The Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders

Live Projects/Showcase

Just around the corner: Sophomores work on their DAP projects


Every year at ARS, the sophomore class has a two month long project for their pathway classes: Biomedical, Engineering, and Media Technology. This project qualifies students for the Distinguished Diploma Plan (DAP). Scoring an 80 or above on the Cornerstone project is also how Ann Richards’ letterman jackets are earned. Here is what some of the students are doing in their Cornerstone project:


In Media Tech, the sophomores focus on animation.By the end of the year, students create a  create a three minute animation with a partner. In this project, students must make a story, characters, backgrounds, and a musical score. This year, students Johanna Lechuga (10) and Kate Singer (10) are making their story gets the message across that working together is the best way to get things done. Their characters are described as “a humanoid, plant thing that is basically Mother Nature embodied” and a robot. However, this story wasn’t easy to come up with.


“We had like five ideas at first,” Singer said. Mr. Roger Soden, the Media Tech teacher, is very selective with the stories, which causes students to go through many ideas before they find the best one. “We would go up to him thinking our story was really good, and every time he told us it wasn’t and we had to change it every time,”  Lechuga said. “He is really picky.” The animation Cornerstone will be done in early May, and now the class is starting to animate their characters after designing them in Adobe Photoshop.


Engineering in sophomore year is focused on ways to help the community. Groups of students must come up with a product to build that will in some way improve a space around them. One of the groups this year is Marisol Farias (10), Avandia Avila (10), and Alyssa Reynolds (10). Their project is about water conservation, and they will build a greenhouse out of PVC piping in the shape of a geodesic – a design elements that spaces lines the shortest possible distance between points – dome.


“We are going to use garden beds to demonstrate vegetation, and then we will have drip tape which is basically a form of irrigation, it’s like sprinklers,” Farias said “Also, we will have a time sensor to disperse water through [the garden beds] at certain times of the day.”.


For some engineering groups, the hardest part of the project is trying to collect materials that aren’t easy to find in stores or at our school.


“It’s hard to work with the project since we don’t have the proper things to work with,” Farias said. The engineering project will be done between April 19th-20th.


The Biomedical Cornerstone is all about nanotechnology and diseases. Students must pick a disease they are passionate about curing and create a nanodevice to help treat the disease. While they don’t build nanodevices – a tiny device that can interact with cells –  but they do research extensively how they work as well as build a model of one.


“It’s hard because there just isn’t a thousand articles on nanodevices and nanodevice generators,” Fatima Rosales (10) said. Rosales and her partner,  Anne Katula (10), and Fatima Rosales (10), are working to create a nanodevice to treat a part of celiac disease called glycogen, which is a substance deposited in tissue that stores Carbohydrates.


“We chose to target glycogen and when it enters the body instead and the breakdown of glycogen so nothing that damages the immune system happens,” Rosales said.


The groups must design these nanodevices to present to a client or organization that works with the chosen disease. The biomedical pathway cornerstone will include a model of the body, a research paper, and a presentation on what the students learned that will be due April 27.

Student Kate Singer (10) works on her character for her animation
Students Marisol Farias (10), Avandia Avila (10), and Alyssa Reynolds (10) work on their geodesic dome
Student Anne Katula (10) works on her diagram for their nanodevice

Rising up from under: Cities destroyed by Hurricane Harvey recover

After Hurricane Harvey hit on August 17, 2017, and lasted until the beginning of September, a number of Texas cities have been ruined. The impact of the cyclone destroyed homes, outdoor areas, and local businesses. Some of the most affected areas include Houston, Port Arthur, Corpus Christi, and Rockport, all in different ways. We were able to see an impact on the environment, housing of residents, the public’s health, and the economy.

Residents watched as their houses collapsed and were ruined by water damage seeing the aftermath and becoming homeless. Being without electricity has raised health issues, and without proper shelter illness, for example, Mosquito-borne illnesses, and respiratory children is increasing. Businesses saw their buildings blown in and wrecked. And after the worst of it, over 20,000 were left homeless.

After Harvey, the areas that were most damaged were supported by funding from federal agencies, the private sector, celebrity donations, and donations from surrounding towns. Unfortunately, despite all the aid, Texans are still struggling to fully recover. This includes people in need of permanent housing, building up businesses in order to continue employment, and keeping children safe and healthy under these conditions. An additional difficulty is the uneven distribution of crisis aid and efforts.

“I was in shock,”  Ann Weisendurger commented. Weisendurger owns Executive Keys, a business located in Port Aransas that rents out condos to visitors and has had to start up again after the damage. “As the time went on, you really discover how much damage really hit. It cost over a million dollars to remediate.”

Many groups were impacted by the hurricane, spanning individuals of all backgrounds. With the hurricane hitting one of the largest cities in the US, starting a spark of staying together and emphasized the importance of community.

“In terms of the community, [Houston] is a big city with a lot of backgrounds. So many people were impacted, even now people are still trying to fix their lives. It definitely brought everyone closer together. People still are trying to get their head wrapped around the fact that this happened,”  Houston resident Anusha Lalani said. “I know that the conversation still needs to be going, just like with Puerto Rico. We still need to remember that this was a big thing that happened and is happening.”

Aid was provided from all around the country, including from celebrities: Ellen DeGeneres, Nicki Minaj, the Kardashian family, Beyonce, Sandra Bullock all provided aid to Harvey victims, and Kevin Hart started a donation challenge. Donating also reached a more personal level as schools hosted donation drives to help those around them. These donations went to what the residents of affected towns needed to keep going.

