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Elie Wiesel knows firsthand the atrocities humans can inflict on each other.

Born in late 1920s Romania, Wiesel was in the wrong place at the wrong time when the specter of Nazi Germany eventually cast its shadow across the continent. Interred in concentration camps as a young teenager in World War II, Wiesel had to grow up fast.

He drew from his tortured experiences when he wrote “Night,” arguably the best known of the prolific author’s works.

Wiesel survived to tell his story. Millions others never got the chance, falling victim to the brutality and disease that came to define the Holocaust, one of the darkest chapters of the 20th, or any century.

1Million_holocaust_seedsA Camp Verde sophomore English class read Wiesel’s story, and felt the need to do something.

While anything a high school class could do can’t bring back the 6 million Jews who died, the students wanted to honor the memory of those who lost their lives.

From death, there can come life. It’s what drove Alissa Novoselick’s 10th-grade class to collect as many wildflower seeds as they could to remember those who never made it out of the places where the names have become synonymous with human cruelty — Auschwitz. Buchenwald. Dachau. Bergen-Belsen.

It was the students’ idea, Novoselick said.

“They really dictate what we do in the classroom,” Novoselick said. “But how do you fathom what 6 million is?”

The students ended up collecting around 1 million wildflower seeds to try and quantify that number in a physical sense. Still, even a million seeds look small when confined to a milk crate. But once scattered, they will grow.

“It’s symbolic of freedom,” Novoselick said. “It’s incredibly beautiful.”

The class had help in their quest to collect the seeds. They sent out letters to companies, corporations and politicians around the state and across the country, and plenty of people and organizations were willing to help.

President Barack Obama and U.S. Sen. John McCain

[R-Ariz.] didn’t respond, but plenty of others did. Bailey Evans, a student in the class, asked her church to help. Calvary Chapel alone was able to contribute quite a few seeds, Evans said.

Evans, like many of her fellow students, had heard about the Holocaust. Reading about it first hand, however, helped give her “more respect” for the gravity of the crime.

“It’s different when you have a first-person view of what they were going through,” student Caleb DeGroot said.

Josh Collins agreed.

“It was a very sad book,” Collins said. “I’ve learned more about [the Holocaust] in this class than with anybody.”

The class was planning to scatter their seeds early this week, in a field across from the high school. Novoselick said some of the students wrote poems to mark the event, which would include some reflection, and the planned to eat Jewish bread.

Hopefully, the flowers will take root to serve as a reminder to anyone watching from the hereafter that there’s at least one group of Arizona students dedicated to the idea of “never again.”

A group of Yavapai-Apache citizens are calling for more effective tribal government, and are threatening to initiate a recall of the entire tribal council.

They’ve set up a website, yavapai-apachevoices.org, to try and get more members of the tribe involved in local politics, especially those members who don’t live on local reservation land, Roberta Pavatea said.

YAN_election_websitePavatea has been outspoken against tribal government as of late. In March, she was one of around 30 tribal members who approached the council after collecting signatures from people demanding the council change the way it disperses per capita funding to each member of the tribe.

Around $8 million in principal funds are set aside under a savings program set up in 2004.

There are also people upset over a perceived difficulty for members who live off the reservation in receiving services, Pavatea said, pointing to the food bank and other social services as an example.

Opponents to increase the amount of money dispersed argued that the money held in an account is a one-time deal and dispersing it would mean there would be less available for future generations, while others argued that if the money is there, it ought to benefit people in the here and now.

The tribal council argued that increasing disbursement of money would result in further cuts to services, according to Gah’nahvah/Ya ti’, the Nation’s newspaper.

Ultimately, Pavatea said she’s arguing for a more transparent tribal government, and the best way to achieve that goal is to get more people involved in the political process. The Nation’s constitution also need to be rewritten, Pavatea said, in order to more clearly define the responsibilities of government and to better suit the needs of the Nation’s citizens in the present.

The council is aware of the talk about recalls, said Fran Chavez, public relations liaison for the Nation, but no paperwork has yet been filed.

