Summit inspires local high school students to improve their community

March 25, 2022

Session focused on projects that will improve life in the Village of Maryvale for nearly 230,000 Arizona residents

It wasn’t “Friday Night Lights” at Sun Devil Stadium, but on Friday, March 18, nearly 50 bright students from Maryvale High School teamed up with undergraduate and graduate students from Arizona State University to brainstorm ways to improve their community during the Maryvale 2022 Visioneering Summit at ASU.

The one-day session brought together Maryvale High School students, community members, and ASU students, faculty, and staff to co-design prototype projects that will improve life in Maryvale Village. for nearly 230,000 Arizona residents.

Using ASU’s Spark Method, participants were assigned to work groups focused on improving cultural immersion experiences, access to quality education and health care, and increasing opportunities for career advancement. As part of KNEW New American University Initiativedesign sessions aim to find integrated and innovative ways to achieve excellence, access and impact.

Ultimately, student-led designs will culminate this fall in a takeover on ASU’s West Campus, where students will showcase their ideas and projects. Over the next six months, ASU student leaders will serve as project managers to move their projects forward and hopefully come to fruition.

Christine Ngo, Director of social integration in the Office of University Affairs, which was integral to the planning and direction of the summit, explains that social integration goes beyond community involvement.

“The key here is community-identified solutions, which means including all members of the Maryvale community, including high school students in the conversations,” she said.

Some of the ways ASU has engaged with Maryvale communities are capacity building, civic engagement, pre-K-20 pathways, local partnerships, and knowledge exchange. This is reflected in Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions‘Maryvale One Square Mile Initiativewhich aims to create opportunities for ASU staff and students to engage and support community solutions and create sustainable solutions for Maryvale priorities.

Esmerelda Franco, a second-year student in cross-border studies who supports the Ngo team as a student analyst of social integration, appreciates the intentionality and the spirit of inclusion.

“I’ve worked in the Maryvale community before, and I’ve worked with nonprofits that have campaigns that try to engage those communities like Maryvale,” she said. “Unfortunately, organizations often show up with good intentions, but don’t necessarily ask the opinion of those who actually live there.”

Franco was thrilled to see high school students enthusiastic about working in their own communities and involving them from the start.

“A lot of high school students in communities like Maryvale haven’t really thought about college or higher education as a possibility because it was never offered to them,” she said. “So to be able to see them here and be really excited to be engaged in the process is really awesome.”

A special guest speaker who reminded the students of their agency and their voices was Coyotes President and CEO Xavier A. Gutierrez. He offered personal and professional advice in his opening remarks, focusing on his journey from undocumented immigrant to becoming a business executive and the NHL’s first Latino president and CEO.

Arizona Coyotes President and CEO Xavier Gutierrez delivers a keynote address at the 2022 Maryvale Youth Summit, focusing on his journey from undocumented immigrant child to corporate executive and the first President and CEO of the Latino management of the NHL. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

“I’ve had people who have supported my journey, just like you have around you. There are many door openers in your life, and while they open doors for you, it’s up to you to cross them,” he said. “You can cross them and get to another place where you might never have thought you were, but that’s exactly where you should be.

Gutierrez told students to embrace these door openers and become themselves for others as much as possible.

“Today at this summit, throughout this program, you may say something or hear something that could set you on a different path, not just in your career, but in your life. Embrace this moment, embrace the power of the voice,” he said.

Kimberly Medina Rios, a graduate of Maryvale High School and now a sophomore in medical microbiology at School of Life Sciences, was also grateful to have a seat at the table.

“I had teachers who really believed in me. And I feel like if I didn’t have this community of people who really believed that I could do such great things in life, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” he said. she stated. “It’s an honor to be on the other side helping high school kids through the transition I’ve made.”

Born in Mexico, Medina Rios said health care was a foreign subject for her until she arrived in the United States. Now that she is in college, her goal is to become a doctor.

“I have a great passion for medicine. I want to be able to provide care to people who need it. I would love to work in different countries and help out or even work for a nonprofit one day,” she said.

Maryvale High School graduate and sophomore medical microbiology student Kimberly Medina Rios shows her support for an idea

Kimberly Medina Rios, a Maryvale High School graduate and sophomore in medical microbiology, shows her support for an idea. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Student facilitator and freshman Raine McAngus worked with his group on priorities to encourage more teens to get regular doctor’s visits and track their health.

“I want to work in a cross-sector capacity to ensure healthcare is accessible and affordable for everyone,” he said.

Courtesy of Access the ASU partners, an initiative of Educational Outreach and Student Services, 47 high school students who attended the summit received scholarships to attend the Summer Experience in West, June 6-9. During the Summer Experience, students can participate in interactive research, presentations, seminars, and panel discussions led by the current ASU Student sparks. They can also explore college majors in learning sessions taught by ASU faculty in Neuroscience, Psychology, Law/Forensics, STEM/Physics, Cognition, Leadership, Nutrition, and Health.

Gutierrez left students with an uplifting challenge and charge to be the community’s best advocates for themselves and others.

“That’s what it takes to transform a community. It takes all of us. We need higher education institutions. It takes people in practice and it takes all of you,” Gutierrez said. “You all have incredibly powerful voices. You have no idea how any conversation, any interaction you have, can change another’s life.

Top photo: Raine McAngus, student facilitator and freshman, works with her group idea to encourage more teens to get regular doctor’s visits and track their health at the Maryvale Youth Summit on March 18. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Krista Hinz

James C. Tibbs