“We have a sister school over in Houston and even though they have a lot of students that weren’t necessarily impacted by Hurricane Harvey, a lot of families that they knew in the Houston area were impacted,” Ann Richards Vice Principal Ms. Brianna Castano said. “We wanted to collaborate with them and put in our little piece to help their community rise after what happened.”

Despite eight months passing since the hurricane landed, many individuals are still without homes, jobs, and remain impacted by the loss of loved ones.

“You got to have the funds to do the work,”  Weisendurger said “There are still stores and restaurants that need your business. The beach was not hit, it is still beautiful. Anything the public can do to put money into the economy down here helps.”


All photos courtesy of Exec


Freshen up on film: Use Spring Break to catch up on flicks

Photo courtesy of Creative Commons.

Exceptional romances with soundtracks to match
Director Baz Luhrmann is a master at over-the-top romances accompanied by modern pop songs that will surely keep you singing and swooning. Some of our favorite Luhrmann movies are Strictly Ballroom (1993),
Romeo + Juliet (1996), and Moulin Rouge! (2001). Submarine (2010), Amelie (2001), In The Mood For Love (2000), and Harold and Maude (1971) are much quieter love stories for those looking for something whimsical. Fans of action will enjoy True Romance (1993), a modern day Bonnie and Clyde (1967) – speaking of which, is a great criminal duo movie.

Take the full week to marathons classic series
Prep for the upcoming Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018) by watching the original trilogy, Stars Wars: A New Hope (1977), Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and Star Wars: Return of the Jedi (1980). Unfortunately, only Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) is available to stream on Netflix, but if you really want a classic marathon, the ever-so-popular Harry Potter series (1997-2007) can be streamed on HBO Now. Ready to finally watch the godfather of movies? Lucky for you, all three of The Godfathers (1972, 1974, 1990) are now on Netflix. We’d recommend only watching the first and second, since the third was made decades after its predecessors and doesn’t quite meet the cinematic standards of the first two. Some other top notch series worth mentioning are The Matrix, The Bourne series, and as many of the James Bond movies as you can watch in a week.

Women’s History Month movies
Nine to Five (1980), starring Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, and Jane Fonda, is a comedy of working women standing up to sexism in the office that, although made in 1980, still stands today. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (2017), starring Oprah Winfrey and Rose Byrne, tells the story of two incredibly dynamic women on a mission. Some more aggressive female heroines can be seen in Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2 (2003, 2004) and Thelma and Louise (1991) were women fed up with misogyny take the law into their own hands. A notable woman from behind the scenes is Julie Dash, who became the first African-American woman to direct a film distributed to theaters across the U.S., with her visually stunning movie Daughters of Dust (1991). For those looking for something more light-hearted, we recommend We Are the Best! (2013), an extremely relatable story of three young Swedish girls in the 1980’s trying to start a punk band.

Vibrantly original films
Movies that focus on aesthetics are Marie Antoinette (2006), The Fall (2006), The Florida Project (2017), and Amadeus (1984). What they lack in an engaging plot is made up for in creative cinematography and striking sets and costumes. Pretty much any movie directed by Wes Anderson, Studio Ghibli, Tom Ford, or Guillermo Del Toro will be immaculately stylish and distinctive in story. Our top picks are The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), Princess Mononoke (1999), A Single Man (2009), and Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) respectively.

Medium defining movies of the past
Dive into legendary films by legendary directors like Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941) and The Third Man (1949), Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho (1960), Vertigo (1958) and North by Northwest (1959), or Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), The Shining (1980) and Clockwork Orange (1971). If you saw the recently released movie The Post (2017), All The President’s Men (1976) starring Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford is a must-see, as it tells the closely linked story of the Watergate Scandal from the same angle. Fan of La La Land? Revisit musical movie sensations like Singing In The Rain (1952), West Side Story (1961), and The Sound of Music (1965). Jaws (1975) popularized the blockbuster movie in the seventies, but films that created the blockbuster existed before. Check out original box office successes like Gone With The Wind (1939), Quo Vadis (1951), and Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs (1937), which was also the first feature length animated film in theaters.

ARS News/Showcase

Bienvenidos: Spanish students host the first annual Latin American Cultural fair

In the hallway next to the cafeteria, booths were set up with colorful decorations and bold flags. Spanish classes made “La Feria Cultural,” a Latin American culture fair, which represented México, Honduras, Cuba, Argentina, Guatemala, and Colombia.

Elizabeth Campos (9) helps paint a booth for the Latin American Culture fair.

The fair opened March 7th after school and closed on Friday the 9th. Classes split into groups, researching different cultural aspects and making posters with maps and national fun facts.


“The Spanish project means to me a book opened to the Latin American culture,” Alexa Minchaca (9) said. “We all know these places exist, but displaying them with their traditional foods and cultures and attractions it’s just really cool to see happen.”


Weeks were spent designing and building the booths and creating artifacts for the different countries. In Mr. Ruiz’s Spanish classes, the students learned basic steps to traditional dances including Merengue, Salsa, and Cumbia.


“It was really crowded all the groups kind of mixed together and dancing, ” Haley Cruz (8) said. 

Guadalupe Gonzales (9) dances bachata with KK Ruiz (9) at the Latin American culture fair


With a large Latinx population at Ann Richards, working on this project gives a chance for students to share and learn more about their culture. People attending the fair got to sample foods and take small flags with fun facts on them as a memory of this year’s culture fair.


“Culture is important to a diverse country and school like our own, so we all know what is going on and what is out there,” Spanish student Carla Pineda (9) said.


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