Miki Trujillo has experienced the Douglas County School District from kindergarten student, to graduating senior, and more recently as teacher.
She has now moved on to her newest challenge as principal at ASPIRE Academy High School as well as Jacobsen High School, which serves the China Spring youth facility and Aurora Pines. She also supervises Douglas County’s adult education program and students housed at the Tahoe Detention Center.
Looking at the job description, who would want such a challenge?
“I would,” Trujillo said, flashing a smile. “I love it because it’s always about our students who are looking for an opportunity for success.”
At ASPIRE — an acronym for All Students Pursuing Integrity, Responsibility and Education — Trujillo views that success as a result of the “family atmosphere” that comes from the students.
“Our small school atmosphere makes us unique,” she said. “If you ask students to describe us in one word, most will say ‘family.’ Being small allows our incredible staff to focus on each student individually. Our students know that in our eyes, they are the cream of the crop. We set expectations high, and they meet them, every moment of every day.
“We base our school philosophy on a character education curriculum that focuses on integrity and service to others. When our students serve others in our community, they find that giving back is a gift within itself that enriches their lives.”
CARSON VALLEY ROOTS
This is a special experience for Trujillo, a 1985 Douglas High School graduate who began school as a kindergarten student at Gardnerville Elementary School. She attended first and second grade classes in what is now the DCSD administrative offices on Mono Avenue.
She moved on from Douglas High to Pepperdine University in Southern California and met her future husband David Trujillo. After graduation, Trujillo returned to the Carson Valley. The couple have two children: Corey, who will graduate this year from the University of Portland with degrees in mechanical engineering and Spanish and a minor in theology; and Dani, who is in her junior year, at Boise State University.
Trujillo has worked as an educator for DCSD for some 20 years, starting as an adapted physical education teacher (work in Churchill and Carson counties as well), then taught the health, leadership and focus programs at Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School. She became a teacher for ASPIRE in 2006.
And now, she is an administrator at a new high school.
“Here I am, and I’ll tell you what … feeling incredibly blessed,” she said. “It is all about our students. They are amazing young people who work diligently to achieve both in and out of school.”
The program was previously directed by Lyn Gorrindo, assistant superintendent for the Douglas County School District, who is confident the program has been passed on to qualified hands.
“She’s so organized and she’s such a go-getter, and she’s all about the students,” Gorrindo said. “She’s a good motivator. She does that with staff and colleagues around her, and also for the students.”
The objective was to create an alternative placement for students who may not have been successful in a traditional classroom.
“Miki really pushes the kids to think about integrity, responsibility and about life decisions,” Gorrindo said. “I think she made the program more than an alternative ed situation, more than a credit recovery program. Miki really took it to that next level of character education and service learning.”
Tricia Wentz, district-wide counselor, said Trujillo has been part of creating an environment where students feel like they belong.
“What she does really well is help them to identify their strengths,” Wentz said, “and become a part of something bigger than themselves, creating goals and really creating a hope for their future that maybe they haven’t had in the past.”
Trujillo is excited to lead ASPIRE through its first year as a public high school. For example, she pointed to a lobby set up by students to create a social and family-like environment.
“We have the potential for 35 graduates this year, so we met with our graduating seniors and talked about their graduation ceremony and what they want that to look like,” Trujillo said. “It’s our first graduation ceremony and these kids are fired up because they are going to create a celebration that honors their parents and our school.”
Eventually, Trujillo said there are plans to add extracurricular activities, including athletics. For now, plans have begun to organize activities such as running and outdoor clubs. Trujillo also pointed out the school’s Career and Technical Education program that has been enhanced by a Digital Photography and Graphic Design grant written by Wentz and Roger Kramer.
Trujillo went on to use as an example one student who is working toward an early graduation and will graduate at age 16. The student works through breaks and even lunch in order to meet that goal, she added.
“A lot of students come to us because they’re credit deficient, some students come to us because they have an ambition to accelerate, to earn more credits and they’re willing to work very hard to do so,” Trujillo said.
Hard work? Absolutely. Yet, Trujillo calls ASPIRE a very exciting place to be.
“My ambition throughout my professional career has been to create opportunities for students to experience success,” she said. “This new position has blessed me with the opportunity to do just that. Nothing makes my heart smile more than our students finding purpose in school and in life.”