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Campus named for retired Gadsden educator
Arizona Western College's branch in San Luis, Ariz., has been renamed for Alicia Valdez in recognition of her contributions as an educator in the Gadsden Elementary School District and as a former member of AWC's governing board.
But Valdez says it has been her honor to have been associated with the efforts of the district and the college to promote learning in south Yuma County.
First as a principal of Rio Colorado Elementary School and later as an AWC board member, Valdez has taken part in efforts by both organizations to promote lifelong learning for residents of San Luis and surrounding communities, from grade school through the college years.
“It is an honor and a privilege to be associated with the south county and especially with the AWC campus,” she said. “I am very thankful that they have allowed me to be there, and I am thankful to have been part of everything.”
Her comments came after a rededication ceremony this week that formally changed the name of the branch at 1340 N. 8th Ave., to the Alicia Valdez San Luis Learning Center.
Valdez retired as an AWC board member in July,after 18 on the board.
Born in Mexico's Michoacan state, she immigrated with her family at age 8 to Texas, where she and family members worked in the cotton fields. Later the family moved to the Phoenix area.
Leaving the fields to pursue an education, Valdez earned her bachelor's degree from Northern Arizona University, continued her studies at Columbia University in New York City, then obtained her master's degree from Eastern Oregon State College.
In 1973, she came to the Yuma area to launch a kindergarten program in the Gadsden district, which covers Gadsden and San Luis. When the district opened the first of its schools in San Luis, Rio Colorado Elementary School, Valdez became its first principal.
In all, she served 26 years in the district, first as a teacher, then coordinator and director of federal and state programs, and finally as Rio Colorado principal. She retired in 1999.
In 2008, she was inducted into the Yuma County Education Foundation's Hall of Fame, and a year later she won AWC's Prestigious Alumni Award.