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The Future Looks Bright for the Class of 2017

Safia Francis (left) and Grey Peckham delivering one of the student commencement speeches at graduation 2017.

This year’s graduating class is an amazing group of students. Their internships have taken them into many sectors of the city and county, and their Senior Impact Projects have made great and lasting improvements to the school community. This year’s graduating class includes interns for Tucson Museum of ArtMiles Exploratory Learning Center, University of Arizona Department of Chemistry and BiochemistryLiving Streets Alliance, and Center. Our seniors have also worked toward making City HS a stronger community for all students through their Senior Impact Projects which included:

•Helping City HS to become a more diverse community by collecting data and presenting findings and recommendations to key staff members.

•Analyzing the Whole School Meeting and recommending improvements so that this weekly gathering can be more accessible and engaging for all students.

•Collecting data to support the transition from the Pennington Street Block Party to the Pennington Street Showcase.

As if all of that is not enough, the list of college acceptances for this year’s graduating class is equally as impressive. Here are a few highlights from this year’s Class of 2017:

Michaela Everett has been at City High School for four years. She has always had a passion for law enforcement and this year had her internship with the Tucson Fire Department. Michaela received the Provincial Merit-Based Scholarship from Pennsylvania State University and will start her college career there in the fall with a major in the Administration of Justice.

Safia Francis joined CHS as a junior (and we are so grateful that she did!) This year, Safia was the intern for Living Streets Alliance and worked tirelessly to support the Cyclovia events as well as other efforts of LSA to make our community safer and healthier for all members. Safia was offered considerable merit-based scholarship funding from Hampshire College, including the Non Satis Scire Award For students that demonstrate academic excellence across disciplines. Safia will be heading to Western Massachusetts to begin her education at Hampshire this fall.

Traye Norton came to CHS as a sophomore and played a key leadership role on the Narwhal Basketball team for all three of his years. Traye served as the intern for Design Collaborations, a landscape architecture firm in downtown Tucson. As the first person in his family to attend a four-year university, Traye will be heading to Coe College, in Cedar Rapids, IA this fall with the support of a generous merit-based scholarship from Coe.

Grey Peckham joined CHS as a junior and spent his senior year as an intern for the Arizona Queer Archives under the mentorship of University of Arizona’s Dr. Jamie Lee. Grey has been an strong advocate for queer youth both within the City High community as well as the broader Tucson Community. grey was awarded the PGLAG/Alliance Fund scholarship which recognizes young individuals who have made significant contributions to the queer your community through advocacy work. Grey will be attending Ithaca College this fall thanks, in part, to the Flora Brown Award, a merit-based scholarship.

Alissa Vorndran has been at City HS for four years. Ali was an active member of the CHS drama department during her time here and spent her last year as an intern working with deaf and hard of hearing students at Miles Exploratory Learning Center, a TUSD elementary school. Ali earned the coveted Lumberjack Scholarship this year, a full-tuition waiver at Northern Arizona University where she will attend this fall with a major in elementary education.

These students represent a small handful of the amazing group that graduated on May 26. The list of college acceptances for the 2016-2017 school year is as follows:

  • American University
  • Arizona State University
  • Coe College
  • Hampshire College
  • Ithaca College
  • Northern Arizona University
  • Northern Illinois University
  • Pennsylvania State University
  • University of Arizona
  • University of Hawaii at Hilo
  • Upper Iowa University
  • University of the Pacific
  • Western Illinois University
  • Western New Mexico University

We are all so excited to see what this amazing group does in the future and wish them all the best of wishes as they embark their new adventures.

Graduation 2017: May 26 @ 7:00

Graduation will take place Friday, May 26, at 7:00pm. The location for this year’s ceremony is Jácome Plaza, located at 101 North Stone Avenue, next to the Joel Valdez Main Library.

Graduating seniors will need to be at City High School no later than 6:00pm that evening to prepare for the event. For other details about the event, contact Eve Rifkin.

Parent volunteers needed. City High School has an annual tradition of parents of students in grades 9th, 10th, and 11th grades helping out with graduation. Tasks include set up, decorations, and hosting the post-ceremony reception. If you are interested in volunteering on May 26, please contact Jeff Hartman at your earliest convenience.

A Big Week for Seniors!

Safia Francis, Intern at Living Streets Alliance, shares her experiences at City HS during her Senior Gateway.

As the school year enters its final stretch, seniors have one last milestone to reach before crossing the stage as high school graduates: The Senior Gateway.

Each year, during the first week of May, Seniors deliver their final presentation of learning, reflecting on their growth and accomplishments during their time at City HS. Senior Gateways are organized around a central theme; this year’s included: “Finding a Bigger Tank”; Gaining Confidence”; “Never Stop Fighting”; and “The Road Ahead”. For seniors at City HS, this final Gateway represents years of growth, development, and reflection. We are all so proud of these soon-to-be graduates.

Directly after the Gateway presentations, seniors headed up to Mt. Lemmon for 3 days of relaxing and community-building. The annual Senior Trip trip takes place at the White Tail campground on Mt. Lemmon. This year’s trip included an outdoor screening of The Blair Witch Project, forest bocce ball, and lots of laughter.

