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Message from the Interim Superintendent
The Clarke County School District and Athens-Clarke County have a vibrant Hispanic community. As we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 - October 15), this newsletter recognizes the 2020-2021 CCSD Future Latinx Leaders! Our student population is comprised of 25% of students who identify as Hispanic, and we are excited to introduce some of our amazing high school Latinx students who will undoubtedly become the next leaders of their generation. These students were selected by their school administrators and counselors for their outstanding accomplishments thus far. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for them!

Dr. Xernona Thomas
Interim Superintendent
CMS Heritage Committee
At Clarke Middle, we love to celebrate the various unique histories and cultures of our school community.  We believe bringing our cultural traditions, languages, and beliefs together makes us stronger and better. Through our CMS Heritage Committee, we engage our school community in the celebration of different heritages through guest speakers, celebratory events, music, learning about prominent members of different communities/cultures, heritage student trivia competitions, cultural recipes, our annual African American Heritage night, and the unique stories that recognize the beauties of each heritage. Our goal is to grow and develop student leaders to plan and implement their own events and ideas to celebrate various heritages. We are excited about upcoming events, including a guest speaker from UGA for Hispanic Heritage month, salsa dancing, and a Zoom movie night! All of our events and activities are shared with our school community on the CMS Heritage Website!
Future Latinx Leaders of CCSD!
Stephany Gaona-Perez
Cedar Shoals High School

“I've been a part of the journalism program here at Cedar since my sophomore year. It's really helped me with my leadership skills and confidence. Last year I served as News Editor. This year I'm serving my staff as Co-editor-in-chief. We've won many awards together as a staff. I won 3rd place for the News cutline for SIPA's (Southern Interscholastic Press Association) writing contest at the 2020 convention.  I've been a part of HoPe for two years. This year I am the Vice President of Development. I'm very happy to be a legacy leader for HoPe. I am an active volunteer in the Athens Peer Court with nearly 45 hours of community service. I also served in the Student Government last year and hope to serve again this year. I am also a member of both the National Honors Society and the National Beta Club. This year I joined First2First, where we are increasing voter turnout at Cedar through voter registration, deadline reminders, and encouraging long-term political participation. I am one of the captains, and I focus on direct contact with Cedar Seniors!” 

Daniel Garcia-Pozo
Clarke Central High School

Daniel is actively involved in art, drama, and literature, and is an excellent example of student leadership in CCSD. His work ethic is astounding, and he does not take things for granted but instead has respect and curiosity for art and writing. He's involved in both CCHS Drama Club and the Athens Creative Theater productions and has planned and supervised camp activities and role-playing campaigns with Athens Creative Theater youth. He is also the Writing Director of Clarke Central’s student literary arts magazine, the iliad, and is responsible for selecting and editing written student work for publication. This past summer, he demonstrated both his commitment to and success in creative writing by attending the Sewanee Young Writers Conference at the University of the South.

Brittany Lopez
Cedar Shoals High School  

“As the daughter of Nicaraguan immigrants, I struggled with my identity throughout my life. As I grow older, I have learned that my heritage allows me to bring a unique perspective to any room I step in. I moved to Athens in the Spring of 2019. Since then, I have joined several clubs and organizations that have developed my professional and personal growth. I'm currently the co-editor in chief for the BluePrints Magazine. My experience on the staff has helped me gain accomplishments such as being nominated for GHP, receiving All-Georgia for In-depth News, and receiving the Arthur Moog Middleton Writing Award. I'm currently a U-Lead student, which allowed me to talk at Vanderbilt University about my own high school experience and the need for higher education for undocumented and first-gen students. This year I became the Vice President of Communications for my school's chapter of the Hispanic Organization Promoting Education, a cultural awareness organization and support group for Hispanic students. We are dedicated to increasing graduation rates by promoting leadership development, educational resources, and community service. I'm also a youth member for Dignidad Inmigrante en Athens, where we fight for Athens' Hispanic immigrant community. This past summer, we held a live meeting with Major Kelly Girtz to address the Hispanic community's needs while in a pandemic. My love for gardening led me to join and become the Outdoor Club's vice president during my junior year. This led me to become a Young Conservation Stewards with the Athens Land Trust, where I'm currently an intern. Some of my other extracurriculars are being a Peer Court member, NHS, and having a part-time job. This upcoming year, I plan on applying to a liberal arts college where I hope to receive a humanities major.”

