ASU Prep Phoenix & Blue Watermelon Project: Cultivating fresh solutions for our student community

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ASU Preparatory Academy Phoenix is excited to announce our partnership with Blue Watermelon Project, an organization committed to increasing access to fresh food and integrating food education for students and their schools.

Read on to discover how ASU Prep Phoenix and Blue Watermelon Project are changing students’ lives in our community through impactful initiatives. This collaboration is shaping a healthier future and creating a blueprint for a vibrant, thriving community.

What is Blue Watermelon Project?

Blue Watermelon Project was founded in 2016 with the goal of creating a future where students have access to fresh, nourishing food. Blue Watermelon Project works with partner schools, like ASU Prep Phoenix, to integrate food education, gardening, great tasting recipes and more into their program.

Paul Raia, a teacher and community advocate at ASU Prep, has been instrumental in the development and success of ASU Prep’s partnership with Blue Watermelon Project. Through the project, students get to work with local chefs to create delicious healthy recipes, learn how to plant food, and develop a love of nutrition.

“These kids really love to work together, and you can tell they take a lot of pride and joy in what they are doing,” says Raia. In addition, Blue Watermelon Project works with the families and community at ASU Prep to deliver the same education, interaction, and passion for nourishing themselves.

Academia meets agriculture at ASU Prep Phoenix

ASU Prep Phoenix has been working with Blue Watermelon Project’s chef in the Garden Program to team up with local chefs and local gardens each month. According to Raia, Blue Watermelon brings fresh ingredients from local farms for the class demonstrations so students can be introduced to a variety of foods and flavors.

In January 2024, ASU Prep students were introduced to Chef David Hawke, a Korean-born local chef who owns the restaurant Valentine in Phoenix. Raia was surprised to see that the students enjoyed the spicier nature of the Cabbage Stir Fry. It’s all a part of them opening their minds and taste buds to more flavorful cuisine through these lessons.

The students learned about a local farm: the La Campagna Homestead which provided the planting materials. The interactive lesson included a recipe for napa cabbage noodle stir fry, as well as information about gardening napa cabbage, and a coloring sheet for the younger students. Every month a newsletter is sent to parents to encourage family involvement, with tips to engage with their children and make it a family event!

Together with Blue Watermelon Project, ASU Prep has been able to empower students to embrace different cultures as well. For Native American Heritage Month in November, Chef in the Garden was hosted live in a garden for a hands-on culinary experience and lesson with local Dinē Chef Jaren Bates.

In addition to these live demonstrations, Raia shares that Blue Watermelon provides them with produce and instructions on how to plant the produce. “It really is amazing to see the collaboration and enjoyment of these kids working together in the garden,” says Raia. “All around the garden you see kids in groups of two and three just digging holes, planting things, and being filled with this sense of community.”

Stronger community through partnership

At ASU Prep Phoenix, we truly believe that investing in our community through something as simple as food education and access is the way to build a strong, successful community. When students are given fun, interactive education about nutrition and have access to local farms, they are more likely to succeed. Studies show that students with this kind of access and education not only feel better, but perform better academically.

Providing students and their families with information on local chefs and local farms also helps strengthen the local community. By supporting local businesses, we are pouring back into the local economy. ASU Prep has always been dedicated to creating a vibrant, flourishing community in Phoenix.

This partnership with Blue Watermelon Project highlights just one of the incredibly unique and exciting opportunities available to students at ASU Prep Phoenix. This is a powerful program that is truly a gem in our community and we are excited to see how it helps new things blossom in 2024 for our students and their families!

Learn more about ASU Prep Phoenix

ASU Preparatory Academy Phoenix is a tuition-free, PreK–12 public charter school offering personalized paths to college and career success for elementary, middle, and high school students. With the support of Arizona State University, we’re creating successful pathways to college, making higher education a reality for our diverse and thriving student community.

