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Stories of Grants That Make a Difference


Sunnyside Unified School District FoundationDalia, a fifth grader is incredibly resilient. Her family has been turned into Child Protective Services numerous times, most recently when the family never enrolled her little brother in Kindergarten. When he showed up for his first day of school in October, two months after school started, he was wild, dirty and had a large bruise. His teacher called for help immediately.

Dalia never stops smiling. Each day begins with a large grin as she steps out of the taxi. Yes, taxi. The family was evicted recently, so they are now housed in a small run-down hotel on Benson Highway.

When Dalia turned in her homework one day, she apologized to her teacher. She explained that her reading log didn’t have a “real book” recorded for her daily minutes of required reading. She explained that there were only two books in the hotel room, the Telephone Book which she tried reading for a while but found a little boring, and “this big, black book in the drawer”. She hoped it was OK if she read it for 15 minutes each night.

The Neighborhood

Sunnyside Unified School District FoundationThe neighborhoods surrounding many of the Sunnyside District elementary schools contain a high number of 911 calls. Serious crimes or murders occur weekly, affecting the students that live in these neighborhoods. In any given day, the sheriff, a crime scene detective, and one or two Child Protective Service workers are on-site investigating a case at many of the schools. Yet, these fourteen elementary schools are places of peace. School is a safe haven for students. A place where there always is someone who cares.

Amidst the chaos of the children’s home lives, they are able to make great strides. Despite the challenges of more than 70% of children entering school with limited English proficiency programs are offerred to students to overcome this obstacle in their education. Often the supplies to further support English literacy are limited. English literacy is a key to future success for students.

A Time for Creating Dreams

Sunnyside Unified School District FoundationSchools strive to provide bigger dreams. They hope to provide each child with a vision of what is “out there” waiting for them. Field trips are becoming a thing of the past with the high demands of required testing and budget constraints.

Field trips and extra curricular activities connect children in poverty to another world that they may never see in their daily lives. Children have to see what is out there in order to dream. A trip to a local university for a middle school student leads to the dream of walking down that academic path. A day digging for artifacts in the desert leads to questions for the fifth grader that make science and social studies suddenly relevant and important.

In this community, a child’s exposure to the outside world can be incredibly limited. Many of these students have never left the area outside their neighborhood or ventured further north than 22nd Street. Most parents do not have the means to provide horizon-expanding experiences. Any exposure to the world outside the school gives children a way to make sense of what they learn in the classroom. There’s almost no such thing as a field trip that wastes kids’ time. After a recent field trip to Kartchner Caverns, 4th grader, Jose noted, “This was the greatest day of my life.”

Math & Science Achievement
Science Fair

Sunnyside Unified School District FoundationElena has always been creative and interested in how things work. This year in middle school, she wanted to create a truly outstanding science experiment. She came up with a hypothesis and after getting the project approved by her teacher she went home to begin the project.

After discussing the supply list with her mother, Elena realized the supplies would be too costly. Elena’s lives in a single parent household with two younger siblings. Her mother works two jobs to make ends meet.

Thinking in Music

Sunnyside Unified School District FoundationFirst grader Luis loves music but he doesn’t love school. He struggles in math and is easily frustrated. Luis’ teacher is working with him and other students to improve math proficiency by introducing a program that has been proven to show great success.

Increase Math Learning through the Arts’ is designed to use music to involve students in many types of thinking such as analyzing, simple math, reflection and making music. Unfortunately there is no school budget to purchase the materials needed to launch the program. Arizona ranks 50th in the nation for per-pupil public school spending.

Academic Decathlon

Sunnyside Unified School District FoundationIt’s graduation day and Veronica is walking across the stage to receive her diploma, something she didn’t think possible just three years ago as she struggled in writing and social studies. She wanted to improve. That’s when a teacher encouraged Veronica to participate in Academic Decathlon. She needed to improve her grades to participate and would also improve by participating.

Academic Decathlon showed her parts of the world she had never experienced through field trips and competitions, and helped improve her writing and presentation skills. Today, Veronica is proud to share her success with her Grandmother. She raised Veronica and two siblings since Veronica was five and her parents were no longer part of the family picture. She also realizes that thanks, in part, to the generosity of a stranger, she is walking across the stage today.

High School students in Academic Decathlon attend scrimmages against other teams that are located throughout Arizona. A $500 gift supports 30 student visits to art museums in order to study art; attend symphonies to be able to recognize music; and other activities to prepare for competitions. Students are tested in ten different areas including Super Quiz, Math, Science, Economics, Language and Literature, Music, Art, Speech, and Interview. The more knowledge in each area the student is exposed to, the better she will do in competition.

