Better Together Challenge

2017-2018 Challenge

2017-2018 School Finalists

2017-2018 School Finalists

Compadre Academy
Kino Junior High School
Mountain Pointe High School
Santan Junior High School
Tempe High School

Compadre Academy
We're K[IN]D

Project Advisors: Courtney Darby, Mike Lantz, and Michael Hansen

Team Members: Kiley McCarty, Keishaud White, Ilan Bravo, Ameenah Evens, and Montaya White

Before We're K[IN]D, many of the students at Compadre expressed a lack of opportunity to be involved in their school and didn't feel a sense of belonging, often leading to feelings of isolation and disconnectedness. The first goal was to connect new students to Compadre; students organized and held "Welcome to Compadre" event for incoming students. During this event, new students were introduced to PACK (Present, Accountable, Committed, Kind). The second goal was to cultivate connection between staff and students. Lastly, in efforts to improve Compadre's image outside the community, they successfully adopted Guadalupe Road from Kyrene Road to Hardy Road. This portion of the road is a reminder to the community and Compadre that the two are best when they work together.

Kino Junior High School
Make Community Happen

Project Advisors: Arleigh Crispin, Jonathan Shotwell, Katie Shotwell, Matthew Berzins, and Spencer Brown

Team Members: Destiny Gutierrez, Yesenia Gonzales, Mia Enriquez, and Liz Quirarte

Kino Junior High School's goal was to support student's transition from elementary to middle school and to help teachers improve student's experiences in the classrooms. In efforts to maximize school belongingness, especially for students entering middle school, students hosted a "No One Eats Alone" lunch and assisted in creating an inclusive school mural by adding quotes in different languages. In addition, students organized trainings for teachers to learn how to make their classrooms more inclusive and assisted in the creation of activities for students to develop their social skills.

Mountain Pointe High School

Project Advisors: Mary Catherine Boatright, Meredith Morrissey, and Ron Denne Jr.

Team Members: Samantha Gibbs, Clara Jauregui, and Joslin Tucker

Mountain Pointe's goal was for the school to have a better understanding of mental health and the issues surrounding it. In order to spread the message that no one is alone in any hardship or struggle, students hosted a suicide awareness week. The week included lunch activities, after school programs and spirit chains. In addition, the students held a school assembly to spread awareness of the importance of mental health and social and emotional wellness. During the assembly, talks were given by students, staff and Teen Life Line and students sold t-shirts as a fundraiser to support suicide support services.

Santan Junior High School
Our Pieces are Awesome Together

Project Advisors: Kathy Mejia and Wendi Jones

Team Members: Abigail Carraro, Patrick Duffy, Delaney Duncan, Victoria Festag, Megan Finder, Alyssa Furbee, Brooklyn Gavin, Ella Hanks, Olivia Hays, Dustin Heilbrun, Caden Henderson, Ashlee Kush, Brooke Lassen, Amaya Lee, Ethan McChesney, Gracie Mobley, Elizabeth Perkins, Abigail Pilgrim, Sophia Reed, Delaney Roberts, Tyler Smith, Lilian Stutz, Scarlet Summers, Madison Wahlberg, and Dayanara White

Santan Junior High School's goal was to change the perspectives of diversity within the school. Students held an assembly to showcase different cultures around the world. The assembly had various performances by students and staff. In addition, students participated in creating a puzzle piece that highlighted their similarities and differences. The pieces were later combined to form one large school mural, a reminder of the school's diversity and of their experience working together.

Tempe High School
Tempe High is Better With You

Project Advisors: Katie Phalen, Liz Stone, and Wayne Montes de Oca

Team Members: Ivan Alexander, Madeline Damasco, Reyna Cruz, Jennifer Garnica, Luis Llamas, Ivan Ordaz, Jose Bernal, Sammantha Ramirez, Diana Gomez, and Natalie Arellano

Tempe High's goal was to promote unity within the student body by creating awareness about campus and encouraging every student to be involved in Tempe High School and the community. Students hosted "The Better Together Week", as a reminder that all students in the school belong and are important. The week consisted of serving different foods that pair well together and offering students a pledge to sign to create a tree, "Together We Grow". In addition, students hosted "The Better Together Walk" raising $1200 for the Suzy Foundation to support students with special needs.

