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Features

  • A father-daughter project has turned into a real passion for a local family in recent years.

    Ashley Wheeler and her stepfather, Estevan Ortega, began working on a lowrider bicycle a year ago and are now being noticed at major competitions.

    “I was very excited that I won first place in the Impalas Car Show in Santa Fe in May. I love my bike and couldn’t ask for anything more, and I am grateful to my stepfather for helping me be successful,” Wheeler said.

  • Robert Mishler is not a johnny-come-lately in Las Vegas’ historic preservation efforts. He’s been involved for decades.

    Recently, the state Historic Preservation Division gave Mishler, a retired Highlands University anthropology professor, a lifetime achievement award for his dedication to the cause of historic preservation for the last 35 years.

    When he and his wife, Ann, moved to Las Vegas in the late 1960s, much of the Plaza and Bridge Street areas was boarded up. Most of the town’s business and social activity was on Douglas Avenue.

  • Molly Salman is off to college after graduating with honors from Robertson High School, but she leaves a definite mark on her alma matter.

    This last school year, Salman was elected by students to sit with the district’s school board as the student representative. The Las Vegas City Schools is one of the few districts where students have a seat on the governing board.

  • Leroy Lucero, or “Pato,” as he is known to many, is seated at his Yamaha electric keyboard, making music, practicing for an upcoming collaboration with his compadre, Joe Franco’s group, “Dulce.” Sweet!

    A multi-talented, lifetime musician, Lucero has followed many paths, but always, accompanied by music.

    Born in Las Vegas, Nov. 10, 1946, Pato, 63, is the son of the late Ben Lucero and Carmen Garduño Lucero. Leroy’s siblings are Lonnie and Jeanette.

  • The original plan for Alma Sanchez and Phylisia Dimas was to graduate in 2011.

    But they defied expectations.

    Sanchez of West Las Vegas High School and Dimas of Robertson High School are walking the line in their respective commencement ceremonies this weekend — a year early.

    Sanchez and Dimas are among a growing number of Las Vegas high school students taking advantage of the access to dual-credit classes offered at Luna Community College and Highlands University.

  • Las Vegans Floyd and Theresa Chavez are a husband and wife with a big thing in common: They’re both educators.

    And they have a passion for their jobs, others say.

    “We live, eat and breathe education,” Theresa said.

    Floyd said much of what they talk about involves education.

    “It’s not the only thing in our lives. We do have other interests that we share, but education has always been a common thread between the two of us,” he said.

  • Some Las Vegans wanted a wind-beaten, sun-bleached, tattered flag taken down. They didn’t like to see the Stars and Stripes in such shape.

    But the tattered old flag had been flying over Sgt. 1st Class Gilbert Martinez’s house since the day he headed off to war in the Iraqi desert.

    That was a year ago.

    “The day he left we hoisted the U.S. flag. We had yellow ribbons all around the house and vowed we would only take the flag down when Gilbert returned home,” said family member Jodie Rael.

    And they did exactly that.

  • Through the years, the Memorial Middle School greenhouse has been a center of activity for students’ agricultural and science projects.

    It’s also a place for aspiring teachers to get hands-on experience in their craft.

    Tom Dormody, a visiting professor of agriculture from New Mexico State University, and a number of his graduate and undergraduate students are learning ways to teach science using agriculture and natural resource applications.

  • By Don Pace

    Las Vegas Optic 

    In 1973, Barbara Streisand sang, “Scattered pictures, of the smiles we left behind, smiles we gave to one another. Misty water -- colored memories of the way we were.”

    One way high school graduates in America have of remembering their friends is looking through their yearbook. And with every yearbook comes a staff that has worked for a year collecting and preserving those memories.

  • West Las Vegas Middle School teacher and coach Brian Gurule has been watching his kids succeed for 13 years. He says that’s what makes him happy.

    “I want to see them succeed and teach them that there is more to this world. I want them to experience the knowledge and insights one gets from travel. Many of our students have never traveled outside of New Mexico,” Gurule said.

  • The title above is no accidental allusion to Vergil’s “Aeneid,” often billed as history’s greatest Latin epic. The poet, who lived from 70 to 19 BC, says, in the original Latin, “Arma virumque cano,” or “I sing of arms and the man.”

    So what does this have to do with former New Mexico Gov. David Francis Cargo?  Perhaps if Vergil were writing today, the hero would be named David Cargo, or “Lonesome Dave.”

  • Not one of the 15 volunteers bolted from the barber chair as an appreciative crowd laughed, jeered and cheered them on to shaved-head heaven. 

    Psi Chi International Honor Society President Renee Shimek said the Highlands University psychology club holds a Spring Festival fundraiser every year.

  • New York Times bestselling author, artist and illustrator Jan Brett made a stop in Las Vegas on Saturday, pulling up to West Las Vegas High School in her shinny tour bus.  About 300 people waited her arrival.  Brett said she enjoys traveling by bus, because it gives her the freedom to stop at places off the beaten path from the average author tour.

  • Kylie Angelique Tafoya, 8, likes to perform in front of large audiences.

    That’s according to Sara Harris, the mistress of ceremonies at the recent sold-out 16th annual Fiesta de la Hispanidad.

    “The bigger the audience the better,” Harris said.

    The young San Juan girl took the New Mexico Hispano Music Association’s Child Artist of the Year Award.

    As Kylie took the stage during the Hispanidad event, she stepped up to the microphone but she couldn’t quite make it. She took a little jump, and her fingers slipped off.

  • Imagine a person who combines the full spectrum of reality and communing with nature with deep convictions of spirituality — a transcendentalist, perhaps — of the 21st century.

    Janice “Jan” Arrott, the embodiment of this combination, was born in October 1932 in Worthington, Minn. She never knew her father, Arthur James, who died two months before Jan was born.

  • As the Lady Dons ended their unforgettable season in the University of New Mexico’s “Pit,” appreciation for coach Jose “Magic” Medina and the team’s achievement’s was only beginning.

    As star players Vanessa Lucero and Miranda Martinez walked off the court, they were invited to try out for the Nike Elite Travel Team. Of the more than 130 young women who tried out, both Lady Dons made the squad.

  • Highlands University student Joni Martinez is seen as someone with an engaging personality. But there’s one thing many people don’t know about her: She is legally blind.

    Other than her family, friends, co-workers and those she gets to know over time, most people apparently aren’t aware of the condition of Martinez’s eyesight.

    Maggie Romigh is Martinez’s boss at Big Brothers Big Sisters, a mentoring program for children.

  • Staff Sgt. Martin David Gallegos is a graduate of Robertson High School, but visited both East and West schools last week to unfurl three U.S. flags flown over war-torn Iraq. 

    The flags were flown by his National Guard unit in a Iraq. With each flag, Gallegos also presented a plaque describing its history. 

    Gallegos is serving with the 515th Regiment out of Belen. The soldiers are stationed at Camp Bucca, a forward operating base about 200 miles south of Baghdad.

  • CASA volunteers help children who have no one else.

    The program’s local director, Barbara Perea Casey, said community volunteers are part of the Court Appointed Special Advocates program and are highly trained individuals who are the voice for children who are removed from their homes because of abuse or neglect.

  • Leah Lucero says no teenager should miss their prom night for lack of a dress or tuxedo.

    “No one should have to sit at home on prom night, so I thought if we asked for donations of prom attire, whether it’s dresses, suits, or accessories, we could organize a prom closet. It’s also a good way to get the community involved in one of the biggest school functions of the year,” Lucero said.

    Lucero said she originally brought up the idea at Key Club, where she is  president. But members already had another project in mind.