Frank Rosthenhausler grew up in the same community in which he’s now principal.

Im a south side kid. I eat here, I shop here. South Tucson is and always will be my life.

Now entering his sixth year as the head of Pueblo High School, and thirteenth year as an administrator, he’s made it his mission to make a visible difference for students on campus by renovating the most-used spaces.

Right now, the main focus is the cafeteria, but not one in the traditional sense. It’s a reimagined space that’s not just for eating.

“There are some kids who meet their spouses here. They meet their lifelong friends. Sometimes that happens in this space,” he said. “So I try to create a social…a place where kids can do their homework, study, but also a place to eat.”

To make the vision become a reality, Rosthenhausler hired Concord General Contracting for the install and Designer Eva Murzaite with Interiors of Design.

Her plans were to make a dated space become warm and welcoming.

Murzaite used natural lightingfiltered by safety screensto brighten up the space as well as ceiling fixtures that mimic the way the furniture will face.

New finishes on the walls and floors help refresh the room to reflect a restaurant-like atmosphere. Other elements, like color theme, are chosen to inspire healthy eating habits.

And in addition to incorporating the school’s message into the design, Murzaite used the city’s influences too.

“What Tucson is doing in their restaurant environments, what Tucson is doing in their spaces that students would otherwise be in and make this a part of that, so that this feels connected to the community.

I was steadfast in saying, ‘Just capture whats in my heart and use it to trigger your thoughts and your design, but please take whats in here,” Rosthenhausler said, motioning to his chest. “Because that was important to me and the kids.

He said that communities need spaces like this cafeteria because there aren’t a lot of other places outside of school where students feel comfortable.

“Its not an easy walk for our kids from their home to here. There are tough bus stops, there are just tough areas,” he said. “And for them to be in a safe space like this, a cool space, a beautiful spaceI want them to start to re-identify who they are, start seeing themselves in an A+ character-type light.”

And students are already noticing a difference with 10-15 other spacesthe library and weight room, among others that are already finished. Plans to update other parts of campus are ongoing.

The cafeteria is scheduled to be finished by the students’ fall break in October.

Incoming junior Jiselle Ladriere said her mother and sisters have all attended PHS, so this new school project is exciting for the whole family.

“It makes me happy to see the school getting more modernized, she said.

My mom came to school here too,” Adelina Grijalva added, who is also an incoming junior. “She was the class of 89 and she said…the cafeteria hadnt been renovated since she graduated. So Im really looking forward to seeing more of that.

The money to fund this $600,000-700,000 upgrade came from a few grants and COVID relief, but that only covered about a quarter of the cost. The school administration sourced the rest.

The entire effort truly took a village.

Its much more than just paint and flooring and finishes,” Murzaite said. “It was a team who really cared about the space and who really cared about the people who are gonna be using it. And to be a part of something like that feels much bigger than just a design project.