Over the course of the summer months of 2018, this column featured the seven high schools of Desert Sands Unified School District. Each school was introduced to the community. Comments received about the series were very popular. This summer we return to the format with the introduction of our seven traditional middle schools as well as our K-12 independent study school. They will appear in no specific order. This week the focus is on Desert Ridge Academy.

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The question I get the most from members of the community is, “What are you most proud of at Desert Ridge Academy?” My initial statement is to point out all of the banners located near the main entrance to the school. These banners signify the hard work and amazing accomplishments we have achieved over the past year.

Desert Ridge Academy

Brushstrokes, the first annual Desert Ridge Academy Art Show

Meredith Greenwood, our site facilitator, was named Bilingual Educators Succeeding Together Site Support Employee of the Year for her work and support of our English learners and their families. She was recognized for this award at an amazing ceremony in Riverside with winners from around the county. Assistant Principal Mandy Wiltrout was named, by the Riverside County Department of Mental Health and the Anti-Bullying Institute, as an outstanding administrator for her efforts to reduce bullying on site and for her support of all students. Teacher Karen Flaherty was named Technology Lead Teacher of the Year by Coachella Cue for her work with our journalism students. Our KDRA news team has been instrumental in creating videos for our families and for the district. Jami Gleeson was named Middle School Teacher of the Year by VFW Post 3699 for her work with our sixth grade students. Assistant Principal Brian Collins was recognized by the Desert Sands Special Education Parent Advisory Council as an outstanding administrator for his support of our students with disabilities. These awards are in addition to several athletic and art awards that our school has earned.

It is the work of these individuals and the entire Desert Ridge Academy team that leads our students to become leaders in the school and in the community. They participate in the Where Everyone Belongs (WEB) program, Associated Student Body (ASB), Renaissance, and, for the 2019-2020 school year, a Cadet Corp.

Desert Ridge Academy

Desert Ridge Academy

Deseret Ridge Academy’s Mariachi Band plays for the viewers of NBC Palm Springs.

Desert Ridge Academy also boasts a strong fine arts program. Our music department offers traditional programs such as beginning and advanced band as well as non- traditional classes such as guitar and percussion. We also have an award winning Mariachi group that was recently the featured performer on NBC Palm Springs Cinco De Mayo morning newscast. In the visual arts, Desert Ridge Academy provides many options for art whether two-dimensional or three-dimensional art culminating in an end of the year art show for the community.

Desert Ridge Academy was named as an AVID Site of Distinction, an honor awarded to fewer than five percent of schools, nationwide. The recognition takes note of schools that create systems of support and a college going atmosphere. The Desert Ridge Academy AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program was the first in Desert Sands to offer AVID Excel, specifically designed for English language learners. Students participate in a wide variety of technology courses and next year we are adding coding to our course offerings. Our video production program provides work of a quality not usually seen at the middle school level. The crew has assisted the district in the coverage of several major events.

Our “staffulty” believes in our school and our community and the recognitions bestowed on individuals and the site are the culmination of hard work and dedication. Our hope is these traits can be passed down to our students and they will grow into productive men and women. We believe in our motto—Desert Ridge Academy Leads the Way Through Accountability, Integrity, and Respect.

Lead photo caption: Butterflies are featured on the buildings at Desert Ridge Academy as the school is on the migration pathway.

Image Sources

  • Brushstrokes: DSUSD
  • Mariachi Band: DSUSD
  • Desert Ridge Academy: DSUSD