Mingus Union High School mathematics teacher Dennis Kitchen told students they need to light a fire — an internal fire — to succeed as the keynote speaker for the 42nd Strive for .5 awards ceremony.
Strive for .5 occurs twice a year, once each semester, and is sponsored by the Cottonwood Journal Extra and the Yavapai-Apache Nation. Other area businesses also help support the academic achievement program.
Mingus, through Strive for .5, recognizes and honors students who raise their grade point average by 0.5 from one semester to the next, or maintained a cumulative 3.5-plus GPA for two consecutive semesters.
More than 300 students earned Strive for .5 awards at the Feb. 19 ceremony. Several students were first- and second-time recipients and senior Casey Fleischmann earned the honor as a third time Strive for .5 recipient.
Kitchen talked about different types of fires from campfires to coal-burning furnaces. He reminisced how he felt safer near a campfire than out alone in the woods, hearing strange noises at every step.
“Fires can be inviting and comforting. When I was young, my job was to start the coal furnace. It wasn’t easy. I had to shovel the coal into the hopper and light the fire. I got good at starting fires — a little too good,” Kitchen said, and mentioned something about the neighbor’s fence.
Once the fire in the coal furnace got going it burned hot and bright, Kitchen said, especially in the center where it appeared white.
“That’s what you have to look for. You have to find that white fire inside you,” he said.
One can have gasoline, wood or coal, but unless one has a spark, a fire will never start, he said.
“That spark is what got you here,” Kitchen said first pointing to the students and then at the stage floor. “You’ve got that spark and you can be a bright fire.”
Kitchen told the students they need to find something that interests them and have people around them who will push them to build that fire and keep it going.
“You may never start a coal fire, you may never stare into a campfire, you may never start any fire, but you can build one inside you that will continue to burn, and so hot you won’t be satisfied until you find success,” Kitchen said.
He added that the seniors in the auditorium who will be graduating in May will need to find a new spark on the path they choose after they graduate.
Strive for .5 started at Mingus in 1987 and has recognized thousands of students.
As each student’s name was called, they walked across the stage and received congratulations from the school’s administrators and governing board members, a certificate, a T-shirt and the applause of their fellow students, parents, relatives and friends in the audience.
Strive for .5 recipients
Class of 2008:
*Returning Academic Letter: Jenny Lee Barton, Karen Michele Van Gorp, Janel I. Bowser, Mercedes M. Walsh, Amanda Nicole Dawson, Amanda Lynne Wilber, Riddhi Mehta, Kylie Jordan Alexander, Alyssa Nicole Williams, William Malcolm Murray, Patricia Yun Beech, Samantha Hope Woolsey, Pedro Gerardo Ochoa, Nathaniel Evan Boardman, Paige Marie Wyles, Michael Charles Pott, Jennifer Rose Burger, Wesley Michael Ratzlaff, Shylynne Dahms, Alyssa Monique Razo, Corey Brendan Dutter, Amanda Marie Rosales, Aria J. Dykhuis, Merchelle Tina Sloan, Brittany Marie Fox, Vinita Ann Marie Smart, Matthew George Hamilton, Lauren Alyse Stokes, Alexandra Maureen Hayes, Sophie Dyann Strother, Samuel James Daniel Hayes, Jentry Ann Taylor, Kayla Marie Islas, Myhcal David Vannette, Nicole Marie Jurisin, Charlotte May Westling, Timothy Christian Kessel, William F. Weston, Thanat Khamlua, Leroy Phillip Wilcock, Joseph Robert Loehr, Kayla Camille Matkovich.
* First Academic Letter: Stephanie Ann Westcott, Susy Nathllely Gamboa, Jerelyn Philene Butler, Sarah Katherine Westover, Brittany Jane Harrison, Joseph E. Jaraczewski, Tarah Racheal Westover, Alikai Augustine Kesl, William Ross White, Tamara Guadalupe Marquez.
* Third time Strive for .5: Casey Ann Fleischmann.
* Second Time Strive for .5: Lauren Elizabeth McFarlin, Chelci Tre-Ann Barnes, Benjamin Adam McLaughlin, Troy Clifford Baxter, Ky James Mickelsen, Adam Cain Browne, Joanna Elizabeth Morrison, Eric Kenneth Cardenas, Nicholas Todd Muehlhausen, Paige Ashley Curtis, Jeffrey Alan Pottorff, Bradley Duane Dixon, Sarah Rose Procknow, Brett Joseph Garrick, Wesley Micheal Ratzlaff, Lee Andrew Gregory, Lisa Katherine Rauch, Kelsey Angela Guerrero, Tamar Ami Rubenstein, Levi Bevan Jones, Jason Peter Ruechel, William D. Malloy, Justin Edward Schultz, Nicholas Andrew Richardson, Katherine M. Schumacher, Leanndra D. Sorrells, Rowdy Keegan Scott, Mark Anthony Taylor, Ely Theodore Self, Kristin Renee Tinnin, Grace Shannon Stearman, Misha Deneen Weed, Chelsey Ann Van De Gohm.
