by Michael S. Ellegood, PE, Board Member, Yavapai County Education Foundation
The case was big. A Prescott Police officer assigned as a school resource officer at Prescott High School was on trial, accused of using excessive force as he subdued and disarmed an undocumented, 16-year-old student suspected of carrying a firearm.
As the story unfolded, the student, who sustained injuries during the takedown, was carrying a toy pistol fabricated in the high school’s 3-D computer lab as a class project.
But this incident, dramatic as it was, never made the local, state or national news. Why? Because it was a totally fictitious scenario generated as part of Brenda Lee’s Prescott High School Law and Government course.
Instead of having her students listen to lectures, read books, do internet searches and write papers, she has the multigrade class research the law, interview attorneys and local law enforcement officials. They then write briefs and function as court officials – all to make the learning process come alive. Lee’s students learn to research, interview, work collaboratively as part of a team and hone communication and argument skills as they learn about the American legal system. All this as part of a teaching scenario known as a “mock trial.”
But how does a teacher in these revenue-strapped times obtain the resources needed to put on a mock trial? How does a teacher transform a classroom into a courtroom? Where does she obtain the dais for the judge, tables for the prosecution and the defense, chairs for the jury and the other trappings of a courtroom? How does she pay for transportation to engage with other schools in a regional or state mock trial event? The answer: She begs, borrows and scrounges, and she looks for nonprofit grants outside of conventional school resources to help out.
One such local source of classroom grants is the Classroom Mini-Grant program of the Yavapai County Education Foundation (YCEF). YCEF was founded in 1994 by a dedicated group of community leaders, educators and citizens to raise money to support teachers like Lee, who need a helping hand to boost the classroom learning experience.
YCEF puts about $20,000 annually in 40 classrooms throughout Yavapai County to support programs such as Lee’s Law and Government class. The grant program supports teachers in public, charter and private schools – totally based on the merit of the teacher’s application.
This past year YCEF supported classrooms from Ash Fork to Black Canyon City; however, the majority were located right here in the Prescott area and included preschools, elementary schools, high schools and even alternative schools where students who cannot thrive in a conventional classroom setting can learn and receive their high school diploma.
Unfortunately, while approximately 40 grants are funded each fall, more than 70 applications for help are received. The YCEF board continually works to get more money into the classrooms, but as a nonprofit organization funds go only so far.
YCEF has become an essential part of the education funding mix here in Yavapai County. Our under-resourced schools and our dedicated, but under-compensated, teachers can gain a helping hand through the Classroom Mini-Grant program. But, like any charitable program, YCEF needs donors to continue to support its work. Some support comes from corporations such as Lamb Chevrolet and Blue Cross/Blue Shield and some from organizations like the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater Prescott, Kiwanis and the Lions, but the bulk comes from individual donors like you, dear reader.
To learn more about YCEF and how to support our teachers, visit www.ycefoundation.com.