Meet the Principal of ASU Prep Phoenix

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Ms. Kim Higginbotham has become the new 7-12 Principal at ASU Prep located in Downtown Phoenix. In a recent exclusive interview, she delved into the intricacies of her position, shedding light on the distinctive features of ASU Prep and passionately expressing her commitment to fully prepare students for their future. Ms. Higginbotham provided valuable insights into her role as a leader, the exceptional qualities of ASU Prep, and her dedication to guiding students toward achieving their full potential.

Role and responsibilities as new ASU Prep Phoenix Principal

Ms. Higginbotham described her role as Principal at ASU Prep as the predominant leader for the 7–12 grade levels of ASU Prep Phoenix. She oversees instructional leadership, ensuring teachers have the necessary resources for student success. Additionally, Ms. Higginbotham handles day-to-day operations, facilitating a comprehensive campus environment.

What excites Ms. Higginbotham the most about her new role is the innovation and opportunities ASU Prep Phoenix offers, including a wide range of programs and courses such as the hands-on STEM lessons, universal learning courses, hybrid learning options, concurrent courses, and more. She emphasized the school’s goal of influencing young minds to realize their passions, pursue them, and achieve greatness. The unique aspect of ASU Prep lies in providing students with a jumpstart on college credits while on campus.

Find student support and more at ASU Prep Phoenix

In her new role as Principal at ASU Prep, Ms. Higginbotham quickly identified the unique aspects that make the school stand out. The strategic location, just across the street from the ASU Downtown campus, offers unparalleled collaboration opportunities. This allows students to conveniently access college courses, engage in partnerships with ASU and local downtown businesses, and gain valuable real-world experiences. Ms. Higginbotham, keen on encouraging a sense of community, highlighted the family feel at ASU Prep Phoenix, emphasizing the supportive atmosphere as students progress through grade levels.

Ms. Higginbotham underlines the alignment with ASU, emphasizing that students can graduate with a minimum of 12 college credits, showcasing the school’s commitment to preparing students for success beyond the classroom. This holistic approach to education and the array of opportunities at ASU Prep Phoenix make it a cornerstone of Ms. Higginbotham’s vision for an impactful educational environment.

The school’s commitment to diversity ensures every student feels a strong sense of belonging, echoing Ms. Higginbotham’s vision of creating an inclusive ASU family. What sets ASU Prep Phoenix apart is its dedication to individualized attention, college readiness, and the provision of ample resources. The implementation of individual learning plans (ILPs) connects students with teachers in smaller groups, fostering a personalized approach to education. Additionally, flexible learning models cater to diverse student needs, ensuring that all students receive tailored support.

To further bolster student success, ASU Prep Phoenix leverages up-to-date digital resources, providing one-to-one student laptops, top-notch content curriculum, and specialized programming for ACT prep. The school actively engages students through various initiatives, check-ins, intramural sports, student government, and community events that make the school experience truly special.

Ms. Higginbotham’s vision for ASU Prep Phoenix

As the new Principal at ASU Prep Phoenix, Ms. Higginbotham expressed her joy in interacting with students and mentioned they are the driving force behind her passion for education. Ms. Higginbotham strives to improve the student experience at ASU Prep Phoenix by nurturing a feeling of belonging and care.

She envisions ASU Prep as a community where students not only receive an education and college credits, but also feel emotionally and intellectually safe. She wishes for students graduating from ASU Prep Phoenix to discover their passions, feel cared for, and well-prepared for their chosen paths in life.

Ms. Higginbotham is actively working to facilitate internships for her students at nearby businesses, aiming to provide real-world experience along with the essential skill sets needed on campus. The goal is to create lifelong learners who love to learn, supported by a community that fosters student success.

Why families choose ASU Prep Phoenix

ASU Prep Phoenix boasts a unique blend of advanced curriculum, emphasis on real-world skills, community involvement, and strong support systems. It’s more than just a school; it’s a community where students are encouraged to dream big and are equipped to achieve those dreams. To learn more about ASU Prep Phoenix, visit our website.

