, they each built their own functioning model sailboat out of toothpicks and pool noodle pieces to float in a tub of water. They placed themselves in the book to gain a new outlook on what their boat needed in order to sail away to the fictional island. Students tested their design’s strength to float and modified it to create their perfect sailboat. “They get really engaged with the activities that come with [the book],” Ms. Alanis said.
While the “Storybook Creations” class used STEM activities to help students better comprehend the stories, Mira Loma Middle’s “STEAM into Stories” used STEM-inspired team-building activities to prepare them to write. Elizabeth Wells’ LEAP class reinforced students’ ideas of teamwork and communication to help them think critically and use technology to support their reading and writing.
Every morning, the class read a story together, completed a team-building activity, and then started on their daily writing assignment. At first, students were distant, did not cooperate with each other, and would give up on the activity. By the second week, they learned they needed to communicate and work together to succeed and complete the challenges. Starting the class with a triumphant activity made it easier for students to focus on their writing alongside each other. Jesse Mesina, a seventh grader, attributes his improvement in writing and grammar to the daily team-building activities.
A “Create Your Own Adventure” writing assignment allowed students to express their creativity. Ethan Rodriguez-Parra, an eighth grader, prompted readers with different choices in a situation where a rollercoaster derails. “I was imagining myself on a roller coaster trying to survive,” Ethan said. He said his own adventures at a local amusement park inspired his story.
The confidence students gained prepared them for middle school’s writing standards, said Ms. Wells. “I wanted to help preserve some of that growth [in writing],” she explained. “[Students can] continue with that momentum into the new school year.”
|Daniel Loza, Garage Star||8/7/2023 7:00:00 AM|| While operating the machinery that lifts school buses high enough for inspection, Daniel Loza said, “I'm working on the same buses that I rode to school every day. It brings me joy to be able to work on them and see the younger generations take those same buses.”
As a JUSD heavy-duty mechanic/service coordinator, safety is Mr. Loza’s top priority. He is responsible for the state-required inspections of school buses and maintaining them for students to safely ride.
Mr. Loza’s commitment to his job led him to be one of 10 “Garage Star” 2023 finalists for the national publication, School Transportation News . “I never thought that I would be named a garage star,” Mr. Loza said about his recognition. “That makes me really happy and it motivates me.”
This is not the first time Mr. Loza has been recognized for his hard work. In January of the 2022-2023 school year, he was named Best of the Best by his peers for his dedication to the Transportation Department and the District. The motivation to pursue a career in the automotive industry started when he was a Jurupa Valley High School student. Richard Leach, a CTE automotive pathway teacher at JVHS, inspired Mr. Loza to seek a position in the industry and find a way to give back to his community. When Mr. Leach informed him of an open substitute position with JUSD, he knew he found the right opportunity. Mr. Loza started as a substitute light-duty mechanic while continuing his education at the Universal Technical Institute. He eventually became a full-time employee after graduating and strives to improve every day to leave his footprint on JUSD.
When speaking of his team, Mr. Loza said they are the biggest highlight of his job. The respect, positive attitude, and relationships that Transportation Department team members have with each other have helped him succeed. Said Mr. Loza, “[My team is] one of the best things that I feel happy to have and am really lucky to have.”
|Beyond Words||8/7/2023 7:00:00 AM|| A summer of writing may not be what all kids have in mind, but teachers in JUSD’s LEAP (Learning Engages All Possibilities) program used their creativity and love of literacy to help students expand their skills.
At Del Sol Academy, Melaney Watson held a writing workshop that encouraged incoming fifth and sixth-graders to write and illustrate original stories. Students could draw their illustrations or print images from the computer. More artistically inclined students could pursue a graphic novel over a traditional prose story.
“The goal of the course is to get the kids to enjoy the process, to get them to enjoy the writing,” said Ms. Watson. “To say what they want to say, not writing something that they have to write.”
