Cortez Colts Thanked during Virtual Achievement Above All Event

Cortez Colts Thanked during Virtual Achievement Above All Event
Posted on 11/20/2020
Cortez 20-21 AAA

November 2020 – The Glendale Union High School District Governing Board once again recognized a handful of individuals who display how excellence continues within the GUHSD community. During the Achievement Above All virtual meeting on Wednesday, Nov. 18, Cortez High School's teacher, student, student group, support staff employee and volunteer of the year received praise for their significant impact on the school. Cortez Principal Walter Sampson participated in the virtual meeting to share more about the recipients and their achievements.

“It is with pleasure that I present to you four amazing people and an outstanding group that represent the strength, uniqueness, and togetherness of Cortez High School,” Sampson said. “All of these honorees embody the values of Cortez, empowering all to be lifelong learners, academic excellence, strength of character, and service for others."



Cortez Achievement Above All Teacher Recipient: Catriona Brown

Ms. Brown is a long-time employee of GUHSD, as she has nearly 20 years of experience within the district. She received her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Social Work from Arizona State University, and earned a Certificate of Advance Graduate Studies from Ottawa University. Her first step into her counseling career began at Washington High School in 2002 before moving to Cortez. She now has spent the last 16 years serving as Cortez’s Guidance Counselor, a position that allows her to help and support students through their academic and personal experiences.

Over the years, Ms. Brown’s peers continue to acknowledge her for her words of encouragement and compassionate personality.

“Catriona goes out of her way to give words of encouragement and compliments to students, faculty and staff,” Cortez Science Teacher Omar Sultani said.

“Dedicated, compassionate, and loyal are only a few words out of many that describe Catriona Brown,” Cortez Assistant Principal of Student Services Angela Dobberphul said. “I continue to witness Catriona be a dedicated individual to all staff and students at Cortez. She truly puts her whole heart into her job and always shows compassion and creativity no matter the undertaking.”

Ms. Brown shared how her role in supporting students is what motivates her on campus each day.

“Being able to help students and give them hope, encouragement, or a swift, little kick in the pants is a true dream job for me,” Brown said. “It is a true honor to come to the Cortez campus every single day of the week.”

Some of Ms. Brown’s hobbies outside of work include photography, traveling and forming relationships.

Cortez Achievement Above All Student Recipient: Gabriela Griepp

Gabriela Griepp, better known as Gigi, exemplifies what a top-notch student at Cortez is. In the classroom, she strives to challenge herself to perform well and exceed expectations. Her determination has placed her in the top 1% of her class. In addition to her academic success, she participates in several extracurricular activities and clubs on campus. Currently, Griepp is the treasurer for Cortez Student Council, a member of National Honor Society and the Cortez Delegate to Girls’ State.

Another activity that Griepp is heavily involved in on campus is performing arts. With a passion for singing, dancing and acting, Griepp has participated in the Cortez Vocal Ensemble, Performance Dance Company and Varsity Cheer. She also has won first place in a Cortez Talent Show with a singing performance while accompanying herself on the piano.

Due to her musical background, Griepp’s teachers identify her as a positive, creative student on campus.

“Having Gigi in class is like having a ray of sunshine in your room every day,” Cortez Mathematics Teacher Jennifer Starchman said. “She is upbeat, positive and truly a friend to everyone she works with. Gigi is intellectually bright and musically gifted, but more importantly than this, she is a kind person.”

As a transfer student from a performing arts high school, Griepp appreciates Cortez for all it has offered her.

“I transferred from a performing arts school as a sophomore which was a big change for me,” Griepp said. “I will always be so grateful to Glendale Union for the three incredible years I've had at Cortez.”

With a bright future ahead of her, Griepp’s goal is to study at an out-of-state university after graduation.

Cortez Achievement Above All Student Group Recipient: NJROTC

Cortez NJROTC, sponsored by Chief Warrant Officer Daniel Vass, currently has 66 students involved in the unit with another 48 scheduled to join in January. The overall focus of the program is to instill the values of citizenship, service to the United States, personal responsibilities and a sense of accomplishment. The group also serves one primary goal – to create leaders today for our tomorrow’s future.