Victory dance: ASU Prep Phoenix cheer squad triumphs at competition

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“The Devils are here, watch out and move because ASU is coming through!” chanted the ASU Prep Phoenix cheer squad, kicking off their first-ever competition, the CAA Winter Classic Cheer and Dance Championships. That chant and the routine that followed earned the team first place.

The journey to victory

The journey to victory wasn’t an easy one. Last fall the squad was without the leadership of a coach or captain when Coach De‘Shonda Barnes stepped in. Now with her at the helm, the squad is composed of sixteen 6th to 12th graders, led by senior Captain Kamorah Coleman. They were also without uniforms, so Barnes promised them, “I’m gonna make sure that you at least have pom poms and bows…and deliver a fire routine.”

She jokes that the pom poms she purchased online stained the girls’ hands yellow. Thanks to fundraising and community support the squad now has coordinating uniforms, including upgraded pom poms.

And after hours of research and planning, as well as drawing on her own dance and cheer background, Barnes delivered on her promise to create an awesome routine. Two routines, actually.

Perfecting their routine

Before the competition, the squad embraced long Saturday practices and even had the chance to perform at an ASU Prep Phoenix basketball game. Shortly after, they discovered they had to enter a different, higher division for the upcoming competition. This meant learning a revamped routine—in just one week.

When they performed it at the CAA Winter Classic Cheer and Dance competition—full of hip-hop dance moves, stunts, and the signature ASU “Forks up!” hand sign—it was their first time performing it in front of an audience.

After their performance, as awards were announced, the girls held their breath and each other’s hands. When ASU Prep Phoenix was announced for first place in the intermediate division, the squad did what they do best—cheer! And so did the audience of supporters. Coach Barnes shares, “My heart was so filled with joy, I could not stop crying. It was amazing.” Kamorah agrees, describing the special moment as “a blur.”

Hard effort pays off

When talking about the squad and the hard work that’s gotten them this far, this fast, Coach Barnes exudes pride: “What makes the team so special is their dedication. And they’re friends. They love each other. It’s love, respect, friendship, and dedication. That’s a winning combination right there.” Kamorah concurs, adding: “The different personalities and the different grade levels blend so well. It just works!”

Up next, the squad that first expected to compete in the novice category will now compete against intermediate and advanced teams at April’s state competition. But first, they’re celebrating their recent victory with a team bonding sleepover filled with fun and junk food treats, and…more practice, of course.

Learn more about ASU Prep Phoenix

ASU Preparatory Academy Phoenix is a tuition-free, PreK–12 public charter school offering personalized paths to college and career success while helping students prep for college, prep for careers, and prep for life. To learn more about ASU Prep Phoenix, visit our website.

Watch their performance here.

ASU Honors Black History Month with Community Events

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Black History Month is an annual celebration of the profound contributions that African Americans have made to all facets of society. Throughout this month, we come together to honor the legacies and ongoing achievements of Black individuals. Here is a sampling of Black History Month events hosted by our ASU community:

George Floyd Global Memorial to present ‘Twin Flames’ exhibit

This arts experience is a unique partnership between the ASU Art Museum, the ASU Center for Work and Democracy, and the George Floyd Global Memorial. Enjoy an insightful guided walkthrough in addition to a food truck with delicious bites, mocktail bar, and entertainment.

Color Cabaret by Music Theatre and Opera

This entirely student-led cabaret helps provide an opportunity for composers, lyricists, librettists, and performers of color, formed through personal connections, friends, and colleagues from all over ASU, to share their creativity.

Black Liberation Through the Marketplace with Rachel Ferguson

Join author Rachel Ferguson as she discusses Black Liberation Through the Marketplace, and come away with a better understanding of Black history and creative ideas for how to make this nation truly one with liberty and justice for all.

International Jazz Day AZ Foundation’s co-presents JADE

Jade Johnson has performed beloved renditions of the National Anthem at Suns, Mercury, Diamondbacks, Clippers and Lakers games, and landed acting roles on TV’s “Blackish” and in theater Off Broadway. From jazz and pop to R&B, hear a focused singer-songwriter hitting her stride.

