In this space, read the voices of our students as they reflect on their personal experiences, school activities, and social life at Sky Islands.  They provide a window onto student culture, what students find here and the community they create together at Sky Islands. 

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Class of 2021 Graduate Reflections of Sky Islands

I remember the first time I saw Sky Islands High School. It was near the end of my eighth grade year and I was under pressure to find a High School I wanted to attend. I had gone to open houses and school tours. But none of them seemed right to me. When viewing the five different schools they all looked the same, they all looked like what I already had. I was like ‘God, I do really want to go through middle school again?’ No, so there must be some school out there for me.  

That is when I heard of Sky Islands High School. My father had heard about it from a friend and so one day after school he suggested that we drive by Sky Islands to check it out. As my father drove by Sky Islands we came across the front of the school and there lay the C2E Restoration Site with a sign explaining how students built and designed that area. I found that very intriguing and unique for a school because it was environmental but also includes their students with every aspect of the school. At that moment I knew this was where I wanted to attend. I wanted to go to this school because it had an outdoor program but really that wasn’t even the best part to Sky Islands High School.

What truly is the core of Sky Islands is its community and school culture. Through Sky Islands I have met the greatest teachers and inspirational peers. 

It was at Sky Islands that I became acquainted with the term Ubuntu. Which is an African philosophy that may be summarized as ‘I am because who we all are’. I learned of Ubuntu within my first week at Sky Islands. It was described to me as Sky Islands ideology.  I am because who we all are. How is this the ideology of Sky Islands?

Well, we all work together to collaborate on projects. A whole class or the school comes together as a team to achieve our goal. Whether that be building a chicken coop, maintaining our garden, constructing a three bin composting system, or making lunch.

Students and staff coalesce in designing school projects. Students in the Restoration Ecology class spent two months planning the Audubon site. Not only did the Restoration Ecology class design but they also implemented the creation of the area. Students in the Research, Studies, and Design class and Ecobiology class developed and manufactured a tortoise habitat.The Design Build class and the Animal Studies class constructed a chicken coop that is now a fundamental program of Sky Islands. 

We create connections and solidarity with one another at this school when we accomplish a project together as a community. We are all equals at Sky Islands. We are a fellowship. At Sky Islands we have all school councils and eat hand made food in one another’s good company. We do not compete here but unite. We all feel safe here, safe to contribute, to have dialogue, and share ideas. 

We had an all school tree planting-day yesterday, directly across from the C2E site that had once so inspired me. The contoured earth is designed specifically to conserve rainfall. The rock work is pieced together as though it was meant to be there. Native trees have been planted, restoring the land to it’s once immaculate bousque. The flycatchers, cotton tails, roadrunners, and pheobes will thrive in this site. Maybe even prospective students will be inspired by this natural habitat like I once was.
-Ellie, 2021 Valedictorian