Unless that changes, Chavez said the tribal government would have no official comment.

“We’ve heard the talk,” Chavez said, “But until anything is actually done we’re treating it as rumor.”

Bench dedicated to 13-year-old girl who died last May

Oyuky_RodriguezOyuky Rodriguez made a big impression on people during her short life.

When she accidentally choked to death May 7, 2009, the 13-year-old Cottonwood Middle School student left behind grieving parents, relatives and many friends.

Gone, but not forgotten, CMS students inspired by Rodriguez’s effort to overcome disabilities that prevented her from talking decided to erect a monument in her memory.

Exactly one year after her death, more than 40 students, teachers, friends and relatives dedicated a bench to her in front of the CMS administrative office Friday, May 7.

A special needs student from the time she entered the Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District as a second-grader, Rodriguez’s teachers helped her progress through the grades. She made many friends along the way, according to her mother, Meily Contreras.

“She was very popular,” Contreras said. “She was very well loved. Her attitude, her charisma, it was just her. She liked people.”

Rodriguez was part of the CMS inclusion program, so she was attending classes with typical able-bodied peers, CMS Principal Denise Kennedy said.

“We have fond memories of Oyuky and her hats,” Kennedy told the gathering. “She loved hats. She would wear them and share them by placing her hats on others’ heads.”

Rodriguez loved her fellow students and loved any attention she got from them, Kennedy said.

Rodriguez also enjoyed music and dancing. She frequently directed one of her CMS teachers to turn the radio on in the classroom so she could dance with him. Kennedy said.

“She would come in the morning with that beautiful smile and look at me, her head tilted, until I acknowledged her,” she said. “She was a beautiful young lady and is greatly missed.”

Contreras said she still suffers from the loss of her daughter.

Bench_dedication“It was very hard,” Contreras said. “It gets harder and harder.”

The memorial bench came as a surprise and a comfort she said.

“I really appreciate what everybody did for her, the teachers, the principal, the [CMS] Student Council, by keeping her in their hearts and minds even a year after she died,” Contreras said.

“Oyuky, our special angel, will shine in the sky like a wishing star; she will watch and protect her family and friends. Oyuky will live in our minds and hearts forever,” she told the gathering.

To help the Rodriguez family defray the $10,000 expense of their daughter’s funeral, people may contribute to the Oyuky Rodriguez Memorial Fund at Chase Bank, COCSD communications director Keith Steele said.

ocrs_brush_fire_31A five- to six-acre brush fire broke out on Oak Creek Ranch School property at approximately 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 5, garnering response from three Verde Valley emergency response agencies as well as13 firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service.

According to Verde Valley Fire District Assistant Chief and incident commander Mike Flummer, the fire resulted from a class project being conducted at the edge of the treeline on school property and quickly spread across the woods to threaten other structures on neighbors' properties.

One storage shed belonging to a neighbor was lost in the fire.

Oak Creek Ranch School owner David Wick said science teacher Chris Sindt and five students formed a bucket brigade using water from Oak Creek and a swimming pool to stop the fire from reaching the same neighbor's home.

ocrs_brush_fire_71Wick said the students and teacher kept the fire from getting more than 20 feet from the neighbor's house. "They were organized, no one did anything dangerous, and they probably saved that house," said Wick.

Flummer said a change in the wind direction also likely played a big role in keeping the house from burning.

The wind carried sparks and hot ash which started spot fires in different directions from the start of the original burn. At times, it was difficult to discern the falling ash from the cottonwood pollen floating through the air.

ocrs_brush_fire_81Firefighters from Verde Valley Fire District, Cottonwood Fire Department and Sedona Fire District worked the mop-up on the fire, which they expect to continue burning in the thick cottonwood trees for several days.

Named the "School Fire" by Flummer, it is the biggest brush fire of the 2010 season, which began approximately two weeks ago.

