Palm Springs students among those honored for overcoming adversity at annual ceremony
You won’t find them in the headlines for scoring a winning touchdown or a Harvard scholarship — at least not yet — but more than two dozen local students, including seven from Palm Springs schools, were singled out Monday evening for something equally noteworthy: Resilience.
Monday’s honorees at the “Every Student Succeeding Awards,” presented by the local contingent of the Association of California School Administrators, included students like Melannie Bahena Salgado. The Desert Learning Academy (DLA) student was so haunted by bullying at a former school that even the thought of in-person classes was a traumatic experience. With the help of the staff at DLA, including counselor Rosalia Mendoza, Melannie now has her sights set on becoming a dentist and hopes to attend one of four universities, including USC or UCLA.
“Melannie experienced massive anxiety when she arrived at DLA,” explained Amber Gascoigne, principal of Cabot Yerxa Elementary and one of two presenters during the event at the Richards Center for the Arts in Palm Springs. “Mom would drop her off and Melannie would not speak. She was very shy and reserved and had difficulty making any friends. She felt people would make fun of her.”
Mendoza saw that Melannie had the intelligence to succeed. She just needed guidance and confidence. She got that at DLA, where she was welcomed into the online Independent Studies Program even when it seemed like she had no choice other than returning to in-person classes.
“Mrs. Mendoza knew that Melannie was smart, but the fear and the trauma of being bullied was always on her mind,” Gascoigne said. And although she initially struggled at the school, “she always had a smile on her face and a positive attitude.”
Melannie hopes to help other students who may find themselves in a similar situation.
“She is looking forward to participating in a leadership course at DLA and wants to help other students that have had anxiety and have been bullied,” Gascoigne said. “(S)he is a role model for us all.”
Melannie’s story wasn’t the only one that inspired the audience of family and friends who attended the ceremony Monday. Others singled out from Palm Springs schools included:
- Jaden Reyes of Cahuilla Elementary, a fifth-grader who “witnessed a devastating family tragedy, and continues to work hard to thrive despite the challenges he faces.
- La Chelle Walker of Katherine Finchy Elementary, who organizers said “defines herself by hope, not hardship,” and “has the heart of a poet, the mind of a scholar, and the hands of a helper.”
- Asa Jones of Vista Del Monte Elementary, who “embodies what it means to be resilient in the face of adversity” and “has the desire to be successful,” and is aided by a strong support system at home and school.
- Melanie Urquiza of Cielo Vista Charter School, “a natural leader” who helped fund recycling bins at the school by applying for a grant through the Eco-Rise program, mentors other students in planting and composting, and at one time was fighting for her life.
- Mary-Jane Valladares of Raymond Cree Middle School, an “exemplary student who knows how to self-advocate” who has overcome numerous hardships, but “Despite this adversity, she has pushed herself to be the very best she can be.”
- Erick Martinez Nocelotl of Palm Springs High School, who will become a first-generation college student upon graduation despite stress at home due to his father’s health issues. “While his mom was working and providing and visiting her husband in the hospital, Erick was taking care of his grandmother and younger siblings,” said Gascoigne. “His dedication to helping his family while achieving academic success is why [he] deserves the Every Student Succeeding Award.”
Enjoy an unforgettable experience on a private wind farm. Either take a self-driving or VIP Chartered tour. The tours take you on a journey in which you will learn about all aspects of wind energy and get up close to real operating wind turbines over 400 feet high.
MODERNISM HUB MOVES: Modernism Week’s CAMP (“Community And Meeting Place”), the central hub for the Feb. 18-27 event, is on the move. This year, instead of the familiar large tent erected Downtown, CAMP will be located in the spacious atrium-style lobby of the Hyatt Palm Springs. CAMP will include an information desk, a box office, a shop by Modernism Week’s merchandise and branding partner Destination PSP, a theater, and many interactive sponsor booths. The hotel is located at 285 N. Palm Canyon Drive, in the heart of Downtown Palm Springs. Entrance into CAMP is free and open to the public daily starting Feb. 18 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The hub also serves as the terminal for departures and returns for Modernism Week’s double-decker architectural bus tours that will depart for their tours on Amado Road. All Modernism Week events are open to the public and on sale at modernismweek.com
SWIM CENTER OPENING: The Palm Springs Swim Center will reopen this morning after being shut down due to staffing shortages caused by the coronavirus pandemic. The pool will be open between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m., and reservations are required. For details on how to make reservations, go to this link. Due to staffing shortages, the pool had only recently reopened on Jan. 19 before it needed to close down again on Jan. 25. The pool’s first closure, from Jan. 10 through 19, was part of a more extensive shutdown of all Palm Springs city facilities caused by the surge of COVID-19 cases.