Next stop–graduation 2017!

Thank You Community Volunteers!

Chris Wallace, court reporter for AZ Federal District Court, shows students a court reporting tool.

April is volunteer appreciation month and we’ve got some hearty thank-you’s for the many community members that make the City HS program possible. On any given day, guest speakers visit classes to discuss pertinent topics; students work with community experts in the field; and students from Pima Community College and The University of Arizona are coach and tutor students as they refine their core academic skills.

In February, community members from the field of law and law enforcement came to City HS for our annual Career Day. Lawyers, police officers, court interpreters, and a federal judge took time out of their busy days to share their experiences and insights with our students. This kind of community engagement has the power to inspire students to consider careers and college majors that they had never considered before.

One central feature of the City HS program relies the most heavily on committed volunteers in the community: The Senior Internship Program. Each week, seniors spend 5-6 hours, with their mentors, at various sites throughout the city, including KXCI community radio, Miles Exploratory Learning Center, Barrio Viejo Elderly Housing, Tucson Museum of Art, MOCA Tucson, and Xerocraft. Internship mentors provide guidance, teach interns critical workplace skills, and help interns consider various pathways that they might take during their postsecondary years. The internship program would not be possible without the time and generosity that our community mentors provide for our students.

To all the community members that have shared their time and expertise with the City HS staff and students, we thank you.

Senior Traye Norton Visits Coe College

Traye Norton, a senior who plays center on the basketball team, will be going to Coe College this fall.

Coe College, a selective liberal arts college in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was so impressed with Traye Norton’s application, that they flew him out for a visit two weeks ago. When Traye took his PSAT as a sophomore, he, like many other of his peers, checked the “yes” box next to the question: “would you like to receive information about colleges that have programs you are interested in?”. For the next two years, he received countless postcards, letters, and brochures about colleges around the country. But Coe stood out. “They acted like they really wanted me,” said Traye, who will be attending Coe starting in August 2017.

Traye had a great experience visiting Coe: “The people were very friendly and wanted to help figure out where I was going. Also–the art building was amazing.” Traye plans on minoring in art and will take classes in philosophy and psychology as he decides what his major will be. He has been offered a generous merit-based scholarship from Coe as well as money from the US Department of Education.

Congratulations to you, Traye Norton! We are so proud!

College Info Session for Parents of Freshmen

The Junior College Road Trip 2016.

Join Eve Rifkin, Director of College Access, this Thursday night, 3/9, from 5:30-6:30 for a discussion about initiating the college-thinking process.

While it may feel early to think about college with freshmen, most research suggests that college planning cannot start too early. This event will provide a brief overview for parents and freshmen of basic things to consider when beginning the process, such as financial aid, the importance of maintaining solid grades, getting involved in extracurricular activities, and developing solid study habits. It will also give parents and students an opportunity to ask questions and share thoughts with the broader group.

Parents and students are invited to attend this event. There will be light refreshments provided by the City High School Culinary Club. If you have any questions about this event or anything else related to college, please contact Eve Rifkin, Director of College Access:, or visit the College Prep section of our website.

Calling All Alumni!

These alumni are excited to stay connected to the City HS community!

In May of 2007, City High School saw its very first graduating class of 11 students cross the stage and receive their diplomas. Those students had courageously chosen to attend a brand new school with no established track record, an innovative approach to education, and an extremely diverse community of learners. Now, ten years later, CHS has graduated over 325 students who have gone to college, entered careers, and worked to make their communities stronger, healthier, and more vibrant.

In an effort to stay in touch with all alumni, CHS has launched a survey designed to find out what alumni have been up to since graduating. If you are a City HS alumn and/or are in contact with any alumni, please forward them this news post and encourage them to complete our short alumni survey!

If you have any questions or a particular alumni story or perspective that you would like to share with us, please contact Eve Rifkin, Director of College Access: And check out our new alumni page on the City High School website!

Career Day 2017: A Huge Hit!

Students get an up close look at the tools and techniques of a US District Court reporter.

Career Day 2017, on Wednesday, February 15, brought professionals from the field of law, law enforcement, border patrol, and forensics science. The theme for this year’s Career Day was inspired by a last year’s Law Club, made up of students from all four grade levels with a strong interest in studying the law. During Career Day 2017, students had the opportunity to hear from Rosemary Marquez, A US District Judge for the District of Arizona; Stephen Greene, a forensics scientist for US Customs and Border Patrol; Lawrence Lee, Assistant US Attorney; David Schneider, a recruiting officer for Tucson the police Department, and others. Savannah Mitchell, ’19, has always wanted to be in the filed of law. “It was really great to hear from Judge Marquez and learn about her career path. I learned so much by watching her court reporter show us what she does in court,” Savannah said.

After a panel discussion and two sessions of presentations from the professionals, the seniors had the opportunity to share their experiences as interns this year. “It was really cool to be in the role of presenter and share my experiences with the younger students. I really liked sharing my stories and talking about what I do as an intern. It made me feel proud of the work I’ve been doing this year,” said Emiliano Nubes, ’17, who interns at Barrio Viejo Elderly Housing. Emiliano is working with senior citizens on creating  digital stories about their lives.

