La Tierra Community School in Prescott, AZ, is an elementary charter school with about 130 students. Even though the school population is small, their needs are great. La Tierra has a high portion of low-income students, and about 65% are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. You can view their school’s fundraising page by clicking here.
To learn more about La Tierra, we talked to Julie Jongsma, Co-Director of the school.
Julie has been part of the La Tierra community for seven years. As the parent of an incoming student, she immediately felt welcome and included at the school, and was eventually hired as La Tierra’s Business Office Manager. Now, as Co-Director, Julie is responsible for the school’s financials and parent/community relations.
Julie was attracted to the school for its innovative educational approach. “Our whole child approach to learning and conscious discipline philosophy really helps students who have struggled at other schools,” she said.
Julie also explained that students are encouraged to think outside the box and focus on building their character. “Our approach is centered around six character traits: courage, creativity, responsibility, integrity, respect, and compassion,” Julie said. “ We feel these traits are the basis for providing a foundation for students to be successful in their future lives, as productive members of the community. “
The third grade class with their teacher during a trip to Biosphere 2, a science research facility managed by the University of Arizona.
When we asked Julie about La Tierra’s needs, she explained that like at most schools, their teachers end up using their own money to purchase classroom supplies. But, the school also doesn’t have the budget to hire maintenance staff or a groundskeeper, like larger or more well-funded schools do. “Earlier this year, there was a lot of snow and all our staff were shoveling snow for six hours the day before school started,” Julie said. “This summer, we have a teacher coming in to fix things in the school because we don’t have the money to hire a maintenance person.”
Another big and immediate need is technology. The school only has 45 laptops for its nearly 130 students. More Chromebooks would help the students at La Tierra access technology more regularly throughout the school day. “Because so many of our students don’t have regular access to technology at home, it is so much more important to have it available at school,” Julie said.
Without reasonable access to computers at school, the students will struggle to acquire the basic computer literacy skills they need to succeed in secondary school and beyond. And, because computer-based state testing in Arizona is moving towards being mandatory, if students are not comfortable with basic computer use, their test scores will suffer. This has significant negative consequences for both the individual students and for the school.
Julie also mentioned that the school is looking to improve their outdoor play areas. Right now students are playing in dirt, so they would like to put down sod to create a grassy area for kids to play on. They also need new sand for the kindergarten sandbox.
Finally, La Tierra would like to purchase one or two vans to use for Fieldwork activities. These activities are a key piece of La Tierra’s learning model. They offer students a unique opportunity to learn about their community and the environment outside of the classroom. Currently, the school relies heavily on parents to bring kids offsite for these immersive learning experiences, a solution that comes with logistical challenges.
Tents for the third grade class on a parent/student camping trip to Catalina State Park, in Tucson, AZ.
Through their AdoptAClassroom.org fundraising page, La Tierra is hoping to cover the costs of many of the things Julie described, including the school yard improvements and technology items. “Donations to La Tierra have a huge impact,” Julie said. “Because we’re such a small school and we have so many low-income families, any donation—large or small—makes a big difference in our community.”
If you’d like to support La Tierra Community School, click here to visit their fundraising page.
If you’re interested in supporting more schools in need, visit our Fund A School page to learn about the different schools looking for funding on AdoptAClassroom.org.