Success Award Provides Books to Newcomer Students

Highland High School received a $25,000 Success Award from the APS Education Foundation to pay for guided reading books for beginning readers in high school. The grant will purchase a leveled library to serve students who are new to the country and will also benefit all students that are early English learners.

Working for years with students who have left their home countries and have faced incredible hardships, the staff at Highland High School wanted to do away with the label “refugees” because it implied that no matter how hard they worked and how long they were here in the United States, they would always be thought of as outsiders. 

With plans to become citizens and build a life here, the students are now referred to as newcomers.

“Students have voiced their opinions stating they are no longer refugees or newcomers after a certain amount of time. This school year we discussed this with students and those who have been in the United States longer than two years are now called permanent residents,” stated Michelle Perez, English as a Secondary Language (ESL) teacher at Highland.

Newcomers face a host of challenges, most of which our community is completely unaware. Learning English is the key to their ability to navigate school and their teachers knew if they had resources for early English learners, such as a leveled library, they could do so much more to teach English and help students understand content. The donations received by the APS Education Foundation directly fund programs and projects like the one at Highland, and so donors had the opportunity to talk to the teachers and the students who will benefit from their investment. 

Donors were invited recently to see what it can mean when a Foundation grant is awarded to an APS school.

“It’s important for us to engage donors because if we don’t have donors, we can’t do projects like what we were able to witness here today at Highland High School," said Foundation Board President Adrian Chavez. "There are teachers that have creative ideas but they need the funding to implement them. Engaging donors and giving them the opportunity to see how their money can impact the classroom is important and it really does paint a picture of how one dollar can be used in such a positive way.” 

Educators district-wide with innovative approaches to education are encouraged to apply for Foundation grants. The goal is to provide resources so that students have more opportunities to succeed.

Last year, the Foundation awarded funding to over 100 projects. Knowing that only a third of grant applications received funding, the Foundation celebrates its role in funding innovative programs while planning for the future in which more students are impacted by community investment. Everyone has a role to play in improving outcomes for our students. Every dollar counts. 

To learn more about the APS Education Foundation, please visit or call 505-881-0841.