Student Leadership Conference for Students with Special Needs

Sunnyside Unified School District FoundationThe conference provided a forum for students with disabilities to develop/strengthen effective communication, self-determination and self-advocacy, financial and personal responsibility, and community involvement..

The conference will strengthen student preparation for careers and daily living and focus on critical life skill themes such as recreation and leisure, interview skills, acquiring shelter and transportation, and budgeting.

PlaytimeSunnyside Unified School District Foundation
Playground Equipment
Students will enjoy their break while learning social skills including sharing, taking turns and sportsmanship. The equipment will also enable more students to become physically active during their outdoor breaks.

*Stories about students are provided by school principals, teachers, coaches and counselors. All names have been changed.


Teacher Thank you Letters

Lauffer Middle School Garden

Sunnyside Unified School District FoundationTo Whom It May Concern:

I am writing to thank you for your generosity in supporting the Sunnyside Foundation. I was lucky enough to receive a grant from the Foundation this year and it would not have been possible without your support.

Although Sunnyside is one of the best district’s in Tucson the availability of funds to do things that are “outside of the box” is very small. As the economy has worsened the money available has all but disappeared due to the difficult budget situation in our state. Without funding from the Sunnyside Foundation there would be a variety of things that we simply could not afford to do without your support.

Sunnyside Unified School District FoundationIn my case we have been able to start a community organic garden at our school. We have built several raised beds, installed an irrigation system, planted fruits and vegetables, and already had a harvest. The kids have learned a great deal about the math and science of agriculture as well as the nutrition of eating fresh, local produce. It also gets them outside on a daily basis, which many of them cannot do in their neighborhoods due to safety concerns.

The benefits of programs like these are hard to quantify. It’s hard to put a dollar amount on the experience of growing your own food or tasting how good a strawberry is when you eat it fresh off the vine or learning about how important organic foods are. But I can be sure about one thing: without your support we would not have the dollars to make this happen.

So I thank you again for your generosity and your help in giving our students the opportunities that you do. I look forward to updating you in the future with student pictures and letters about our project.

Noah Mickey-Colman
7th Grade Science
Lauffer Middle School

“The impact of an Excellence in Education grant of $1,000 awarded to Sunnyside High School’s Medical and Allied Health Services Academy”...

Grant paying for transportation costs to Grand Canyon University

To:  The Sunnyside Unified School District Foundation

From:  Peter Chen

Re: Grant paying for transportation costs to Grand Canyon University

On behalf of the Sunnyside High School Medical and Allied Health Sciences Academy, I would like to extend my thanks and appreciation for the $1000.00 grant that was awarded to our Academy this year to help pay for some of the transportation costs to the Grand Canyon University’s Health Sciences and Nursing Day.

This grant enabled Sunnyside High School to send over 150 students and teachers to this amazing event.  Non-science teachers who have never been to this event were given the opportunity to attend for the first time and experience the lectures and activities of this educational day, which will help these teachers work with the students of the Medical and Allied Health Sciences Academy.  Also, teachers were able to make some excellent contacts with the GCU staff that will allow us to arrange special SSHS Academy specific tours of their anatomy and nursing labs.

The students had a great time.  Not only did they see a great college campus that offers a variety of medical related courses, they were able to attend lectures on a variety of topics, such as Forensic Science, Healthcare, and the Justice System; Athletic Training Students: Hot Topics; Why Be a Nurse and What Can I Expect; Illegal Drugs and How They Affect the Brain; and Healing Harps: Using Music in Healthcare Settings.

The teachers of the Sunnyside High School Medical and Allied Health Sciences Academy greatly appreciate the grant that was awarded to us for this opportunity.  We hope all of the donors that contribute to the Foundation are aware of how big of an impact a $1000 grant has on school projects.  May everyone involved have a great holiday season and happy New Year.                

Los Ranchitos Elementary School 2011 Grant(s) for Reading and Math Challenge

Los Ranchitos Elementary: Impacted all students, Kindergarten through 5th
$700 – Literacy – Reading Challenge
$650 – Science & Math – Math Challenge

Dear Diane Bissell,

Thank you to the Sunnyside Foundation for the $650.00 grant awarded for the Math Challenge and $700.00 for the Reading Challenge for our Los Ranchitos School. The money helped buy new books and math prizes. Each student received a new book at the Reading Challenge on March 23, 2012 and a math prize on December 21, 2011. Students were excited and some had a difficult time deciding which book or prize to take from such a vast variety.

