For nearly 40 years, the nonprofit organization known as the Amphi Foundation has raised funds to help students in need throughout the Amphitheater Public School District.
Every year, the foundation invests around $250,000 in the district where nearly half of the student population qualifies for free and reduced benefits, creating programs providing resources for student preparedness, sponsoring innovative learning opportunities and ensuring every student has equal access to success, according to the Amphi Foundation’s Executive Director Leah Noreng.
As Amphi’s students attend class in hybrid or remote models as the coronavirus pandemic surges, the nonprofit has focused its efforts on the digital divide among students this year.
According to Noreng, the foundation has purchased 65 laptops and provided Wi-Fi for hundreds of students grappling with the experience of learning from home.
“I was worried initially when the schools shut down that some of our sponsors and supporters would think if schools are closed, then the foundation isn't needed,” Noreng said. “The reality of it is that our services have been needed this year more than ever, just because of the climate that we're living in.”
The nonprofit has covered the cost of at-home internet connection for students through Cox’s Connect2Compete and Comcast’s Internet Essentials programs. They also provided $15,000 for Amphi’s schools, which helped purchase supplies for the nearly 800 elementary students enrolled in the district’s Amphi Academy Online program, the remote-only learning option, according to Noreng.
“There are so many families experiencing hardship, and so many unexpected expenses to get remote learning up and running and then to open schools back up for hybrid,” she said. “So I've been really happy with the way that we've been able to respond to the needs in creative ways.”
While schools’ budgets struggle through the economic turmoil brought on by the pandemic, the nonprofit organizations they rely on for funding are struggling too.
The Amphi Foundation had to cancel all its fundraising events, including its spring gala that typically raises over $100,000 for the nonprofit. However, due to donations from the public, they’ve been able to raise the funds to provide crucial resources to students throughout the pandemic.
“That was a bit of a blow. Luckily, we were able to put a call out to our donors and our sponsors and say we still need the money, and we did okay,” Noreng said. “We've dipped a bit, but the community is definitely still rising to the occasion and supporting us, which is great.”
On Giving Tuesday, Noreng says the foundation raised $7,000. The Amphi Foundation also recently received $20,000 through federal CARES Act funds distributed by Tucson’s We Are One [Somos Uno] Resiliency Fund, although the funds will likely reimburse expenses the nonprofit has already spent, Noreng said.
As the only employee at the foundation working part-time and raising three children in the district, Noreng hopes the nonprofit will continue its growth trajectory and be able to hire more help in the next year.
“I know that there are needs in our community that are not being met, and I know that we could do more,” she said. “I'm hoping that we can continue to focus on doing more and having a deeper impact.”