Judging Panel

Judging Panel

Carlos Santos

Assistant Professor, Counseling and Counseling Psychology, ASU

I was impressed with the effort and time that was expended on each projects. It was impactful to review applications and note the ways in which youth and staff are working together to address the critical goals of this effort.

Clarissa Abidog Clarissa Abidog

Doctoral Student, Family and Human Development, ASU

The most impactful part of reviewing the each schools' submission was seeing how the students identified their unique issues and devised creative solutions to mobilize positive change on their campuses.

Delia Saenz Delia Saenz

Associate Professor, Psychology, ASU

I really appreciated the effort and creativity that these young students devoted to identifying and addressing significant issues on their campuses related to effective group dynamics and the advancement of inclusion. I was honored to be part of the inaugural review panel and look forward to continued collaboration between ASU and community schools.

Manuela Jimenez Herrera Manuela Jimenez Herrera

Assistant Research Professor, The Sanford School, ASU

What impacted me the most about the projects: I really enjoyed the thoughtfulness of the students whose projects we read, as well as their commitment to make their schools, and in some cases even their surrounding communities, better places for everyone involved.

Sarah Lindstrom Johnson Sarah Lindstrom Johnson

Assistant Professor, The Sanford School, ASU

I was most impacted by the students awareness of the actions needed to make sure their schools are places where students are engaged and feel like they belong.

Stacy Callahan Stacy Callahan

Professional School Counselor, Mesa Public Schools

The student projects submitted reflected the passion and ingenuity of each student group, to ensure that all students felt a sense of belonging and connection to their campus. Being part of the first judging panel for the Better Together Challenge was a wonderful experience and I look forward to seeing future projects from area schools where students are taking the lead.



The 2017-2018 Better Together Challenge finalists had the opportunity to reflect upon their participation in the challenge. Take a look at what the students and advisors had to say!


What you liked the most about The Better Together Challenge?

"I liked the way we all got together to become a better community. We started communicating more than what I first thought. It was a wonderful experience."

"What I liked the most about the Better Together Challenge being able to connect with our community and learning about the unique interests of each. I liked how we had helped from adults in our community (ASU) to guide us in our thoughts but also the fact that we students are able to make a difference because of this help."

"I liked how united the school felt with this challenge, seeing people with a passion to become involved was a great experience."

"I liked being able to show the similarities/differences between each student and how our school can be one."

"I liked how the Better Together assignment challenged schools to grow in diversity."

What was the result/impact of your participation?

"I have heard from numerous students that they truly do feel more included in school activities and more confident in the significance they hold at school."

"More kids are taking leadership roles in our school."

"I felt closer with my peers."

"It brought together our school with our diversity."

"I helped my community see diversity."

What advice you will give to a student or group who will like to participate in The Better Together challenge?

"Have fun with it and make sure to get everyone involved."

"My advice is to just have fun while making these memories. It's fun trying to include everyone in something that's important to you."

"Work together, advertise, be kind to who you working with."

"Do quality work, participate and come with an open mind."


What you liked the most about The Better Together Challenge?

"The opportunity to engage students in a meaningful way. The support from ASU and the program."

"I enjoyed the chance of getting to work with students in a very different capacity then my normal job."

"The opportunity to begin something that could self-sustain throughout the future of our school."

"The opportunity to highlight the importance of inclusive and supportive schools."

"Our students have been longing for opportunities to have a voice and impact on our school community. They appreciated a chance to create something at school for themselves, other students and the community."

What was the result/impact of your participation?

"Students were able to voice their ideas and opinions."

"We generated interest on our campus to be involved."

"I was able to share my knowledge and expertise with students."

"The impact of my participation was to mentor and coach students as they productively struggle."

"I met great students on a different level. We gained collective excitement for school, and I was able to take in some great activities with this group."

What advice you will give to a student or group who will like to participate in The Better Together Challenge?

"Remain 100% open to all ideas! Be positive!"

"Make sure you plan out meetings and activities ahead of time to make it easier to get the team gets together."

"Be adaptable and recognize making a strong change takes time and patience."

"Plan, delegate and just do it. Start with one project and get it done before moving on. Teach students to be leaders."

"Talk with your students and brainstorm with them about what kind of project they would like to do."