By Nanci Hutson | The Daily Courier


The Prescott Education Foundation’s second annual banquet celebration of 11 “rising stars” and the teachers that inspired them to reach their goals was one filled with laughter, tears, and Cool jazz performed by the Prescott High School Jazz Combo.

In the ballroom of the Club at Prescott Lakes, parents, educators, business leaders and foundation members feted students who have against sometimes daunting odds achieved educational success with the help of teachers and staff who never stopped pushing them to be the best they can be. All of these Prescott High seniors were nominated as “rising stars” because of their perseverance and devotion to their studies, their school community and their willingness to go above and beyond to reach their dreams. They were hailed as role models for all students who may require that extra encouragement to push forward.

Prescott Unified School District Superintendent Joe Howard said this is “one of the greatest nights of the year” because it is all about the “great things that happen to our kids because of the unbelievable connections that happen between kids and teachers.” He thanked the foundation for its willingness to be the “white knight” of the district with its focus on celebrating, and financially supporting, efforts of educators that would otherwise go unseen.

Keynote speaker Patty Rummage, a 54-year educational veteran, was clear all students need a strong rope if they are to climb to success. Each strand is a teacher, a parent, grandparent, coach, scoutmaster, or friend who invests to “carry them through life.”

“I hope I added a strand of strength to my students’ rope,” Rummage said to loud applause.

Each “rising star” shared how steadfast encouragement and compassion from these teachers helped them overcome academic and life struggles that might otherwise have derailed their educational future.

Logan Carmick is a double kidney transplant recipient who required homebound instruction over the past three years. Some days he simply just wanted to throw himself a pity party. His teachers, Shawna Hodovance and Joan Tomoff, lifted his spirits, and continually pushed him to dig deep to complete his course work. That encouragement enabled him to play varsity baseball this year, and he now plans to attend Northern Arizona University’s Prescott Valley campus where he will study to become a nurse.

Calliandra Bevers, who suffers from migraines, said her high school English teacher Elizabeth Holliday offered her resources to assist in treating her ailment and encouraged her to submit her senior essay on the topic for publication in a magazine so as to help others suffering from the debilitating condition.

Most importantly, Bevers said that when she felt “abandoned and alone” Holliday “gave me the confidence to reassure me I was worth noticing.”

Krysta Handley honored her fourth grade teacher Denise Murphy at Taylor Hicks Elementary School as “one of the most influential people in my life.” Krysta’s future plan is to join the United States Navy to become a battlefield surgeon.

“Thank you for encouraging and supporting my plans after high school even though they make you nervous, and a massive thank you for always believing in me no matter what,” Krysta said.

Hannah Guthrie simply said her high school English teacher Elizabeth Woolstenhulme has proved the “most motivational teacher I ever met.”

“I hope you spend the rest of your teaching years, absolutely, positively 100 percent killing it, because I know you will,” said Hannah who is headed to a four-year stint in the United States Air Force.

The mentors also honored their “rising stars.”

Megan Raiss is “bright, beautiful and athletic, but what makes her stand out is her love for others,” wrote instructional coach Robin Andre. “Others her age are just now thinking about how to leave a mark in the world; Megan has already left hers.”

English teacher Elizabeth Woolstenhulme wrote that Jonathan Dwyer has a “unique ability to juggle lots of weighty things at once, and he does so with style and grace.”

Senior David Fausey and Kaiser Anderson both applauded their ROTC teachers, Retired United States Air Force Colonel Denny Peeples and Retired USAF Lt. Col. Bill DeKemper, for teaching them life skills that will enable them to one day be leaders.

“His (DeKemper) faith and support for every cadet is one of the most uplifting things in the world,” Fausey said.

Sage Taylor and Amanda Bia both came to Prescott High from different places and found their niche thanks to the devotion of their favorite teachers, French teacher Cathleen Cherry and Learning Center teacher Cari Greco.

Cherry showed Taylor “the person I want to be.” Bia credited Greco as someone she knows “will always be there for me and be someone on my side.”

William Robbins III credited his instructional assistant Judy DeArmond from fifth through 10th grades with believing in him, and fighting for him, so he could achieve independence.

“I will never forget what you have done for me and who you helped me become,” Robbins said.