A salute to the outstanding students, educators of the Scottsdale Unified School District

Scottsdale Charro Chris Rivera and Coronado Principal Chris Gilmore at the 32nd Annual Outstanding Students & Educators Banquet. (Photo courtesy of the Scottsdale Charros)

Access to a quality public education is a hallmark of the ideals making the United States of America the greatest nation to ever grace the world’s stage.

From the great minds who transform the world to the ushering of the future leaders of tomorrow, public education is a bedrock keystone of what makes the Scottsdale Unified School District an integral fabric of the community’s landscape.

A view of the event meant to honor and provide scholarships to both Scottsdale educators and students making a difference in the classroom. (Photo courtesy of the Scottsdale Charros)

No matter the politics of the day, the Scottsdale Charros — and their proud publishing partner the Scottsdale Independent — agree the mission of Scottsdale Schools and those fighting the good fight in the classroom deserve to be recognized.

And, that was the guiding force behind the 32nd Annual Outstanding Students & Educators Awards Banquet where local dignitaries honored the Champions of Education.

For 57 years the Scottsdale Charros have been in constant pursuit of improving the lives of Scottsdale residents while preserving the community’s ties to its western heritage.

“It is all about kids,” said Scottsdale Charro Jason Klonoski, who is serving as this year’s education chairman for the philanthropic outfit.

“They are our future. Education is the great equalizer. In a single generation, knowledge and wisdom can elevate a child from poverty to wealth, from dead-ends to lifelong opportunities. The Scottsdale Charros strive to give every child that advantage. We partner with our local school system to support them as they pursue their goals.”

Mr. Klonoski points out that for more than 50 years, the Scottsdale Charros have been putting in the time, work and dedication to help public education succeed through programs including:

  • Education Banquet honoring Outstanding Teachers & Students.
  • Stipends for Outstanding Teachers.
  • Grants for schools.
  • Project Graduation funding.
  • Support of Scottsdale Community College.
  • Scholarships for future teachers.
  • Scholarships for existing teacher’s continuing education.
  • Scholarships for ASU iTeachAZ students in SUSD classrooms.
  • Scholarships for All City Athletics.
  • Funding of Boys & Girls Club learning programs.
  • Coronado Success Initiative.

Mr. Klonoski explains the efforts of the Scottsdale Charros are fueled through the work of its members.

Jason Klonoski

“Our support of local schools and other youth initiatives is possible because of the efforts of our members, contributions from local companies and like-minded stakeholders,” he said. “Charros are deeply woven in the fabric of Scottsdale. We consider it our obligation to ensure generations to come are well-suited to face the issues of their time and lead this community.”

The Scottsdale Charros have a rich history of supporting education through programs based within Scottsdale Schools as well as education and youth programs delivered through community-based nonprofits.

“If we want to make tomorrow better than yesterday then we need to invest in that — and we need to invest in public education,” said Scottsdale Charros Executive Director Dennis Robbins. “Today, it seems like a college degree or some kind of technical training is more important now than ever before. If you don’t get that additional education after high school you are going to be left behind.”

Coupled with outreach needs, Mr. Klonoski points out the application of Arizona funding for local educators is lackluster at best.

“Public education is a contract we have with every family that entrusts a child to it,” he said. “Arizona spends .30 cents of every tax dollar on education yet results are mixed at best. It takes an engaged community to make sure schools are meeting the needs of its students and when they are not there, there must be champions willing to shake things up or help things along.”

The Scottsdale Charros have been filling that leadership void at Scottsdale Schools.

“Today’s educational environment, for the first time, is competitive. In response to that public education must look in the mirror and hold itself accountable while emphasizing its strengths,” Mr. Klonoski said. “I know personally many of the SUSD board members, the senior district leadership and staff, many of the principals and a number of teachers. I can assure you they all are working very hard to provide the best possible environment for SUSD students to thrive.”

Scottsdale Charro Jose Leon with a few of the night’s awardees. (Photo courtesy of the Scottsdale Charros)

An engaged Charro community

A Charro is a gentleman of action, Mr. Klonoski says, offering there is no better time for champions of public education to emerge in communities around the country — and Scottsdale is no exception.

“Being a Charro is engaging with our community today, taking actions to improve our city in ways that honor our history with an eye toward preparing for the future,” he said. “We are generally the catalyst to important first steps, but once we engage and tell our story we join hands with everyone willing to participate.”

Both students and educators were saluted by the Scottsdale Charros at the banquet and a special print supplement. (Photo courtesy of the Scottsdale Charros)

Mr. Robbins, a former city councilman and Charro, contends a common ideal exists of those who dawn the Charro mantra: hard work.

“We were just the boots on the ground and sweat equity of making things happen,” he said recalling the story of the inception of the Scottsdale Charros in the late 1960s. “We wanted to do more. We thought one of the first things we could do was support the local school district. It was very small and not much fan fare, but it was the beginning of our education banquet and what we do today. It’s kind of like everything we do — it starts out small every year and we try to make it grow every year.”

Competition breeds excellence, Mr. Robbins contends.

“I think it comes from the competitive nature of many of our members who don’t want to be outdone by the Charros who came before them,” he said of the constant pursuit to be bigger and better.

“The Charros just want to make it better than the year before. When it is your turn and you are in charge of something you have to find a way to make it better. When they look at community service they want to do better as they do professionally and in their personal lives.”

Credit where credit is due

Scottsdale Charro Ed Campbell says champions of education deserve to be recognized — and that’s the core purpose of the 32nd Annual Outstanding Students & Educators Awards Banquet.

“A good job deserves recognition, in my estimation,” he said.

“The champions of public education — and those who make the education experience special — deserve to be recognized because they are helping to shape our future generation. At the Scottsdale Charros we are laser-focused on making sure our local educational environments are second to none and our banquet is about recognizing the sacrifices of those who teach.”

Mr. Campbell points out teaching is a profession oftentimes overlooked as a vital part of a community.

“And, we also want to make sure those we are taking the vocation of learning seriously ought to be recognized as well,” he said. “Every year, I am blown away by the dedication of our Scottsdale teachers and the accomplishment of our student all-stars.”

A view of the outstanding elementary school educators honored by the Scottsdale Charros at the 32nd Annual Students & Educators Awards Banquet. (Photo courtesy of the Scottsdale Charros)

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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