Ms. Watson used tools such as plot diagrams and personal narrative worksheets to help students nurture their ideas into full-fledged stories featuring a range of genres. Each story was unique and highlighted individual strengths. “It's been really fun to see how broad the scale is of what the kids are coming up with,” shared Ms. Watson.
“My story is about a Big Mac and French Fries, and they're both friends and they go on crazy adventures,” explained incoming sixth-grader Logan Razo, whose fast food illustrations had classmates laughing as he read aloud. The zombie chicken nuggets desperate for “grains” were a particular hit.
Apart from the fun, Logan recognizes the educational benefits of the course “In sixth grade, there's definitely going to be more challenges in writing, so I feel like this class is going to help me expand,” he shared. Natalia Montano, also an incoming sixth-grader, already loved to tell stories thanks to lessons from her grandmother, but LEAP helped her develop as a writer. “Before I would just do a couple sentences,” said Natalia. “But now… I can write and write and [won’t] lose focus.”
Ms. Watson wants students to feel confident in their writing and beyond, adding, “So that [they know] they're capable of doing anything that they want to do as far as literacy is concerned.”
At Indian Hills Elementary, another Del Sol teacher cultivated younger students' writing abilities. Tony Solis’s workshop helped first and second-graders craft five-star sentences by “covering everything from punctuation to grammar.” The goal was to preload incoming first-graders with writing basics while strengthing what incoming second-graders covered in first grade.
Mr. Solis used group activities to engage students. One activity involved cards featuring a who, what, where, or when. Cards in hand, students organized themselves in a row so that the resulting sentence made the most sense. After a few group examples, Mr. Solis instructed students to choose their own cards and arrange sentences independently. “They can go ahead and assess themselves on the sentences that they're writing,” explained Mr. Solis. “It is just a way where they have ownership.”
By empowering students to take charge of their writing, Ms. Watson and Mr. Solis helped prepare them for another year of Learning Without Limits in JUSD.
|Front Runners||5/23/2023 7:00:00 AM|| Track and field is a demanding sport for individual students consisting of hours-long meets with over a dozen events ranging from relay races to shot put. But the genuine camaraderie athletes form across teams makes them successful.
Students learn to navigate their own challenges with the support of their teammates. “They love to help each other,” said Aariana Goshen, Patriot High’s hurdles coach. “They always know that somebody is watching.” Patriot High School hosted the River Valley League Finals for the first time in Patriot history this season. That not only excited students but made them nervous, too.
While students have their own goals and constraints, being there for each other strengthens their self-esteem and relationships on and off the field. Donovan Ralls and Raelene Ramirez, PHS captains, both participated in multiple races and supported their teammates through mental and physical blocks. They share constructive criticism and emotional support to push their peers to move forward from those difficulties.
Students’ motivation in track and field also applies to their academics. Falling behind in school is not an option when academic requirements are in place. Kevin Garcia, Jurupa Valley’s head coach, has seen that energize students to succeed in school. “[Track and field] gives me something to look forward to,” said Ruby Birdwell. “I might not want to do my work, but if I do my work, I can keep running track.”
Both Ruby and Brooke Welliver, captains of the Jurupa Valley High team, broke school records this year. Ruby broke three for the 100 and 300-meter hurdle and 4x1 relay race while Brooke broke the discus throw record twice this season. Brooke’s focus on her academics empowered her to continuously break her personal records (PR) on the field.
Rubidoux High School’s track team adapted to the unusually wet weather the past few months to continue training diligently. Reginald Hampton, RHS head coach, expressed pride in his athletes. Though Rubidoux was a smaller team and trained less, girls placed third in the Mountain Valley League Finals and senior Mia Green made it to the CIF Masters Meet for triple jump.
Riley Villanueva, RHS, shared that as a runner and hurdler, she pushed her limits by continuously training. As a captain, she demonstrated good sportsmanship by supporting her JVHS peers along with her teammates. “Even though there’s a lot of individuality within the sport,” said Riley, “it is a team sport and we need to be there to cheer each other on.”
