The older we grow, the less we remember our thoughts, feelings and actions from our childhood and teenage years.

Memories remain but details of past events blur with time.

This year, the Sedona Red Rock News formed a partnership with Sedona Red Rock High School establishing Scorpion Shout Out, a column written exclusively by Sedona teens.

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Wildfire season arrived abruptly in parts of Arizona with three major wildfires raging across the state without signs of slowing down.

Thus far, Sedona and the Verde Valley have escaped major issues other than visible morning smoke.

While we watch firefighters battle the Wallow, Horseshoe 2 and Murphy fires, and families in the White Mountains evacuate their homes, it’s important to remember the same threat exists in our backyard.

It’s dry, it’s hot and it’s windy in the desert in June — the perfect recipe for an out of control forest or structural fire.

While we sit back and watch smoke fill the horizon in the distance it’s important to remember Sedona and other Verde Valley communities could be next.

We all live in wildland-urban interfaces, which is where human development meets the forest. The open space that surrounds our communities makes them appealing but also poses the threat of evacuation or loss due to wildfire.

The Wallow Fire forced evacuations of Sunrise, Greer, Blue River, Alpine, Nutrioso and several subdivisions along State Route 180 and State Route 191.

The good fortune of living in an area surrounded by the wild also brings with it responsibility, particularly when it comes to fire, whether its prevention or preparation.

More and more often wildfires are linked to people who’ve either set them purposely or accidently by carelessly handling flames and sparks. The first step is prevention, which starts with us.

Other fires, however, are started by Mother Nature herself to clean up old forests and rejuvenate life. Regardless of how a fire starts, preparation is needed to protect you and your home.

Firewise Communities urges homeowners in wildland-urban interface communities to take steps before a fire ignites to protect homes and families.

Firewise Communities offers the following tips to protect homes:

  • Use non-combustible construction materials, such as stucco, brick and fiber cement siding on the exterior of homes.
  • Consider using Class-A asphalt roof shingles, clay tile or slate roofing materials. These are more resistant to flames.
  • Prune all trees so the lowest limbs are six to 10 feet from the ground and remove dead or overhanging branches.
  • Use nonflammable landscaping materials, such as rock, pavers, annuals and high-moisture-content perennials within five feet of the home to create a defensible space area.
  • Select low-growing plants to plant outside. Choose plants with high moisture content that are free of resins, oils or waxes that burn easily.
  • Remove leaves and pine needles from gutters and around your home and attachments, such as garages, decks and fences

In the event of evacuation due to wildfire, preparing a home beforehand can make a difference in firefighters’ chances of saving it.

Regardless of which map Yavapai County chooses to follow to redistrict, some residents in the Verde Valley will be disappointed.

County staff unveiled four proposed maps at its first open house Wednesday, June 1, and will be in the Village of Oak Creek on Tuesday, July 19, at the Village of Oakcreek Association Clubhouse from 4 to 6 p.m. to gather comments.

Staff gathered public input earlier in the year to pair with other considerations, including existing voting precincts, population and demographics.

The county warned Verde Valley residents it was highly likely a portion of the area would have to be split from the current district, District 3, and paired with communities now in District 1 and District 2.

Holding true to predictions, population increases mandate Sedona and the Verde Valley grew too much to remain a single district, but not enough to be split in two Verde Valley-exclusive districts.

Each of the four maps will leave at least one community up in arms.

However, all four maps put Sedona and the Village of Oak Creek in the same district.

Map A will likely sit well with the incorporated towns and cities because it keeps them all intact.

Cornville residents, however, won’t be happy. The plan splits part of the incorporated area into two separate districts using Cornville Road as the divider.

Map A puts Cottonwood, Clarkdale, the Verde Villages, Jerome, Sedona, the Village of Oak Creek and Cornville north of Cornville Road in new District 5. Camp Verde, McGuireville, Lake Montezuma and Cornville south of Cornville Road would be paired with communities along Interstate 17, Dewey-Humboldt, Mayer and parts of Prescott Valley in new District 4.

Map B still splits Cornville along Cornville Road, but goes on to divide Verde Villages. One proposed district boundary runs along State Route 260 from where the Verde Villages start nearly to the State Route 89A intersection. Property south of State Route 260 in that section would be grouped with Camp Verde and Cornville south of Cornville Road, with regard to the Verde Valley, and communities from the other side of the mountain.

