At the conclusion of every TREC (Trustees Reaching Every Community) Superintendent Scott Bailey facilitates a wrap-up discussion on the morning’s tour. The February 15 TREC to the Riverside County Fairgrounds and the Indio High School CTE (career technical education) programs elicited some powerful comments. The title of this article is taken from a quote by Indio Police Department’s Assistant Chief Brian Tully. He commented that he saw a marriage of learning to student passion at the morning’s event. That Desert Sands Unified School District, Indio High School, and the teachers have found a way to bring the student passion, what they love doing, into the classroom.

The morning began early, just as students were arriving to school. Participants met in the IHS Career Center for breakfast, to meet each other, interact with students, and listen to a welcome by the superintendent and Principal Derrick Lawson. Also on hand for the “meet and greet” where Riverside County Fair Queen Scheherazade, Princess Dunayazade, and Princess Jasmine (Keanna Garcia, Palm Desert High School, Sianna Gonzalez, Shadow Hills High School), and Caedwyn Lethlean, Shadow Hills High School).

CTE Assistant Marcy Herrera then explained the schedule for the day and the concept being Indio High School’s very specific career pathways. Noting that, at Indio High School, the goal is to have each student “find a home; a program that calls to them”, she pointed out the specific academies and pathways of Health & Nutritional Sciences, Animal Science, Ornamental Horticulture, Engineering & Design, Environmental Engineering, IMPACT (Institute of Media Production Arts &  Creative Technology) as well as classes related to the legal profession and their Cadet Corps. Marcy also pointed out that a student’s passion could be a sport, the band, student government, any program on campus that can become their focus and build a circle of friends.

The group boarded a DSUSD school bus and headed to the Riverside County Fairgrounds to learn more about the Animal Science and Ornamental Horticulture Pathways, lovingly referred to at the school as “Ag”. Teacher Cesar Lopez, and Indio High School “Ag” graduate, himself, introduced three students, Natalie, Marlena, and Connor who showed off the animals they have been raising for the upcoming fair auction. All three are members and officers of FFA (Future Farmers of America). They explained the relationship between their academic high school program and FFA. The steers, hogs, goats, and sheep also welcomed us to their home, the fairgrounds barns. Fair board member Don Smith and County Fair Manager Veronica Casper took time from their very busy day-before-the-opening day to meet with us and talk about the relationship between the school and this community partner. Unlike other school sites with an animal science program, there are no facilities at Indio High to house the animals so they live at the fair and students and faculty make twice-daily trips to the site to care and feed the livestock. Don explained that they work with livestock buyers who come to the fair looking for the choice animals. Prices for the animals are often higher because of the support given to the FFA students. He noted that scholarships are given out during the fair and that many of the community members in the agriculture industry support the students and their work.


Bidding farewell to the animals and wishing them well at the fair, the group then walked over to the student art area, stopping along the way at the horticulture displays. A number of Indio High School students had their work on display, including our steer-breeder Connor.

The beautiful garden settings were created by teams of students and are judged on their creative use of materials and plants. The dream garden tableaus led us into the student art barn where we were met by James Madison Elementary School art teacher Palm Lapointe. Work from a variety of DSUSD schools was on display, many with big shiny blue ribbons. From high school ceramics to elementary school paintings, each piece had a unique quality that made it fair-worthy. Pam explained the partnership with the fair and the requirements for student art. She added the “A” in this day focused on STEaM (science, technology, engineering, art, math).

Upon the return to the high school, the group left on a student-led tour of the various academies. What was scheduled to be a 60-minute tour became a 90 minute walk around campus as visitors to the school couldn’t pull themselves away from the students providing the information.

Back to the beginning and the comments made during the wrap up…

Teri Bona, director of fund development, Family YMCA of the Desert: What a great start in life for these children.

Jim Hicks, community member: As a taxpayer this was a wonderful way to see where my money goes. Wow!

Ruben Arias, state department of agriculture: DSUSD school board thinks out of the box. What great student support.

Debbie Canero, CSEA president: So impressed to see the level of community involvement.

As Superintendent Scott Bailey said, “We teach the way our students want to learn, not the way we want to teach.”