Flinn Scholars honor teachers and counselors who helped shape their success 

May 19, 2022

By Jessica Vaile

Scholar Neha Badhwar with Distinguished Educator Kyle Martin

Arizona educators who have had substantial impacts on the educations and lives of the Flinn Scholars were recognized by their students during the program’s annual Recognition Luncheon at the Arizona Biltmore. 
The Class of 2022 Flinn Scholars spoke about the impact their Distinguished Educators have had both in and outside the classroom during the May 7 event, which honored both the incoming class and graduating Flinn Scholars.  

Flinn Scholar Astrid Bell of Northland Preparatory Academy in Flagstaff recognized Whitney Rooney, her AP Biology, anatomy, and physiology teacher. 

“Ms. Rooney’s ever-present enthusiasm and kindness as teacher and coach have developed my passion for the biological sciences and pushed me to meet my potential,” Bell said. “Her ability to adapt to students’ social and emotional needs, while satiating academic needs, makes her one of the greatest teachers I’ve ever had.” 

Flinn Scholar Yaritza Durazo, who is graduating from Sunnyside High School in Tucson this month, recognized her Algebra 2 and pre-calculus teacher, Victor Vigbedorh. 

“Studying with Mr. Vigbedorh, I learned many topics in math, but more importantly, I learned how to puzzle my way to a deeper understanding of anything I encounter in life,” Durazo said.  

The 20 educators honored at the event taught the Flinn Scholars a wide range of subjects, including English, biology, orchestra, history, calculus, Spanish, and chemistry. The educators also included an Academic Decathlon advisor and counselors.  

The 2022 Distinguished Educators are: 

Heather Bigley 
English and French, BASIS Flagstaff 
Scholar: Mia Osmonbekov 
Jessica Briertonap 
Biology, Red Mountain High School, Mesa 
Scholar: Lydia Pastore 
Kate Fisher 
English, Gilbert High School 
Scholar: Emily Delabarra 
Joshua Goode 
Social Studies, Magnet Traditional School, Phoenix 
Scholar: Samantha Muñoz 
Mary Hesse 
Orchestra, Page High School 
Scholar: Kaya Dickson 

Matthew Ishikawa 
Academic Decathlon, Westwood High School, Mesa 
Scholar: Natasha Kiriluk 

Bethany James 
Science and Mathematics, Faith Christian School, Mesa 
Scholar: Bradley David Reece 

Alyssa Keri 
Mathematics, Catalina Foothills High School, Tucson 
Scholar: Noah Wellman 

Denise Leveron 
English and AP Seminar, Bradshaw Mountain High School, Prescott Valley 
Scholar: Hannah Lennon 
Kyle Martin 
IB Mathematics and AP Calculus, Barry Goldwater High School, Phoenix 
Scholar: Neha Badhwar 

Tier Martin 
College Counselor, North Phoenix Preparatory Academy 
Scholar: Niat Solomon 

Sommer Meza 
English, Santa Cruz Valley Union High School, Eloy 
Scholar: Diego Luis Chavez 

Victoria Muñoz 
IB Spanish, Barry Goldwater High School, Phoenix 
Scholar: Desiree Ngoc-ha Nguyen 

Kurtis Nielsen 
English, River Valley High School, Mohave Valley 
Scholar: Andrew Cervantes 

Arlett Perez-Rios 
College Readiness, Upward Bound at Cholla and Pueblo High School, Tucson 
Scholar: Alicia Salazar Contreras 

Whitney Rooney 
AP Biology, Anatomy, and Physiology, Northland Preparatory Academy, Flagstaff 
Scholar: Astrid Bell 

Shelby Stringer 
AP Research, Post-Colonial Literature, Academy US History, BASIS Phoenix 
Scholar: Simra Maheen 
Victor Vigbedorh 
Algebra 2, Pre-Calculus, Sunnyside High School, Tucson 
Scholar: Yaritza Durazo 
Jeff Wisniewski 
Counselor, Sequoia Choice Arizona Distance Learning 
Scholar: Portia Cooper 

Grazyna Zreda 
Chemistry, Tanque Verde High School, Tucson 
Scholar: Karah Mayer 

Now in its 37th year, the Flinn Scholars Program is supported by the Phoenix-based Flinn Foundation in partnership with Arizona’s three state universities. The merit-based scholarship covers the full cost of tuition, mandatory fees, housing, meals, study abroad, and many other exclusive opportunities—a package valued at more than $130,000. 

The 2022 Flinn Scholars, who will attend the Honors Colleges at Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University, and the University of Arizona, were selected from nearly 1,100 applications based on academic rigor and performance, as well as leadership and service, communication skills, and personal characteristics.   
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