September 21 – October 4, 2013
Letters to the editor
Self-Sufﬁciency program leads residents to a brighter future BY TRINITY DONOVAN
I always enjoy reading the success stories of those who graduate from our Family Self-Sufﬁciency (FSS) program. FSS is a Councilwoman Trinity voluntary Donovan federal program administered through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and is designed to assist families in low-income housing transition from public assistance to gainful employment. Soﬁa Rendon and Amarilis Rivera of Chandler will be recognized on Oct. 2 at the Chandler Center for the Arts for their hard work and dedication to attain economic independence and self-sufﬁciency. Soﬁa is married and has four teenage children. She enrolled in the FSS program in May 2009. At the time of her enrollment, Soﬁa was the primary income provider for her family. She faced high debt and a poor credit score. The possibility of homeownership did not seem possible. However, Soﬁa wanted to create a better life for her and her family. She was determined to overcome challenges that were in the way of achieving her goals. Since enrolling in FSS four years ago, Soﬁa increased her income by 44 % and worked diligently to clean up her credit score. Despite the obstacles along the way, including
a serious injury of a family member, she continued to persevere. Soﬁa met with a homeownership counselor from Newtown Community Development Corp., a nonproﬁt organization that assists with affordable housing. Newtown also educates ﬁrst-time homebuyers on matters involving budgeting and homeownership. Soﬁa is house shopping and hopes to purchase her own home by the end of the year. Amarilis is a single mother with two children and was working full-time when she enrolled in the FSS program in May 2006. She did not know how to budget or improve her poor credit score. However, since joining the program, Amarilis was able to purchase a vehicle and paid the car loan in full. One of her goals is to complete her associate’s degree in administration of justice through Chandler-Gilbert Community College and is only three credits away from completion. Due to some health challenges, Amarilis is working part-time, but Newtown is assisting her with ﬁnancial counseling and she is working to pay down debt. As part of the ﬁnancial component, participants open an Individual Development Account (IDA), which is created for eligible homebuyers. They can receive a maximum of $15,000 toward the purchase of a home, matching up to $3 for each $1 saved by the participant(s). Amarilis recently graduated from the FSS program with an impressive $4,000 in escrow. She looks forward to becoming a future homeowner. Participants of the FSS program work with Chandler’s Family Self-Sufﬁciency Specialist to establish goals in various
areas including employment, education, and homeownership. The program allows its members up to ﬁve years to become self-sufﬁcient, however, many attain this status sooner. There have been 82 Chandler graduates of the FSS program since it began in 1992. Chandler has 30 families from Section 8 and 30 families from Public Housing enrolled in program. This is the maximum allowable number for Chandler based on restrictions by HUD. A requirement of the program is that families not receive any cash assistance up to 12 months prior to graduation. Also, as the participant’s income increases his/her rent also increases. The difference in rent payment is then placed into an escrow account and is released to the participant upon graduation to help him/her get established. During this year’s annual graduation ceremony, the Family Self-Sufﬁciency East Valley Alliance will honor 10 graduates from Chandler, Mesa, Tempe and Scottsdale. Additionally, a Special Effort Award will also be given to ﬁve individuals. It takes a lot of hard work and commitment to be a part of this program, but the gratiﬁcation and new beginning the participants receive as a result is well worth the time. Soﬁa and Amarilis are to be commended for their efforts—their stories are truly inspirational. They bring hope and encouragement to others facing similar circumstances. To learn more about the FSS program, contact Family Self-Sufﬁciency Specialist, Vickie Ellexson at 480-7823246
We know you have an opinion! Share it with the SanTan Sun News. Unless you’re the Mayor, however, please keep your Letters to the editor around 200-300 words, or they may be edited for length. Include your ﬁrst and last name, community or development name in Southern Chandler (Cooper Commons, Ocotillo, Sun Groves, etc.) or ZIP code and daytime phone number for veriﬁcation. Anonymous letters are not typically accepted. Email is the preferred submission method, to Letters@ SanTanSun.com. All submitted Letters to the Editor and Community Commentaries become the property of the SanTan Sun News and may be reprinted in part, quoting the letters’ authors, or in their entirety. Your submission to the SanTan Sun News is considered your permission to print your written opinion. Opinions expressed in Community Commentaries, Letters to the Editor or cartoons are those of the author, and not that of the SanTan Sun News.