This is Melanin

Step into a world brimming with entertainment and education. This all-ages extravaganza includes food trucks, music, games, vendors, speakers – and good vibes. Brace yourself for thought-provoking panel discussions and workshops focusing on vital community empowerment topics such as finance, home-buying, and more.

ASU Prep Phoenix educator awarded Fulbright U.S. Distinguished Teaching Award

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Ms. Agueda Nava Javier, an esteemed academic coach at ASU Prep Phoenix, was recently awarded the Fulbright U.S. Distinguished Teaching Award. This accolade is bestowed by the U.S. Department of State and the Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board.

Ms. Nava Javier is one of 20 U.S. citizens chosen for the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Short-Term Program in 2024. This award exemplifies her commitment to sustainable education, aligning with the program’s mission to support Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through innovative and climate change curriculum.

Promoting sustainable teaching methods across the globe

The Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Short-Term Program sends expert K–12 educators to countries worldwide to contribute to projects in schools, teacher training colleges, government ministries, or educational non-governmental organizations.

As part of the program, Ms. Nava Javier will spend six weeks this summer in Batea School in a small town in Spain. There she will help create curriculum, train teachers, and implement a program promoting sustainability. The project will focus on integrating United Nations Sustainability Development Goals into the curriculum, including schoolwide lessons and full curricula that raise awareness among students.

Having dedicated more than a decade to the field of education, Ms. Nava Javier brings a wealth of experience, including teaching middle school math and science as well as chemistry and geometry at ASU Prep Phoenix high school. Her journey into sustainable education began with a profound passion cultivated during her time at ASU’s Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Teacher’s Academy.

Now an academic coach at ASU Prep in downtown Phoenix, Ms. Nava Javier will serve as a cultural ambassador as part of the program, fostering connections between the United States and Spain. As part of this global initiative, she will collaborate with educators and administrators to advance sustainable teaching methods, focusing on the unique challenges and opportunities presented by Batea School.

The Fullbright legacy comes to ASU Prep Phoenix

Since its inception in 1946, the Fulbright Program has provided more than 400,000 participants from 160 countries with opportunities to study, teach, conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to solving global challenges.

Ms. Nava Javier’s journey represents the enduring commitment of the U.S. government and partner countries worldwide to international educational exchange. With a particular emphasis on promoting climate change curriculum and sustainable teaching methods, the goal is to implement more globally conscious education.

Fulbrighters, like Ms. Nava Javier, not only contribute to projects abroad but also expand their professional networks, fostering collaborations that often endure beyond the duration of the program. When they return to U.S. classrooms, they share international experiences and encourage colleagues and students to explore global opportunities, including the integration of an innovative climate change curriculum.

ASU Prep’s vision to integrate sustainability initiatives

Ms. Nava Javier is most enthusiastic about the prospect of implementing the knowledge gained from her Fulbright project in Batea, Spain, into a schoolwide initiative at ASU Prep Phoenix. She plans to share the best practices she learns during her international experience, conducting professional development sessions both statewide and within the ASU Prep school community.

By modeling effective sustainable teaching methods and collaborating with educators, she aims to facilitate the implementation of a comprehensive climate change program, creating a ripple effect extending beyond her own classroom and positively impacting the entire ASU Prep community.

Beyond the journey

The Fulbright legacy of encouraging global exchange aligns seamlessly with ASU Prep’s vision. The benefits of Ms. Nava Javier’s international experience will undoubtedly create a transformative impact within the entire ASU Prep community.

As she integrates her newfound knowledge into a schoolwide initiative, focusing on United Nations Sustainability Development Goals, ASU Prep stands poised to embrace a more globally conscious education, thereby amplifying the institution’s commitment to excellence and international educational exchange.

