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Features

  • When it comes to government, Robertson High School teacher Brenda Ortega-Benavidez’s students know much more than what the three branches of government are. They’re something of experts in political science.

    Her students have just returned from the state Capitol, where they took part in a Constitution Mock Congress competition. It was the first time RHS students placed in the statewide “We the People” Congress, tying for fourth place.

  • Students at Sierra Vista Elementary School found that a small gesture of kindness can create a lot of magic.

    Teacher Tom Conklin spearheaded a schoolwide drive for UNICEF raising $416.50 for underprivileged kids in many countries. He said the donations help with vaccinations, food, clean water, blankets, school books and many other necessities.  

    First-grader Amor Roybal said, “It made me feel good to collect money for the kids who are sick and don’t have any money or clothing.”

  • A unit of the New Mexico National Guard last week held an exercise with local agencies to prepare for the possibility of a hazardous materials incident.

    The 64th Civil Support Team from Rio Rancho supports state and local authorities for manmade and natural disasters and incidents involving weapons of mass destruction and hazardous materials.

  • Carmen Baca teaches both American and British literature at West Las Vegas High School. And she has a clear favorite between the two.

    “British literature. I’m more comfortable with it. I don’t know why,” she said. “American literature is dry.”

    A Las Vegas native, Baca has spent her entire 32-year teaching career in the West district. She spent her first six years at Valley Junior High, but she moved on to the high school in 1983.

  • “The Animals Thanksgiving" narrator Vincent Pacheco told his packed classroom at Sierra Vista Elementary that Thanksgiving Day is a happy holiday, filled with good eating and family fun. 

  • As this year draws to a close, those who want to take advantage of federal and state tax credits for the installation of a solar energy system on their 2009 tax returns need to act soon.

  • It’s winter again, cold, and there’s snow on the ground.

    But I LIKE snow on the ground. 

    Every time we get snow on the ground, it is a prime opportunity to go outside and do some basic observation.

  • The term “weight training” might suggest a roomful of hard bodies in a gym working on building their six packs and puffing as they lift huge barbells.

    Flip the scene to the Night Owl, where Karen Topping, an exercise instructor, stands in front of a bar counter on which a sound system pipes out “Duke of Earl,” “The Wanderer,” and other blasts from the past. It is almost reminiscent of sock hops of the ‘60s.

  • Krystle King and Tamara Naranjo are the head coaches of the 2009 varsity cheerleader squads for the East and West school districts. Both have championship rings and great histories in their own right and lead their perspective squads to do what cheerleaders have always done — lead.

    “A cheerleader means taking academics seriously, it means making sure when someone is down, you get them up. It is an honor, a responsibility and a privilege to wear that uniform,” King said.

  • During the renovation of Don Cecilio Martinez Elementary School, kids were left without a playground, having to use the gym for recess.

    But Principal Martha Johnsen last week announced a new playground area was  open. 

    “We’ve been without a playground since December of last year when they separated us and filtered us into other schools. Even the remaining students couldn’t go outside, but I’ll tell you what, it was worth waiting for,” Johnsen said.

    Physical education teacher Michael Nava agreed.

  • A U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter swept through the blue skies above a crowd of Las Vegans during Veterans Day services.

    David Salazar, a veteran and County Commission chairman, reminded the audience of sacrifices made by veterans.

    “I have had the opportunity to speak to a variety of audiences, but I have never spoken to an audience that represents those people who have given up more and done more for our country than American veterans. We all know or have heard of the men and women who went off to fight and never returned.”

  • A 10-foot banner pinned to the wall of the Elks Lodge 408 welcomed veterans to a mid-day lunch on Sunday in appreciation for the sacrifices they have made for their country. The meal included spaghetti, garlic bread and all the fixings.

    Elks leader Angela Sanchez said this is the third year her organization has been honoring veterans with a free lunch. She said through the year, Elks members sponsor many events to help veterans and their families.

  • The lion is still with us; you just can’t see him.

    Last month, a construction crew surrounded New Town’s lion fountain statue with a small wooden building, complete with a pitched roof.

    This was done after a study found that the statue in Lion’s Park was in poor condition. Officials feared that cold weather would further damage it.

    The lion statue, which is at Lincoln and Grand avenues, has taken a beating over the years, its tail broken off and upper lip removed. Graffiti partially covers it.

  • Tito and Mary Chavez are celebrating a quarter century at their business, Tito's Gallery, on Bridge Street, where they sell jewelry.

    “This week we had an order from the United Kingdom,” Mary said. “The best part about our gallery is the people we get to meet, and all the friends we make by being here — that’s the best part.”

    “And then we’re surrounded by all this beautiful art, and it doesn’t stay the same, it changes. So, our motto is, “An art show every day, and we really believe that,” Tito said.  

  • Civil War Pvt. Chauncey Flower was remembered for his service to his country in a tribute that included the always stirring playing of taps.

    Las Vegas veterans representing Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1547, along with Flower’s great grandchildren and a few guests, honored the fallen soldier who is buried in the state hospital’s cemetery.

    Enlisting as a private in Company G, 56th Infantry Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Militia of 1863, Flower came forward during a moment of pressing need. But his life was also colorful and at times tragic.

  • People stood shoulder to shoulder at times to see the third annual Dia de los Muertos Art Exhibit at Burris Hall and the Ray Drew Gallery on the Highlands University campus last week.

    Casa de Cultura Executive Director Miguel Angel said many schools and clubs participated in the exhibit that commemorates the celebration of life.

    As people learn more about Dia de los Muertos, they are less likely to connect it with the American holiday Halloween, which is celebrated with a lot of ghoulish good cheer, organizers said.

  • Martha Johnsen says she’s a “hometown girl,” and with the exception of working for NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston for about year and a half, she has always lived in Las Vegas.

    “This town has everything. We have history, we have the really fun notoriety, we have the architecture, many natural resources that are accessible and close by, and I just love the people. I love going out and running into somebody I know — I love that feeling and I don’t think it can be equaled,” Johnsen said.

  • Sage Harrington is living her dream as she performs her songs at venues around town.

    The singer-songwriter has a contagious laugh and a quirky sense of humor that she often uses when writing her brand of lyrics.

    In the sitcom, “Friends,” one of the unforgettable characters was Phoebe, played by Lisa Kudrow. Some of Phoebe’s song titles were “Smelly Cat,” “Crazy Underwear” and “Cremated Mother.”

  • Highlands University’s refurbished engineering building on 11th Street will go a long way in helping students who often struggle with math and science, officials say.

    “This is going to be a building that’s really going to help our students learn to some basic math and science skills, and go on to better their lives.,” said Bill Taylor, the university’s vice president for finance and administration.

  • Whether he’s walking down the street or sitting at his favorite eatery, Arthur LaCombe Vargas might not strike one as the typical lawyer. Depending on our own experiences with legal situations, each of us probably has a preferred generalization.