Verde Valley Leadership Class XI explores education and youth issues

Mingus Union Principal Jennifer Chilton addresses members of the Verde Valley Leadership Class XI Dec. 16. (Photo courtesy of VVL)

Mingus Union Principal Jennifer Chilton addresses members of the Verde Valley Leadership Class XI Dec. 16. (Photo courtesy of VVL)

Friday December 16, 2016 Verde Valley Leadership Class XI spent the day focusing on education and youth for their Issue Day. Their theme was #fromheadlinestohope with emphasis on the challenges of schools within the Verde Valley struggling to educate our youth with continuous budget cuts.

VVL was privileged to have the following guest speakers who shared their passion and expertise: Jennifer Chilton, Principal Mingus Union High School; Kirk Waddle, Business Manager at Mingus Union High School; Brandi Bateman also from Mingus Union High School; Jessica Vocca, Principal at Cottonwood Elementary School; Karyl Goldsmith, teacher at Red Rock High School and Susan Turner, Executive Director of Yavapai Big Brothers/Big Sisters.

This particular issue day brought to light the everyday struggles schools, administrators and teachers are faced with to educate our youth with an ever diminishing budget. However, it was very refreshing and inspiring to see the love, dedication, experience and commitment these guest speakers have in their respective positions.

The speakers discussed issues such as budget cuts and the challenges faced because of those budget cuts, Leading with Less/First Year as a Principal and Teaching with Less. Some alarming statistics are 8 out of 10 kids live in homes that are right around poverty level.

Students of low income families are 7 times more likely to drop out of school, the transient rate of students (not having an established place to live) is right around 30% and growing and 40% are not prepared for primary schooling. However, with programs like Every Student Succeeds Act, Capturing Kids’ Hearts and Kids at Hope local schools are helping turn those statistics around.

For example, “when you have a child’s heart, you have their minds” is the nexus behind Capturing Kids’ Hearts. This approach is taught at the elementary and middle school levels. Kids at Hope is primarily taught at Mingus Union High School but applies to children of any age.

Their 3-prong approach is, “We believe” – children succeed when they are surrounded by adults who believe they can succeed. Secondly, “we connect” – children succeed when they have meaningful, sustainable relationships with caring adults. And thirdly, “we time travel” – children succeed when they can articulate their future. Ultimately, every child can succeed, we just need to show them we believe they can.

VVL class members expressed mixed emotions that day.

All were very concerned about the ongoing budget cuts our education system continues to face. Our educational systems cannot sustain any more budget cuts. However, there was also overwhelming pride and confidence in the caliber of teachers and administrators win the Verde Valley. Their love and dedication to our children is obvious and they’re not going to throw in the towel and give up due to the continued financial restraints. Instead, they’re going to become creative and continue to tackle the challenges because the youth of the Verde Valley mean too much to them to give up.

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