Arlahee Ruiz has a connection to NFL YET College Prep Academy that’s rare for a school administrator.
Ruiz was once a student at the south Phoenix school, who was new to the United States and still trying to learn English when she moved here from Ciudad Obregon, Sonora, Mexico in her sophomore year of high school.
She overcame those obstacles to graduate from NFL YET in 2003, earned her bachelor’s degree and began teaching leadership classes before moving into a variety of administrative roles at the school.
Today, she is the school leader for grades 7-12 and is primarily responsible for NFL YET’s rise from underperforming to a highly rated ‘A’ school.
Because of her dedication and tenacity to provide a better future for students in south Phoenix, and her outstanding leadership in transforming NFL YET, Ruiz is our 2015 Charter Transformational Leader of the Year.
“She’s a phenomenal leader. She’s a real servant leader,” said Christie Megura, a history teacher at NFL YET. “If she needs teachers to come in on Saturday to tutor students, she’s going to be here with us.”
In 2006, NFL YET was labeled as underperforming and Ruiz was tasked with overhauling the school’s culture and operations.
Ruiz spearheaded the school’s turnaround by implementing data-driven measures to increase student achievement, including professional development on Galileo testing and quarterly staff data presentations to measure student growth, with a focus on meeting individual student needs.
By 2013, NFL YET was an ‘A’ rated school and has maintained its status as a top-performing school.
However, the school is more than just data and professional development.
School staff lauds Ruiz’s collaborative approach, which includes teachers and parents in the process of making decisions.
“She can empathize with stakeholders. She can empathize with students,” Megura said. “She was a teacher, so she can empathize with teachers. She knows from personal experience.”
Ruiz has also created a family-oriented environment where students are given as much individual attention as possible.
“Every kid is an individual kind of story. You’re not just a student here,” said former student Erik Avila.
Abila credits Ruiz with pushing him to finish high school and attend college after his parents left the country and headed back to Mexico.
The 22-year-old is now caring for his two younger siblings, both of whom attend the school.
Ruiz said she is motivated by her teachers’ hard work and devotion, as well as her students, which serves as a constant reminder of her purpose.
“When you work at a school you have to put in the heart,” she said. “You have to remember why you’re here.”
This is the third in a series of blogs about each of our 2015 charter award winners. Read our posts about the Lifetime Achievement honorees here and our Charter School of the Year here. You can find out more about NFL Yet College Prep Academy here. Want a behind the scenes look at our 2015 award winners? Click here.