By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
"Those kids of ours who show up for practice every day — even after losing — and all of our kids who attend school and graduate and keep moving . . . To me, those kids are everyday heroes."
Built in 1957, Carl Hayden High School sits in one of the Valley's poorest neighborhoods, a mile or so west of Interstate 17 and just south of Interstate 10.
Crime is rampant in the area, where folks scramble to stay safe and keep food on the table. For many of the school's students, the temptations of gangs, drugs, and whatever else can lead them astray are ubiquitous.
The school's student body is 94 percent Latino, with the rest sprinklings of African American, Anglo, Native American, and Asian.
More than two-thirds of the students at Carl Hayden High reside in homes where Spanish is the primary language. Ninety-two percent are eligible under federal guidelines for free or reduced-price lunches — which means they are poor.
And there's this stunning anecdotal statistic, provided by Principal Ybarra: He says perhaps 80 percent of his students have at least one parent who entered this country illegally, usually from Mexico.
Many of the students themselves are here illegally, though no one has conducted an in-house census to tag a precise number on the percentage.
In 2004, four Carl Hayden students surprised everyone, including themselves, by winning a national underwater robotics competition in Santa Barbara, California. In the process, the school defeated runner-up Massachusetts Institute of Technology and other big-time institutions.
But the feel-good story took a curious turn when it came to light that the four winning students were illegal immigrants, having sneaked into the States with their families as children.
That didn't matter to Carl Hayden High administrators.
A still-binding 1982 U.S. Supreme Court decision bars public schools from refusing to enroll students who can't prove they are legal residents.
(A proposed Arizona law sponsored earlier this year in the Arizona Senate by anti-illegal immigration scion Russell Pearce would have required public schools to make parents show documentation of their child's legal residency. The bill died in the Rules Committee.)
Studies in the past year or so have revealed a steady exodus of illegal immigrants from Arizona. Those leaving are almost all Latino, and their numbers surely have included many from within Carl Hayden High's boundaries.
The primary explanations usually given for the flight are the shrunken economy and the not-irrational fear among illegal immigrants that Sheriff Joe Arpaio's deputies may snatch them up for deportation at any moment.
But for reasons yet to be sorted out, Carl Hayden's enrollment for this school year is almost exactly the same as it was last year, about 2,300 students, according to the Phoenix Union High School District.
Not only are kids continuing to attend the school, an increasingly impressive majority are earning their high school diplomas, even as the school's SAT scores remain well below the national and state averages.
A decade ago, just 48.9 percent of Carl Hayden seniors graduated. By 2006-07 (the most recent year that official statistics were available), that number jumped to 82 percent.
The turnaround may be attributed to the school's dedicated teachers and administrators, its cutting-edge programs designed for the dominant Latino demographic, and substantial funding through public and private grants.
Principal Ybarra suggests that the energized student body largely seems to have bought into the concept that education really does matter.
"I never thought I could be much of a student, but I guess I am," says football senior co-captain Gaby Manquero, a diminutive receiver/defensive back revered by his teammates and coaches. "I like my classes, though I'm not doing so hot in AP [advanced placement] pre-calculus."
The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation of Atlanta has been funding some of the school's most important projects since 2006. Co-founder of The Home Depot, Arthur Blank is best known as owner of the Atlanta Falcons pro football team. But his foundation's generosity to Carl Hayden so far has extended to academic pursuits, not athletics.
The projects include an intensive English as a Second Language summer school and a Saturday school that allows kids to catch up with their high school courses and even earn college credits.
Though he is upbeat by nature, Steve Ybarra doesn't dwell solely on the sunny side of the street.
Long ago, the native of Superior, a town in the mountains east of Phoenix, worked in a copper mine to pay for college.
He never has forgotten his hardscrabble days and still can relate to what many of students have to endure. But Ybarra says that students' lives outside school are worse, in most respects, now than when he became principal at Carl Hayden nine years ago.
"We provide a safe place where kids can just be high school students," he says. "But just outside our gates, it's a whole different story. Dangerous is one word. It's tough for the kids whose parents have moved away on their own or have been deported by the government. It's tough when food becomes an issue. It's just tough."
Ybarra and his staff — which includes a bevy of alert security officers — seem to be everywhere on campus. Students and staff must wear identification badges around their necks, and the entrances and exits are monitored closely.
It had it all. Congratulation to Paul Rubin. Your articles alone make me read Phoenix New Times. You are a Hit for that Paper.
Look forward to read from you - again...
