Rio Rico High School sits in a small rural area a marathon’s distance from the border. The faculty works to encourage the students to find something they love, like athletics, and pursue it outside their town.
“We believe in our kids,” Stephen Schadler, assistant superintendent and track coach, says. “Despite being rural and a little bit removed from the bigger universities, they’re more than capable of succeeding with the right guidance.”
Carlos Villareal, now a student athlete at the University of Arizona, came to the States from Mexico with his parents when he was six years old. He says the toughest part was communicating with other kids because he didn’t know English yet. Through athletics, he found a way to connect with his classmates and enjoy something he was passionate about.
“They [Rio Rico High School] are all really supportive because they all know how hard it is to make it out of a community that’s so small,” Villareal says. “Everyone rallies around that and supports getting out of high school and going above and beyond. It’s a great community to be a part of.”
The joke around the state is, what does Rio Rico feed their kids to make them so involved in sports, says Jonathan Chavez, the school’s athletic director. However, he says their success comes from developing the right programs and having the right coaches. The positive and inclusive atmosphere makes anything seem possible.