This year, Fiesta Bowl Charities continued granting wishes to teachers all throughout the state of Arizona. Teachers were surprised with their awarded grants to further enrich the lives of their students. This money will help teachers improve their classrooms via new supplies and resources.

The Fiesta Bowl Organization held their annual Wishes for Teachers program this year. 400 teachers were granted $2,500 through Palo Verde Fiesta Bowl Charities Wishes for Teachers Draft Day. Three of the teachers who received the grant are members of the Flagstaff community and NAU alumni. 

Of the teachers selected, Kylie Haidet from Knoles Elementary School, Jennifer Othon from DeMiguel Elementary School and Erin Celona who teaches at Summit High School were the Flagstaff educators who were awarded.

Sandra Avila is the Fiesta Bowl’s manager of community relations and educational initiatives. 

The nonprofit organization is driven by the importance of servicing and assisting the Arizona community.

“Our motto, ‘More Than Just a Game,’ exemplifies our commitment to community through our three pillars of youth, sports and education,” Avila said.

One million Arizonans are positively affected through programs provided by Fiesta Bowl Charities. This includes Arizona nonprofits supported by the organization’s grant sequence. 

She said some of the community events provided by the organization are year-round activities. They offer youth football clinics, community resource rooms along with playground and sport court builds

Avila said the organization witnessed teachers spending their own money on necessary classroom supplies, so in 2016 the Palo Verde Wishes for Teachers program was created to help 

This is the seventh year of the program. It grants a total of $1 million to 400 Arizona K-12 public and charter school teachers — each teacher receiving $2,500 to put toward their classroom wishes. 

“Overall, through our Palo Verde Fiesta Bowl Charities Wishes for Teachers program, we have given $5.7 million to more than 1,200 teachers throughout the state,” Avila said. 

To enter into the random drawing, teachers fill out an online application explaining what supplies their classroom needs, Avila said. Applications open in September each year and teachers are selected and notified of their award at the beginning of November during the Draft Day event presented by the Salt River Project, she said. 

During this event, a telethon made up of local celebrities, past recipients and partners call the teachers informing them they have been selected for the program, Avila said. 

She said 400 teachers are drawn randomly and awarded the funds provided by Fiesta Bowl’s partner, DonorsChoose. After being granted their award, teachers get the opportunity to walk on the parade, attend the Guaranteed Rate Bowl game at Chase Field along with being recognized on the field during halftime.

It is a random selection process because how can we choose,” Avila said. “Every teacher and their wishes are incredibly deserving, so 400 teachers out of all eligible applications are randomly selected to get their wishes granted.” 

The online application allows the teachers to describe how the Fiesta Bowl organization can help their students and themselves, Avila said. 

Celona, one of this year’s recipients, graduated from NAU in 2000 with a major in anthropology and a minor in Spanish. She began teaching in fall 2001 as a Teach For America Corps member. 

Celona and Othon were two of the 400 teachers to be awarded the $2,500 grant for this year. 

Celona said this is her fourth year at Summit. She said she teaches the Teenage Parent Program which is a dropout prevention program offered to parents working on high school credits and those looking to learn parenting skills. 

She said she heard about the Wishes for Teacher application through a colleague and thought it would be beneficial to students in Arizona. When she discovered she had been chosen she was very surprised, she said.

“[The grant] means that our students can get culturally appropriate novels, ergonomic furniture for pregnant moms, furniture for toddlers in the classroom, and digital cameras and software for our first yearbook at Summit High School,” Celona said. 

Along with this grant, Celona said she also won the Adopt-A-Teacher award through Desert Financial last year.

“We want students to look forward to coming to school and feel connected while they are here,” Celona said. “All these grants really help, especially when per pupil spending is so very low in the state of Arizona.” 

Othon said she has been teaching for twenty years and this will be her fifteenth year at DeMiguel. She graduated from NAU in 2003 with a bachelor's degree in Elementary Education along with receiving her Masters in 2004, she continued. 

She said she chose to apply for the Wishes for Teachers program because she wants to take part in every opportunity to be able to provide more materials for her students. 

She was excited to learn that she had been chosen to receive the $2500 so she could purchase new science equipment for the fifth grade, Othon said. With the money, she said she bought science kits for all teachers and students in the fifth grade department. 

“I was thrilled to be able to purchase STEM materials for our fifth graders to help give them hands-on learning experience that helps them build a deeper understanding within our science standards,” Othon said. 

Avila said that after being selected and receiving their awards, these teachers became part of the Fiesta Bowl Wishes for Teachers family.

“We work with the teachers during the entire process, from the moment they are selected until their resources are delivered,” Avila said.

Fiesta Bowl Charities provides assistance to teachers who serve the Arizona community. With the help, teachers are able to have easier access to supplies needed to benefit children’s education. 

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