City Spotlight: Avondale
The City of Avondale, Ariz., which boasts a population of approximately 83,000, is an integral part of the Phoenix Metropolitan area which lies within Maricopa County. Avondale is a strong supporter of its educational partners and understands that the educational success of all children will lead to a highly educated and capable workforce that will, in turn, result in a strong and stable economy for Avondale’s future. With six school districts, all of which span at least one neighboring city, Avondale realizes that there needs to be a regional effort toward education.
In 2009, the City of Avondale became the first Kids at Hope city nationwide when the city council adopted this innovative concept which demonstrates a commitment to supporting the success of all children without exception. Kids at Hope provides the City of Avondale with a framework for creating a positive and supportive environment to assist youth in achieving their full potential as caring and productive citizens.
STEAM in Avondale
Through the AmeriCorps VISTA program, the city is working closely with one of the school districts to enhance its Avondale Education and Community Engagement Initiative by assisting with the delivery of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics) activities that are geared toward improving academic performance in the areas of literacy and mathematics.
Avondale also supports the development of STEAM programs by providing out of school time educational opportunities through various partnerships. These efforts not only increase educational opportunities, but also serve to reinforce the work that schools are already doing. Activities are designed not only for school age children, but preschoolers as well, and are available to children in neighboring cities.
Many activities are provided through the Parks, Recreation and Libraries department. Lego Camps, although not city funded but a partner of the city, introduces kids (ranging from ages 5 – 7 years old) to the fundamentals of engineering.
Avondale’s two libraries offer classes during out of school time such as the SciSpace hands-on workshops, funded through a grant, that are available for kids aged 7-12 years old. These programs are part of a partnership with the Arizona Science Center and the Phoenix Zoo. STEAM Spot, a fun and interactive after-school program that explores science, technology, engineering, arts and math concepts, is also available to Avondale’s youngest residents.
The city’s Neighborhood and Family Services Department offers many additional options for young residents to locate exposure to STEAM programs. Through a partnership with the Arizona Science Center, young residents are able to participate in workshops such as the “Science of Color” where children explore the chemistry of primary and secondary hues and the “Innovation Creation Station” where children exercise recycling and problem- solving to create their own 3-dimensional city. Many of these activities are geared toward preschool aged children and serve to introduce them to STEAM concepts while preparing them to start school.
In partnership with the city’s Municipal Arts Committee, which is comprised of Avondale residents several of which are art professionals, the city hosts an annual High School Art Contest. The annual contest provides Avondale high school seniors with an opportunity to showcase their artistic talent and, more importantly, to win a scholarship toward their post-secondary education. Now in its third year, the contest encourages students to pursue higher education and has grown as students realize the benefit of earning a scholarship.
Furthering Educational Opportunities for Kids
City staff is continually seeking out grants that will financially support programs such as these in addition to developing partnerships that will enhance STEAM programing. The city held Education Summits in 2013 and 2014, which brought together educators, community leaders and other stakeholders to discuss and develop education focused initiatives. From these summits, programs that focused on early childhood education and after school opportunities were born and partnerships have been developed.
Avondale encourages children to aspire to reach their dreams, to achieve their goals and to accelerate toward their future. Through the support and provision of accessible STEAM programing, the city will ensure the educational success of all children resulting in a competitive workforce, both locally and nationally, and a bright future for Avondale.