Eight local students involved with the Havasu Youth Advisory Council recently completed their civic project, Project: We Outcare, having reached 42 new-hire teachers in Lake Havasu City with care packages.

“We wanted to retain these teachers after we lost all of those others,” said HYAC member Tatum Bracamonte, Lake Havasu High School sophomore. “We wanted to welcome them to the community.”

From left, Nautilus Elementary teachers Sarah Didion and Leah Branch react after HYAC presented their care packages.

From left, Nautilus Elementary teachers Sarah Didion and Leah Branch react after HYAC presented their care packages. Jayne Hanson/River Scene photo

HYAC coordinator Jerri Bracamonte said 52 teachers and faculty left the Lake Havasu Unified School District last school year. The group’s effort on Friday reached 42 new-hire teachers this school year at eight different schools.

When it comes to the care packages and who received them, there were two teachers at Nautilus Elementary, six at Havasupai Elementary, five at Smoketree Elementary, three at Starline Elementary, five at Jamaica Elementary, one at Oro Grande, 10 at Lake Havasu High School, and 10 at Thunderbolt Middle School.

The students organized a donation collection from about 30 local businesses. The care packages given to the teachers included paper, school supplies, and gift cards, certificates for service, or coupons.

The project stems from a training the students attended in June at Arizona State University’s Tempe campus. There, they met with two other youth councils from Surprise and Salt River Indian Community School. Collectively, the youth learned skills in creation of civic health projects and identified needs within their own communities.

HYAC poses for a photo with new-hire music teacher Steve Wayman at Havasupai Elementary after presenting him with a care package. Jayne Hanson/RiverScene photo

HYAC poses for a photo with new-hire music teacher Steve Wayman at Havasupai Elementary after presenting him with a care package. Jayne Hanson/RiverScene photo

HYAC honed in on the issue of improving teacher retention in Havasu. The students’ awareness on the issue was brought to light during their attendance at the America’s Best Communities Town Hall in August 2015. In this case and with this project, the students wanted to be promote a feeling of support from the community – with the kind gesture of local businesses giving to the cause – that the overall effect would encourage the teachers to feel welcomed and rooted in Havasu and therefore want to remain.

After the ASU-based training, HYAC returned to Havasu and collaborated with local teachers, school administrators, city officials, other service clubs, and residents of different age groups before coming up with the Project: We Outcare concept.

The second leg of the project includes a proposed website on which all Havasu teachers could create a profile that would be complete with a classroom supply or wish list. The list would then be linked to Amazon or local businesses’ websites for ease of purchase. The website would sustain the youth effort of these initial care packages and intention of wanting to meet teacher’s needs within the classroom. Currently, the group is fundraising for the effort with hope of launching the site in August.

There are eight high school students involved with HYAC, including Cheyenne Halfacre-Buie, Ella Wofford, Tatum Bracamonte, Hayden Lintz, Carla Betancourt, Jersey Orias, Stephanie Nelson and Garrett McNerney.

Feature photo: Havasu Youth Advisory Council poses for a photo outside Nautilus Elementary on Friday while delivering care packages to local new-hire teachers. From left, Carla Betancourt, Tatum Bracamonte, Stephanie Nelson, Ella Wofford, Garrett McNerney, and Jersey Orias. Not pictured, Hayden Lintz.
Jayne Hanson/RiverScene photo

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