Archive for the ‘Student Accomplishments’ Category

Cactus Canyon’s online newspaper was awarded a CSPA Gold Crown Award on March 17.

By Skyler Wolfe
Cougar News Blog

     The Cactus Canyon online school newspaper, the Cougar News Blog, has won a Gold Crown Award that is given by the Columbia Scholastic Press Association. Winners were announced March 17 and the Cougar News Blog was one of two middle schools to earn a gold.
     The award is one of the most prestigious in student journalism. About 1,100 publications were judged from junior high, high school, and college levels. Only about 250 Crowns were awarded, including just 86 gold.
     The CSPA announced in November that the blog would earn a Crown, but adviser Jason Davis did not know if it would be a gold or silver. Davis was both pleased and shocked to learn that his blog had won the Gold Crown.
     “I was shocked and I shouted, ‘We got a gold!’ when I heard,” Davis said. “I found out while watching the presentation on Facebook. I was pretty sure we were going to get silver, so I actually watched them call our name a few times before I heard them announce the award.”
     Students were also joyed to learn that their hard work had paid off.
     “I feel like my hard work has paid off because it helped make us get recognized and get the higher crown award,” eighth grader Kylee Demauro said. “It also made me more motivated to try harder so we can win again next year.”
     Davis is proud of his students, but also said there is now more pressure to win again. He expects students to work even harder and to keep improving.
     “Students worked very hard over the last year to earn a Crown and it is so wonderful to see all that work pay off,” Davis said. “But it’s kind of like a coach who wins the Super Bowl; you enjoy it for a little bit and then start thinking about the next one.”
     Davis has been trying to strengthen the writing that is put on the blog. He only wants the best for his writers and has changed his teaching in some ways, including making new groups that include veteran and new staff members.
     “It gives the students that have been around a while a chance to take a leadership role on their team and learn more about writing by teaching it,” Davis said. “Within that format, we’ve created incentives for everyone in the group to meet their deadlines and turn in their best work.”
     The blog features photography from yearbook staff members and stories written by students in the advanced journalism course. Davis said he’s glad students choose to be staff members because he knows there are elective classes that are easier and more fun.
     “They do incredible work,” he said. “Not a lot of junior-high students are interested in putting in the time and effort it takes to be a good student journalist, but these kids put in the work and it shows.”

By Sigfrido Ibarra
Cougar News Blog

      Cactus Canyon’s Yearbook – the Cougar Chronicles – was awarded second place in the 2016 Lifetouch National Yearbook Showcase.
      Yearbook adviser Jason Davis was surprised to hear in January that his class had improved from their honorable mention in the 2015 competition.
      “I was surprised. Literally, surprised,” Mr. Davis said. “My Lifetouch representative, Julie Bales, came to school and told us we’d earned second place. Other than that, I was thrilled for my students.”
      Eighth-grade editor Brooke Wine, who worked on the winning book, said she felt awesome and accomplished just by helping her class win that award.
      “I felt excited because we were working on it for a long time and it took a lot of work,” Wine said.
      Students learned from the experience of creating an award-winning book. For example, Madonna Parker said she learned that hard work pays off.
      “I learned how to communicate with my friends with technology and make a book that everybody can look back on 20 years later,” Parker said.
      As the staff continues toward completion of this year’s book, Mr. Davis hopes that this award inspires the yearbook to make the 2016-17 book even better.
      “I hope this year’s group sees this second-place award and strives to do better,” he said. “It always has; every book we’ve made has been our best one yet.”
     This year’s edition of the Cougar Chronicles is available for pre-order at ybpay.lifetouch.com. Use school code 9910317.

