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Local Youth Celebrate the Santa Cruz River in the Sixth Annual Celebrate The River Student Art Contest

The Sixth Annual Celebrate the River Student Art Contest was a huge success! Hosted by Friends of the Santa Cruz River and sponsored by Global Community Communications Alliance, this year's contest received a warm welcome in its new location at the Americana Hotel in downtown Nogales, Arizona.

With ten schools participating and over 620 submissions of art, families walked into the Gallery at the Americana Hotel on May 13th to find every square inch of available surface covered with pictures, dioramas, sculptures, posters and more—all on the theme of the contest which was: The Return of the Gila Topminnow to the Santa Cruz River and other Local Endangered Species.

Students and teachers learned all about the return of the Gila Topminnow to the Santa Cruz River - and other local endangered species -during a power-point presentation, given by members of Friends of the Santa Cruz River, in the month preceding the art contest. By combining science and art, students participating in the contest learn about the wildlife and plants in the rare cottonwood-willow gallery forest that thrives in the riparian zone that is the life-blood of the Santa Cruz Valley.

At the awards ceremony at the Americana Hotel, a 5-minute version of the power point presentation was given by Blue Evening Star of Global Community Communications Alliance to the crowd. This was followed by questions from the audience which were answered by Doug Duncan, fish biologist from the Tucson office of U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Also included in the presentations were two fantastic songs from the Cosmo Kids Choir, and a beautiful dance and poem. Both from the students of Global Community Communications Schools for Teens and Children.

A student from Desert Shadows Middle School, whose name is Jóse, was asked to speak and graciously agreed. Jóse shared what he learned about endangered species and about the Santa Cruz River. He, like many of his schoolmates, did not know prior to becoming involved in the art contest, that there was an area of the Santa Cruz River that has water flowing on the surface that supports a healthy and vibrant riparian corridor that is full of plants and wildlife. Jóse chose to make a paper-mache sculpture of the endangered Pima Pineapple Cactus and was very excited to share with the audience that he plans to do whatever he can to protect the river and all the life that it brings to this region. The emcee, Mr. Ben Lomeli from Friends of the Santa Cruz River, did an awesome job of making all announcements in both Spanish and English. Ben is a hydrologist and long-time advocate for all aspects of protection of our precious riparian habitats.

The contest judges had a difficult time awarding prizes due to the quantity and quality of the art submissions. Three Best of Show cash awards were given to three of the participating schools, and students in each of the three age categories were awarded art supplies for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place as well as eight Honorable Mentions.

Ms. Angelo Canto, Assistant Superintendent of the Nogales Unified School District, was also asked to speak at the awards ceremony. Ms. Canto was one of the biggest supporters of this year's art contest and it was her encouragement of schools in her district to participate that allowed us entry into so may classrooms. She spoke about the importance of including curricular activities that connect students to their environment.

The art contest display will continue to be available for viewing at the Gallery at the Americana Hotel at 639 North Grand Ave. in Nogales, AZ for the month of May. Gallery hours are: Mondays 3:00-5:00pm, and Thursday, Friday, Saturdays 12:00-4:00pm.

Friends of the Santa Cruz River and Global Community Communications Alliance want to thank everyone who contributed to making this art contest a success. The reason we are doing this contest is to make friends with our neighbors and to share the beauty of our precious river here in Santa Cruz County, Arizona. We know that relationships with local schools and families will continue to build, and together we will build greater awareness of the importance of protecting the Santa Cruz River.

In addition to moving forward with plans to organize the 7th Annual Celebrate the River Student Art Contest in May of 2017, we are already seeing significant connections being made as a result of this contest.

  • The art teacher from Desert Shadows Middle School, Ms. Cuen, told us that she will be both the science teacher and the art teacher next year. She plans to include curriculum about this region and to take her students on field trips so they will know the names of the mountains that create our local watershed, as well as to get to know the Santa Cruz River.
  • Melanie Rawlins, ranger from the Tumacácori National Historic Park, has offered to assist by welcoming students to the Park to visit and learn about the river.
  • Natalie Brassill from The University of Arizona College of Agriculture and Life Science, has offered to bring her mobile water lab to all school field trips generated to visit the river so students can see some of the science that goes into protecting the river.
  • Doug Duncan from U.S. Fish and Wildlife is asking for permission to use some of the art for a booklet on Gila topminnow recovery plan, which should came out as a public review draft this year.

Now that is really combining science and art!

"Male Gila Topminnow" by Absolyten Raymond
6 years old
Global Community Communications School for Teens & Children