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YUHSD is Boldly Leading Local Students Into Future

Author: Sybil Francis, Ph.D., Executive Director of the Center for the Future of Arizona

It is no wonder that Ready Now Yuma was recently selected as an Expect More Excellence Tour Spotlight Award winner. Superintendent Toni Badone, a visionary leader with true grit, has set Yuma Union High School District (YUHSD) apart with her bold and ambitious plan: prepare every student to succeed in college and careers of their choice.

Over the past six years, Superintendent Badone, with the support of her school board, has led a team of dedicated faculty, staff, counselors and school leaders who believe that all students can succeed regardless of their starting point. They are creating a high expectations environment with the goal of all students prepared to succeed - whatever it takes.

The passion and commitment of Superintendent Badone and her leadership team made YUHSD a natural partner for Helios Education Foundation, Arizona's largest education foundation. Helios' commitment to fostering college-going cultures and advancing the academic preparedness of all students was a perfect match to YUHSD's ambitions. Together, they created Ready Now Yuma, the innovative initiative that builds on the foundation created by YUHSD's years of hard work. Ready Now Yuma is focused on increasing academic rigor; providing critical supports for students; offering multiple postsecondary pathways; as well as removing barriers to college in order to increase the number of students entering and succeeding in postsecondary education including career and technical education, community college, and university.

Ready Now Yuma also demonstrates that real change requires the support of the entire community - students, families, business leaders, and community leaders - working together with educators to support high expectations and student achievement.  Assuredly, Ready Now Yuma is not business as usual for YUHSD. Changes to priorities, instructional and testing practices, and the master schedule are all underway. All changes are aimed at ensuring every student's needs are met.

Accomplishments to date are impressive: YUHSD's five-year high school graduation rates are at 85 percent; students enrolling in college immediately following graduation approach 60 percent; all juniors take the ACT college assessment; all students are in an internationally benchmarked curriculum; growing numbers of students are taking college-level assessments, including Advanced Placement and Cambridge Board exams; choices in career and technical education are being expanded; and discussions with students are focused on helping them plan for college and career.   

An educated student is the engine of our future and a strong economy, and YUHSD is fueling that success.  Its leaders are Arizona's trailblazers, leading the way in numbers of students participating in college- and career-ready preparation. A model for our state and nation, they are enriching the lives of students in Yuma and will ultimately impact the broader community. 

We should do no less for all Arizona students in preparing them for a world that is highly competitive and often requires a postsecondary certificate or degree for those who want to support a family and live comfortably.

Change takes time.  Superintendent Badone, with the support of Helios Education Foundation and the community, is boldly moving into the future.  No doubt, with such determination, YUHSD, its students and the community will prevail.

Sybil Francis, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Center for the Future of Arizona which leads the statewide Move On When Ready initiative, a strategy for preparing all students to college- and career-ready levels and a component of the Ready Now Yuma initiative. 

Category: Education Excellence

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