Dorado Man

Members of CDO’s Odyssey of the Mind team pose with Dorado Man and their balsa wood structure during the student showcase.

It’s not often I leave an event feeling as excited and inspired as I did Saturday night after spending several hours at the Amphi Foundation’s annual gala at the El Conquistador Tucson, A Hilton Resort. It was not the first time I attended, though it was by far the best.

The night opened with the much-anticipated student showcase: student, staff and parent volunteers from throughout the district showing off all the hard work they’ve put in throughout the school year, and what they have planned before summer begins.

From the impressive display of the Odyssey of the Mind team to the interesting science projects taking place at Innovation Academy or the advanced choir from Wilson K-8, it was the perfect opportunity to see just how impressive and intelligent the youth in the region are, and what crazy plans they have for their future. To kick things off during the awards, the foundation also recognized high school students Leti Ramos from Amphi High and Emily Haymore and Katherine Watson from Ironwood Ridge as “Future Teacher Scholarship” recipients. 

Also recognized were outstanding Amphi educators: Matt Haverty of Amphi High, who won Arizona Earth Science Teacher of the Year and Distinguished Service Award; Holly Reynolds for becoming a nationally board certified teacher; Nicole “Niki” Tilicki of Innovation Academy for her Raytheon Leaders in Education Award; Jill Christman of Canyon del Oro High School for winning the Outstanding High School Faculty Award; Debbie Van Sice of Amphi High for her 2018 Amphitheater Legendary Teacher Award; Daniel Schneider (also from Amphi) for winning the Air Force Association’s State STEM Teacher of the Year Award; and Venessa Hill of Rio Vista and Keeling elementary schools for winning Arizona Association for Gifted & Talented’s 2019 Teacher of the Year award.

The night also recognized two special honorees: Pima County School Superintendent Dustin Williams, and GRIN GRandparentsINresidence founder and CEO Suzi Hileman. Williams, a 1992 Amphi high grad, was given the Distinguished Alumni Award. Hileman received the Heart of Amphi Award for her work throughout the community. 

For more than a decade, the foundation has gathered the community at this event to celebrate the achievements of individuals from throughout the district, including educators, administrators and students. The event also acts as the organization’s primary fundraiser, through which it funds a variety of initiatives and programs.

Grants from the Amphi Foundation have put laptops in classrooms, purchased a 3D printer and acquired various curricula for teachers throughout the district. The 21st Century Classroom Technology Initiative alone aims to invest at least $40,000 into technology every year. Since last August, 39 new teachers received $200 startup grants for supplies, and $16,582 in classroom grants have been released, impacting roughly 3,000 students.

That’s not to mention the countless students who’ve received assistance through the shoe and meal programs. According to the Amphi Public School District, 48.1 percent of the 13,871 students enrolled at the end of the 2017-18 school year were eligible for free or reduced lunches—so plenty of kids need help in our local community.

Those programs are almost entirely made possible due to the money raised at the foundation’s yearly gala, and executive director Leah Noreng told me after the party died down that more than 350 turned out to support the cause, raising roughly $125,000. 

“The attendance at that event is so key in getting to know the district, and getting to know the foundation’s programs and services,” Noreng said. “So, thank you to everyone who came and participated.”

Though the gala is over, the foundation could still use plenty of community support. See how you can lend a hand at amphifoundation.org, or call 696-5147.

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