The official eNewsletter of the Whittier Union High School District
University of California, Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks during his visit to California High School on Feb. 5.

UC Berkeley Chancellor Visits Cal High’s Lauded College-Readiness Program

University of California, Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks visited California High School on Feb. 5 to observe its widely acclaimed Puente Program, which has been recognized as one of the highest-performing Puente sites in the state based on the numbers of students who applied to four-year colleges and the number who were accepted.

The mission of Puente is to increase the number of community college and high school students who enroll in four-year colleges and universities, earn their degrees, and return to the community as leaders and mentors of future generations.

During a visit to Lori Davies’ 11th-grade Puente classroom, Dirks encouraged the “Puentistas” to equip themselves with the tools to achieve and take advantage of the innumerable opportunities available through Puente.

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Superintendent’s Message

Sandy Thorstenson, WUHSD Superintendent

Spring marks the beginning of nature’s replenishment, renewal and growth, much like what the Whittier Union School District community will be met with in the future and what it has joyfully experienced over more than a decade. The Board of Trustees, faculty and staff work collectively to continually achieve higher levels of excellence on behalf of our students.

Just a few weeks ago, two members of renowned worldwide educational researcher Michael Fullan’s research team visited our District, which was one of four in the entire state selected to be part of a three-year case study that will analyze the deeply rooted culture of trust and collaboration we have developed and nurtured that has positively impacted the success of our students.

While here, they met with members of our District administrative team, spent time in a Superintendent’s Council meeting and met with administrators from our partner elementary school districts. Most importantly, they observed classrooms in our high schools and engaged with math, science and English teachers during the regularly scheduled Best Practices meetings, observing what are truly collaborative and inclusive discussions focused on continual improvement of instructional practice.

With this first visit, our staff have left a lasting impression on the researchers, validating our work and inspiring us to continue down this path. We are looking forward to future visits from Fullan and his team, and we are eager to receive outstanding strategic advice to help make our collaborative culture even more effective.

This study also highlights the exceptional, broad based and highly effective teacher leadership at Whittier Union, which has grown exponentially over the years and has contributed to our students’ continual growth.

For example, UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks visited and praised one of the District’s most prized programs, Puente, which, with the strength and commitment of the teachers and staff behind it, has bolstered the number of students who go on to a four-year university after high school. In another case, one of our former students has made international headlines for his integral role in making a discovery that could dramatically reduce costs for cancer treatments.

It is a joy to see the depths of what our students can accomplish, and it is a great reflection of the role our schools, teachers, staff and administrators have played to drive their achievements.

We greatly appreciate the support of our Whittier Union school community and its commitment to working together with our staff to ensure our students' well-being and success.

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Sandra Thorstenson


Parents of 8th-Grade Students Invited to Future Frosh Night

The Whittier Union High School District invites eighth-graders and their parents to attend Future Frosh Night on Thursday, March 12. Teachers, students and administrators at each of the District’s five comprehensive high schools will provide valuable information about the classes and programs available to all students.

The evening provides information about each high school’s exemplary programs for ninth-graders, including: Advanced Placement courses and challenging Honors programs; rigorous academics; college preparation and counseling; innovative career academies; top athletics programs; visual and performing arts programs; extensive support services; and exciting extracurricular activities.

Whittier Union features California Distinguished Schools, nationally recognized high-performing high schools and 14 innovative career technical education academies. For information, call (562) 698-8121.

Schedule of Events

Thursday, March 12:

  • California High School, 9800 S. Mills Ave., 6 p.m., in the main gym
  • La Serna High School, 15301 Youngwood Drive, 6 p.m., in the Locke gym
  • Pioneer High School, 10800 Benavon St., 6 p.m., in the main gym
  • Santa Fe High School, 10400 S. Orr & Day Road, Santa Fe Springs, 6 p.m., in the Mendez gym
  • Whittier High School, 12417 E. Philadelphia St., 5:45 p.m., meet in the gym

Viva Technology Gathering Inspires Whittier High Students
to Explore STEM Careers

In conjunction with Edison International and the Great Minds in STEM organization, Whittier High School hosted a Viva Technology assembly to expose 120 ninth- and 10th-grade students to careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

The assembly, held on Feb. 23, included interactive activities such as STEM Jeopardy and a panel of engineers who discussed their personal experiences in the field of STEM and shared a day in the life of working with Edison International.

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Pioneer High Student's Flair for Acting Fuels Excellence in Speech and Debate

Aneliza Ruiz

Pioneer High School senior Aneliza Ruiz has always enjoyed the arts, culture and theater, becoming a talented actress and developing a knack for memorization and an ability to think on her feet. Those skills have propelled her to excel in one of her other passions: speech and debate.

On March 4, Aneliza, who has been on Pioneer's Speech and Debate Team for three years, competed in the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA) Region 15 final student oratory contest. She was one of six winners to earn a $1,000 scholarship.

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Santa Fe, Pioneer Hold Top 100 Ceremonies to Celebrate Student Achievers

Top 100

Santa Fe and Pioneer high schools honored their best and brightest students during their Top 100 ceremonies, celebrating a tradition of student achievement at Whittier Union.

Santa Fe held its annual Top 100 Recognition and Awards dinner on Feb. 5 in the Michael Mendez Gymnasium, while Pioneer High celebrated its inaugural “Titans Top Tier” Awards Ceremony on Feb. 12. Students were selected by their overall weighted grade point averages.

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La Serna Graduate Helps Make Radical Discovery that Could Cut Cancer Treatment Costs

Stephan Kudlacek

When Stephan Kudlacek walked into a University of California, Irvine research lab and agreed to join a chemistry project looking for a faster way to unfold proteins, he never dreamed that he would soon become an Internet sensation.

The 2008 La Serna High graduate is part of the research team that successfully invented a way to “unboil” a hen egg, a breakthrough that could dramatically reduce costs for cancer treatments, food production and other segments of the global biotechnology industry, according to the team. Kudlacek, who has inadvertently become the face of the project, credits the astute guidance he received at Whittier Union for his achievements.

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Frontier High Graduate Perseveres, Enrolls in USC

Kathy Orozco

Continuation high school students often face significant challenges in their quest to graduate. But former Frontier High School student Kathy Orozco has been able to weather many unlikely twists and turns in her life to successfully take on the challenge, and is now attending an elite four-year university.

Orozco – who graduated from the Whittier Union continuation school in 2013 – began her first year at USC Marshall School of Business this January after making a tough decision to switch her career trajectory, a choice she made after channeling guidance she received at Frontier: “Something that you love is easier to learn.”

Orozco credits Frontier for helping her develop leadership skills and providing her the motivation to continue her education.

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