DWA BOARD: The Board of Directors of Desert Water Agency meets virtually at 8 a.m. For complete information about the meeting, including a meeting agenda, visit this link.
MIZELL CENTER: The Mizell Center, 480 S. Sunrise Way, offers 18 programs and classes today, starting at 8:30 a.m. You can find a complete list of all today’s offerings online here.
ENTREPRENEUR CLUB: The Women’s Entrepreneur Club of Palm Springs is hosting a meeting today at 11 a.m. at Flannery Exchange, 750 N. Palm Canyon Dr. Attendees are encouraged to bring about 30 business cards and business pamphlets. For more information, email [email protected].
TAX ASSISTANCE: AARP Foundation Tax-Aide is offered at The Mizell Center by appointment every Tuesday through April 5. To make an appointment, call 760-323-5689, or visit the front desk. Tax-Aide is a no-cost tax filing assistance program for seniors.
SCHOOL DISTRICT COUNCIL: The Palm Springs Unified School District will be discussing the vision for a Native American Parent Advisory Council today at 4 p.m. via Zoom. Those interested are invited to register via this link. The district said it hopes to hear from Native students, families, and community members interested in helping build a program that empowers the community to share its collective voice and bring awareness to our nation’s first people.
TOASTMASTERS: Toastmasters, a nonprofit educational organization that operates clubs worldwide to promote communication, public speaking, and leadership, meets virtually every Tuesday in Palm Springs starting at 6 p.m. Interested in participating? Send an email to [email protected] for more information and the Zoom link.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
DANCE STUDIO BENEFIT: Dance With Miss Lindsay Dance Studio in Palm Springs has pledged to support the Andréa Rizzo Foundation’s nationwide fundraising effort “Dance Across America” for the seventh year. Dancers at the studio will be holding a dance party on Friday, Feb. 4, from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. at the studio. Anyone wishing to make a pledge to the event is invited to call Lindsay Kaufmann at 760-413-6931 or email her at [email protected].
NEXT ART EXHIBIT: The Desert Art Center in Palm Springs opens one of the largest shows of the season on Friday, Feb. 4, with all new works from gallery artists plus an art pop-up in the Studio Gallery featuring the work of Janis Buller and Cathy Parker. Every art lover is welcome to join on the 4th from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. for refreshments and the largest selection of local fine art in the Coachella Valley. DAC is located at 550 North Palm Canyon Dr. in Uptown Palm Springs. Community support feeds the organization’s outreach to schools with art classes and scholarships.
AWARDS GALA: Tickets are on sale now for the Palm Springs Black History Committee’s annual Black History Awards Gala, to be held at the Hilton Ballroom, 400 East Tahquitz Canyon Way, on Saturday, Feb. 5. The gala is the committee’s way of recognizing individuals, groups, and local and corporate businesses contributing to the success and achievements of African Americans and our society. This year’s event begins at 6 p.m. with a silent auction and cocktail hour. Tickets start at $75 and can be purchased at this site.
BIKE EVENT: Registration for the annual Tour de Palm Springs, planned for Feb. 12, remains open. The event features walking and cycling routes, some as long as 100 miles, kicking off between 6:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. All of the routes start and finish on South Palm Canyon Drive near Tahquitz Canyon Way. More information about the event, which draws up to 10,000 cyclists annually, can be found here.
MODERNISM WEEK: The city’s annual celebration of midcentury modern design, architecture, art, fashion, and culture takes place Feb. 17 through 27 at multiple locations. Modernism Week features more than 350 events, including the Modernism Show & Sale, home tours, films, lectures, double-decker architectural bus tours, and more. Tickets and additional information are available here.
BLACK HISTORY DISCUSSION: In celebration of Black History Month, local author Dwayne Ratleff will be discussing his award-winning book Dancing to the Lyrics on Monday, Feb. 28. A timeless and timely coming-of-age tale told through the eyes of the young protagonist, Grant Cole, Ratleff offers a first-hand account of an African American gay youth who perseveres despite personal and family obstacles and the more significant challenges his era. The program will be from 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. on Zoom. To receive the access code on the morning of the lecture please email Julie Warren in advance of the program at [email protected] to register.