Get to know high school graduates awarded ASBA scholarships this year
Each year, the Arizona School Boards Association awards scholarships to help graduating high school seniors in member districts better afford the training they seek at higher education institutions to help them meet their career goals.
Here’s what students have to say about how these scholarships will help them as they pursue their dreams.
Kiara Smith, a graduating senior at Washington High School in Glendale Union High School District, said “I was absolutely ecstatic and surprised when I heard I was chosen for this scholarship. It is the first scholarship I have won ever, and I am absolutely honored.”
Smith, is the Maricopa County student recipient of the Black Alliance Georgie and Calvin Goode Scholarship awarded to students of Black or African descent who have shown a commitment of service to others – one in Maricopa County and one in rural Arizona – who plan to further their education at an accredited post-secondary institution. The scholarship honors Calvin Goode, who served as a Phoenix City Councilman for 22 years, and his wife Georgie Goode, who served as a public school teacher and as a governing board member for both Phoenix Elementary School District and Phoenix Union High School District.
Smith helped establish GUHSD Students for Change in the summer of 2020 to help change district policies that students did not agree with. While many students’ desires have been met, more continue to be implemented, Smith said.
Smith also tutored peers after school through National Honor Society, is applying for her Child Development Association Credential to work in a preschool with children ages 3 to 5 years old through the Early Childhood Education program on campus, helps freshman feel welcome on campus through Link Crew and served as a state officer in Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA).
Smith says she’s considering a career as an obstetrician or a lawyer.
“I aspire to set new standards for the obstetrics field by opening by own practice, as there is more unjust racial discrimination against Black women in that field than any other,” Smith said. But she also is interested in law, where she could develop her research and history skills to also “fight to create a more just system as the system was built against minorities,” Smith said.
Jett Halfacre-Buie, a graduating senior Lake Havasu High School, is the rural Arizona recipient of the Black Alliance Georgie and Calvin Goode Scholarship.
“When I first heard that I had earned the scholarship I was ecstatic. I was happy to find that after writing about my life and what I’ve lived through, my story and hard work helped me earn a scholarship,” Halfacre-Buie said.
In his application, Halfacre-Buie said “Here I am, this mixed Native and Black kid living in a city where so few people look like me that I am often the only person of color in my surroundings. It hasn’t stopped my from having good friends and performing my best, but it can be uncomfortable. For example, when topics come up in class about racism or inequality, all eyes turn to me.”
Halfacre-Buie said his experiences have led him to take quiet leadership roles in groups he’s active in to “ensure that each person who participates feels essential” and he focuses on helping people find and develop their strengths.
Losing his father to COVID-19, “challenged everything I know about life and staying focused,” but “I refuse to let it define me,” Halfacre-Buie said, noting that he relies on faith, family and friends as he works towards success.
Halfacre-Buie plans to become an aerospace engineer and his goal is to be a NASA engineer who works on rovers or rockets.
“After applying for the scholarship, I found out that I had admitted to Emory University, where I will be pursuing a dual degree with Georgia Tech. The money I will be receiving will help me to pay some of the fees not covered by the university scholarship. As a student of mixed heritage, it also felt good to be accepted for who I am,” Halfacre-Buie said.
Arianna Jenkins, a graduating senior at Page High School, is the Native American student recipient of the Panfilo H. Contreras Honorary Scholarship awarded by ASBA’s Hispanic-Native American Indian Caucus. The scholarship is named after the former ASBA executive director who served from 1998 to 2011.
“I was so pleased and thrilled to have received such an award!” Jenkins said.
Jenkins has spoken to school board members, delegates of the Navajo Nation, and Arizona Senators and Arizona Representatives about what students and public schools need, and why they should not cut funding, “especially for our career and technical education and elective classes, and why they shouldn’t stop providing aid to us.”
Jenkins has been a student athlete all through high school, and volunteers in her reservation and non-reservation communities.
Jenkins who lives in Tuba City said it was a struggle during to get transportation to and from school the first couple of years at Page High School.
“My mother, sister and I would wake up around four o’clock in the morning to drive us 40 minutes away from home to our bus stop, where we would have to be on the bus for another hour to get to school,” Jenkins said.
While the school provided laptops and wi-fi devices to attend classes online during COVID, she and other student athletes had to find their own transportation to attend basketball practice.
Pablo Lujan, who is a graduating senior at Rincon High School in Tucson Unified School District, is the Hispanic student recipient of the Panfilo H. Contreras Honorary Scholarship awarded by ASBA’s Hispanic-Native American Indian Caucus.
When Lujan heard he’d been awarded the scholarship, “My thoughts were cool, I can rest easy.”
Lujan said he will be the first person in his immediate family to go to college. Lujan’s family has a long history of military service.
“I am the son of an Army/ Navy veteran who served for 22 years. I am the grandson of a Vietnam veteran and the great-grandson of a World War II POW from the European theater,” Lujan said.
Lujan has applied to the University of Arizona and has submitted an application to the U.S. Naval Reserve Officer’s Training Corps.
“Upon graduating with a Baccalaureate degree, I plan to make a life-long career of military service as a commissioned officer in the United States Navy,” Lujan said.
“I believe the academic experience from the University of Arizona, along with the knowledge gained in military organization and tactics through NROTC will prepare me with the solid foundation I seek to take part in this country’s future leadership role in eliminating or at least reducing, crippling deeds that keep our Nation from moving forward.”
“When I heard I had earned the ASBA Jack Peterson Scholarship, I was so excited! It felt like all of my hard work and efforts over the past four years of high school were all worth it. Thank you so much for this amazing opportunity,” said Autumn Fairbanks, a graduating senior at Skyline High School in Mesa Public Schools.
The scholarship, named for the former ASBA executive director who served from 1991 to 1998 is awarded to a student who plans to major in education at a college or university.
Fairbanks said that while the COVID-19 pandemic reached into every aspect of her life, it didn’t crush her optimism.
“Some instrumental and influential teachers have inspired me over the years, instigating in me their enthusiasm for learning and passion for discovery. They have lit my curiosity factor, helped to shape my core values and nurtured by interests by teaching prospects outside the curriculum,” Fairbanks wrote in her scholarship application.
“I would like to follow in their capable footsteps as a special education teacher,” Fairbanks said.