Members of the marching band practice outside in preparation for their trip to Arizona State University. The group played on the field at halftime of the ASU football game on Oct. 8. (Photo by Brooke Wine)

Members of the marching band practice outside in preparation for their trip to Arizona State University. The group played on the field at halftime of the ASU football game on Oct. 8. (Photo by Brooke Wine)

Sigfrido Ibarra
Cougar New Blog

     The Cactus Canyon marching band had the benefit of performing with ASU’s own marching band during halftime of Arizona State’s football game Oct. 8 in Tempe.
     The group, along with other bands from around the state, helped ASU by performing “Maroon & Gold,” ASU’s fight song and “1999” by Prince.
Aimee Vining, the band director, thought it would be a excellent way to get her class a hands-on experience on the field.
     “I really just wanted them to experience marching band in a big way,” she said. “They were able to interact with the members of the band.”
     The CCJH marching band members thought it was a good idea to visit ASU, have a tour, and thought that playing on the field would help them in the long run for other activities at school.
     “This would help me in marching band because I know what playing on a field is like,“ said Melvin Lopez, who plays the trumpet.
     Ms. Vining heard about the trip by getting e-mailed by the coordinator from ASU. The trip costs the school about $100, but that money was used to pay for the bus to get there and back. Student had to get a slip signed by their parents to be able to go to ASU and they had to learn the songs.

     Staff members from the Cougar Chronicles recently earned recognition in the Journalism Education Association’s Junior High and Middle School National Media Contest. Three students – Lauren Powell, SeAnna Brennan, and Justin LaPrise – earned Superior ratings for their photos and received medals for their efforts, as only 10 percent of entries receive Superior ratings.
     Brennan and Megan Wagner earned two Excellent ratings, while Skylar Sosa and Brooke Wine each earned one.
     Wine and Robin Marshall each earned two Honorable Mentions, while Powell, Tiffani Morris, Mariana Rios, and Madonna Parker each earned one. The entire staff received an HR for theme development throughout the book.
     In all, 17 of the photos submitted by Chronicles staffers were recognized. Mr. Jason Davis is the staff adviser.

The CCJH Student Council earned the award of Master Council at the AAJHSC convention on May 5.

The CCJH Student Council earned the award of Master Council at the AAJHSC convention on May 5.

By Lexi Demery
Cougar News Blog

     The student council masters are here.
     Cactus Canyon’s Student Council earned the award of Master Council – the highest given by the Arizona Association of Junior High Student Councils – at the state convention at We Ko Pa Resort and Convention Center in Scottsdale on May 5.
     “We were so excited to earn the Master Council award,” said adviser Jason Davis. “We worked very hard for the whole year and now we are proud to be able to call ourselves one of the best councils in the state of Arizona.”
     In order to receive Master Council the council had to meet over 25 requirements. The group had to complete leadership, school spirit, and diversity projects, as well as raise funds for the school and charity. In order to get rated a Master Council, every project needed to be complete and earn at least 90 percent by the judging committee.
     “We had to attend the AAJHSC events, and even had to present a lesson at one,” said Mr. Davis. “We also had to document our activities with reports, a collage, and a scrapbook.”
     This was the council’s first year as a member of AAJHSC and there was a lot of effort and dedication that went into .
     “I’m so happy, we put so much in our student council work,” said Faith Marie Inzunza.
     The council was very tense before the convention because making the Master Council application and projects perfect was very tedious.
     “I was stressed to the max before the convention,” Davis said. “I knew we had done everything we needed to do to get the award, but I was terrified that I made a mistake on the application or that I would forget to bring something we needed.”
     In addition to the award ceremony, students heard a presentation from motivational speaker Patrick Perez, who uses dancing to connect with his audience and help them set goals and work toward achieving them.
     “The things Mr. Perez talked about were really inspirational, and touching,” said eighth-grade representative Jessica Martinez. “The message really got to me, personally and was extremely helpful.”
     As described on its website, the AAJHSC is a student-oriented organization dedicated to developing leadership in student council’s in Arizona. Its goals are to unite students, develop leadership skills, and educate students in school spirit, academic achievement, community involvement, and diversity.
     “Being in the AAJHSC gave our kids a chance to network with students from other councils, learn ways to improve our events and activities, and become better leaders and examples,” Mr. Davis said. “We plan to be part of the association for a long time.”