Nathan Aguilar, RHS captain, learned more than just discipline and focus to meet his goals in track and field. He joined to become a better athlete in football but found himself loving his Rubidoux track family in the end. He put the time, work, and dedication into his athletics and academics to “enjoy such a luxury of a sport."
The difficult strides, jumps, and throws were worth it. Jurupa Valley High girls were named Mountain Valley League Champions and Patriot High placed second overall in the River Valley League Finals. |
|Top D.O.G.S.||5/23/2023 7:00:00 AM|| Seeking to be more involved at his son’s school, William Arata attended "Macho Nacho Night" at Ina Arbuckle Elementary to learn about the school's new program,
Watch D.O.G.S. As the introductory video played, William knew he had to sign up. “[This is] one of the good ways that I can give back, not just to my son, but to the school,” he said.
Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) is an educational initiative that encourages fathers and father figures to volunteer at their children's schools. Troth Street Elementary was the first JUSD school to launch the program in February, with Ina Arbuckle following in March. “Watch D.O.G.S. brings in the fathers, the uncles, the grandfathers that usually wouldn't come to school,” shared Jovanka Martinez, Troth Street Community Schools
Teacher on Special Assignment (TSA). “Usually it's the moms who come to volunteer, but this provides an opportunity for the dads to come in and see what's going on.”
Watch D.O.G.S. greet students during arrival, help teachers in the classroom, and join recess and P.E. activities. Each father figure has something unique to offer his school. One of Troth Street’s volunteers was hesitant to sign up because he is not a strong reader, but after Ms. Martinez convinced him to participate, he became a hit when he taught kids to play soccer and conversed with Spanish-speaking students in their primary language.
School administrators understand how crucial parent involvement is for a child’s education. “We see students [with] better attendance. We see them doing better academically. We see them doing better socially,” said Dr. Maria Gadsden, Ina Arbuckle Community Schools TSA. “The kids that have their dad at the school are just so proud and excited.”
Volunteering at school is also an opportunity for parents to observe their student’s learning habits and interests. “I joined because I wanted to be part of my kids’ [lives] as much as possible,” shared Rogelio Cisneros, who has two daughters at Troth Street. “You’ve got to know about your kids, watch them grow up, because they only grow up once.”
Ms. Martinez believes that Watch D.O.G.S. fits perfectly in the Community Schools movement because it engages a portion of the community historically left out of youth education. She is especially interested in welcoming more grandfathers because they, along with grandmothers, often help raise the children of working parents. “Both my daughters grew up with their [grandparents] in the home. I saw the benefit in my own children and how if they didn’t feel comfortable coming to me, they felt comfortable going to their grandmother or grandfather,” she said.
The JUSD Watch D.O.G.S. have grown popular across grade levels, and William and his fellow volunteers recognize the impact a positive male role model can make now and in the future. “I don’t want to be a product of my environment. I want my environment to be a product of me,” he shared. “The biggest impact that I have on my environment is the legacy I leave behind with what I teach my children. So if I am there for my son, he’ll grow up and he’ll be there for his.”
For more information about Watch D.O.G.S., please visit dadsofgreatstudents.com .
|Jurupa Middle has the Beat||5/23/2023 7:00:00 AM|| Over 25 years, the Jurupa Middle School Drumline has consistently placed in the top five of its junior percussion competition circuit and has won four championships (2000, 2001, 2019, & 2022). This year, the group placed second, just shy of another title.
When asked what makes this a championship program, drumline leader Jay Hakomaki answered, “The dedication of the kids.”
In fact, judges are often surprised to discover that the JMS Drumline is a middle school group. “I think that’s a testament to how well the kids carry themselves,” said Mr. Hakomaki, who also teaches band. “The middle school kids are kind of the forgotten group. They’re the group that everybody underestimates, and I love it when they do something amazing.”