I love the atmosphere at Sky Islands, the family-like environment that all of the teachers and my fellow students have created and maintained. I love that the teachers are very understanding and human, and what I mean by that is they don’t have this wall or border around themselves that separates them from the students. I love that no student is left behind and no student is just left for the wind.
As my achievements go, I am very close to getting my first full-time job with the help and support of the teachers and staff.
As far as plans after graduation, I want to let my mind and body rest, then head off to a community college for two years—namely Pima—just to knock out my basic education, and then go to a university for nursing school and get my master’s in nursing as a pediatric nurse.
I would like to issue a thank you and a sign of great gratitude to all teachers and staff. As for personal shout-outs, I would start with Lukas. He was the first teacher I met at Sky Islands, and he gave me an extremely positive welcome. One memory I will treasure is when I was in his ecology class and accidentally leaned too hard on his shelf and broke it. I was so embarrassed, but he made me laugh instead, and that will never leave my mind as a funny/embarrassing moment. Lukas has always been really good to me, and when things got rough, he pulled through for me and then-some.
The next shout-out goes to Joseph. I can say that my favorite moment with Joseph was the time we did a role-playing scenario as lawyers and I took it to a whole new level. I gained an appreciation for what lawyers actually do, and it even made me consider being a lawyer. Joseph is very quick-witted and funny, and he always seems to know the best thing to say to a comment, which I really admire.
The next teacher I am going to mention is Ennis. Ennis is very funny, nice, and charismatic in their teaching. It was like a breath of fresh air when I met Ennis. They are so proud of their craft and what they are teaching that I immediately got excited to learn a second language.
The next teacher I want to thank so much is Allie. I had Allie for Scientific Research and Design, and it was a blast. She really touched my love for science and exploring the world around me and looking for answers to the questions I have. Allie is very kind and funny (plus her dog is so cute). But seriously, if she didn’t take the initiative to make a brand-new class, I don’t know if I would have seen what this school is all about, which is finding out what you want to discover for yourself.
The next teacher I would love to thank is Peter. Peter was the person who made me find the strength in the most stressful time in my life with ALEKS. He was ready to help me in any way that he could. I’m a very shy person who doesn’t like to ask for help, but Peter made it so easy to approach him and ask for guidance and assistance.
The next teacher I would love to thank is Mike. I was familiar with the violin, but I had never imagined myself playing a guitar. Mike showed me that it’s not as scary as it seems. I love to try new things and experience new—well everything—and Mike made it fun and not stressful.
The last—but certainly not least—teacher I want to thank is Mr. Leighton Jeffy. I have known Leighton since 10th grade at my previous school. Leighton has not changed one bit, and I really respect that. His big personality makes everyone feel better in any kind of situation. Leighton always knows how to make me laugh when I’m in any kind of mood, and he seems to brighten any room he’s in and makes everyone just feel good. One thing I admire about Leighton is his willingness to adapt and listen to everyone he meets and interacts with. He will sit there and just listen to anything you have to say and will either help you see a different side or strengthen your side, which in my experience is not an easy task, but he does it with such fluidity as only someone like Leighton could do. Leighton has other quirks that will shine through depending on the mood and the company, but he mainly stays true to himself, which in a world of people trying too hard to make people like them is very refreshing, because no one likes a fake person. I just want to say so much about Leighton, and honestly, I could go on for quite a long time about his personality, his incredible abilities as a teacher, his bubbly way of talking to his students and fellow teachers, and just his honesty.
The first staff member I want to thank for being an amazing person is Karen Flores. Karen is an incredibly hard-working woman who takes a lot on her plate and does it with a graceful tone and a smile, which is just so awesome because that’s the type of person I want to be, someone who can take whatever the world throws at them with a smile and upbeat attitude. Karen has been a big part and reason why Sky Islands is the epicenter of kindness.
I will always remember and look back on my time at Sky Islands and think, “Man, I had it so good back then.” That’s the kind of thinking I want to have instead of bad and hurtful thoughts, and it’s hard to think negatively with all the positivity I’ve had around me at Sky Islands. 

I am happy to announce that I will be graduating from Sky Islands High School, Class of 2021, and I will be moving on to college where I will start a new step in pursuing what I enjoy most.
Throughout my years of high school, I arguably had the most difficult time learning and caring for my education, and after a few semesters into my sophomore year, I found myself giving up on the education I needed the most. Then I was enrolled into a small charter school, Sky Islands High School, around my junior year and was instantly greeted by all the great staff, teachers, and students of Sky Islands; I felt comfortable to be myself in this wild community. After a long year at Sky Islands, I found I loved to learn new things, whether that was through the crazy subjects I would learn—like the structure of an animal’s life, or even learning how to grow plants of all things—and I had this urge to keep building this type of real education as my time went by in Sky Islands.
I will miss everything about Sky Islands—the great community and the nursery I loved to work with the most that will continue in my heart. I plan after my senior year to move to Pima Community College, where I will get my generals done and continue on to the University of Arizona to study in the medical field for nursing. This is a big step in pursuing my dreams, and if everything works out, I will continue my studies to pursue a master’s degree as well.
I first want to thank the Sky Islands community and school for everything it has given to me; my time here has been the best high school experience I have ever been through, and my love for education has grown immensely from you all… Thank you, Sky Islands and my family. I can’t thank you enough for this great year despite the hardship of the pandemic. -Nadia R.