The program manages many functions on campus according to Cortez Assistant Principal of Operations and Resources Brian Galbreath.

“ROTC is indispensable to Cortez High School, providing leadership and community service to not only our school, but the community,” Galbreath said. “Some of the activities they are involved in are color guard, raising the flag daily, campus blood drives, working at sporting events, ushering and welcoming visitors at open house and performing arts events, competing at the state, regional and national level and continue being recognized as an outstanding unit by the NJROTC Area 11 Area Manager.”

Cadets in the program receive recognition for their contributions on campus, during multi-service district and national-level JROTC academic competitions, and for their service to the community. Mostly recently, Cortez NJROTC won the award for the top academic team in the district during the virtual, brain brawl competition. Brain brawl is an academic-bowl style competition, which tests general knowledge on a variety of NJROTC curriculum and current event subjects. Glendale NJROTC hosted the virtual event that featured 48 teams from 25 schools throughout California and Arizona, where Cortez NJROTC placed as the top scoring team in GUHSD.

With all of the program’s achievements, Chief Warrant Officer Daniel Vass indicates that students credit Cortez NJROTC for their success.

“Students that visit us after graduation tell us about the many successes they have can be directly attributed to their participation in the JROTC program and the extracurricular activities provided,” Vass said. “Interpersonal skills such as strong leadership, communication, time management and attention to detail are in great demand in the business and the corporate sector, and our NJROTC program is a great way to gain those skills.”

Cortez Achievement Above All Support Staff Recipient: Brooke Spencer

Brooke Spencer has been a part of the Cortez community for the past 20 years as a parent of three Cortez graduates. She began her career with GUHSD as the attendance assistant at Sunnyslope High School before transitioning to Cortez in the same position. Now, she currently serves as the attendance assistant secretary.

According to Spencer’s peers, she plays an important role on campus by providing immense amounts of support to Cortez students, parents and staff.

“Through her listening to parents, students and staff, giving cheerful explanations, and offerings of constant support to her coworkers, is her strength of leadership,” Cortez Nurse Kay Beauchamp said. “Brooke is not hesitant to learn from others and become even better at what she does.”

Cortez Administrators also credit Spencer for her work ethic and positive spirit.

“Brooke has been absolutely invaluable to us here in the office,” Cortez Assistant Principal of Discipline and Attendance Sean Langan said. “She is always willing to lend a hand wherever needed and will regularly jump in to help out her colleagues. Having such a kindhearted person working with us always brightens the day, as she is always the first to welcome anyone she can.”

In her spare time, Spencer enjoys spending time with her grandchildren and camping.

Cortez Achievement Above All Volunteer Recipient: Marianna Perez

Marianna Perez is a Cortez Colt at heart. As a 2017 alumna, she is passionate about actively volunteering at her former high school and giving back to students. Currently, she volunteers with the Spurs program and football equipment.

Cortez Administrative Assistant and Spurs Sponsor Debbie LeClair recognized Perez for her willingness to volunteer at the school after graduating three years ago.

“Marianna Perez is a strong, confident, amazing young woman who always goes above and beyond in everything that she does,” LeClair said. “After her graduation in 2017, she has returned each year to help with wrestling and spurs. The Spurs program enjoys the success we have today due largely in part to her support and guidance of the 32 young ladies who participate. She truly loves working with them, and gives freely of her time and expertise to teach scoring, help with uniforms and scheduling, and to be a role model and mentor to the young ladies in our program.”

Perez shared that volunteering is important to her because it allows her to pay forward all that Cortez has done for her.

“Volunteering is important to me because I want to give back to the community I got so much from,” Perez said. “Cortez taught me a lot of lessons that I’ll carry with me forever and I want to be a positive impact on students in the same way.”

Perez is currently pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree in Social Work at Arizona State University West Campus and is interning at the Arizona Department of Child Safety.

Congratulations to Cortez High School’s 2020-2021 Achievement Above All recipients!

Excellence: Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow #WeAreGUHSD