Class of 2009:
* Returning Academic Letter: Cindia Rodroquez, Tasili A. Epperson, Valarie R. Adams, Deanna S. Skaggs, Kambria Christine Finley, Jessica L. Allen, Alexander M. Stratz, Nallely M. Gomez, Travis L. Allred, Maranda S. Tapia, Cindi J. Gramajo, Nikolaus John Batroff, Christopher J. Taylor, Ricky M. Hernandez, Carly C. Blair, Tanner E. Walz, Travis G. Johnson, Ian H. Blake, Megan B. Whitney, Ronald V. Kaufmann, McKenzie M. Brott, Raemy Winton, Chance T. Koepnick, Joshua Chang, Kelsey L. Wokasch, Kiersa N. Koepnick, Chelsea M. Chavez, Brandi S. Wolstencroft, Jay T. Misany, Stacey L. Christmann, Erin N. Wylie, Justin T. Nguyen, Collin M. Costello, Matthew A. Norris, Jessica L. DeMar, Staci N. Okamoto, Ashley R. Doering, Shawn Pena, Ashley N. DuFresne, Steven S. Pollock, Arielle C. Engle, Sha-Nae K. Randall, Lauryn E. Evans, Chelsi L. Rohloff, Stephanie M. Fettkether, Diego Soto, Timothy L. Freriks, Michael A. Stolz, Kenneth Allen Gagliano, Stephanie A. Von Lienen, Stephanie S. Giampietro, Daniel Wadsworth, Jeremy A. Glick, Ethan Blake Warner, Lupita M. Gonzalez, Rodrigo Sanchez Gonzalez.
* First Academic Letter: Sarah Joy Adler, Josiah Trey Jones, Paul David Paradise, Raymond Scott Baker, Alyssa Danel Reiter, Valerie S. Parmarter, Sarah J. Copper, Cheyenne L. Robinson, Darrin L. Cummins.
* Second Time Strive .5: Kevin W. Goodearl, Dustyn Lyle Finley, Rachael Nichole Greer, Wesley Thomas Harrington, Andrea Gudiel, Lauren L. Jones, Branna D. Guerra, Antonia M. Lampros, Christina M. Hagberg, Jazmin Guadalupe Licea, Marie C. Hutchins, Jazmin Lomeli, Aram T. Jones, Mercedes M. Palosaari, Joshua M. Kestell, Sean D. Scott, Colleen A. Leman, Abriana R. Serna, Jose Lopez, Ty Meacham, Amanda C. Miskiel, John T. Morrison, Danielle Marie Nash.
Class of 2010:
* Returning Academic Letter: Clint Christopher Minton, Danielle Kelly Hillebert, Ashley Nichole Abbey, Zoe Marguerite Morrison, Jay Michael Hockman, Jake Wily Addis, Alina Lean Mouritsen, Victoria Racheal Hummel, Rylie Paige Backus, Trevor John Murray, Ellen Jackson, Cassandra Avis Bailey, Morgan Eugene Nelson, Rebecca Lynn Konecny, Rose Anne Barnett, Alexis Nichole Nevitt, Andrew Robert Kuntz, Cheyenne Yvonne Bartz, Sabrina Ortiz, Paola Karina Larrazolo, Joel Bruce Bissen, Sarah Marie Pallas-Downey, Michael LeAaron Majors, Danielle Nicole Bonfig, Jill Marie Peterson, Raul Manuel Martinez, Deserata Braly, Sarah Raber, Audrey Nicole Martinson, Scout Maria Butcher, Terrin Rice, Nicholas S. Mattson, Tekla Hutyra Cellar, Natalie Rivera, Chelsea Irene Messerly, Lee Chang, Ysabella Rongo, Kourtni Rachelle Nelson, Naomi Mei Shan Chang, Rebecca Jane Shimko, Stephani Breanna Powell, Kerissa Linn Clark, Karena B. Snow, McKenna Cody Ray, Clea Jane Conlin, Treavor John Wills, Matthew Ryan Rocha, Bernadette Adriana Contreras, Hunter McKay Zwart, Ryan Scott Shepherd, Madison Crnkovich, Dillon Robert Sherman, Jessica Di Re, Liberty Nicole Smith, Tanner William Drake, Lucas Benjamin Soliz, Kyla Blake Elliott, Hayden W. Stamper, Mayra Veronica Garcia, Tawni Skyler Stanley, Luke Theodore Goettl.
* First Academic Letter: Kyle Austin Mack, Michael Henry Harris, Rachel A. Libby, Skylar Lynn Majewski, Deborah Hernandez, Thatcher Cole McMaster, Humberto Herrera.
* Second Time Strive .5: Lesli Kinkade, Paige N. Flores, Amy Louise Anderson, Tyrus Allen Kirby, Darbey Jordon Foreman, Gabriel Meza, Connor Lee Ledbetter, Clayton John Fuller, Brittney Melissa Noble, Robert Wayne Lee, Joe Valentino Gomez, Daniel Michael Lopez-Oehler, Emmet Keane Gonzales.
* First Time Strive .5: Returning Academic Letter: Chelsea Diane Buck, Nichole Marie Teixeira, Jordan Lynn Grau, Eleanor Clara Comstock, Laura Ester Villegas, Jordan Danielle Hester, Robin Leeann Dawson, Kathleen Renee Waite, Staci Anne Hewitson, Shana Nichole Decker, Casey Symmes Wilkinson, Kelsey Shae Huber, Chelsea T. Duncan, Franklin Dean Williams, Logan Allen Islas, Fernando Uribe Escamilla, Devyn Kathleen Jones, Alan U. Fletes, Steven R. Minton.
Lu Stitt can be reached at 634-8551 or e-mail to