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Summit sparks inspiration for local high school students to improve their community

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


Student facilitator and second semester freshman Raine McAngus works with his group addressing priorities to encourage more teenagers go to regular doctor appointments and keep up with their health.
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March 25, 2022

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

The daylong session united Maryvale High School students, community members and ASU students, faculty and staff to co-design project prototypes that will improve life in Maryvale Village for nearly 230,000 Arizona residents.

Using ASU’s Spark method, participants were assigned working groups focused on improving cultural immersion experiences, access to quality education and health care, and increased opportunities for career advancement. As part of ASU’s New American University initiative, the design sessions are geared toward finding integrated and innovative ways to achieve excellence, access and impact.

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

Christina Ngo, director of social embeddedness within the Office of University Affairs, who was integral in planning and leading the summit, explains social embeddedness as more than community involvement. 

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

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

Esmerelda Franco, a junior transborder studies student who supports Ngo’s team as a social embeddedness analyst student student worker, appreciates the intentionality and spirit of inclusion. 

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

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

“A lot of high schoolers in communities like Maryvale haven't really thought of college or higher ed as a possibility because it's never been offered to them,” she said. “So being able to see them here and actually be really excited to be engaged in the process is really awesome.” 

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

Arizona Coyotes’ president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez gives a keynote address to the 2022 Maryvale Youth Summit, focusing on his journey from an undocumented immigrant child to becoming a business executive and the first Latino president and CEO in the NHL.

Arizona Coyotes’ president and CEO Xavier Gutierrez gives a keynote address to the 2022 Maryvale Youth Summit, focusing on his journey from an undocumented immigrant child to becoming a business executive and the first Latino president and CEO in the NHL. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

“I had people who supported my journey, just like you have all around you. There are many door openers in your life, and while they open doors for you, it's up to you to walk through them,” he said. “You may walk through them and get to another place that maybe you never thought you'd ever be, but it’s exactly where you should be.”

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

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

Kimberly Medina Rios, a Maryvale High School graduate and now a second-year medical microbiology student in the 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 if I didn't have that community of people who really thought I could do such great things in life, I wouldn't be where I am today,” she said. “It’s an honor to be on the other side to help high schoolers go through the transition that I did.” 

Born in Mexico, Medina Rios said that health care was a foreign topic to her until she came to the U.S. Now that she’s in college, her goal is to become a doctor. 

“I have a really big 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 or even work for a nonprofit someday,” she said. 

Maryvale High School graduate and second year medical micro biology student Kimberly Medina Rios shows her support for an ide

Maryvale High School graduate and second-year medical microbiology student Kimberly Medina Rios shows her support for an idea. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Student facilitator and freshman Raine McAngus worked with his group addressing priorities to encourage more teenagers to go to regular doctor appointments and keep up with their health. 

“I want to work in a cross-sector capacity to make sure health care is accessible and affordable to everyone,” he said. 

Courtesy of Access 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 at West, June 6–9. During the summer experience, students can partake in interactive research, presentations, seminars and panel discussions led by current ASU SPARKS students. 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 best community advocates for themselves and for others. 

“This is what it takes to transform a community. It takes all of us. It takes institutions of higher learning. 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, may change another’s life.” 

Top photo: Student facilitator and freshman Raine McAngus works with his group idea encouraging more teenagers to go to regular doctor appointments and keep up with their health at the Maryvale Youth Summit on March 18. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News