Rotary Photo

The Rotary Club of Tucson recently delivered a check that was 100 years in the making. As part of their centennial celebration, Tucson Rotary donated more than $450,000 to the Pima Joint Technical Education District, which educates Southern Arizona students in career and technical skills with no tuition costs. 

The donation supports PimaJTED’s new Innovative Learning Center at the University of Arizona’s tech park The Bridges. Additional funds support PimaJTED’s classes that enable high school students to earn industry credentials, such as nursing assistant, HVAC and drone operator licenses. 

PimaJTED was named the sole beneficiary of the funds after competing among other local nonprofits. PimaJTED initially applied for the Rotary Club’s Dream Big Centennial Project when it was first announced in 2018. Rotary’s donation goal was originally set at $250,000, but they far exceeded that number throughout 2021. 

“When we found out that we were the recipient, we were ecstatic,” said PimaJTED superintendent Kathy Prather. 

Rotary Club of Tucson Foundation president Joni Condit said 37 nonprofits applied for the grant. 

“We have a grant committee to identify projects that would be of good value to the community,” Condit said. “And we knew the idea of the centennial project was going to be bigger than previous years’ commitments… We like what JTED does, especially now when so many are reliant on nurses and caregivers. We also like that they’re working to hopefully keep young people in our community, and training them for important jobs.” 

The funds for the donation came from the proceeds of the Tucson Classics Car Show. For more than a decade, the Tucson Classics Car Show has gathered hundreds of classic cars for a single-day event. Although the 14th annual car show was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, sales of raffle tickets continued. In total, Rotary raised nearly $75,000 from raffle ticket sales that year. 

“We knew that to reach our full commitment, we had to do some big things in 2021,” Condit said. 

Then in 2021, the 15th annual car show continued in person. Rotary reports the show was a huge success, with 38,000 raffle tickets sold. Other funds came from entry tickets and local sponsors like Jim Click. They far exceeded their goal, and raised roughly $382,000 for the 2021 show. Both of these years’ proceeds were donated to PimaJTED, totaling $456,646.56. 

“They looked shocked,” Condit said. “We told them that the Car Show had a great outcome and that we’d met the $250,000 goal, but when we told them the total, they were just stunned. We were so happy to help them realize their vision.” 

As a result of the donation, PimaJTED’s Innovative Learning Center now sports the Rotary emblem on its facade. The Innovative Learning Center, which opened in 2021, is a two-story, 50,000 square-foot building that houses a number of medical and technical programs. Classes at the center include cybersecurity, business entrepreneurship, engineering, nursing, pharmacy and virtual reality.

Aside from the building itself, Rotary’s donation also funded specific instructional tools. For instance, PimaJTED is purchasing a state-of-the-art medical dummy for students, which can be connected with augmented reality for a more realistic medical

learning experience. 

“We would not be able to afford this kind of educational tool without this support from the Rotary,” Prather said. 

PimaJTED works with 14 public school districts throughout Southern Arizona, including TUSD, Amphitheater, Catalina Foothills and Marana. Although it is called PimaJTED, the district also works with students in the Mammoth-San Manuel and Nogales school districts.

While they work with many public school districts, PimaJTED’s educational services are also available to students in private and charter schools, as well as home-schooled students. PimaJTED programs range from aviation technology to cosmetology to construction, graphic design, HVAC, agriscience, music production and more.

Although the pandemic has majorly impacted public schools, PimaJTED has actually expanded over the past two years. In addition to opening the Innovative Learning Center, PimaJTED has also opened new educational tracks in the healthcare field. 

“We’ve seen increases in enrollment during the pandemic, which is unusual, especially compared to some of our member districts,” Prather said. “The pandemic has shown that students are choosing this type of education, and we are looking to expand to meet that demand.” 

Since its creation in 1921, the Rotary Club of Tucson has donated nearly $5,000,000 to Southern Arizona nonprofits. Over its 15-year history, the Tucson Classics Car Show has garnered more than $2,200,000 for the community. The next Tucson Classics Car Show takes place on Saturday, Oct. 15, at The Gregory School. 


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