ASU Preparatory Academy’s Polytechnic campus recently celebrated a special birthday: its Sweet 16.
Since a “Sweet 16” celebration is an opportunity to highlight growth while also looking forward to future successes, the ASU Prep Poly community plans to do just that. Reflecting on the school’s growth, K–6 Principal Claudia Mendoza, says, “Change is good. Because we can’t do the same old thing in the same old way.”
So, what has changed in the last sixteen years? The size of the program, including the number of students and the amazing opportunities offered them, has grown tremendously. And what remains the same is equally important. According to Mendoza, it’s the amazing staff’s “commitment to our school, our students, and our learning community.”
Speaking to the ASU Prep Poly staff, the excitement about this milestone and the school community in general is evident—and contagious. They eagerly take the opportunity to reminisce, reflect and plan for the future. Here are some of their insights.
As the first ASU Preparatory Academy to open in 2008, the Poly campus was humbly housed in a little office complex, then later shared space in the former Veterans Hospital. Brenda Brown has been with Poly from the very beginning as both a parent and K–6 teacher. She recollects the first informational meeting, as people gathered on lawn chairs in an unfurnished office.
In those beginning years, Coach Brown shares how families and community businesses joined forces for “dirt day,” relocating unused dirt from ASU’s Tempe sports fields to create a P.E. space. Over time, as the students grew up, so did the programs and spaces to accommodate them. The middle school and high school were established and ASU Prep Poly ultimately found its home within state-of-the-art buildings on the ASU Polytechnic campus.
The ASU connection
ASU Prep Polytechnic is proud of its close relationship with ASU, recently ranked No. 1 in innovation for the 9th straight year by U.S. News & World Report. Principal Mendoza explains, “Our kiddos see themselves as Sun Devils from day one” as students from Barrett, the Honors College work with students on projects, like coding. The college faculty is also involved, providing holiday presents for Poly students in need.
“Our kiddos see themselves as Sun Devils from day one.”
—Claudia Mendoza, K–6 Principal ASU Prep Poly STEM Academy
ASU Prep Poly STEM 7–12 Principal Lori Frazier highlights the additional benefits of the ASU connection: every student has the chance to take university or concurrent courses while in high school, saving them time and money when they get to college and exposing them to future STEM careers. Principal Frazier explains that ASU Prep Poly continues to build these pathways for students, working with ASU’s engineering program, for example, regarding future careers in the growing field of semiconductor and microelectronics.
ASU Prep Poly’s innovative education
The school began with a vision to immerse students in project-based and STEM-centered learning starting in elementary grades, and today is proud to be STEM-certified by Cognia, an accreditation based on rigorous, research-based standards and best practices.
Principal Frazier says, “We are truly focused on each individual student and personalizing their pathway, not just high school graduation, but to get them in a post-secondary program.” ASU Prep Poly’s innovative and personalized learning curriculum prepares each student for this journey.
“We are truly focused on each individual student and personalizing their pathway.”
—Lori Frazier, Principal ASU Prep Poly STEM 7-12
“Our education is multidisciplinary,“ shares Mendoza. “Students are exposed to the STEM field in kindergarten, learning how to code robots. They’re learning all about the engineering process. They’re doing things that are meaningful to them, but at the same time, solving problems, utilizing logic and code, and collaborating with their peers. That’s what sets us up for success later on, as students get older.”
ASU Prep Poly’s student life and clubs
ASU Prep Poly faculty takes time to boast about their students’ extracurricular achievements with Amy Kochis, K–6 Assistant Principal, making a special note of Colorguard. “Our first Colorguard started 16 years ago with only 15 members. Today, the program has flourished into a remarkable achievement, with more than 110 students across five different groups. This growth reflects not only the dedication our staff has to our students but also the commitment to excellence and inclusivity embedded here at ASU Prep.”
Coach Brown adds some of the ASU Prep Poly athletic programs that have taken shape over the years: volleyball, cross country, flag football, girls and boys basketball, cheer, soccer, golf, softball, baseball, wrestling, swim, and track & field. Not to mention standout clubs like Robotics, Student Government, Key Club, and National Honor Society.
Close knit community
Beth Sullivan, an ASU Prep Poly teacher since its inception, shares how her family moved to Arizona from Michigan in search of a school that would provide “a strong sense of community, as well as a solid, innovative, and academically rigorous education” not only for her three sons as students, but also for her as a teacher. “The four of us began our ASU Prep journey together. We celebrate how fortunate we are to have been surrounded by such an amazing community of families, as well as talented, caring, innovative, and creative educators.”
“We are surrounded by such an amazing community of families, as well as talented, caring, innovative, and creative educators.”
—Beth Sullivan, ASU Prep Poly teacher
Sullivan’s children graduated from ASU Prep Polytechnic STEM High School and went on to complete undergraduate degrees from ASU. Principal Mendoza shares that watching students grow up and graduate is a special part of the job: “I get to see kids go from being little elementary kiddos to being a middle schooler and then on to a high schooler, looking at college and career choices.”
Assistant Principal Kochis agrees, “One of the best things I have had the opportunity to witness was the graduation of students I first taught as Kindergartners. The joy of seeing them successfully navigate their educational journey from the early years to high school graduation is truly rewarding.”
Lori Gutierrez, Health Assistant and 16-year Poly veteran shares a favorite tradition, “Our Senior Walk is so special! I love seeing the seniors walking through the halls at the elementary campus. When teachers and I see students that we have known since they were in elementary school, it brings tears to our eyes. We are extremely proud of them.”
“The joy of seeing [our students] successfully navigate their educational journey from the early years to high school graduation is truly rewarding.”
—Amy Kochis, K–6 Assistant Principal ASU Prep Poly STEM Academy
Many of the ASU Prep Poly staff members, including Gutierrez, describe the community as “family.” Principal Mendoza credits the staff for that, describing them as the backbone of the school, whose actions and decisions “come from the heart.” Kochis adds: “The extraordinary culture, dedicated staff, engaged families, thriving students, innovative practices, and a strong sense of community. This is a place where education goes beyond the curriculum, shaping students into well-prepared, confident individuals ready to navigate the world!”
Looking to the future of ASU Prep Poly
Principal Frazier, whose own sons graduated from ASU Prep Poly, wants to continue to share their school community with others, growing enrollment, and further strengthening the ASU pathway to future careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Principal Mendoza adds that as they continue to support students in learning and taking advantage of all the available opportunities, she also looks forward to continued high rankings in state testing and school grades.
“This is a place where education goes beyond the curriculum, shaping students into well-prepared, confident individuals ready to navigate the world.”
—Amy Kochis, K–6 Assistant Principal ASU Prep Poly STEM Academy
Assistant Principal Kochis adds, “My hope is to continue building on the incredible culture already in place and infusing it with innovation. Together, we can continue to create an environment where every student thrives academically, socially, and emotionally.”
Learn more about ASU Prep Polytechnic
ASU Preparatory Academy Polytechnic, along with all the schools in the ASU Prep network, are on a mission to design new models for educational success and raise academic achievement for all learners. To learn more about ASU Prep’s innovative, personalized, project-based learning, visit our website.
Here are some of our favorite moments from this year’s celebration.