Winter Break College Planning

Class of 2017 College Road Trip, Fall 2015

As the semester comes to a close, many seniors have a much clearer sense of what they will be doing after high school, including which college they will be attending, although most students are still in the decision-making. Winter break is a great time to wrap up loose ends when it comes to completing the college application process. Here are a few things that seniors and their families will want to finalize before the new year:

Complete the FAFSA: Completing the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) is the single most important thing a student and family can do in order to keep the door open to an affordable college education. Regardless of family need or income level, most universities will not consider a student for scholarship funding without a completed FAFSA on file.

Complete all college applications: Most applications are due by the middle of February and require an essay (or two), letters of recommendation and, an official school transcript. Winter break is a good time to devote a sustained period of time to making sure that all applications are complete and ready to submit. Students have been oriented to the college application process in Senior Seminar and have been guided through the college essay-writing in their Senior English class. Eve Rifkin, Director of College Access, will be available during winter break to assist students in the final stages of their college applications.

Visit a college campus: Students at all grade levels can benefit greatly by a college campus visit, even if it’s not to a college that they plan on attending in the future. There is much to learn through a campus visit and they are easily arranged through the college admissions office. Families that are planning on traveling for the holidays might consider including a college visit in their itinerary. Although most colleges so not have class during their Winter break, it still might be possible to tour the campus.

Continue to apply for scholarships: There are many online scholarship search engines including the College Board’s Scholarship Search Tool and Scholarships A-Z. Seniors are advised to complete scholarship applications in addition to completing their FAFSA to ensure adequate funding for college.

If you have any questions about the college application process or scholarships and financial aid, please contact Eve Rifkin, Director for College Access:

Where Are They Now: Spotlight on Sierra Lindsay, Class of 2014

Sierra Lindsay, '14, is now a cretive writing major in her junior year at the University of Arizona.

Sierra Lindsay, ’14, is now a Creative Writing major in her junior year at the University of Arizona.

City High School, now in its thirteenth year, has graduated over 300 students who have travelled and lived all over the world, and have made huge contributions to their various communities. Alumni can be found caring for animals, working in preschools, studying for exams, translating ancient texts, and working on airplanes. This piece is the first of a series that will focus on alumni, what they’re up to now, and what they remember most about their time at City High.

Sierra Lindsay graduated in 2014. During her time here, she was an active member of and intern for the CHS Drama Department. Sierra spent all four of her high school years at City HS and developed as an excellent writer, thinker, and community-builder during her time here. Now, Sierra is a junior at the University of Arizona, majoring in creative writing with an emphasis on fiction. Sierra was recently awarded the 2015-2016 academic year Highest Academic Distinction within the college of Social and Behavioral Science. The requirement for this award is to maintain a 4.0 GPA over the course of 30 units (around 10 classes). Congratulations to Sierra for this incredible accomplishment. Here are some highlights from a recent interview with Sierra:

-What is your favorite thing about the major you have chosen? I’m in an upper division fiction workshop right now that centers around students writing 15-20 page short stories and sharing it with the class in a roundtable style discussion. These classes are definitely my favorite, because they give me so much room and creativity to come up with new ideas and try new writing techniques with the expectation of getting detailed feedback from my instructor and peers. I’ve developed exponentially as a writer and have even won scholarships for writing I produced in these classes!

-How did your time at City prepare you for success in college? My time at City High was incredibly helpful in allowing space for me to figure out my strengths and weaknesses in academics, and where I saw myself five years down the road. I went through a lot of college decisions while I was at City – my junior year I was positive that I would take a year off from school before going to college, or that I wouldn’t go at all. My senior year, I was applying to colleges to be a theater major. So much has changed! I’m glad to say that City granted me a certain kind of freedom, both academically and creatively, that helped push me towards the path I’m on now. Being able to get specific help on skills I would need further down the line with teachers who cared wholeheartedly about my success was invaluable to me, and something I definitely miss!

Should more/most kids consider college? Why? I do believe that college should always be part of post-high school plans. Even if you are certain that it won’t work for you, I’m a big advocate for giving it a try.  It is so much harder to decide to go to college after taking time off than it is to just give it a shot for the first semester. College is hard, and it’s expensive, and it’s so often this huge terrifying thing looming over the heads of students who can’t pay for it or don’t think they can cut it academically. But it’s also so gratifying to find a major that you love, accomplish things you are proud of, and make connections with faculty members in your department. College is an amazing way to facilitate connections for the rest of your life.

What advice do you have for kids in high school regarding post secondary plans? As a low-income student, I thought there was no way I could pay for college. But if you start early and keep good grades, study for those standardized tests, complete the FAFSA, and take your college applications seriously, you WILL get paid to go to college. And if you try it and discover that, hey, you’re definitely not cut out for it, that’s okay too. I am a much stronger, more confident, and self-assured person since attending college, and I can’t imagine where I would be if I had followed through with my original plans to simply not go.

Thanks Sierra! Keep up the good work. We are so proud of you.