To join drumline, the only prerequisite is that a student must also participate in band, as reading music is a large component of the program. Otherwise, anyone can try out, even if they do not already play a percussive instrument, like eighth-grader Sabrina Avalos, who plays the bass clarinet in band but the bass drum in drumline. “You get to make more noise and you actually get to move around and do choreography,” said Sabrina of the differences between drumline and band.
The theatrical component of drumline is often what kids find most thrilling and surprising. “They’re marching, they’re playing music, [and] they’re acting,” said Mr. Hakomaki. “I think it surprises some kids because they think it’s just hitting an instrument with a stick, and it’s a lot more than that.”
Each season, the JMS Drumline competes under a different theme. The latest was “9 to 5,” in which the students portrayed businesspeople working the grind until they abandon the rigidity of the workforce and let loose in a kind of dance party celebration. “In regular band, it’s just a bunch of different songs that a lot of people know, but drumline...makes a story,” shared Cesar Ramirez, eighth-grade xylophone player. “That’s why I like it.”
Drumline members are expected to practice at home and attend after-school rehearsals twice a week. Rehearsals begin in September while the competition season runs from March through April. Apart from mastering complex rhythms that put them at a more advanced level than their peers in band, JMS Drumline students learn a great deal about responsibility and teamwork.
In addition to showing up on time for every rehearsal, members are expected to prepare the space in the gym. By the time competition season arrives, students are laying out the performance mat, setting up their instruments, and performing warm-ups without being instructed. “I’m always pleasantly surprised by how good they get at stuff like that,” said Mr. Hakomaki. “I’ve learned that kids can do anything you throw at them, especially middle school kids.”
Though the JMS Drumline has a history of success, winning is not the primary goal for Mr. Hakomaki. “For me, the goal is to get as many kids as possible playing music...to get them to do something that they think is pretty cool,” he said, “and to get them to do stuff that I never imagined I could do in middle school.”
|Double the Spotlights||4/25/2023 7:00:00 AM|| Bringing two high school theatre programs together for a collaborative musical can be just as intimidating as it is exciting. This spring, Jurupa Valley and Patriot High School united to bring stellar performances of The Little Mermaid Jr. to both stages.
After working together for several years, the theatre directors at Jurupa Valley and Patriot High School brought their students together to host JUSD’s first-ever collaborative musical. This was also the first musical that Patriot High put on under the current theatre director. The student-led production got to work in January for their performances in early April.
With a combined production of nearly 100 students, the mixed cast consisted of two sets of lead actors and a crew of students from both schools. Students had the creative freedom and the responsibility over building their stage crafts, assembling their own costumes, and leading the behind-the-scene directions for lights, sound, and actors’ cues.
As the opening night approached, the productions continuously traveled to one another’s schools for rehearsals and to work with their role counterparts. Working in a new environment with new people was not easy in the beginning but through communication and accountability, they grew together as a team.
Bryan Gomez, a JVHS junior, and Evamaria Gutierrez, a PHS sophomore, worked together as stage managers. They were responsible for directing actors and crew during rehearsals and the show. They learned to step up and be leaders while also learning to assist at the other’s theater. “I have had to adjust and navigate when working with [Bryan],” said Evamaria. “We got to learn a lot of new tricks.”
Actors also grew in their roles and made friends. “It makes me feel better knowing that I have a friend over [at Jurupa Valley High School],” said Kaitlin Crislip, who played Ariel for the Patriot High shows. She and Mariela Ramirez, JVHS’s Ariel, bonded early in the production. Throughout the process, the two students were supportive of each other and their crews.
Sharing the common interest to put on a spectacular show for the community brought students from both schools closer. They created an environment that made it easier to work together and share their love of performing.
AJ Utz, who played Ursula in the JVHS shows, finds it terrifying just thinking about performing in front of a packed audience. That doesn’t stop her though. “I love being on stage,” said AJ. “There is nothing that I would rather be doing.”
