School Choice and Backpacks: The Perfect Arizona Road Trip

On a hot June morning in Southern Arizona, more than 2,500 people lined up at the Reid Park Zoo in Tucson eager to get information on Arizona’s Empowerment Scholarship Account Program. A thousand happy children left carrying new backpacks full of school supplies, ready for a new school year. Parents, some who had been waiting since before dawn just to make sure their children received a new backpack, left with smiles of hope and gratitude. Over the next few weeks and months, a similar scene would take place in different cities across the state.

In the border town of Yuma in southwestern Arizona, brand-new backpacks were a big hit with the hundreds of children and parents in this low-income community. In Kingman, a summer storm held off just long enough to give every child a backpack and for our team to have the opportunity to speak with every parent who attended the day’s festivities. Heading east, we made our last trip of the summer to Lupton, a tiny town on the Navajo Reservation near Window Rock where parents and grandparents came to the Tse Si Ani Chapter House eager to see if they could apply for an Empowerment Scholarship Account for their children.

This summer, we gave backpacks to thousands of children across the state and wemet thousands of parents who were eager to tell us their stories. Parents like Amy Ceylana, a mother of three, desperate to get her children out of the neighborhood public school and into a private school where they will be challenged and encouraged to succeed. Parents like Lanae Enriquez, who watched her older son struggle in public school, falling further and further behind. Lanae is hoping to make a different educational choice for her younger child, who is about to start kindergarten. We also met families who made decisions to move to our great state because they heard that in Arizona, “parents know best” when it comes to education.

Our Arizona outreach team is as varied as our state’s landscape. We are moms, dads and grandparents. We are single and married. We have children, and for some, we are raising children with special needs. We are from diverse cultures and backgrounds, and we come together with one purpose: to encourage parents with a message of hope. Hope that no matter their circumstances, they CAN give their children the best education possible. That in Arizona, we believe that parents DO know best.