McGuireville and Lake Montezuma would then join Clarkdale, Jerome, Cottonwood, a portion of Verde Villages, Sedona, the Village of Oak Creek and Cornville north of Cornville Road to form a strictly Verde Valley district.

Map C, however, will be favored by Cornville residents because it keeps them all together and instead pairs Sedona and the Village of Oak Creek with Camp Verde, Lake Montezuma, McGuireville, Cherry and potions of Prescott Valley. Sedona and Village residents, on the other hand, might not be happy with being split from the solely Verde Valley district.

Map D is the most outrageous, splitting the city of Cottonwood into two separate districts in various locations.

Parts of Cottonwood would join Clarkdale and Jerome in a new district with Chino Valley, Paulden and Ashfork. The rest of the Verde Valley would remain in its own district.

County staff and the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors no doubt have their work cut out for them. While they try to please Verde Valley residents, they have even more people in current District 1 and District 2 to work with.

Visit the county’s website to find open house locations, dates and times.

While reading The Arizona Republic on Sunday morning, May 22, I noticed for the first time a section dedicated to fallen soldiers.

I’m a weekend reader of the statewide newspaper, but did not notice the listings until just before Memorial Day.

Titled “Military Deaths,” the newspaper lists the names, ranks, ages, hometowns and details of the soldiers’ deaths, including date, location and mission.

None of the soldiers were from the Verde Valley, thank goodness, and none were from Arizona either.

Regardless of where these men and women called home, I felt overwhelmed with emotion thinking about a 30-year-old man and a 23-year-old man dying overseas so I can sit on my back patio and enjoy my morning coffee.

They gave their lives for our freedom, and reminders, such as the listing in the Republic, are important.

Without reminders, it’s easy for some to forget our brothers, sisters and neighbors gave their lives so ours can remain stable and normal.

Memorial Day, Monday, May 30, is a reminder each year of all those who fought and died in the name of the United States ever since the country’s founding.

Our forefathers fought the English for freedom from the rule of the crown.

Later, our men and women went to war on foreign soil to protect us and citizens of other countries.

Today, Americans continue to fight to defend our country and help others regain stability.

Supporting our troops and honoring the fallen shouldn’t be political.

Soldiers don’t ask questions.

They do as they are told by their commanding officers and always respect their superiors.

They fight selflessly with more at stake than anyone in Washington, D.C., or sitting at home — their life.

For that, I am thankful each and every day.

I respect what those men and women do, because most of us couldn’t walk in their combat boots and won’t ever understand how they do.

This weekend, take a moment to think of those who have died for our country, regardless of your political beliefs or stance on war.

Remember soldiers are the heroes we read about in fairy tales when we are children.

Sedona Red Rock High School Principal David Lykins releases his last class of graduates to the world Wednesday, May 25.

The Class of 2011 will gather to be the school’s last class to graduate with Lykins as principal, as he will become Sedona-Oak Creek School District superintendent in July.

This year, our staff at the Sedona Red Rock News got to know some of the students a little bit better through the school’s journalism program.

Led by a vivacious Maureen Barton, the students shared their thoughts on life, school and the future with us and the community.

Today, Student Body President John Beeler shares his thoughts in the last Scorpion Shout Out written by a member of the Class of 2011.

We’ve gotten to know the kids studying up on the hill, and each year it will become even harder for all of us to see them go.

However, new beginnings are exciting, and I remember the excitement of leaping into the unknown.

It’s a bittersweet time in a teenager’s life when he or she says goodbye to old friends and family, and heads out alone toward an unknown future.

Some of Sedona’s graduates will be excited — they can’t wait to get out of here — while others will be scared — they’re leaving the safety net they’ve created over the years. Most will feel a mix of both emotions.

Graduating from high school is a sacred rite of passage in our culture, and when you’re at that point, it can feel like one of the biggest changes you’ve faced in your life, because it is.

As we too say goodbye to the class of 2011, our newsroom offers the following advice as graduates embark on the big adventure of life.

n Go with your gut feeling. If something in your heart, head or gut is saying “no,” there’s a reason. Follow it — you may not get a chance to change it.

n Travel, as much as possible, throughout your life. You will learn more than you can imagine.

n Always say “yes” to a new experience. Opportunities rarely come at a time of our choosing.

n Always have goals. Remember, a person without goals is destined to achieve them.

Congratulations and good luck seniors. May your hopes and dreams for the future come true. When they do, and you recognize it, it is a beautiful experience.

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