All the hard work they put together on and off the stage to create a quality production was worth it. From creating a stage with an "under the sea" feeling to rehearsing for long hours, as Bryan said, all that hard work pays off when they see the audience react positively to their show.
|Celebrating the Whole Child||4/25/2023 7:00:00 AM|| Families enjoyed an afternoon of clear skies and warm weather at the 2nd annual Day of the Child resource fair on April 12th. Hosted by JUSD’s Parent Involvement Community Outreach Department (P.I.C.O.), the event provided resources for JUSD families and the community.
P.I.C.O. made the event their own after adopting the resource fair from the Rubidoux Family Resource Center, which previously hosted a similar event. In honor of the Day of the Child, this year’s event had local organizations present with fun activities, free food, entertainment, and the opportunity to win raffle prizes.
The Day of the Child is commemorated every year on April 30th to honor children for their innocence and role in their families. Originating in Mexico and celebrated in the United States, children are seen as the most important members of our society. P.I.C.O. ensures that by advocating and strengthening the connection between families and the community, children are supported.
Chris Mercado, a social worker at P.I.C.O., organized this year’s event and made it larger with 35 vendors compared to the 23 vendors at last year’s event. The fair included organizations that best benefit the health and well-being of Jurupa families.
Riverside University Health System, First 5 Riverside, and Reach Out Jurupa Valley were among the 35 vendors that were at the fair. While parents gathered information from the local vendor’s booths, children were able to participate in their hands-on activities. The booths had crafts and games including teeth brushing simulations, spinning wheels for prizes, and face painting. Students reveled in the fun while learning about healthy living.
“The goal is really just to bring awareness, to show the community that there are resources available out there,” said Mr. Mercado. “There are organizations that are willing to help.” Bringing these Riverside County organizations and services together all in one place makes it more accessible for families to receive the assistance they need, he added.
Many families attended the event to learn more about the specific services the participating organizations offer. “P.I.C.O. is really just the middle organization that brings outside community organizations into the district,” said Chris about P.I.C.O.’s work for the community. They operate to provide families with the necessary instruments to succeed and grow outside of academics.
Performances by Rubidoux High School’s Ballet Folklorico and band kept the event focused on celebrating children. The students showcased their talent to a captivated audience. The Folklorico dancers’ skirts moving with every spin had both children and adults just as excited.
In an afternoon with various organizations, amusement, and delicious food, adults, and children all got something out of the resource fair. Families walked away with new resources and the knowledge that P.I.C.O. and JUSD will be there to help support their whole child. |
|Fair Fashion||4/25/2023 7:00:00 AM|| Prom is considered a right of passage for many high schoolers, an occasion for students to feel glamorous as they dance, pose for photos, and make lasting memories with friends and classmates.
The event is also expensive. Tickets, outfits and accessories, hair and makeup, transportation - all of these elements contribute to a hefty, often exclusionary, price tag. “I have a lot of friends that didn't attend last year because they can’t afford it,” shared Hailey Fry, a junior at Jurupa Valley High.
But Hailey did attend prom last year because she found her perfect - and completely free - dress in her school’s prom closet.
In JUSD, all three comprehensive high schools host prom closets for students - rooms filled with free dresses, suits, shoes, and accessories for any student who needs an outfit for prom. “I like that it’s open to everyone,” said Hailey. “It’s just a safe space.”
Gently used and new prom clothes are donated by staff and members of the community. “So many people do like to do community outreach work,” said Selena Banks, a campus supervisor who oversees the JVHS prom closet. “There’s always something to give.”
Before establishing her school’s prom closet, Ms. Banks worked with JVHS administration to open the Jag Closet, a free clothing closet that operates outside of prom season featuring casual and interview-appropriate options as well as hygiene products. Ms. Banks strives to include high-quality brands and items so that students do not feel as though they are settling for less.
“If you’re working in education, you already have something in you that says you want to help others, especially kids,” said Ms. Banks. “So if that’s in you, then you should push that out more to help the community around you.”
