RRHS Anza Club.

Anza Club Provides Spooky Fun and Helps the Community with the Las Lagunas Haunted Trail
Posted on 10/19/2023
Anza Executive BoardAnza Club Provides Spooky Fun and Helps the Community with the Las Lagunas Haunted Trail

By Loree Johnson

Photo Courtesy of Yara Sanchez
Caption: The Anza Youth Program “Executive Board”: Back row from left to right: Cuauhtemoc Sanchez, Andres Flores, Gabriel Orrantia; Front row from left to right: Dario Romero, Ariana Padilla

The Anza Youth Program will once again present the Haunted Trail on the historic Las Lagunas de Anza Wetlands trail. It will be open to the public from Thursday, October 26th through Saturday, October 28th.

RRHS Senior Andres Flores, who is the Anza Youth lead, explained,”The Haunted Trail is basically a little trail that has different themed sections where you walk through and people scare you. There will be booths with food and drinks, as well as a section with free games and prizes” for children that might be too scared by the Haunted Trail.

This is one of the biggest fundraisers for the Anza Youth Program. Coatimundi Middle School Parent Liaison Yara Sanchez, who serves as the Anza Youth Coordinator/Mentor for the program, explained that the youth are the “actors, builders, and designers.”

With the proceeds from the Haunted Trail, a Winter Wonderland at Las Lagunas is in the works with Christmas lights, Santa and his elves, food, gifts, and a choir.

The Anza Youth Group was originally created in 2011 with a grant from the Santa Fe Ranch nonprofit and the National Parks to promote the Juan Bautista de Anza expedition of 1776. They taught 4th graders the history, who then performed plays with costumes from the period. The grant ended after one year, but Sanchez and her team of committed volunteers were determined to carry on the wonderful work.

Sanchez explained, “During those times they saw the need in the community. We saw kids who were struggling, families who were struggling, so we decided to do different little things to try to help out the families, whether with clothing, Christmas presents, food baskets or just a place where they could come and learn and have fun.”

Since that time, the group has helped the community in many ways. Among the events sponsored by the group to help the community is a Summer Youth Camp which they have operated for the last three years. They educate youth about the Las Lagunas trail; teach lessons on science and nature, engineering, music, positive mindset, and art; and provide lunch for free. Additionally, the fire department arrives to shower the children with their hoses, providing a respite from the summer heat.

Sanchez explained, “They teach, create, organize everything. . . I am literally the adult that is just standing there watching them go.”

A group of seven RRHS students who call themselves the “executive board” are the ones who run the program: Andres Flores, Manuel Lopez, Melissa Oviedo, Ariana Padilla, Gabriel Orrantia, Cuauhtemoc Sanchez, and Dario Romero.

Some of the executive members explained their roles and what the club means to them.

Padilla, the “environmental specialist,” teaches science, nature, and art and hopes to start a community garden. She said that the club is like a “family who grew up together” and enjoys being part of it because “it feels good to give back.” She also said the program really helps with social skills because you have to talk to people you don’t know.

Flores calls the group a “family” as well and said, “It opens your eyes to the community of Nogales and Rio Rico and those who are in need and what you can do to help them.”

Romero, who teaches music and is a project member for “extra events,” said, “It has been fun to watch the children develop and has been gratifying to serve the community that has served me so well.”

Orrantia, who honed his cooking skills in RRHS Culinary Arts and working at Nickel’s Diner, has to create the menu for each event, research the cost, and work with their budget. He said he has “always enjoyed helping the community” and it has provided “a lot of fun experiences.”

In addition, there is an Anza Club at RRHS with teacher Shenecia Bell as sponsor, Leah Hetherington as president, and Cuauhtemoc Sanchez as vice president and approximately 90 members.

Currently, the group is working on starting a thrift store on the RRHS campus. Members will collect gently used clothing and other items, sell them, and use the profits to help the community.