Disclaimer: This blog post is not an official U.S. Department of State blog. The views and information presented are the Fullbright Participant’s own and do not represent the Fulbright Distinguished Awards in Teaching Short-Term Program, the U.S. Department of State, or IREX.

Coolest event of the year: ASU Prep Phoenix hosts Let it Snow

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Frolicking in snow? In Arizona? Only at the coolest event of the year: ASU Prep Phoenix’s second annual Let it Snow winter celebration. With a snow machine, a petting zoo, pony rides, bounce houses, and delicious food truck offerings, there was family-friendly fun for everyone. The festivities also included train rides, a 360-photo booth, arts and crafts, and the chance to win raffle prizes.

Autumn Dvorak, an ASU Prep Phoenix teacher and parent, highlighted the significance of such events, saying, “It’s a great way for us to really support our community and bring everybody together.” These events help strengthen the bonds between teachers, students, and families, creating a warm, supportive environment that extends beyond the classroom.

Noah, a student-leader in attendance, also expressed the feeling of community at the event, saying, “It gives you a sneak peek of what you’re getting into, the family you’re joining if you come to the school.”

Ms. Dvorak also points out the timeliness of the event, explaining, “We worked really hard with all of our students to get them ready with their benchmarks. And it’s a nice opportunity to kind of celebrate all the growth that they’ve made and to celebrate the achievements that they’ve had.”

Noah said it best when he described the event as “a memory maker,” a special life memory to hold onto. ASU Prep believes that a strong and vibrant community is fundamental to the success of our students. Our free, family-friendly neighborhood events are a fun way to encourage active community participation. To learn more about our upcoming events, visit our website.

Check out highlights from our 2023 Let it Snow event here.

Strong foundations start in Kindergarten.

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ASU Prep Academy is hosting several Kinder Round-Up information sessions at our four elementary locations in the metro Phoenix area.

At the event, families will have an opportunity to meet our teachers, tour our campuses, and learn more about our Kindergarten program, which features:

  • Tuition-free full-day options
  • One-to-one technology devices
  • Individualized learning plans
  • Gifted program options in Spring semester
  • After-school programming

To learn about Kindergarten eligibility and VIP on-site enrollment, click here.

Upcoming ASU Prep Neighborhood Events

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At ASU Prep, we believe that a strong and vibrant community is fundamental to the success of our students! Our community, composed of dedicated educators, motivated students, and supportive families, forms the backbone of our learning environment.

We encourage active community participation to foster a culture of collaboration and mutual respect. This community spirit extends to our free, family-friendly neighborhood events. We hope you’ll join us!

ASU Prep Phoenix Downtown is hosting the second annual Let it Snow event Friday, December 15, 4-7 p.m. It will be the coolest event of the year with festive fun for the whole family, including bounce houses, winter-themed arts and crafts, and giveaways! RSVP today.

RSVP Today!

Día de los Muertos event celebrates the magic of tradition and community

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Recently, ASU Preparatory Academy South Phoenix transformed into a vibrant fiesta of colors and sounds, paying homage to the rich tradition of Día de los Muertos. The community gathered for a night bursting with entertainment.

On November 4, the campus filled with families, their faces painted in vivid designs and many had heads adorned with floral crowns, eager to participate in the festive activities offered throughout the night. Guests danced alongside the lively mariachi, watched the twirling baile folklórico dancers and marveled at a daring aerialist performance.

There was authentic cuisine and craft stations to create sugar skulls and paper flowers, but the heart of the celebration was the breathtaking Cihuapactli Collective Altar, where guests paid tribute to loved ones.

The event was a chance for attendees to soak in the spirit of the ASU Prep community as the South Phoenix campus buzzed with excitement. Student Nataly Garcia shared what makes the school special, and therefore, the event: “It’s a small school and everyone here knows each other. The teachers and staff support each kid individually.” Alejandro Bonfil added how fun it was to hang out with friends and classmates at the celebration.

