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Propelling positivity: AmeriGas donates $2,000 toward Coronado School initiative

SIERRA VISTA — Casey Bell and multiple dedicated teachers at Coronado School were stalled in the midst of their “positivity project” because donations had dried up.

Bell said all of the initial grant money she was awarded from the school last fall has been used up, spent on paint, brushes, templates and other startup materials. She added most of what was donated last school year also has been used.

However,a $2,000 check that was presented to the Lobos Club from AmeriGas will allow the beautification of the K-8 school — undertaken as part of the aforementioned “positivity project” — to continue.

“This money will help start many ideas that are already planned out,” Bell said. “We want the school as a whole to be a positive and inviting pace for our students.”

This donation is two years in the making and comes from AmeriGas’ School Days Program. According to the AmeriGas website, customers can sign up for the program and 2 cents per gallon will be donated to the local school.

Heather Buhr, a customer relations representative for AmeriGas, said it took Coronado two years to collect enough receipts for the $2,000 and now that they have, the opportunity switches to Palominas Elementary School. Once Palominas collects the 200,000 gallons needed, the fundraising will again switch back to Coronado.

“The quicker Palominas raises theirs, it turns over to (Coronado),” Buhr said.

Parents with students at Coronado can give their gallons, the second page of their bill, to Palominas or hold onto them until the fundraising effort has reverted back with to Coronado. If they choose to give their gallons to Palominas’ effort now, it would presumably hasten the return of fundraising to Coronado, as Palominas would hit their goal more quickly.

The Lobos Club is donating the money to the “positivity project” because the contingency with the donation is that the money has to be spent on something that goes directly into the school and benefits the students.

“It means a lot (to receive this check),” said Sonya Rodriguez, president of the schools Parent-Teacher Organization. “It means a lot, especially because it’s going to make our school more inviting for our students.”

Three projects were completed in the 2018-2019 school year. The junior high girls’ and boys’ bathrooms were painted and plastered with positive quotes and sayings, and a sensory path was painted in the courtyard to make walking in between buildings a bit more fun.

“I do think more and more schools are realizing their students’ social well-being is important,” said Palominas’ new superintendent, Sherri Rosalik. “It’s really about building self-esteem. It takes dedicated teachers, volunteers and partnerships (to implement these changes).”

Monday morning, Bell told the group, which included members of the school board, Rosalik and personnel from AmeriGas that the project allowed a seventh-grade student to paint a lobo on one of the hallway walls. That is the direction Bell wants the projects to go.

“I want the students to be more involved,” she said. “Last year, it was more of the teachers and volunteers.”

This coming year, the fourth-grade class is taking on a hallway to come up with a mural theme. Their wall, as well as one in the front of the building, have been dedicated as kindness walls for murals that will serve as a showcase for students who commit an overwhelmingly above-and-beyond act of kindness.

Bell said the hope is to paint the students’ names within the design to recognize such acts of kindness.

“I think the kids will commit because they’ll be painted on the wall and it will be forever,” she said.

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Convicted killer pays restitution he has owed victims' families for three years

TUCSON — For almost 15 years, a convicted killer sent court-ordered restitution to the families of two teenage Sierra Vista girls he slammed into and killed while driving drunk on I-10 in 1987.

Then three years ago, the payments being made by David Molina Morales to the parents of Brenda Axline and Tracy Johnson suddenly stopped.

Monday, the girls’ parents were scheduled to appear at a hearing in Arizona Superior Court in Tucson to compel Morales to continue paying what he owed. The hearing date was scheduled on the third anniversary of the date the payments had ceased in 2016, said Brenda Axline’s mother, Molly Axline.

But the hearing was called off late Friday when Axline and John Johnson, Tracy Johnson’s father, received a call from the courthouse in Tucson informing them that Morales had paid up the remaining total; the court clerk told them that each family would receive a check for $2,500.

”After three years of not paying us anything, I was shocked,” Molly Axline, who lives in California, said Monday. “The odds of him paying this were not good.”

John Johnson, who still lives in Sierra Vista, was equally surprised: “I couldn’t believe he had come up with the money. Not that it’s going to bring the girls back, but he needed to pay what he was ordered.”

The parents had petitioned the Arizona Superior Court in June after waiting three years for a check from Morales. The teenagers were killed Aug. 1, 1987, after Morales rammed into their car. He was driving in the wrong direction and he was drunk. The girls — Brenda Axline was 18 and Tracy Johnson was 17 — were returning from Tucson after buying clothes for school.

Convicted of manslaughter, Morales was sentenced to 25 years in prison. He was released in 2009 after serving 21 years. Before his release, he was ordered to pay each family $4,500 for out-of-pocket funeral expenses, Molly Axline and John Johnson said. The payments began in late December 2004, when Morales started sending each family about $5.25 a month.

The restitution to the families finally rose to $25 a month, then the money stopped coming in July 2016, Molly Axline said. Morales still owed the families $5,000, or $2,500 each. A clerk in the accounting office of the Arizona Superior Court in Tucson confirmed Monday that both families would each receive a check, but she declined to say where Morales had gotten the money, or why he suddenly decided to pay it.

Morales could not be reached for comment Monday. Two numbers listed under his name and address have been disconnected.

While Morales has served his prison sentence and has now paid his restitution, Molly Axline said she will continue to print an ad in the Herald/Review on the anniversary of her daughter’s and Tracy Johnson’s deaths to remind Morales of what happened 32 years ago.