by Joe Howard, Superintendent, Prescott Unified School District

On behalf of Prescott Unified School District (PUSD), I am excited to welcome Prescott LIVING Magazine to “town” with the first of many columns about the PUSD partnerships within our community. A school district is nothing without community partnerships. PUSD has an unbelievable amount of this support, which allows us to thrive. One of my favorite collaborations is with Embry Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU). It is no secret that ERAU is one of the finest, most successful universities in the country. What I really appreciate about ERAU is that they have a culture where there is no ceiling to possibilities. To that point, one of my favorite moments visiting the ERAU campus was when Chancellor Frank Ayers mentioned that one of their students was literally orbiting above us in outer space as we spoke.

Years ago, very few students graduating from Prescott High School (PHS) attended ERAU. The university attacked that problem through a change of focus on local students, offering local incentives, and working directly with the local high schools to spread the word about the expanding opportunities at ERAU. The result: 40 students from PHS currently attend ERAU.

One of my favorite current student success stories is that of Veronica Norkus. Veronica graduated from PHS with an entire year of college completed through our dual-enrollment offerings. With that head start, she will have all her college math classes completed after only one year at ERAU. She plans to graduate in three years, and then pursue her graduate degree. Veronica was recently honored for being one of the top female students at ERAU, and is currently on the university’s volleyball team. Veronica’s experience as a cadet and commander in the PHS Air Force ROTC program was also a great preparation for her success at ERAU.

Speaking of the PHS ROTC program, another great partnership is our ROTC Science Flight Class at PHS, where students learn about how to fly airplanes. ERAU has one of the premier crash labs in the world, and they invite PHS students into the lab to participate in a crash investigation. PHS ROTC also visits the ERAU ROTC, where ERAU hosts a leadership reaction course, a large obstacle course focusing on teamwork.

Over the past year, Embry-Riddle’s College of Security and Intelligence has partnered with PUSD to understand how social media threatens our community’s young people. Embry-Riddle and PUSD take our young people’s safety and well-being seriously. This partnership leads the nation in developing a grassroots program to educate our students to create a safer learning environment. Social media is a powerful instrument for good, but the reasons why it is so good — broad networking and rapid information sharing and collection — make it equally dangerous. Dr. Ty Groh is leading this project that began as a senior capstone project. It has turned into an applied research project with plans for a multi-year partnership between ERAU and PUSD. The ultimate goal is to present a program that can be used to promote social media safety in any school in the nation.

Additional Partnership Initiatives

  • ERAU’s Meteorologist, Curtis James, a PHS Graduate works with the district to help consult on road safety for snow days
  • A planetarium is slated to be completed this summer to offer many opportunities to the community including students at all the schools
  • ERAU will be offering weekly STEM outreach events to high school students starting this fall.
  • ERAU hosts frequent tours for local educators to see the facilities and brainstorm ideas for future partnerships