The main thing that I will remember about the Sky Islands community is how welcomed I always felt by the community, even without a solid friend group. A majority of my time spent at Sky Islands was spent without a solid friend group. However, despite not being in any solid group, I still felt like I was a part of the community. I will always value the kindness and hospitality that people gave me despite not being that close with anyone. It really made my experience great because I was often alone in the physical sense, but I never felt like I was lonely. Whether it be teachers or other students, there was always someone willing to have a friendly banter with me if I ever felt like it. I only hope that moving forward, I find myself in an equally accepting and kind community.
If I had to highlight any specific achievement of mine, I would probably highlight being accepted into all three of the colleges I applied for. It was the best feeling ever to get those acceptance letters saying that each school would be happy to have me as a student. Honestly, it was hard to choose one of the three because of how happy they all made me feel.
My plan going forward is to attend the Minneapolis College of Art and Design starting next year. I hope to obtain a bachelor’s degree. I’m not entirely sure which field is meant for me yet, but at this moment, I hope to explore the realms of industrial design and animations. For the longest time I’ve wanted to be a story boarder or character designer, and maybe get a chance to pitch my own show. It’s a long shot, but I can dream, can’t I?
Other than my parents, who have always loved and supported me, I would also like to thank the teachers at Sky Islands. They have helped me so much, not just with my education, but they have helped more than they could ever know with my confidence. Being academically prepared for the world and college is, in my opinion, one piece of the pie. Another major aspect that I think people forget when it comes to future planning is our moods. Because of the teachers, I have gained so much confidence and hope in myself and what I produce. This confidence is what helped me apply to my ideal colleges in the first place, because now I do hold hope that I can build myself up to acquire my dream career. -Maya

Class of 2020 Graduate Reflections of Sky Islands

Most of all though, I’ll miss the positive community the school promotes and working with trustworthy, friendly teachers and peers. Truly, the Sky Islands community helped bring a happiness to me that I don’t think I would have found at another school. –Jasmine, Valedictorian

Teachers . . . made me feel like I could do anything. They inspired me to achieve greater heights and were always willing to lend me an extra hand when I needed it the most. It is from the joint efforts of all my teachers that I have been able to make strides in my current achievements. –Sarah R.

I am really going to miss this place. It’s a wonderful school, amazing teachers with impressive events. I would recommend going to this school for what it has to offer. There isn’t a place quite like it. –Isaiah

I am proud to have been a part of the Sky Islands community for the past four years, and to have contributed to what Sky Island stands for; we are a school that strongly encourages conservation and use of sustainable concepts. This is promoted in the teaching and also by the projects we participated in. All the students have learned how to practically apply these concepts not only in our own lives, but also how to promote them in our local community. Sky Islands has helped to prepare the senior class for life after high school, providing exceptional teachers, guidance, and direction. –Evan

At Sky Islands, you do a lot and you’ll learn a lot. –Makayla

One thing I will miss about Sky Islands is the community. During my time at this school, I hardly felt alone because I always knew that I could hang out with a fellow student or even a teacher. Everyone was friendly and extremely welcoming to me, which is something I will never forget. Another thing I will miss is the teachers. At Sky Islands, you can tell that the teachers truly care about their students and want them to do as best as they can. –Sarah S.

All-School Tree Planting Day / March 2019

Nadia: My older schools never really did anything like that event. It was really fun to get out and enjoy planting the trees. I’m not very social, so hanging out with funny teammates was really nice. This school has many well-grown crops and plants; it adds so much more to the good crops/plants and the trees are going to look amazing when they grow. We usually sit around all day in a classroom, so it was cool to get moving. It would also be cool to have another event like this. This school already seems to be growing, lots of improvement and just a great school/community.

Sarava: My group planted four trees. I dug and used a pickaxe, I handled mulch, and helped water the newly planted trees. I felt the whole experience was fun, plenty of physical work, and I worked surprisingly well with my group. The best part of the day was when our tree snapped due to an accident, and now it’s sittin’ pretty with some pink zebra duct tape.

