“Schools are neither isolated parts of their communities nor alone in their concerns for continuous educational improvement.” -Dr. Jeff Bennett
These noted words reflect the guiding principles behind the Sahuarita WINS! initiative. Several months ago, Dr. Manuel Valenzuela, Superintendent of the Sahuarita Unified School District, invited a small group of community business leaders for a meeting. The goal and concept of the meeting was to discuss the possibility of working together in development of a shared vision for our region. The goal is to identify a vision that defines our strengths, interests, assets, and plans for working together in a mutually beneficial way that defines all of us. It is further rooted in that idea that all of us, as a community, have common abilities, skills, and resources to share. When these resources are leveraged for the common good, the end result can be stronger than any one of the entities operating in isolation.
Thus far, the group has representation from Freeport McMoRan Copper and Gold, Empire Southwest, Rancho Sahuarita Company, Carondelet, University of Arizona, Raytheon, Town of Sahuarita, Rosemont Copper and Farmers Investment Company (FICO). The group has been meeting all year and plans are to continue and make this an ongoing initiative. Multiple positive outcomes have emerged. For example, Walden Grove High School will be offering a dual enrollment, university level engineering course for qualified high school students; this course will allow students to get hands on, high level academic experiences in the field of engineering. Upon successful completion students will earn University of Arizona credit. They will also receive mentorship and support from faculty at the University of Arizona and business leaders in our community.
Additionally, Rosemont Copper and Freeport McMoRan are assisting with the subsidy of required tuition costs for participating students. Second, the group is working with the Pima County JTED and Caterpillar/Empire Southwest to develop additional career and technology related programs. Currently, the group is looking at specialties that are in high demand, related to diesel mechanics, technology, commercial electrician, welding, and other industry areas associated with the needs in our region.
Additionally, Dr. Jeff Bennett, Professor of Educational Policy & Leadership at the University of Arizona is working with Dr. Valenzuela and the group in regards to the research and application aspects of this community based organizational initiative. There have been other favorable outcomes, including plans to place students in authentic, field based internships, and the opportunity for our Sahuarita partners to serve in a consultative, mentoring role to appropriate programs in the school district.
The Sahuarita WINS! initiative has had a successful start and even more promising future. It truly does exemplify the SUSD Mission, “Working As A Team To Help Every Student Succeed.” This initiative also exemplifies when we all work together, we all win together.