Lauren Powell drives to the basket during the DMSAL championship game. Cactus Canyon won the game on a last-second shot by Maya Richardson. (Photo by Mr. Davis)

Lauren Powell drives to the basket during the DMSAL championship game. Cactus Canyon won the game, 26,24, on a last-second shot by Maya Richardson. (Photo by Mr. Davis)

By Caitlyn McNear
Cougar News Blog

     It didn’t look good with just a few seconds left in the game, but CCJH’s girls basketball scored a win in the DSMAL championship game against Combs Middle School on March 12.
     Toward the end of the game, the Cougars were ahead by one point, but Combs made two free throws with 17 second left making the outcome for the Cougars look not so great. That was until Maya Richardson made a three-point shot from the side, causing the Cougars to win the game, 26-24.
     “When I made the winning shot, it felt like the biggest rush ever, it felt so great,” said Richardson.
     Not only was Richardson excited about winning the game, but also many of the other girls on the team. They all worked hard and deserved the credit for winning the big game.
     Being apart of the team has affected all the girls apart of the team in many ways. Playing basketball can teach them important lessons.
     “Being apart of the team taught me to be a good leader,” said eighth grader Lola Knotts. “It taught me to not go into games and be cocky or over confident because you never know what the outcome of a game will be no matter how bad the team.”
     In the future, some of the girls plan to stay in basketball for Apache Junction High School. They did a great job, as said by Coach Kim Grant, and deserve to keep playing basketball for the future years.
     “I plan on trying out for basketball next year because Coach Kim said that we were the best team she has ever coached and even though we are losing some players to different schools, I still plan on being an awesome team,” said Knotts.
     Coach Grant said she was proud of how the team didn’t give up and played hard until the end.
     “We definitely didn’t play our best in that championship game, but we gutted out the win,” Grant said. “Rose Gray played incredible defense and showed so much heart. This was a great group of girls to coach and be around.”
     This was the second consecutive Desert Middle School Athletic League title for Cactus Canyon.

By Jenevieve Saidi
Cougar News Blog

     Cactus Canyon Junior High participated in a coin drive over the week of March 28. They wanted to raise money for the American Cancer Society.
     The fundraiser collected a total of $1,516.18. The American Cancer Society is a nationwide health organization that is dedicated to cancer research, education, and eliminating cancer. It is a volunteer health organization and is one of the largest contributors to cancer research and public education about the diseases.
vLast year the school raised $1,152.87. This year they raised $363.31 more than that.
     “We are proud to have raised more money than last year,” said Meaghan Davis, dean of students..
     The money donated to ACS is going to be spent on cancer research, patient support, preventive information, detection, and treatment. ACS also holds their own events and fundraisers such as Relay for Life and Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.

The CCJH cheer team had long practices on nights and weekends to prepare for the DMSAL competition. (Photo by Tiffani Morris)

The CCJH cheer team had long practices on nights and weekends to prepare for the DMSAL competition. (Photo by Tiffani Morris)

By Bailey Tower
Cougar News Blog

     Cactus Canyon’s Cougars cheer squad won the Desert Middle Schools Athletic League for the sixth time on March 19 at Combs High School.
     They competed against three other teams: Hohokam, Combs and Maricopa. The Cougars won all five categories, including the all-around.
     There were five categories that included five-man, which is a one-minute stunting routine that only involves five members of each team and lib-off, which is a competition in which one stunt group from each school participates to see who can hold a lib stunt the longest.
     Jump-off is a competition in which two cheerleaders from each school perform different jumps and the cheerleader with the highest and best executed jumps wins. Tumble-off is a competition in which two cheerleaders from each school perform their best tumbling pass and the ladies are eliminated until there is a winner.
     “Jessica Grabowski won the jump-off and I won the tumble-off and one of our stunt groups won the five-man and the lib-off,” said eighth grader Robynn Vandekrol. “We won the all-around show cheer competition and got trophies.”
     These girls have worked hard to earn the term champions for Cactus Canyon Junior High school. The team usually practiced four to five days a week for two to five hours. Practices often went into the evening hours.
     “We also practiced during spring break on Thursday for three hours and Friday for hours,” said Coach Cathy Messenger. “Plus, we had football games to attend to in January and February.”
     The girls practiced and practiced and they followed through by winning every category.
     “This year was an amazing year, full of hard work and good times,” said Vandekrol. “Our team walked into competition confident and walked out champions once again.”