Have a story idea or news tip? Know of an interesting photo opportunity? How about positive feedback or constructive comments? We’d like to hear from you. Email us at News@SanTanSun.com.
PO Box 23 Chandler, AZ 85244-0023 TELEPHONE: 480-732-0250 FAX: 480-883-8714 ©2013 SanTan Sun News
For News Tips, Editorial Articles, Opinion or Classiﬁeds, email is preferred. NEWS EMAIL ADDRESS: News@SanTanSun.com ADS EMAIL ADDRESS: Ads@SanTanSun.com WEBSITE ADDRESS: www.SanTanSun.com
EDITORIAL AND ADVERTISING: NOON WED., SEPT. 25, 2013 FOR THE OCT. 5, 2013 ISSUE
35,000 Total Circulation 27,250+ Driveways Fifty square mile coverage area from Price/101 to Greenﬁeld and from Frye to Hunt Highway.
Proud member of the
Closing the digital divide for Arizona students BY SUSAN ANABLE
Arizona students are back in class and in addition to the notebooks and lunchboxes, some parents are packing smartphones or tablets in their kid’s backpacks. Some school districts are Susan Anable even now requesting that kids bring their own technology to school to enhance their learning. A recent Pew Internet & American Life study found that more than 80% of teachers agree that today’s digital technologies are leading to greater disparities between afﬂuent and disadvantaged schools and school districts. When 76% of teachers assign online homework, teachers increasingly ﬁnd themselves in the difﬁcult position of either leaving behind students without Internet at home or holding back the other “connected students.” What’s truly troubling is that many kids throughout Arizona, even those with Internet enabled smartphones and tablets, have no access to Internet in their homes. Internet access and digital literacy are essential for today’s students to succeed and ensure that they have the tools to compete in our 21st century workforce. Connect2Compete (C2C) was created by community leaders, the private sector and foundations to bridge the digital divide and to ensure affordable access to the Internet for low income families. As the largest Internet provider in Arizona, and a company that has a strong history of supporting broadband adoption, it was a natural for Cox Communications to jump into this partnership. While the main goal of C2C is to improve student engagement and increase graduation rates, it also beneﬁts other members of the household. Just consider this—in the United States today, more than 80% of Fortune 500 companies post their job openings online only and require online applications—the same is true here at Cox Communications. So how does it work? Families who have at least one child enrolled in the national free school lunch program are eligible for SEE LETTER TO THE EDITOR PAGE 42
Christine Bryner, Studio 509
Steve T. Strickbine
SCHOOL NEWS CONTRIBUTORS
Lynette Carrington Alison Stanton
Jane Meyer Debbie Jennings WEBSITE MAINTAINED BY
Susan Kovacs, n-ergizing
Teri Carnicelli Tracy House Sharon McCarson Meghan McCoy Steven Solomon
Eric Jelinek Jacqueline Bartrim Kristen Boyd Anne Keefer Robyn Kelly Guia Lehr Linda Monaghan Wendi Olson Lora Robinson Stephanie Vatistas
September 21 – October 4, 2013
What is the value of education? BY JIM BISHOP
I am chairman of the “Yes for Chandler Students” committee. Our committee’s single purpose this year is to raise community awareness and Jim Bishop, submitted understanding of photo the importance and necessity to pass an override on behalf of the Chandler Uniﬁed School District (CUSD) this fall. I am not employed by the school district. I am the parent of a high school sophomore and an eighth grader; both of my children have been in CUSD schools since kindergarten. It was my involvement as a school volunteer which allowed me to witness ﬁrsthand the incredible educational opportunities provided by the district. The reason to support the override is straight forward. I feel the facts support CUSD. I think answering three simple questions clarify the necessity to vote “Yes” on the override: 1) Is there a ﬁnancial need for additional investment in CUSD? 2) Has CUSD proven itself to be worthy of past investment? 3) How does the community beneﬁt from added investment in CUSD? “Yes” is the simple and quick answer to question No.1. Arizona is ranked 48th in
