ARIZONA @ WORK staff at O.C. Johnson
In Yuma — a city consisting of nearly 100,000 people — O.C. Johnson Elementary School is literally one-of-a-kind.
O.C. Johnson is the only Community School in the area, which means it must have community partners to assist not only the children in its school, but the families of those children, with resources including health clinics where children can get vaccinations, a preschool, and adult literacy classes. Through federal grants, O.C. Johnson partners can also serve members of the community who aren’t associated with the school.
Angela Logan has been O.C. Johnson’s principal for the past five years. She says the idea to become a community school originated from her teachers wanting to make a bigger impact in their city, outside of the classroom.
“The essence of a community school is that we bring resources on campus to address some of the barriers with families,” explained Logan.
Logan and her team searched for a viable partner that knows the Yuma area well to provide job assistance to students' parents and other adults. That’s when ARIZONA @ WORK came in.
“We knew we were missing the part that helps families search for jobs, get certifications and all of the pieces to move towards careers,” Logan said. “We reached out to ARIZONA @ WORK because we know their work from the community.”
O.C. Johnson has several community partners who provide services on campus once a week. Some of the resources that other partners provide are education and mentorship opportunities, and nutrition and health assistance. Partners set up a booth by the entrance of the school and distribute information on their available resources.
ARIZONA @ WORK and O.C. Johnson partnered in February, and initially, interest was modest, but as the school year progressed, interest seemed to pique. Logan said things really started rolling until the school year ended. She’s optimistic that the resources will see more of the same success that the end of last school year brought, as the first day of the new school year had a strong turnout.
Veronica Zuniga is a One-Stop Job Center manager with ARIZONA @ WORK Yuma County, and has been going to O.C. Johnson once a month since the partnership was created. She remembers the excitement both sides had when forming this partnership.
“I think it’s awesome because it is the only Community School [in Yuma], and when they reached out to us, I was like, ‘let’s go for it,’” Zuniga said. “They [O.C. Johnson] invited us over and gave us a tour, and [Logan] explained how all this got started. When they heard about ARIZONA @ WORK, they were very excited, and said they really want to go out there and make a difference.”
Zuniga was excited to get out to O.C. Johnson and offer the employment resources where families could find them. In smaller communities, it can be challenging to find these resources; providing them at their children’s school integrates ARIZONA @ WORK staff into their daily lives.
“We want to come to them and make it easier for them, at least to get started,” Zuniga said.
Zuniga said that Logan and the O.C. Johnson staff allow ARIZONA @ WORK staff to use campus computers for parents who want more resources, and space inside to speak with parents. Logan also explained that across the state, most community schools are middle schools, and thinks more elementary schools should implement the community school idea so resources can get to the children and their families quicker.
ARIZONA @ WORK staff at O.C. Johnson.
“They’re [O.C. Johnson] always welcoming us to their school,” Zuniga explained, adding that Logan and her team are eager to help other schools implement similar community models in the future.
Logan also has a personal tie to ARIZONA @ WORK, so the decision to implement ARIZONA @ WORK with her O.C. Johnson families wasn’t a hard one to make.
“My sister is currently working with ARIZONA @ WORK to become employed, and I’ve seen a lot of what there is to offer, and I think it’s amazing,” Logan said.
To find out more information about ARIZONA @ WORK, or to see if partnering with ARIZONA @ WORK is a viable option for you, please visit ARIZONAatWORK.com or call your local One-Stop Job Center.
By Ben Flores