Sophia: For the whole tree planting day I was in the culinary class making food for our hard workers. Honestly, I’m glad I was making them food, they definitely deserved it. I think both sides worked hard. But those planting trees worked a lot more and were in the hot sun. I appreciate them. We put our hearts into the food we made that day. I felt proud to be able to cook for the students who worked really hard to help the school reach its goal. I’m so proud of the school and how much we can work together as a community to help reach a goal. I love our small loving school.

Olivia: For this day, I helped distribute trees to planting groups. I also directed groups to check in to see if their tree needed inoculation. I felt immensely proud of the work I did. It was an empowering day for me as well, for I was contributing to the survival of native species. Overall, this day (and my job) made me thankful that I am in the Restoration Ecology class. For me, all of the difficult times I had in that class were worth it. I learned to stand up for myself when I was faced with conflict.

Byrdee: On March 14th, 2019, our entire school had a tree planting day in the new Audubon Site. The first thing we had to do was dig a hole twice as wide as the pot the tree was in and only as deep as the base of the tree. The digging was slow and difficult due to the caliche. It was also hard to judge the depth of the pit to make sure it matched with the base of the tree. I think I might’ve flooded tree 9, slightly, but by our third tree (41) I got it down fairly well. All in all, I was tired by the end of the day, and excited about planting my first trees, ever! Our entire school actually planted every tree we had that day and it felt very accomplishing.

Kirsten: It was still fun even though it was tough, I feel like it brought the school together.

Oraibi: I think that having a large-scale project such as this can be a great way to bring students from all grades and friend groups together and get them to set aside their differences and reservations, so they can work together. I think this can be a great way to prepare them for future prospects where they will have to work together with people they may not know or even like on a grueling yet rewarding projectthat is bigger than them. It’s also a great bonding experience also that can bring the students and staff closer together.

Orion: The day before spring break this year our school had a day to plant trees in the restoration ecology site. This was very fun and interesting to do instead of a regular class. On the first tree that my group planted all of the soil came out and crumbled off of the tree roots and the tree dropped slightly and snapped after this. Teachers came over and duct taped it back together. This was very interesting to me because I didn’t know that you could tape the tree back together and the tree would graft back together. This will come in handy someday when I accidentally break a tree or woody-stemmed plant so that I know how to fix it. My favorite part of that day was using the pickaxe because I find it kind of fun to break up caliche clay using the pickaxe.

Haiden: The process was tiring but afterward, I felt really proud and accomplished. My favorite part of the tree planting was putting the trees into the ground and putting the soil on them and naming them.

Cole: I’ll be honest I’ve never done hard work like this before. I went to private schools for most of my life and they had a lot of strict rules. So having the chance to work hard with everyone helping was a fun and interesting. The best part for me was naming the trees I planted. We laughed about it and it’s kind of relieving to name them knowing I finished something big!

Anthony: I also liked how the TV news came and filmed us because that was a great way to share with the community what we do here.

Lukas: I helped out in the kitchen and we made pizza and prepared for lunch. We got all the pizza cranked out on time and there were a lot of compliments from the students about how good the pizza tasted. We should do this more often.

Tristan: On Thursday I worked outside by inoculating the plants that needed it. I have been in the restoration ecology class since it started, and I love working in the class. I have been a part of multiple projects at the school and I think it is awesome when the school comes together as a group to get a huge project done. The restoration ecology class has taught me a lot about horticulture and restoration and so have the other classes I have taken at the school. One thing I really love about the school is that it is really hands on. The school has inspired me to go to further schooling for a horticulture degree and maybe become a landscape designer when I am older.

Savannah: I really enjoyed the whole school working together. I think that it’s an important part of our school. Not only does the project bring us together, but it also helps the environment. Planting the trees was sometimes a difficult experience because of having to dig through the caliche. The project was an amazing experience.

Emme: The tree planting day was an important day for the restoration class. We are very close to finishing the Audubon site that we have had a grant for. I think it was a good experience for all the students. The whole school was able to be put into random groups and get all 45 trees planted. Now, all the students know how easy it is to plant a tree, and they might want to do it at home.

Jen: I felt that I accomplished something as an individual and as well as a teammate. Working as a team/or group made my experience working together and communicating all together as a group made the whole day easier and not just that, communicating with one another made those who didn’t knowhow to plant a tree to learn how to plant more accurately and right.