| Back to Contents |
When Reniero Araoz is asked about being one of only three educators in the state to receive the 2001 Governor’s Education Excellence Award, he doesn’t think of himself but of the school that has meant so much to him both professionally and personally—Eastern High School.
For Araoz, Eastern is not just the place where he works, it’s the school where he came of age as a student in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It is a place where his passion for education and serving others is given life everyday.
“I am a principal of an inner city high school and proud of it,” says Araoz. “We’re located four blocks from downtown right in the heart of Lansing. We deal with all kinds of issues. We have a number of students who have the skills and are ready to go and learn at a higher level, and we have others who do not have those skills. Regardless, we provide everyone an education so that they all can be successful. If they opt to go to higher education, that’s great. If they opt to go to work, they have to have skills as well. The key is that everyone here has to work together to provide these students with the skills they need.
“One person can’t do it alone. We all have to work together in order to provide an environment that is conducive to learning. It takes the entire community to do that. We have to involve the parents, we have to involve the faculty and staff, and the students have to be a part of that, as well. So I accepted the award on behalf of the entire Eastern High School community—the students, faculty, staff, and parents.”
Araoz, who received his master’s degree from the College of Education in 1984, was honored for his more than two decades in education during which he has distinguished himself in his commitment to providing all students with the highest quality education.
Principal of Eastern since 1992, Araoz has been instrumental in reaching out to the wider community, helping forge partnerships with institutions such as
Sparrow Hospital, MSU, and other community organizations. He also guided the 1,500-student campus through a five-year process in the 1990s that led to accreditation by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
But what Araoz, who is a member of the College of Education Alumni Association Board of Directors, is most proud of the commitment of his staff to ensure that all Eastern students are afforded every opportunity to succeed. Eastern, he says, is the most ethnically diverse high school in mid-Michigan. The student body is 46 percent white, 25 percent African American, 20 percent Latino, 7 percent Asian, and the rest made up of a number of other ethnic groups. Eastern is also home to a small population of refugee students and those who have limited English skills.
“We have programs to address all these students,” Araoz says. “I don’t see this diversity as a challenge, but as a mission, as a calling to help students. Having grown up in this community, it gives a sense of place and it makes me work harder because I know what the needs are and I appreciate what the students experience.”
“It’s all very rewarding, especially when you see the students graduating and being successful at the next level.”