White Mountains of Arizona

Pinetop-Lakeside is a dynamic economic developing community located in the scenic White Mountains of Arizona. Blue Ridge Unified School District is part of my hometown and has a solid outstanding academic environment for their students with vocational and athletic programs that are widely recognized as some of the best in the state. Athletics is not just a sport at this school. In addition, coaches teach the finer points of the game teaching valuable lessons that last more than just a season; you carry them for a lifetime.

I have lived this rural lifestyle all of my school years. My dad built our house in this rural area and the whole family helped. Because of my hometown values and lifestyle, I was named the AIA and Cox Communications student of the year. This award was better than an academic or athletic award because it recognized the impact that I have had on the lives of others, my community, hard work and desire to succeed. I really owe this to my family, school, teachers, coaches and community. You can wear many hats in our community and school, but the key to educational success in living by the six pillars of character:  Trustworthiness, Respect, Caring, Responsibility, Fairness and Citizenship.

Pinetop-Lakeside is my hometown. I am furthering my education at a major university striving to make an impact on the world and later returning to my hometown to serve my hometown community and people that I love. With earned admiration let me tell you what has inspired me about my hometown history and what has inspired me to want to one-day return to my hometown and raise my family there.

In the early 1880’s, the Penrod family known as Mormon pioneers colonized and founded Lakeside deriving its name from the area’s lakes. “Pinetop” was a nickname given to Walt Rigney who owned the only store and saloon, which served the Fort Apache soldiers. In 1984, Pinetop-Lakeside incorporated as one town. At an elevation of 7,300 feet, the community motto is “Celebrate the Seasons.” Today the community is still know for its extensive tourism, recreational activities and is admired for its outstanding quality of life. The Pinetop-Lakeside community is truly an outstanding place to work, live and raise a family. This hometown can provide magnificent natural beauty, history, culture, adventures and memories of a lifetime. Pinetop-Lakeside offers quality living with pollution-free air, plentiful clean water, forest products, and access to major metropolitan areas serves the needs to the people in its region.

The White Mountain Trail system provides over 180 miles of developed trails for biking, horseback riding and hiking. Camping, hunting, fishing, skiing and photography are also popular for this year round resort-style community. Surrounding areas are full of natural beauty including the White Mountain Apache Indian Reservation. This community diversity offers many different cultural experiences. The population is approximately 4,000 expanding to 30,000 in the summer months.

Pinetop-Lakeside enjoys all four classic seasons. In the winter, we enjoy sledding, snowmobiles, snowboarding, ice fishing and skiing. Spring is a special time with fishing, hiking, and sightings. Meadows turn green and landscaping comes alive. As the earth rejuvenates, so does ones sprit. In the summer, we enjoy the 50 lakes and 800 miles of cold, crystal clear rivers and springs with recreational activities. Autumn is our families’ favorite season, the land inhabitants prepare for the coming snows. The environment changes colors, with the added pleasure of the wildlife; hunting and fishing are at their best.

My hometown makes you feel safe; nurtured and lets you understand that you must respect your values. You then in turn, apply it to your goals, community, family and education with conservation. Leadership begins with basic principles and being dedicated to yourself allows you to be dedicated to your family, school and community. Our hometown is beautiful. We almost lost it all to the Rodeo-Chedeski Fires on June 18, 2002. Navajo County issued an evacuation order for six east-Central Arizona towns. It was estimated that 16,400 people were sleeping in shelters or with friends and family and wondering if they would ever see their homes again. It was a mass exodus. My family tied the white flag on the front doorknob, representing we were evacuated. We drove away with a few packed family treasured possessions. As I looked through the back window of our vehicle, I saw a monster that was taking over; it was ruining everything. I wondered would we still have a home, school, trees or pets we had to leave behind. This triggered many fears and affected my life forever; the fires of 2002 were catastrophic, but in fact, the fire and evacuation experience was unique in character, offering individual lesions for the victim of a state declared major disaster. This catastrophic disaster made me realize that I did not want to wait to make a difference I needed to do something before I graduated from high school. I wanted to make a difference in the world and my community.

After costing approximately $153 million and watching the Rodeo-Chedeski fire destroy 462,614 acres of land and 426 structures around my hometown, my family was allowed to return to our home. Our neighboring towns took on a different appearance. Then, only 15 years old, I realized the only reason I had a home to return to was the endless and tireless work of the firefighters. They were the heroes not only to me but also to the entire community. It was then that I understood what I wanted to do. I wanted to the hero too and help protect the land and the people I love. After the fire, I became a volunteer at the Pinetop Fire Department. However, that was not enough for me I wanted to do more. Therefore, I began educating myself by taking fire science classes. In addition to maintaining my honor roll status, I began taking college classes and earned 68 college credits before graduating high school. I became a certified Emergency Medical Technician and am now the youngest firefighter and EMT serving the Pinetop Fire Department. Never again will I face evacuation. Instead, I will stand shoulder to shoulder with my fellow firefighters and community to do my part to help save the lives and property of others. I worked at the Pinetop Fire Department last summer; will come home to work on holidays and summers between the college years. This also inspired my brother to become a firefighter. He is a junior at Blue Ridge and will begin his fire science classes in January 2007. Theodore Roosevelt once encouraged the American people by stating “Do what you can-with what you have-where you are,” I use this advice every time I put on a uniform for either work or sports, in my leadership, education, community and volunteer service. This is why I will always have a hometown to return to.