Over the summer, eight Havasu Youth Advisory Council (HYAC) members, Carla Betancourt, Tatum Bracamonte, Cheyenne Halfacre-Buie, Hayden Lintz, Garrett McNerney, Stephanie Nelson, Jersey Orias, and Ella Wofford competed with two other youth councils, Surprise Youth Council and River People Youth Council in the Democraseed Challenge, sponsored by The Center for the Future of Arizona and Arizona State University’s Office of Entrepreneurship + Innovation.
The Democraseed Challenge provides seed funding to implement projects that enhance the culture of entrepreneurship, innovation and civic engagement at the high school level in their hometowns.
On Aug. 24, at the League of Arizona Cities and Towns Youth Program in Scottsdale, HYAC pitched their project to a panel of judges and ultimately won first place prize money of $750 to implement their project.
With the community’s support, HYAC’s winning project, “Project: We Out Care” will address teacher retention in Lake Havasu City, starting with the 39 newly hired teachers in the Lake Havasu Unified School District #1. The premise behind “Project: We Out Care” is to challenge everyone to not only care about the teachers in this community, but to out care each other in a friendly competitive way that will enhance a strong social cohesion centered around all educators.
Quality teacher retention was one of the major issues identified by community leaders at the August 2015 Town Hall for the America’s Best Communities prize competition discussion, and is also one of the goals for Vision 20/20, Pillar 2-Education and Talent.
“It was an incredible experience and I loved bringing our local problem to the forefront to be supported and awarded money to help. Our youth council is energized and ready to reach out to the community to improve quality teacher retention in Lake Havasu City,” said HYAC member and Lake Havasu High School Senior Stephanie Nelson about the competition.
HYAC met with several residents, teachers, businesses, and community leaders over the summer to discuss their initiative and gain feedback. They discovered that some of the 52 teachers that left the school district last year did not leave based on salary alone, they left because they did not feel a sense of belonging to this community. “We learned that new teachers often come to Lake Havasu City, gain experience, and then leave with that experience to return to their hometowns due to lack of feeling rooted in our community,” said HYAC member and Lake Havasu High School Sophomore Tatum Bracamonte.
The youth council plans to use the seed prize money to kick-off a
“Project: We Out Care” community awareness campaign to gain support and acquire supplies needed to fill care packages for the 39 new teachers, such as pencils, markers, folders, and desk organizers; and also, donated gift cards to local restaurants, self-care establishments, and other local businesses, so the teachers can explore the city they’ll soon be calling home.
They plan to deliver the completed care packages to the new teachers by mid-December. In addition, they will reach out to the community for monetary donations to create and launch a website in January 2017, to sustain a long-term commitment from the community by giving the community and teachers a tool to connect throughout the school year to purchase items from the teacher’s personal wish list of classroom supplies. At the beginning of the next school year, the Lake Havasu High School Student Council will update the website to include all teachers, and will maintain and update as needed for years to come.
HYAC challenges the community to out care them by supporting their initiative in welcoming the new teachers to Lake Havasu City.
For more information about Project: We Out Care or to find out how you can support HYAC with this project, please contact the Mayor’s office at (928) 453-4152.
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