TFA Phoenix celebrate 25 years

With 25 years of serving students under its belt, Teach for America Phoenix reflects on past achievements and looks toward the future as it continues to serve Arizona’s students.

TFA Phoenix was established in 1994 and since then, its corps and alumni network has impacted more than one million students.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, approximately 532,000 15-to-24-year-olds left school without obtaining a high school credential between Oct. 2015 and Oct. 2016.

In Arizona, the adjusted cohort graduation rate was 6.6 percent below the national average in 2016-2017 at 78 percent.

TFA Phoenix knows that all students deserve an education that prepares them for their future. Its corps members work to provide students in underserved areas with the tools they need to graduate high school and reach their full potential.

“When I think about what I really, really want for our state, what I want more than anything is for when a parent calls me and says, ‘Where should I send my child to school?’ I want to be able to answer ‘anywhere.’” Katie Hooten, Teach For America Phoenix executive director, said. “I want to be able to say you can send them anywhere in Arizona and they’ll have the opportunity to experience an excellent education. I believe we can be the first state to say that. This is no longer a question of ‘Can this be done?’ We know it’s possible. The question now becomes, ‘How will we do it at scale?’”

According to Hooten, TFA Phoenix alumni have started and led thirteen schools that serve low-income communities and more than 70 alumni currently serve as principals, assistant principals and deans.

In 2018, TFA Phoenix launched its Phoenix Summer Institute, which is a summer training program for corps members.

The corps members engaged in meaningful, rigorous content that collectively improved their overall mastery of material by 27 percentage points from the first day of the program to the last.

With numerous milestones in the last 25 years, TFA Phoenix is looking toward the future to continue serving Arizona’s students.

Regional Board Chair Ron Butler said, “I am inspired by Teach For America’s partnership with the community over the last 25 years. The work of achieving educational equity cannot be done in isolation. As a result of the collaboration among committed leaders from all sectors and a shared vision of educational equity and excellence, we are moving towards that reality.”

On Feb. 21, TFA Phoenix celebrated its 25th anniversary at the annual Celebration Dinner, with over 500 community supporters in attendance. Jack and Vianne Kucera, education advocates and committed supporters, were the title sponsors of this year’s dinner.

At this year’s event TFA honored the Helios Education Foundation for its impact on TFA and its mission.

Helios founding chairman Vince Roig was inducted into the TFA Phoenix Emeritus board for “his continuous and unwavering support of our community and our kids. He left us all asking ourselves, ‘What can I do to make sure all students have access to an excellent education?’” according to a TFA Phoenix press release.

“Helios’ support has been integral to Teach For America Phoenix’s growth and progress as an organization,“ Butler said. “Because of their unwavering support and belief about what’s possible for all kids, our Teach For America network in Arizona has grown to be over 1000 members strong and impacts an estimated 50,000 students daily.”

The event also featured an opening performance by the student orchestra from SOUNDS Academy, which was founded by musician and Teach For America alumnus, Kirk Johnson, and provides musical experiences and opportunities to underserved youth.

TFA National CEO Elisa Villanueva Beard shared her TFA journey with attendees. As a 1998 Phoenix corps member, Villanueva Beard reflected on TFA Phoenix’s growth since her involvement.  

She taught first and second grade bilingual education at Bethune Elementary as a TFA Phoenix corps member.

“My students at Bethune showed me so vividly that potential is distributed equally across all lines of difference, but the opportunity to meet that potential is not,” Villanueva Beard said. “At TFA, we do not accept the reality that in our country where you happen to be born is the biggest driver of your life outcomes, and in fact, we work every day to courageously and thoughtfully disrupt that because we know for certain it does not have to be that way. This is the greatest injustice of our time, and it is what drives our work.”

Sierra Ciaramella

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