You might have won San Luis one game, but come on you can not beat them in soccer. San luis is number one in soccer. Football is not known in san luis, it is not a big deal you have won one game to the weakest football team in AZ.
come on San Luis High School all always losing games. thehigh school is located in small poor community on the border of USA and Mexico. 100% of the population are hispanic were most work on the field or are illegals. They struggle every day to get enough money to eat, and football wasn't play there until five years ago when the high school was open. No ones know how to play football it isn't a big deal for them, as it is for this school that for just winning a game againstthis high school were no one knows how or have play football before high school. Come on get over it you are not the only school losing all games and just winning on game every 63 games. San luis high school only wins at maximum one game a year. And they don't make a big deal, because they know that they are more important thing in life than just a stupid football game that take five pages in newspaper.
Great story about a great man and his committment to kids. It is not always about wins and losses. It is about teaching young men about life and Dansby gets it. Men like him are not easily found. Far too many of these coaches are egotistical bastards who will chew kids up and spit them out to get a win. Most of them did not make it in their own quest and now want to live through the kids instead of for the kids. The simple thing is you can not bullshit the kids. If you care for them and show your love they will respond and play their heart out. All one has to do is look at the intensity on the field and you can usually tell if the players love and respect the coach.
Thank you for this artycle. My lil brother attends and Carl Hayden HS, and with regret to say that I'm part of the drop out stats from 2001. But I moved on to make a better person of myself.
It never really struck us to know the situations we lived in, untill reading the boldly stated words in your artycle.
It's great to know that everyone can see, we are not an ignorant race and can achieve what anyone else can, even if we have to work three times harder than everyone else, just to make it happen.
This story spoke to me on many levels. I am proud of what these young men are doing, and how thety are supportive. The circumstances of the entire CHHS community spoke to me through this story, and I have passed it to someone far away, but who is poised to come to the community and make a difference. Thank you, New Times.
it's high school football. who gives a shit. 99% will end up as used car salesmen or a circle k clerk or al bundy
And I'm sure you would turn it all around, right? I think the point of the story was that Carl Hayden even has a team, and that they try their hardest no matter what. I have no idea if the coach is a good one or a bad one, but he sounds like a decent enough guy and I loved what the players had to say. Great great story....
How can you give that head coach any credit, he has been with that school for how many years? and how many wins? what about the other squads, they HAVE WON GAMES. The coaches for the other squads are the ones who should get some credit, not this yahoo! Dansby should RESIGN!! and he should take nots from the other coaches on how to coach a squad!
Good article. I just wonder why race has to come up in every single article the New Times writes. I know that ever since Obama decided to run for office, it's been race, race, race, and race.
The players are "seemingly blind to skin color or ethnic origin." An example? They pitched in so another player would have enough money for a physical.
HUH? So the players don't "seem" racist, but they might be, and I'm just throwing this in there because they pitched in to help a teammate out. I JUST DON'T GET IT.
For a school entrenched in a crime-riddled community with a beleaguered outlook at best for most of these kids, a football program - even a losing one - can make the difference for these kids. It's nice to know they finally got that win. You have to feel for the coaches, though. Had to have been a tough haul. The biggest hero, though, is Principal Ybarra - I've seen a few news bits on him over the years, and he always manages to keep a positive perspective and unwavering support in these kids - knowing how necessary it is for schools to have programs that help kids reach beyond what is offered in their homes and neighborhood.
Great write-up & recognition. Kudos for seeing a sensational story doesn't have to have the sensationalized quality we've come to recognize as "news." Don't underestimate your readers - we do still like stories about real people.
Congratulations to the Carl Hayden players, fans and to Coach Dansby. Living proof that a winning record is not a reflection of character or heart. Coaches from other schools (like Cesar Chavez) should take note!
Greetings New Times: Many thanks to you and especially Paul Rubin for taking the time to recognize that one, single, solitary and possibly most important feat of triumph that some of these kids may ever experience. A single football win in some 67 attempts. Regardless of the turnout of the remaining games of the season, you guys at New Times granted them more than their (Warhol) alloted fifteen minutes of fame. What you've done for every one of these struggling young men goes far beyond the wrought iron and chain link confines that have become an unfortunate necessity for own their security. Your acknowledgment has touched their parents, their guardians and extended families, but beyond that it has reached even the local merchants and the general community, and in so doing has given us a small piece encouragement and hope in seeing some good come of this intentionally neglected area. In the grand and global scheme of worldly issues, Carl Hayden High and their Football Falcons have significance. In spite of their surroundings, Rubin's pen and ink will help carry them to the point of recognizing, they are important. Thanks again for noticing our community.
Sincerely, R.M. Pena,Carl Hayden, Class of '70
i know how hard it is.... i was on one those teams that was part of the losing streak.... keep ya head up falcons.....DAY BY DAY, WONT BE BEAT