Earlier this month, the Arizona Game and Fish Department donated 12 archery bows and other archery equipment to the physical education department at Wilson K-8 School.

Tanja Washburn, the department’s archery education coordinator, hand-delivered the bows — two left-handed and 10 right-handed — along with five targets, 60 arrows and an indoor net to allow for shooting in the gym. Physical education teacher Gabe Romero helped unload the truck filled with the equipment.

“This is fantastic,” Romero said. “This is just going to elevate our program to the next level. I want them to go to these fun shoots. I want to see if I can get some Wilson kids to go to the state tournament.”

The $3,000 donation from the Arizona Game and Fish Department is made possible through a tax paid by sportsmen. Eleven percent of sporting goods tax revenues goes to fund such programs. Along with the donation, Game and Fish got the equipment at cost, which is about $1,800 cheaper than commercial pricing.

Other state-outreach programs funded with the same dollars are the scholastic clay target program, hunter education, Watchable Wildlife, fishing, and other similar programs.

“This was literally started in 2002 by a state agency and it has boomed and blossomed throughout the country and throughout the world,” Washburn said. “It’s gotten the kids motivated and their grades went up … attendance went up, and disciplinary actions went down.”

Romero said he can attest to the decline in disciplinary actions. Young people are not allowed to participate in the archery program at Wilson if they have had an issue with discipline or bad grades.

“With this, that is the hook,” Romero said.

The program offers kids something they may have never had the chance to do, and it helps bring some kids out of their shell.

“The ones that are usually very quiet and don’t get into it,” Romero said. “This really opens them up … their confidence level goes up, and self-esteem.”

There are 148 schools looking to receive similar funding for programs like this. Equipment has already been put in place throughout 130 schools statewide, with anywhere from 25,000 to 40,000 going through the program each year. Across the country, with 47 states involved, around 1 million students learned archery last year. Approximately 2.2 million kids were involved with Little League baseball, as a comparison, Washburn said.

The school has had an archery program, using old recurve bows. Some students had a difficult time pulling the string back, while other bows have become outdated and unsafe.

All teachers who instruct this class go through a certification program. In that program, they learn how to properly encourage discipline, while teaching the students 11 steps that teach them safety, discipline and knowledge specific to archery.

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