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Group of Palo Verde seniors gets welcome surprise: You're going to be Wildcats!

Posted November 01, 2013

The University of Arizona surprised a group of Palo Verde Magnet High School seniors and their families on Nov. 1 with a celebration at a school assembly and some exciting news: Acceptance to the U of A.

Sixty-six Palo Verde students who applied for early admittance got their letters, hand-delivered by the dean of admissions. Forty university representatives were on hand to celebrate, including cheerleaders, members of the pom squad and Wilma, one of the beloved U of A mascots.

The event was kept secret from all but a handful of organizers. Students thought they might be getting an honor roll award or a lecture on college. Parents were expecting a student of the month award or some other recognition. All were stunned when the lights went out, the University of Arizona fight song played, and the cheerleaders and U of A representatives came out cheering.

Kasey Urquidez, dean of admissions, told the students, "There's nothing like being an Arizona Wildcat, and I guarantee it was the best decision of your life to apply for admission and the best years of your life lie ahead of you."

TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sánchez added, "Today, ladies and gentlemen, you are setting a high standard, a new tradition at Palo Verde." He encouraged the whole student body to remember that it could be them earning admittance to college in the future.

Palo Verde is the first school to have this kind of presentation from the university. The number of early acceptance applications from Palo Verde increased dramatically over the past year. In 2012, the number of early acceptance recipients was 15. This year, 68 students were accepted. Ninety percent of those are first-generation college students.

Janna Acevedo, principal at Palo Verde, said that when she walked through the school's doors three years ago, most students didn't believe college was a possibility. Now, they do.

"Attitudes are contagious. The kids sitting in the stands know they could be getting those letters someday," she said.

José Pena is the first in his family to go to college. His mother, Perla Pena, two brothers, an uncle and his girlfriend surrounded him after the assembly. He said the experience was "awesome."

His mother was overcome with pride. "I'm so, so happy and so, so proud of my son."

Photo of Palo Verde Seniors
From top left: Ranta Rhummel, America Maldonado, Abiniiso Litzin, Elia Mendoza, Tyler Fallwell, Ro Martinez,
Saul Miranda, Ather Dawod, Zachary Redding, Matthew Gray
Middle row: Taylor Lewis, Erica Maldecino, Avriana Martinez
Bottom row: Aaron Matthew, Breanna Lawson, Vernon Jones, Jaycee Hoepelman, Shandiin Little-Sag, Juliane Lucius
 Photo of Jose and Perla Pena
Palo Verde senior José Pena and his mother, Perla Pena, and his uncle
 Photo of Dr. S├ínchez and Dr. Vega
Dr. Vega and Dr. Sánchez congratulate students
Photo of Erica Maldecino and Patrick Smothers
Erica Maldecino and her father, Patrick Smothers 
 Photo of Jennessa Stout and Shanna Dayton
Jenessa Stout and her mother, Shanna Dayton
 Photo of Julianne, Gerard and Sayuri Lucius

Julianne Lucius (center) and her mother, Sayuri, and father, Gerard
 Photo of Breanna Lawson and Nicole Hawkens
Breanna Lawson (right) and her mother, Nicole Hawkens