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National champs

Wyatt Begay was a member of the Killip Elementary School chess team that tied for first place at Nationals this year.

Now that the school year is winding down and high school seniors get set to graduate, it’s a good time to look back at the some of the special programs in which students participate outside the classroom. Many are supported by income tax credit donations, along with special fund-raising in the community. Below are just some of the ones that have appeared on the pages of the Daily Sun recently:

--Chess teams to the Nationals. Killip Elementary and Sinagua Middle sent teams this year to Nashville, and the former even came back with a national co-championship. For many younger students, it was their first time flying in an airplane and staying in a hotel – opportunities that were almost as important as the learning that comes through mastering competitive chess. Raising the funds to send 44 children from Killip to the Nationals was not only a school-wide but also a community effort, and all involved should be proud of their accomplishment – with or without that title.

--Camp Colton: Many sixth-graders call their week camping out on Hart Prairie the highlight of their early school years – not every child in Flagstaff has the means to enjoy the woods overnight on a regular basis. As we reported, Camp Colton and its board have done some extra fundraising to expand access for the disabled and add new programming, too. In the community, Kahtoola hosts an uphill benefit race at Snowbowl that is a great financial success – and a fun time, too.

--History: In addition to chess, there are other after-school competition programs besides athletics that engage students, including Odyssey of the Mind and Mock Trial. One contest we hadn’t heard of was National History Day, but it wasn’t news to an NPA teacher who learned about it at a seminar and passed it on to other faculty. Two sevenths graders took up the challenge, making a documentary about the Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai and her fight for education rights for young women. To their surprise, they were judged regional champions and are now set for the nationals in June if they can raise $4,000. Check out their GoFundMe page at www.gofundme.com/NPA-Natonal-History-Day.

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--Summer meals: Kids who get free or subsidized meals during the school year can get the same at 14 sites in the Flagstaff region throughout the summer, up from nine last year. The program was created by St. Mary’s Food Bank and now includes 16 local nonprofits and government agencies. There are no IDs to present or proof of income – any child under 18 is eligible. Visit azsummerfood.gov for more information.

--Jobs: As the summer begins and older students start thinking about jobs, we were heartened to learn of the success of the Transition to Work program for FUSD students with special needs. Since 2008, the program has helped to place 225 students with disabilities in jobs after they leave school by teaching so-called “soft” skills like time management and working with colleagues. It’s not a program that shows up in annual test results or school report cards, but these are still success stories of which students and teachers can be proud.

This is just a sampling of what goes on in our schools all year beyond the classroom walls. There is merit in focusing on the common core of academic subjects that are the foundation of education. But let’s not forget that schools help create well-rounded children, too – then find ways as a community to support that outcome.

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