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Preparing Students for College Early

Jesus ArrizonJesus Arrizon is being honored as a Champion of Change for his service to education. 

I am deeply honored to represent my community of San Luis, Arizona, and the Gadsden Elementary School District 32, as a White House Champion of Change. Our students face numerous challenges that include living in a predominantly Hispanic border community stricken by poverty, limited English language exposure, high unemployment rate, and the lack of a culturally diverse population. Nevertheless, I believe that we have risen to the occasion by creatively developing programs that prepare our students with the necessary skills to succeed in college. For example, one of the programs I am involved with allows our children to embark on a college degree at the beginning of 7th grade. Our school district, partners with our local community college, to offer college-level mathematics courses. These children have the opportunity to complete College Calculus I before they transfer to high school. This program gives students the competitive edge needed to succeed in our global economy.

Students, parents, school board members, and our community college, work collaboratively to ensure the success of these students. Those who successfully complete the first course are allowed to enroll in the next college-level course, with the goal of completing a two-year college degree by the end of their senior year of high school. 

Those participants who are enrolled in advanced college mathematics are concurrently enrolled in an American College Test (ACT) Preparatory class at our junior high school. The students achieving a passing score in the ACT test participate in rigorous academic courses offered through the Center for Talented Youth Program at Johns Hopkins University, at five major sites across the nation. At these sites, they take courses such as: Principles of Engineering Design, Chemistry in Society, Nuclear Science, Anatomy and Physiology, Volcanoes, Paleontology, Philosophy, among others. Many of the students who participated in the first cohort have been accepted to institutions not only in Arizona, but across the U.S. They have been awarded scholarships to attend highly selective universities such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of California at Berkeley, Duke University, Rochester University, the University of Arizona, and Arizona State University. Furthermore, our students have attended summer programs at The Barrett Summer Scholar’s Program at Arizona State University, MIT, Harvard University, University of California, Bristol University, and Seattle University.

This program provides a lifetime opportunity for our students from San Luis, Arizona, enabling them to leave their community to expose and interact with other students from other cultures and to experience life outside of their border town allowing them to see life from a different perspective. Upon their return from these summer camps, they embrace their own ethnicity infusing them with a profound thirst for academic success and competiveness.

It is however the students who have been diligently studying and preparing for the rigors of this program, the students’ parents who have worked very closely with me tirelessly to ensure that their kids participate in class, tutoring, and other extracurricular activities. I humbly accept this honor, but I would like to congratulate my students and their families as well, as they are the true Champions of Change. 

Jesus Arrizon is a teacher at Gadsden Elementary School and professor at Arizona Western College