Kelly Medina
Cedar Shoals High School

Hello, my name is Kelly Medina, and I am honored to be featured in this newsletter. Here is a little bit about me. I love being involved in my school! I am involved in Beta, National Honors Society, ULead, and, most importantly, HoPe. For the past two years, I have taken on leadership positions at our schools HoPe Chapter, including being the Vice President of Community Service, and this year as President. Throughout HoPe, I have helped students learn how to grow their community, leadership, and educational skills. I can proudly say that in two years, I have helped students in our chapter earn over 1,500+ community service hours. Although being involved in HoPe is very important to me, my education is too. My mom came to this country years ago and always says she wants what is best for my sisters and me, so ever since from being a little girl to now, I try my best in school, and it has paid off. I am in the top 3% of my class and am proud to be the top Latinx student in my class. With that, I say anything is possible when you work hard and, most importantly, ask yourself what is it that I can do for others?

Leandro Gonzalez-Gonzalez Junior
Athens Community Career Academy

Leandro Gonzalez is an 11th grade Clarke Central High School student attending the Athens Community Career Academy and in the top 10% of his class.  He is preparing for his future plans to go to Culinary School after high school and become a successful food truck and restaurant owner by participating in the Culinary Arts Pathway and Work-Based Learning.  In addition, he is taking dual enrollment classes with Athens Technical College. Leandro demonstrates his capacity to be a future Latinx leader as a member of the ACCA Ambassadors, a student leadership organization that provides a voice for the student body and organizes service-learning, community/social awareness, and enrichment opportunities for fellow students. As a sophomore, Leandro took the initiative to propose a Hispanic Heritage event to increase awareness and bring the school community together.  Along with his fellow Ambassadors, Leandro organized a potluck where 300+ students were able to try food from various Hispanic countries while also celebrating Latin music and Hispanic leaders from the past and present. Currently, Leandro participates in an internship with the Clarke County Government’s Office of Inclusion, where they focus efforts on areas including race, color, national origin, religious beliefs, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, age, and disabilities.

Aida Bermudez
Athens Community Career Academy

Aida Bermudez is a senior at Athens Community Career Academy and Clarke Central High School. She earned a Technical Certificate of Credit in Early Childhood Education from Athens Technical College as a junior. In addition to her TCC, she will earn 24 transferable college credit hours. Aida is the Chief of Media Relations for the ACCA Student Ambassadors. She helped to coordinate student volunteer opportunities, including a building-wide food drive, Hispanic Heritage Month potluck, and an Ice Skating Fundraiser for the Ambassadors. Aida aspires to work in education as an elementary teacher. She has spent the last two years interning in the field of education and was offered a paid position with Apple Tree Prep. Aida is a role model for other students through her dedication to her work, positive attitude, and kind spirit. She is destined to become a leader in education. 

Isabella Gonzalez
Clarke Central High School

Isabella approaches her work with an intent to make the world better. She is a student leader within Clarke Central Ecology Club as their current president and is actively involved in visual art. Isabella is passionate about learning about the environment and what she can do to help from a scientific and activist perspective. This activism carries into themes she explores with her visual artwork. As an art student, Isabella pushes herself to explore and extend her ideas as she creates. Additionally, she was awarded the School Garden Champion Award by the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and Keep Athens Beautiful.

Roxy Pena-Pineda
Clarke Central High School

Roxy has continuously impressed teachers with her strong leadership skills, hard work, and care for others. She has been a part of JROTC throughout her high school career and has made it a priority in her life.  Within the program, she has reached the rank of Executive Officer, placing her as one of the top 3 cadets out of 200. She trains regularly for competitions and collaborates with her peers, who are also a part of the program to ensure everyone gets the most out of their time. She has also taken a leadership role in HoPe (Hispanic Organization Promoting Education) Club. I have witnessed firsthand Roxy’s great commitment to community service, leadership, and helping others as she and three other students have gotten the club off the ground and running successfully over the past year and a half. On her own, last school year Roxy coordinated weekly community service opportunities for our members, which totaled well over 100 hours of service across the Athens area serving children, the homeless, animal shelters, and others. She also took the lead at our monthly meetings, and her outgoing personality brought energy to everyone in the room, even the most introverted of our members. All of Roxy's accomplishments and her dedication to serving others makes her a Future Latinx Leader of CCSD.

