Phoenix South Mountain Center Turns 30
Big Time Celebration
by Jennifer Shimkus –
The South Mountain Youth and Family Center, under the leadership of Phoenix South Mountain Corps Officers Lieutenants Robert and Amy Reardon, celebrated its 30th anniversary recently with an open house and barbecue. The center also dedicated the Armstrong Family Foundation Learning Center, a computer lab and educational facility for academically at-risk students in the south Phoenix neighborhood funded with a grant from the Armstrong Family Foundation.
The ceremony honored Jim Armstrong, of the Armstrong Family Foundation, for his generosity. City Councilman Cody Williams, who attended the South Mountain Youth Center as a teen, expressed his thanks to the Center. Alison Armstrong, tutor at the pre-school and Jim Armstrong’s daughter, also spoke during the ceremonies.
The open house demonstrated the Center’s success: walls were hung with poems and artwork by students; science projects were displayed; and students presented ongoing demonstrations of their newly-acquired computer skills.
In the new gym, renovated with funding from former Vice President Dan Quayle and National Advisory Board member Marilyn Quayle, the Phoenix Coyotes, community service organizations, and local non-profits participated in a resource fair. Information about local resources was made available to area families, most of whom are low-income.
Lt. Amy Reardon, corps officer and former elementary school teacher, commented: “Without guidance beyond school hours, the task of learning, even simply completing homework, is overwhelming to many children. The success of this program has had a dramatic impact on education in this community and Mr. Armstrong’s contribution will markedly increase that success.”
The Center has received many accolades. Recently, the Salvation Army Metro Phoenix Advisory Board paid tribute to the hard work and dedication of Dr. Gay Brack, founder of the Arizona State University (ASU) Service Learning Program. Brack was presented with the Sally Award for her outstanding volunteer contributions.
Dr. Brack founded the program in 1993, after realizing the limited reading skills of boys who participated in the South Mountain Youth Center’s boxing program. Armed with limited supplies–she began with a grocery cart of texts donated from the state prison–she began to tutor them each week. Soon, she had 18 students awaiting her attention.
At this point, she began to formulate an incredible idea. She wrote a proposal to ASU linking ASU English classes with after-school programs in low-income areas across the Valley of the Sun.
ASU students would tutor the children and then write about the experience for their classes. The benefits are reciprocated between children and tutors. ASU accepted the proposal and the Service Learning Partnership was born. Today, both Arizona State and Grand Canyon Universities (a local Christian Liberal Arts college) combine to provide more than 100 hours of tutoring each week. The program is credited with raising standardized test scores more than 40 percent at the Martin Luther King, Jr., School .