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Maricopa Heritage District activist working with city to make changes
 Grace Harrah  / 

MARICOPA — The motto “Proud History, Prosperous Future” is the focus as the city plans changes for the homeowners in the Heritage District.

The goal, according to City Councilman Rich Vitiello, is to take an initiative to listen to homeowners’ issues and to rebuild the potential once promised by previous city councils.

Grace Gomez, an active neighborhood leader in the Heritage District, called a meeting in late April, giving a chance for the homeowners of the district to speak to city staff and Arizona Department of Transportation staff. Her goal was simple — to create a more promising future for both the city and the citizens. Gomez has been an active resident of Maricopa and has lived in the area for more than 60 years.

“I told them we need good roads, curbs, sidewalks and gutters,” Gomez said. “I called the meeting for us to get together so we can talk to the city and see how they could help us. It’s not just a want, it’s a need for safety reasons.”

City officials told Gomez that they will build sidewalks, gutters and streetlights after the highway overpass has been built.

Approximately 300 people live in the three sections of the district, consisting of mostly senior citizens who have been living in the city and homes that have been passed on for generations.

Three council members, Mayor Christian Price and 10 to 12 people from the district attended the meeting, yet Vitiello wanted to take an extra measure in hearing the voices of the district. He walked through the district and talked to those who did not attend the meeting and listened to their concerns. To do this, a few days after the meeting, Vitiello and Gomez decided to visit homes around the Heritage area.

“I want them to know, what we say we’re doing, we’re going to do,” Vitiello said.

In the 15 years Maricopa has been incorporated and new neighborhoods have sprung up, there have been no renovations for the Heritage District. Gomez shared her concerns, saying in the past 15 years not much has been done and that the city has forgotten about the people in the district.

“At the very beginning they knew what our needs were,” Gomez said. “I understand that as the city grows there are many priorities to face. And I believe we fell between the cracks because no one was saying anything.”

With Gomez and Vitiello’s lead, the city is creating changes to make sure that the Heritage District homeowners’ needs will be met.

“I listened to their issues and went to the city manager. Some of them are being fixed and some are going to take some time,” Vitiello said.

Gomez said she will continue to speak up for the needs of the district and is happy to see that the city is motivated to help move forward to the future.

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Emotions high as Maricopa High School welcomes its latest graduates
 Grace Harrah  / 

MARICOPA — It was a moment to shine for the 460 graduating seniors at the Maricopa High School graduation on Thursday night. Families and friends gathered to see the seniors walk across the stage with their diplomas, celebrating their futures ahead.

Whether that future may entail going into the workforce, military or continuing education, speakers including the superintendent and the valedictorian applauded the graduates’ first milestones and an opening door for the real world.

“Tonight our city pauses,” Superintendent Tracey Lopeman said. “To honor the accomplishment, perseverance and incredible spirit of the young men and women seated before us.”

The group of seniors celebrated their success in receiving more than $8 million in academic, athletic and military scholarships.

Alex Jackson, the senior class president, spoke proudly on stage saying they were the most successful and driven class Maricopa has yet to see.

Chandler Chang, the valedictorian, brought laughter to the audience as he explained the close-call deadline he faced in writing the speech. He also explained the importance of not being hung up on the grades to measure success in all aspects of life.

“Your high school transcript tells only 10 percent of your story, if that,” Chang said. “It doesn’t mention the volunteer hours, working two jobs or that you’re a kind-hearted person. Those things define who you are, not by a test score and not by a column of letters on a page.”

He finished the speech by emphasizing that your grades are not your labels, a perspective that he explained the teachers of Maricopa High School encouraged students to believe.

The ceremony brought not only parents but siblings and cousins in support of the special occasion.

Shawn Kerley watched his younger brother in the spotlight as he grabbed the diploma and walked across the stage.

“I hope he continues to stride forward and do the best he can out there,” Kerley said. “Take everything he’s learned and use it in his future endeavors.”

Gallery: Maricopa High School graduation

kreagan / Pinal County Sheriff's Office 


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Maricopa creates summer camp, encouraging kids to stay active
 Grace Harrah  / 

MARICOPA — As kids dive into summer, the city is introducing a program that allows them to stay in town for a special camp experience.

The city’s goal for Camp Copa is to provide kids an opportunity to stay local and to build a sense of community. Starting at the end of May, the program will offer a series of theme-based weekly schedules for kids ages 5 to 12.

This year will be the first for Camp Copa, in hopes of providing a summer experience in the city without traveling elsewhere. Copper Sky Recreation Center offers various other summer programs, including the half-day and specialty camps, which it has hosted in previous years.

Travis Orian, who programmed the camp for the city, explained his hopes for what the kids will gain during the program.

“The kids will build new friendships and understand what a day camp can be about, and hopefully we can give them the best summer that they’ve had so far,” Orian said.

The weekly themes vary from “builders week” to “cultural week,” where kids will learn and experience various cultures from around the globe.

“The culture week will teach the kids to not be afraid of the things that are different, but to celebrate the differences around us and our neighbors,” Orian said.

The weeks include May 28-31, June 3-7 and June 10-14. The day will start at 7 a.m. and end at 7 p.m. The first week will take place from Tuesday through Friday due to Memorial Day, and others will fall from Monday through Friday.

Aside from the structured schedules, the programs also include community engagement with the Maricopa Police Department and the Fire Department as part of their activities. The kids will have the freedom of choosing other activities such as crafts, reading corners, board games and active plays to grow individually through the program.

“I encourage parents to just try one week and their child may have a great time,” Orian said. “It’s not an open rec; it’s an experience.”

The staff at Camp Copa will be in charge of 10 to 15 kids each to make sure that they are in good coverage exceeding the state licensing requirement. Orian said child safety is the city’s top priority for the camp.

The program costs $120 per week, with discounts for Copper Sky members, multichild discounts and more. Registration for each week is already open, and those interested are encouraged to sign up by the previous Wednesday.

Camp Copa is available for registration online through