Arizona program gives youth confidence, motivation

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Partnership emphasizes educational support for local students  

As Arizona works to repair its struggling education system, the presence of The Salvation Army Phoenix Citadel Corps’ Active Learning Program is crucial to provide local students with additional educational support and mentoring for academic success.

According to the 2018 Education Week Quality Counts report, Arizona ranked 45th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in education, with a D-plus overall State Report Card grade.

The score comes from three categories: Chance-for-Success, School Finance and K-12 Achievement. The state’s primary struggle is in the School Finance category, in which it received a D-minus.

The Active Learning Program is a long-standing partnership between the Phoenix Citadel Corps, Arizona State University’s America Reads program and Kenilworth School in Phoenix.

Active Learning Program students work on group activities outdoors with their tutor.

With 60 kids enrolled, the program is open to students up to grade eight, and features interactive education activities based on Arizona Academic Standards.

“Arizona has one of the worst or lowest-ranked education systems in the nation, so any extra attention that students can receive to help them get ahead with their schoolwork is necessary,” said Terron Craig, Salvation Army Phoenix Citadel program director. “[ASU] does a good job of sending tutors and mentors that can meet the needs of the kids in the community.”

Students are referred from Kenilworth School, brought to The Salvation Army after school and are tutored and mentored by Arizona State University students who are part of a federal work-study program.

“Usually, children are recommended to us by their guidance counselors because they’re kind of behind. The program we have helps them to catch up,” Craig said. “It gives them the attention that they need to get…to where they need to be so when they go back to school each day they will be more ready and prepared.”

At the program, the kids work on their homework with their tutors, and participate in one-on-one and group activities focusing on math, reading and writing, as well as extracurricular opportunities.

“We try to have it match up with what they are learning at school,” said Andrea Solis, ASU America Reads program site manager. “It’s really about taking those Common Core standards and making them fun and interactive in a way that kids can be motivated to learn.”

A student participates in an interactive art activity.

Vaughn Knutson, Active Learning Program tutor, said the kids enjoy the unique one-on-one opportunities available through the program.

“They enjoy it because it’s not like everyday school and it gives them individual attention,” Knutson said. “In a normal school day they don’t get a lot of that…A lot of the kids in the program are a little bit behind in their grade level, but through these activities you can really see them progress and get better.”

 Xochitl Martinez, 12, a student in the program, has noticed her improvement, particularly in math.

“The tutors actually seem like they want to help us and make us better,” she said. “It feels nice because usually in class the teacher can’t be with everybody. Here, you have your own tutors, and they help you a lot with the things you need the most work on.”

Both Craig and Solis hope the program will motivate the children at an early age to pursue higher education after high school.

“We are preparing them to be college ready, to succeed in not only their grade level now, but to catch them up so they remain consistent throughout their school years,” Solis said. “A big part of why all our tutors are college students is to give them that mentor to motivate them to want to go to college.”

Craig said the program is showing the kids they can be successful and go to college just like their tutors and mentors.

“I want them to understand that The Salvation Army is a safe place for them to come and learn,” Craig said. “I hope we are giving the kids the skills to maneuver through their own school systems, but also realize that there is a path to higher education.”

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