Arriana Ochoa-Tovar plans to study conservation biology at the U of A. Photo by Nick Botz

When asked to talk about her academic passion, Arriana Ochoa-Tovar, Patagonia Union High School’s 2020 Salutatorian, expressed her love for the natural environment and her gratitude for being able to pursue that interest through the National FFA classes at PUHS. She has been a club officer, attended the national FFA competition this school year and earned 2nd place in the State of Arizona competition for Nursery Landscaping. She has participated in the Borderlands Earth Care Youth program for the past three summers and feels lucky to have worked with great conservation professionals. She feels very ready to pursue her education at the University of Arizona in the fall, studying conservation biology with a minor in business administration.

Very active in high school, Ochoa-Tovar played flute, drums and standup bass in the PUHS seasonal bands – marching, steel drum, and jazz. She ran cross-country freshman year, then enthusiastically joined the new co-ed soccer team, leading the team as Captain her junior year. She had led the new softball team through its first game of the season this spring before school was closed.

Ochoa-Tovar is the daughter of Salinas Ochoa and the granddaughter of local architect Jeff and Alice Latham. Her twin sister, Reyna, will be attending Aveda Institute in Tucson in the fall, and the two sisters will live together. Younger sister Amaris will be a sophomore at PUHS next year. The family lives in Patagonia.

“When we moved here from Tucson in the 7th grade, I felt so welcomed by the community. It’s a great place to grow up. Here everyone has your best interests in mind. Superintendent [Kenny] Hayes and Journee Hayes treat their students as if we were their kids. I’m going to miss them, as they’ve made PUHS a family.”

It appears others feel the same way about her. For one thing, she has been class president the past three years, and vice-president before that. “Ochoa-Tovar is kind of the class mother. She always helps her classmates do the right thing,” Kenny Hayes said. “And she’s extremely inquisitive. When I first had her in my class, I thought she was asking questions to get us off track. Luckily, I quickly figured out that she has a very curious mind and wants to understand.”

Regarding her academic success, Ochoa-Tovar believes PUHS faculty have helped her, as they help all students, by understanding her and her learning style, then adapting their teaching to that. “It’s a benefit of such a small school,” she said.

Ochoa-Tovar says, humbly, that she has always just tried her best, in school and in life. Maybe it has something to do with that unquenchable thirst for knowledge.