Some of Cactus Canyon's top musicians represented the school in the Pinal County Honor Band in January. (Photo by Ms. Vining)

Some of Cactus Canyon’s top musicians represented the school in the Pinal County Honor Band in January. (Photo by Ms. Vining)

Jersiah Wrobleski
Cougar News Blog

     Twelve Cactus Canyon musicians performed in the Pinal County Honor Band Jan. 26 in Coolidge. The annual event brings students from all over the county together to play and encourage the community to celebrate band.
     The group played three songs at Central Arizona College in Coolidge. Musicians from 12 other schools were brought together in this opportunity for students all over Pinal County to meet and play.
     The honor band had a long day of rehearsals and listening to recording of the songs before the performance.
     Before the event music director Aimee Vining made a list of 12 of her best performers and sent the list to the director at CAC, who then chose seven CCJH musicians based on which instruments were needed. Representing Cactus Canyon were: Kendra Litt, Mackezie Dillon, Alexa DeLorenzo, Faith Marie Inzunza, Laura Morning, Shawn Gilbert, and Cameron Hermann.
     “There was no audition,” Ms. Vining said. ”I just chose my top twelve players, which was really hard because they are all so talented.”

Yearbook adviser Mr. Davis is presented with an award from Lifetouch representative Julie Bales. (Photo by Jaden Miner)

Yearbook adviser Mr. Davis is presented with an award from Lifetouch representative Julie Bales. (Photo by Jaden Miner)

By Caitlyn McNear
Cougar News Blog

     Jason Davis and his Cactus Canyon yearbook class earned an honorable mention in the 2015 Lifetouch National School Studios Yearbook Showcase Contest.
     The 2014-15 edition of the Cougar Chronicles was honored in the contest where at least 200 yearbooks were judged. In addition to the top three books, about 10 others earned the honorable mention.
     “I think it was great that we got an honorable mention last year,” said Emily Lewis. “All of the students in yearbook worked really hard to try to make the yearbook the best it could be.”
     “We are thrilled to be recognized in any way for our hard work,” said Mr. Davis. “Sure, it would’ve been nice to get first place, but we’re also not the only school in the country that makes a good yearbook.”
     This is the second time the Chronicles has earned an award in the contest. The 2012-13 edition also received an honorable mention. Although the staff was very excited about their award, they never expected to win anything.
     “I don’t think I could ever say I expect to win anything, but I’m also not surprised,” said Mr. Davis. “I knew last year’s book was very good and I am very happy that other people felt that way to.”
     The yearbook squad showed something unique that each group was committed to during the year. For example, the yearbook students were dedicated to getting “crisp and clear” photos and the girls basketball team was committed to working as a team.
     “The theme of last year’s book was ‘committed’ and we tried to show something unique that each group was really dedicated to during the year,” said Mr. Davis.
     Achieving awards is good for the yearbook squad and helps students that are new to the class know right away what the goals are.
     “Winning any award is good for the yearbook program as a whole because it helps us build a culture of success,” said Mr. Davis.
     The yearbook staff’s goal is to improve the book each year and improving on a book that won an award means a lot of time and effort.
     “I ask them to work very hard and get a lot done, and sometimes they don’t like me very much for that,” said Mr. Davis. “But having a couple of awards to show off helps the students see that the high expectations I have for them lead to great results.”
     As the yearbook continues to get better, Mr. Davis wants to see how it stacks up with more of the best yearbooks in the country and plans to enter more competitions next year, including the Columbia Scholastic Press Association Crown Awards.
     “I think the quality of the photography in our books every year is as good as any book in the country and the way we feature writing in the book improves each year,” said Mr. Davis. “Even if we don’t win, entering more contests can only help us improve.”
     Not only was Mr. Davis happy himself, but his yearbook squad as well.
     “I think it was great that we got an honorable mention last year all of the students in yearbook worked really hard to try to make the yearbook the best it could be,” said Emily Lewis, a yearbook student. “I was very happy the with the award because one of my pages that I worked on with another student from last year Rose Hansing got to be shown in the honorable mention.”