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West Valley Students Receive $125,000 in Grants Through Unique School Improvement Program
Since students are the ones spending their days in Valley school buildings, why not ask them what improvements they’d like to see there — and increase their civic engagement in the process?
That’s the idea behind the Youth Engagement Program, a partnership with Valley of the Sun United Way and the Walmart Foundation that gives local students an opportunity to voice their opinions about school environments and make necessary changes to improve learning outcomes within them.
The projects being funded were announced this week at a rally attended by more than 100 students as well as a large group of Walmart employees.
“The purpose of this project is to increase student civic engagement by providing an opportunity to see these projects from concept to conclusion,” said Javier Angulo, Walmart’s senior director for community relations, at the event. “There’s not just a tangible benefit, but a positive impact on the students who are involved in the program.”
Students across four West Valley school districts (Isaac, Alhambra, Washington and Cartright) will soon see their dreams for their school buildings come to fruition following a competition that encouraged them to speak out about what needed fixing in their respective school buildings and classrooms. The winning projects receive grant money through the program so they can be implemented, which in turn will not only improve learning environments, but give the students a sense of pride and civic engagement for having helped.
“This is a great way for United Way to continue its work to help children and families break the cycle of poverty in our communities by improving their educational environments,” said Dawn Gerundo, the director of community impact with Valley of the Sun United Way. “The Youth Engagement Program is not only a way to encourage young people to think creatively, it’s also a way for them to have a sense of ownership in the schools they attend.”
The schools receiving grant money span the West Valley, which is an area where the United Way already concentrates much of its efforts in combating poverty. Funds from the program will finance numerous improvements at area schools, including classroom renovations, facilities improvements and new water fountains and hydration stations, among others.
Additionally, a social media feed will be created to allow community members to vote on the best project, with the winner receiving an additional $8,000 in funding.