New county school employee

Vanessa Barajas

You’re probably familiar with the annual spelling bees and more recent STEM festivals exploring Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. But how about these additional events districtwide across Gila County schools, including the North Gila County Science Fair, the Water Festival at Bullion Plaza in Miami, Stem Summer Camp, and Teacher of the Year nominations?

Born and raised in Globe and with family roots deep in local schools, Vanessa Barajas was recently hired by Superintendent of Schools Roy Sandoval to coordinate special events and outreach over the academic year ahead.

“Now’s the time for long-range planning and logistics,” said Barajas. “The Spelling Bee is a wintertime event, the North Gila County Science Fair is in the spring and Stem Summer Camp after kids are out of school. The Water Festival is another springtime event collaborating with partners such as Bullion Plaza Cultural Center Museum and also University of Arizona Cooperative Extension, similar to our STEM fest collaboration with Gila Community College.”

She volunteers with Globe High Cheer Booster Club and has been a parent volunteer chaperon for field trips — and there’s more on her resume involving Gila County educational outreach.

“I have talked to High Desert Middle School students about behavior issues and real life consequences; part of a drug education program for seventh-graders and their parents,” said Barajas. “And I invite school staff across Gila County from north to south to contact me with any events and ideas, by phone at 928-402-8788 or email to vbarajas@gilacountyaz.gov.

“I have worked with Gila County’s youth for more than 16 years. The children I have worked with have each left a lasting impression on me, and I have learned so much watching these children grow and progress. My new job is an exciting opportunity to coordinate events for our children, and I want to meet others in our county who are also eager to participate with our events — and to get the word out welcoming more of Gila County to participate with these successful education festivals. I love to see children when their faces light up from what they have accomplished or what they are about to learn — and I’m looking forward to attending school assemblies, events and programs.”

Barajas brings a range of training to her new job — she has worked in state government arranging nutrition and medical benefits for low-income applicants and learned firsthand the meaning of “tough love” as a Gila County Juvenile Detention Officer, Supervisor, Training Officer and PREA Compliance Manager over the course of 14 years.

“Working with troubled youth was hard, at times, but was rewarding in so many ways. They taught me patience, understanding, how they learned, how life situations could be different. Those children had a place in my heart and taught me something; sometimes our paths cross in our community and when they tell me I made a difference in their life, it’s a feeling I cherish.

“I also worked at High Desert Middle School as a paraprofessional for the children who needed extra help in the classroom setting because of behavior issues. It was a fun job to see the activities, all the personalities, to be around the children. These jobs prepared me for my current position. I want to be part of new and better things for our Gila County children.”

Barajas is a Globe Tiger (class of 1996) and with husband Reyes Barajas are the proud parents of five children enrolled in the local schools: Katrin and Elexa are 16 and 13 respectively, and both cheerleaders in their schools, Reyes (10), Melissa (9), and Rayea (5) are soccer players.

“And our daughter Rayea is autistic and does not speak — she is such an amazing little girl who teaches us every day and amazes us with her progress and her lovable self. She tries really hard to talk and has about 15 words down; we know in our hearts she will be talking soon. She attends preschool at Copper Rim where Ms. O’Neil and Mrs. Ballesteros are amazing with her, they have such patience and understanding of her special needs. Rayea is also close with Ms. Cyndi in preschool at Copper Rim. These ladies have a huge place in my heart and my family’s helping our daughter. Globe has some amazing teachers! My children have had inspiring teachers, I am very grateful for Mrs. Bradford in Copper Rim has practically been part of our family helping my son Reyes with his education, pushing him to learn different ways that he could understand and taught him to want to learn and not give up when it was harder for him than the other kids. She treated my son like he was her own. My family is eternally grateful to her. Mrs. Gardea, Mrs. Sukowsky and Mrs. Polkabla at Copper Rim are amazing teachers and helped my children to grow and progress, we love those ladies! And Mrs. Lori Rodriguez, principal of High Desert in 2017, was a big mentor to me, teaching me and helping me grow in my life. Giving me guidance and always encouraged me and brought out a better me. I am grateful to her. My husband and I are happy our kids go to Globe Schools and will graduate from Globe Schools just like we did.

“I am excited to keep things moving in a positive direction to make an impact in our community for the children and their families. I am eager to learn and communicate with our county members and share ideas and perhaps more events to come.

Have an event at your school that should include Vanessa Barajas and the Gila County Superintendent of Schools office? Call 928-402-8788 or email vbarajas@gilacountyaz.gov.

Contact the reporter 

tmcquerrey@payson.com

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