the nation in education funding and funds education at a rate that is 36% below the national average. Between 2007 and 2011, no other state cut a higher percentage from its education budget than did Arizona. This led CUSD to experiencing $36 million in cuts over the previous four years. CUSD is in need of additional ﬁnancial investment. In answering the second question it is important to note CUSD has been an outstanding investment and produced an educational experience that ranks among the best in the state. CUSD has received three consecutive “A” ratings from the Arizona Department of Education. This includes individual “A” ratings for every district high school. Therefore, every parent in Chandler can take comfort in knowing their child is destined to attend an “A” rated high school regardless of where they live. The district had 10 schools ranked in the state’s top 100, more than any other district. This level of success is the result of hard work performed daily by the 2,000+ teachers in the district, the visionary planning of the district leadership and the wide array of educational opportunities offered. To fully answer the ﬁnal question let’s examine the override’s effect on the district and the entire community. The added investment of the override will allow the district to develop a long-term ﬁnancial plan which will fund existing programs and develop new ones. In addition, the
override money will be used to directly enhance school safety with the hiring of additional safety ofﬁcers, continue to retain and recruit the services of outstanding and exceptional educators and maintain smaller class size. It is essential to note that everyone in the community beneﬁts when we invest in the district. A successful, well-supported and respected school district will help attract new business to Chandler. With new business comes much needed jobs and added investment in the community which increases the tax base and lowers everyone’s tax rate. There is an undeniable link between stable property values and good schools. The entire community wins when we invest in education. The cost of the override is important to address; a homeowner with a home that is 20% above the median value will experience a tax increase that is less than 25 cents a day. For that quarter you help support one of the state’s top-ranked districts and invest in your community. However, I want to caution those who ﬁxate on the cost of education and lose sight of the much more important question, “What is the Value of Education?” The value of
education is priceless, especially when done well, as it is at CUSD. Education has the ability to change lives, shape goals, and enable the American Dream for this generation and the ones to follow. Please join me in saying “Yes” to the students, “Yes” to the override and “Yes” to a bright future for CUSD and the entire community. The Yes for Chandler Students Committee wants to make sure everyone is clear on the details of the election. This will be a mail-in ballot only election. Every registered voter in the CUSD district (Please note some Gilbert residents reside in the CUSD district) will receive a ballot in the mail. The ballots will be mailed on Oct. 11. They are due at the county election ofﬁce by Tue., Nov. 5. To be safe, the county election ofﬁce recommends mailing it by Sat., Nov. 2. Members of our committee encourage everyone to perform the following steps after receiving the ballot, “Open it, Mark it Yes, and Mail it.” For more information on the override, visit our website at www.yesforchandlerstudents. com.
LETTER TO THE EDITOR FROM 41
kids in Arizona deserve to have the same tools for learning and Connect2Compete is one important way we can do our part. For more information visit connect2compete. org/cox/.
low-cost access to high-speed Internet through Connect2Compete. A consortium of hardware and software partners provide low-cost computers and digital literacy training and Cox Communications provides a two-year commitment of Internet service for $9.99 a month, free installation and a free modem rental. Cox Communications believes that all
Jim Bishop is chairman of “Yes for Chandler Students.”
Susan Anable is the vice president of public affairs for Cox Communications Arizona and is the mother of two schoolaged children.