Isa Heesacker-Romero
Clarke Central High School

Isa demonstrates leadership both in her interactions with her peers as well as her commitment to her artwork. She always works to fully develop and extend an idea, both conceptually and through techniques she explores. Her artwork, which explored the idea of self-love, was featured in the Youth Art Exhibition at UGA in Spring 2020. Additionally, she was selected as the Teacher Honor Student for the 2019-2020 school year for 3D art. Isa is a wonderful example of leadership, respect, and creativity.

Leonardo (Leo) Bustinza
Clarke Central High School

Leo is not only an exemplary student with a high ranking in his class but also a highly ambitious and hard-working young man. He is the Cadet Battalion Commander for the Gladiator JROTC Battalion, the top-rated cadet in Central’s 200+ cadet organization. He is responsible for everything the unit does or fails to do. The Battalion Commander has the most demanding job in the JROTC Program.  Leo is mature, willing to accept responsibility, delegate authority, and is extremely competent at supervising others. He is clear and concise at all times - his vision is evident, and the steps needed to ensure accomplishment are clearly conveyed to all concerned. Leo sets the example for our JROTC co-curricular participation, as he has been a member of our Raider Team, Drill Team, and Color Guard for the past 4 years. Leo is the JROTC Program's only "split option" soldier, having already completed Army Basic Combat Training (summer of 2020) and is currently assigned to a US Army Reserve unit out of Fort Gillem, GA as a wheel vehicle mechanic (91B). Leo will apply for The Georgia Institute of Technology's civil engineering program and will join the Yellow Jacket SROTC Program. After graduating from Georgia Tech, Leo will be commissioned in the US Army. He currently has a 3.76 GPA.

Andrea Matta-Castillo
Clarke Central High School

Andrea is a scholar whose intellectual curiosity, personal drive, and strong work ethic have contributed to her success both inside and outside the classroom. She is ranked among the top 15% of students in the Class of 2021 and has taken more than 15 Advanced, Accelerated, and Advanced Placement courses throughout her high school career. In addition to being a high performing student, Andrea is actively involved in the local and school community. She is a member of the Miracle Club, National Honor Society, and Mu Alpha Theta. Andrea has also participated in many community service events, such as Trunk or Treat, and helping with food drives at her church. Andrea will be the first in her family to attend college. She plans to major in Finance or Business and dreams of starting her own financial management company so that she can help to take care of her family. Andrea is extremely proud of her heritage and believes food and language are two of her Latinx roots' best aspects. Andrea is an exceptional student, and I do not doubt that she will help to change this world for the better. 

Migrant Education
An important part of the MEP is identifying and recruiting new families for our program. We contact families who are new to the district and screen them for participation. Whether or not they are eligible for the Migrant Education Program, we warmly welcome them to the district.

The Migrant Education Program currently serves between 50-60 students from diverse backgrounds in Clarke County. We primarily assist with academic tutoring, facilitating communication between schools and families, monitoring grades and behavior, medical paperwork, and connecting families to community resources. We are also available for parent-teacher conferences, IEP meetings, and school-wide meetings as interpreters for our families. Please reach out to CCSD Migrant Education Specialists Leo Cotlar or Elizabeth Dubberly,  if you need any support with a student or family who is flagged as Migrant. You can also contact Elizabeth to refer to a family that might be new to your school. 
CCSD Partner Spotlight 
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we celebrate our Community Partners who support our Hispanic families. Thank you for all you do!
For more information about the wonderful work these organizations are doing, or to lend your support, please click on the links below:
Hello everyone! My name is Alex Borges, and I am the editor of "Better Together." I am the District Interpreter and Translator supporting Spanish-speaking families. Whether you are a CCSD parent, staff member, or community partner, this newsletter was made for you! I welcome suggestions and ideas. If there is something you would like to see in future editions, feel free to reach out to me below. #BetterTogether
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