About the festivities, student Zain Gehrig said, “I would totally recommend this. It’s so much fun being here. I’m having the time of my life.” The pictures and memories of this year’s event will linger on, and are already fueling anticipation for next year’s celebration. As Garcia puts it, “You want to make sure you come next year because you don’t want to miss this fun, amazing party that ASU Prep South Phoenix has offered to everyone!”

To see a recap of the event, please visit our YouTube channel.

No need to wait until next year to join in the fun. ASU Prep is hosting more free community events, including the upcoming Creative Fusion Fest at ASU Prep Pilgrim Rest and Let it Snow at ASU Prep Phoenix Downtown. Find out more about upcoming events here.

The legacy lives on: celebrating Native American Heritage Month

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November is Native American Heritage Month, a time to reflect on the rich and diverse cultures, traditions, and histories of Native Americans and to acknowledge their valued contributions.

In his National Native American Heritage Month proclamation, President Joe Biden stated: “Native Americans are essential to the fabric of the United States. They serve in the United States armed forces at higher rates than any other ethnic group. They continue to steward so many of our great lands. Their contributions to science, humanities, arts, public service, and more have brought prosperity for all of us. Their diverse cultures and communities continue to thrive and lead us forward.”

This month, and all year long, take the time to educate, advocate, and raise greater awareness for the rich traditions and histories of Indigenous communities.

The history of Native American Heritage Month

The journey to recognition was not an easy one. It started with Dr. Arthur C. Parker, a descendent of the Seneca tribe and the director of the Rochester Museum and Science Center, who was one of the first proponents of an American Indian Day back in 1915. His efforts, combined with the relentless work of Red Fox James, a member of the Blackfeet Nation, led to the declaration of the second Saturday of May as American Indian Day by the governor of New York.

Years later, in 1990, President George H.W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November as “National American Indian Heritage Month”. Since then, this commemoration has evolved into what we now know as Native American Heritage Month. It is an opportunity to educate the public about tribes, raise awareness about the unique challenges Native people have faced both historically and in the present, and honor the vital role they play in enriching our nation.

From the Iroquois Confederacy’s influence on the U.S. Constitution to the Navajo Code Talkers’ contribution during World War II, the impact of Native Americans is deeply woven into the fabric of American history.

Honoring the vital role of Native Americans

Celebrating Native American Heritage Month can come in many forms. One of the most meaningful ways is through education. Take the time to learn about the different tribes, their histories, and their contributions. Many museums, libraries, and educational institutions like ASU offer exhibits, discussions, and resources during this month.

Participating in cultural activities is another great way to honor this month. Many communities host powwows, dance exhibitions, craft fairs, and other cultural events. These gatherings are not only fun but also provide a deeper understanding of the rich cultural diversity of Native Americans.

Consider supporting Native American businesses and artists to show respect and appreciation. By purchasing Native American art, jewelry, food, and other goods, you’re helping to sustain their traditions and support their communities.

Learn about the important contributions of barrier-breaking Native Americans who continue to shape our society, lead their communities, and impact our culture today. Research Marine Colonel Nicole Mann, the first female Native American to travel to space or Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, who became the first Indigenous Cabinet member in U.S. history, among countless others.

Lastly, advocacy is a powerful way to celebrate. Stand with Native communities in their fight for recognition, rights, and respect. Advocate for policies that protect their lands, cultures, and identities. Arizona State University has taken steps to increase awareness & appreciation, as well as motivate advocacy, through the ASU Indigenous Land Acknowledgement, recognizing its campuses are situated on the homelands of many indigenous communities, many of whom continue to live in the area.

Continue to celebrate, learn, and honor

Native American Heritage Month is a reminder of the enduring and resilient spirit of Native people. The richness of their cultures, the depth of their wisdom, and the strength of their spirit continue to inspire us all. In honoring their heritage, we enrich our own understanding and become more compassionate and informed citizens.

This November, let’s take the opportunity to celebrate, learn, and honor the first people of this land. Let’s remember that every day is a good day to respect and appreciate the diverse cultures and contributions of Native Americans.