 

ocrs_brush_fire_0

A U.S. Forest Service sawyer looks up to monitor progress on a tree being cut down to mop-up damage caused by a five to six acre brush fire at Oak Creek Ranch School in Cornville on Wednesday, May 5.

ocrs_brush_fire_11

Firefighters lug hose across the unfinished roof of a structure on a neighbor's property adjacent to Oak Creek Ranch School in Cornville on Wednesday, May 5. The five to six acre brush fire was caused by a class project being conducted at the edge of the treeline on school property.

ocrs_brush_fire_21Spots still blaze approximately two and a half hours after the first 911 call went out for a five to six acre brush fire at Oak Creek Ranch School on Wednesday, May 5. Three Verde Valley fire agencies and a 13-person crew from the U.S. Forest Service responded to the midday fire which threatened both school structures and neighboring homes.

ocrs_brush_fire_41A firefighter works behind a shimmering wall of heat to monitor and extinguish burning spot fires after a five to six acre brush fire broke out at approximately 12:30 p.m. at Oak Creek Ranch School in Cornville on Wednesday, May 5.

ocrs_brush_fire_51A Sedona Fire District firefighter puts out spot fires near Oak Creek Ranch School buildings in the mid-afternoon Wednesday, May 5. The five- to six-acre brush fire was caused by a class project being conducted at the edge of the treeline on school property according to Verde Valley Fire District Assistant Chief and incident commander Mike Flummer.

ocrs_brush_fire_61Firefighters from the U.S. Forest Service, Verde Valley Fire District, Sedona Fire District, and Cottonwood Fire Department work at mopping up an afternoon brush fire at Oak Creek Ranch School on Wednesday, May 5. The fire quickly spread off the school's property and threatened structures on neighboring property on the windy afternoon. Thirty firefighters responded to the incident.

The Camp Verde Town Council voted in February to keep the teen center on First Street closed for the foreseeable future. One local group is still working to get the council to change its mind, but they need help.

Redeeming Life is primarily a Camp Verde-based group that works to help troubled children and give teens in difficult situations a chance to start over.

Camp_Verde_teen_centerThe group is also qualified to operate a local youth center, said Director Wendy McCants; it just needs a location.

The perfect location, McCants said, is the town-owned building next to the Camp Verde Marshal’s Office that, until last fall, was actually used as a teen center.

The center had only opened the year before, after being on the town’s wish list for years.

It was shut down when the town found that it wasn’t equipped to be in the business of running a youth center, and no permanent qualified organization could be found to step in.

Redeeming Life is that qualified organization, McCants said, who is frustrated that the council dismissed their offer to step up and take over the center.

“We’ve done all the background checks,” McCants said. “We’ve got everything in place.”

The group would need some help from the town with utilities, McCants said, but she feels that’s a small price to pay when it comes to the benefits a youth center provides. The group is open to other locations to run a center, but rent payments have proven to be prohibitively expensive, McCants said.

McCants points to a handful of letters from kids who used the teen center and were distraught when it closed.

“Look at all the crime, the vandalism,” McCants said. “What are we going to do as a community?”

Steve King, the principal at South Verde Technology Magnet School, also serves on the Redeeming Life board and sees the need for a center firsthand every day.

“They need an alternative to hanging out at the bridge getting high,” King said. “I don’t know where we can find a location, but we need to get teens involved in the process. There are plenty of empty buildings in town.”

There’s actually still some money for the center left over from the town and a grant given to operate the center. McCants said that the group is looking into the possibility of using some of that money.

Still, the group is hoping the Town Council might reconsider and at least look at their proposal.

“They just didn’t give us a chance to talk,” said Merilee Fowler, another Redeeming Life board member. “We still want to have a youth center, but if the town’s not willing, it’s going to be an uphill battle.”

The day the center closed was a “sad day for Camp Verde,” Fowler said.

McCants said members of the group have met with some individual council members, but progress has been slow. The group needs people to step up and volunteer, McCants said, and those interested should e-mail her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

In the meantime, the pool tables and other equipment will continue to gather dust behind the locked doors of the teen center.

“We’re not giving up,” McCants said. “We’re going to keep pressing until this happens. But the most important thing we need is community support. We need people volunteering. We need people out there collecting signatures.”