The kindergarteners were happy to take a book that was familiar to them and choose a math prize where they could practice math skills they had already learned. First and second graders were pleased to choose books that were perfect for their reading level and titles that were familiar too. Third, fourth, and fifth graders were delighted to have a variety of fiction and non- fiction titles to choose from. Many students were thankful about getting their own calculators.

With your help, each student was able to attain a book to call their own to practice their reading skills and have a math prize to practice math skills learned in the classroom. Having the Reading and Math Challenge every year allows students to challenge themselves reaching reading and math goals which translates to
improved reading skills as well as math skills. Thank you for being part of Los Ranchitos learning progress.

Ana Ramirez
1st Grade Teacher
Los Ranchitos Elementary School

The Peace Garden Project - S.T.A.R. Academic Center

Sunnyside Unified School District Foundation$510 grant provided 10 hours of instruction from Tile Artist, Sue Bentanzos and supplies.

Roberta Lewis, S.T.A.R. Academic Center Art Teacher in her own words,

STAR Mosaic Tile Students artwork was entered in the Tucson Clean and Beautiful “RUMBA” Art contest (Re Used Materials Becoming Art)  and took 1st Place for their tile project!  The Sunnyside Peace Garden Project planters were embellished w/ the mosaic plaques designed by our students in a special project class. We created the artwork  using old pottery shards , broken glass, etc. The Sunnyside Foundation gave us the grant $ to hire  tile artist extraordinaire ,Sue Betanzos  as our “artist in residence” during Block 4 this year. The students who participated were:

Sunnyside Unified School District FoundationLuis Ainza
George Zepeda
Tony Paz
Erika Garcia
Sarahi Tanori
RJ Roger
Adrian Varela
Joanna Martinez
Casandra Vasquez
Manny Ruiz
Alezandra Benitez
Jacaranda Gonzales
Hunter Perrin
Daphne Vasquez

Roberta Lewis
S.T.A.R. Academic Center Art Teacher

Los Ninos Los Ranchitos Field Trip

Sunnyside Unified School District FoundationTo Our Donors,

You so generously endowed a grant to my school to take fifth grade students on outings in the mountains and deserts of Southern Arizona .
This school year, we have gone on five hikes and participated in two service projects thus far. We have hiked Mt. Lemmon – the Aspen Trail, the Huachuca Mts. – The Hamburg Trail, Sabino Canyon , Esperero Canyon , and Picacho Peak . We removed fountain grass in Ventana Canyon with the Audubon Society and removed cane grass in the Sabino Canyon area also with the Audubon Society.

Sunnyside Unified School District FoundationAttached you will find pictures which I think speak a thousand words as to the experience these kids have being out in the wilderness, walking a trail, feeling the fog come in and surround them, walking through old growth forests, climbing a summit using ropes and conquering their fears, working alongside adult volunteers to clear our deserts of invasive plants that strangle the Sonoran desert and Riparian areas, and more.

The statistics show that ever increasing amounts of young people do not have a connection to the outdoors and these generations will be custodians of our lands, so it’s ever more important to introduce our children to the wilderness so they can learn to appreciate it, to understand the delicate balance and to protect it.

Sunnyside Unified School District FoundationA few weeks ago, I took a class to Picacho Peak . There were two boys that were really challenged; one with fear of climbing, the other with exhaustion. It was a rigorous hike and Angel was dragging from the start of the return trip down the mountain. It was a good three miles on the return and he was struggling. He hit the wall about a mile into the return, crying and lying down, saying he couldn’t go any further. With lots of encouragement and perseverance he pushed himself way beyond what he thought he was capable of. At the end, he said it was the hardest thing he’d ever done. The kids applauded him upon his return to the van.

Miguel was afraid the minute he saw the cables and the steep mountain he had to get up. He was trembling and saying continuously, “Miss, I can’t do this.” I was behind him the whole way, saying, “Yes you can. You’re already doing it! Just take another step.” He made it up the first set of cables, only to come upon three more sets that were steeper yet. He really had to dig deep within himself to take step after step up, and that’s exactly what he did. At one point, the kids were cheering him on, “Go, Miguel, go Miguel, go Miguel…” A man who happened to be on the trail in front of us saw Miguel scared to death and personally coached him down, which surprisingly turned out to not be fearful for him. Miguel managed to go down each cable part with confidence and fearlessness. I know he’ll never forget that day and will take with him this experience of going through his fear and coming out the other side.

I want to thank you so much for giving our students the opportunity to experience the great outdoors, to overcome their limits and to learn about the beauty of the wilderness!
Attached you will find some wonderful photos from some of our outings. They speak for themselves.

With Gratitude,
Judy Mutschler
Prevention Specialist
Los Ninos

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