K-12 Campus Leaders Grateful for HEROES Welcome at UTEP

By Daniel Perez

UTEP News Service

About 90 K-12 administrators from schools throughout El Paso got a University-sized pat on the back for their role in preparing students to go to college.

The recognition culminated a semester-long effort by The University of Texas at El Paso to honor the academic successes that result when students, teachers, principals and representatives from higher education collaborate to help talented youth pursue their dreams.UTEP President Diana Natalicio greets attendees at the Dec. 6 HEROES celebration of K-12 administrators inside the Larry K. Durham Center’s Hall of Champions. Photo by J.R. Hernandez / UTEP News ServiceUTEP President Diana Natalicio greets attendees at the Dec. 6 HEROES celebration of K-12 administrators inside the Larry K. Durham Center’s Hall of Champions. Photo by J.R. Hernandez / UTEP News Service

UTEP played host to the administrators, many of them University alumni, during a late afternoon reception Dec. 6 inside the Hall of Champions at UTEP’s Larry K. Durham Center. The guests mingled and munched on flank steak, cheeses and grilled vegetables as the sun set behind the Sun Bowl Stadium.

During her brief comments, UTEP President Diana Natalicio stressed her gratitude several times to the guests for their efforts to build a college culture among their students, many who come from humble backgrounds. She said the University’s ever increasing enrollment figures – from undergraduates to doctoral candidates – and the quality of the students are a testament to their campus leadership.

“It’s tremendously important to express appreciation to you for everything that you’ve done to bring about this change in attitude in our community,” she said. Later, she added, “On behalf of all the young people whose lives are being transformed by the opportunities you’re creating, I want to thank you for everything that you’ve done.”

University leaders developed the HEROES (Honoring Education for Raising Opportunities of Excellence for Students) series to promote the positive things being done on campuses throughout Region 19.

UTEP previously acknowledged the area’s top graduates – now UTEP students – during a leadership workshop in September, and teachers who have helped prepare students for higher education during a Miners football game in October in the Sun Bowl.

The final recognition was to honor the dedication and commitment of the principals and assistant principals who play a huge role in setting each campus’s tone and determining its level of excellence.

After the event, several guests said they were grateful to the University for honoring their efforts.

“I think this was awesome,” said a smiling Socorro Middle School Principal Lori Diaz, who earned her bachelor’s (’96) and master’s (’01) degrees at UTEP. “We usually don’t get this kind of recognition.”

Josefina V. “Josie” Tinajero, Ed.D., dean of UTEP’s College of Education, said she hoped President Natalicio’s message of collaboration would resonate with the administrators.

“We have to work together to ensure opportunities for our youth,” she said. “(The K-12 leaders) can be critical players in the lives of so many young people.”

Armando Aguirre, Ed.D., assistant provost and director of the El Paso Collaborative for Academic Excellence, helped organize the event and introduced President Natalicio. He spent 20 years as an administrator at the elementary, middle and high school levels in area school districts. He understands the impact administrators can have on students.

“They need to be a bigger part of the big picture,” he said.