Nazis were milling around the Multi-Use Complex on the Camp Verde Unified School District Campus last week.

No one seemed that alarmed, neither the group of nuns to one side of the room nor the group of precocious, presumably Austrian children walking across the stage.

It was the dress rehearsal for the upcoming production of “The Sound of Music,” the classic Rodgers and Hammerstein musical that tells the story of the Von Trapp family and their escape from the specter of Adolf Hitler’s Germany at the start of World War II.

The play is an attempt by the school district to reinvigorate the drama program, co-director Helen Freeman said. The 30 or so cast members come from across the Verde Valley and range in age from the very young to senior citizens [a fourth-grader probably wouldn’t make a convincing Mother Superior].

Sound_of_musicSome cast members have had experience on the stage before; for others, this is their first encounter with theater performance. Regardless of which camp the actors belong to, they were all experiencing the excitement and last minute scramble that goes into pulling off a successful show.

Girls on sewing machines were busy making last-minute adjustments to costumes, others were making sure tape was in the right place to mark the location of set pieces and still others were quietly reciting their lines in a corner to make sure their memorization was as close to flawless as possible.

The group has been rehearsing ever since auditions were first held in February, Freeman said. It’s been going fairly well, Freeman said, but of course in this business you’ve always got to be ready to think on your feet.

“It’s been a long experience,” said Mark Hawk, in costume for his role as Frederich von Trapp. “Things were a little confusing early on, but now it’s getting a lot easier.”

Mazzie Jasman, an American Heritage Academy fourth-grader taking on the role of Marta, already got one of the most difficult ordeals for any actress out of the way. She started rehearsals in a cast after actually breaking a leg while riding her bike.

Jasman has been in stage productions before, but she says this one is giving her “a lot bigger part.”

Freeman said she has always had some interest in the theater, based on her own experience and watching her children on stage. The group decided to give “The Sound of Music” a shot in order to put on a show that the community would know and be interested in seeing.

“That’s what we’re trying to do,” Freeman said. “We want to get the community to come back and be involved with the theater.”

Aside from providing entertainment to an audience, Freeman said that acting on stage is a terrific way to help young people build self-confidence.

Megan Miller, a drama teacher in her first year at Camp Verde Middle School, is the other co-director. Miller comes from a town in Idaho where the theater was an important part of the community, and she said she’d like to see it take a bigger role here.

“The struggle here is getting the culture in place,” Miller said, adding that she was pleased to see that there was a stage with more resources than she expected when she first arrived in the Verde Valley.

Miller said that she’d like to see at least one production like this each year until a foundation could be built to possibly bring more plays to the stage.

Freeman said that since the community paid for the theater at the Multi-Use Complex, they should get some benefit from it.

The show will go on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, May 6, 7 and 8, at 7 p.m. at the Multi-Use Complex on Camp Lincoln Road.

Tickets sales, to help defray the costs of production, will be $8 at the door for adults and $5 for students and senior citizens.

For more information, call Freeman at 567-9220 or Miller at 567-8014.

The Yavapai County Attorney dropped charges against a 66-year-old Cornville man involved in the shooting death of his 46-year-old neighbor, according to Dwight D’Evelyn, Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office media and public relations spokesman.

The man was probably engaged in self-defense when he shot Vonda Adams to death  April 28, D’Evelyn said. He was released from Yavapai County Detention Center late Tuesday, May 4.

Prosecutors decided to drop the case  Tuesday night, May 4, after evidence, including witness interviews, indicated the shooting may have been justified, D’Evelyn said.

The Yavapai County Attorneys Office did not immediately return a telephone message requesting an interview.

Editor's Note
The name of the man was omitted from the online story due to liability issues.

A 66-year-old Cornville man was booked into Yavapai County Detention Center in Camp Verde on Wednesday, April 28, on a single charge of first-degree murder in the shooting death of 46-year-old Vonda Adams, according to Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office.

The suspect is accused of shooting Adams one time in the upper body, possibly the head, Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Dwight D’Evelyn said.

 

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