Rubidoux High’s prom closet also grew from a permanent clothing closet. The Falcon Wellness Center, which opened this school year, hosts weekly Thrifting Thursdays for students to “shop” for free clothes. In the lead-up to prom, the entire Wellness Center space was devoted to the prom closet. “Like every other resource that we offer here, we saw a need, so we filled it,” said Anna Avila, RHS outreach worker.
To advertise their prom closets, Jurupa Valley and Rubidoux High put on fashion shows featuring outfits students could shop for. Kaela Hurst, RHS senior and ASB member, participated because she wanted her peers to see someone relatable modeling a dress. “I think it's important for students to have access to activities like prom because it makes high school memorable,” she shared. “It's a lot of fun to be able to bond with your friends and people you may not know.”
Though prom closets cannot break down all barriers, there is no doubt that they contribute to equitable experiences for JUSD students and help to destigmatize financial hardship. “Rubidoux is every student as a whole,” said Ms. Avila. “Nobody should feel left out and nobody should feel that they can’t participate in all of the great things that we offer just because of their socioeconomic status or whatever reason that they feel that they wouldn’t be able to attend.”
If you are interested in donating prom attire, please call one of our comprehensive high schools for more information. |
|Hitting New Notes||3/28/2023 7:00:00 AM|| Standing ovations and emotions filled the dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony of the Elliott N. Duchon Concert Hall at Rubidoux High School on March 10th. Rubidoux’s choir, band, and symphony orchestra performed for a packed audience at the event.
After always having to perform in their school gymnasium or other theaters, students debuted their brand-new space with stellar performances. They proved that their talent needed this space on their campus to efficiently showcase their music.
The new concert hall opened its doors a fter nearly two years of construction . Designed for band, choir, and orchestra to learn and perform in, the 14,000-square-foot building includes a large concert hall for 300 guests, music classrooms, and an outdoor amphitheater.
The venue is dedicated to Elliott N. Duchon, former Jurupa Unified School District superintendent of seventeen years, whose passion for music led to the expansion of music programs in JUSD schools. Under his leadership, Pacific Avenue Academy of Music was established and instrumental strings programs were implemented there, as well as at Mission Middle School and Rubidoux High School. These music projects led to Mr. Duchon’s vision for Rubidoux to have a concert hall venue.
Evelyn Salazar and Natalie Cervantes, senior performing arts students, stood alongside Mr. Duchon as they cut the ribbon and welcomed everyone into the building. “It felt like such an honor that I was able to open the place up for everyone,” said Evelyn, a chamber choir senior, who has seen the choir program grow throughout her time at RHS and is excited for future classes to have this elevated facility at their disposal.
Mr. Duchon’s vision for this venue is for students to learn in this environment to prepare them for a future in music. For Annalyse Jimenez, a sophomore, this is exhilarating for her bright goals of pursuing music after graduation, “What excites me the most is the amount of performance opportunities we’ll get,” she said.
As a cello player in the orchestra and a marimba player in the band, Annalyse said that being able to perform in a professional venue will equip her for her big dreams, “It sounds so beautiful… it’s kind of unbelievable. I’m still kind of processing that [the concert hall is] here,” said Annalyse about the breathtaking features of the hall.
The grand concert hall is a huge milestone for students pursuing a future in music. “For many generations to come, the district will be a destination for creativity and music,” said Dr. Trenton Hansen, JUSD Superintendent, during his speech at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
JUSD continues to build facilities and opportunities that allow students to grow. As Kevin Corridan, RHS principal, stated, students will be encouraged to attend school, make connections in the community, and improve academically in their own spaces.
Sarah Choi, orchestra and band director, dedicated Rubidoux’s new symphony orchestra's first performance to Mr. Duchon. “Thank you, Mr. Duchon, for believing in Rubidoux High School, and for believing in all of us,” she said, “[and] for your tireless devotion in ensuring that our students get exactly what they deserve.”