Dear Dictionary Project Personnel,
At a Rotary Conference in June, 2007, members of several clubs talked about donating dictionaries to school children throughout Arizona. Educators recommended that third graders be the recipients. Rotary Club of Anthem joined the effort with the stipulation that each principal choose third or fourth graders to receive dictionaries.
There were nine elementary grade schools in the Rotary Club of Anthem ‘area of influence’; that is, the 1-17 corridor from Black Canyon City to northern Phoenix, about a 20-mile route. Black Canyon City’s Canon Elementary School is in southern Yavapai County, the rest of the schools are in northern Maricopa County. Canon Elementary was included because Anthem’s Rotary is the closest one to BCC which has a high rate of students who receive either free or reduced cost lunches. Anthem is located in an unincorporated area of Maricopa County about 12 miles south of BCC and 35 miles north of downtown Phoenix.
Members of our club put two stickers in each dictionary: one was the Rotary International wheel symbol; the second: ‘Dictionary Project, Donated by the Rotary Club of Anthem, AZ.’ Our club provided each school with enough blank stickers on which to print the names of each student who was to receive a dictionary. The PTA members at each school put those stickers under the words: ‘This Dictionary Belongs To.’ It is unlawful for the school personnel to give out the names of students to non-school groups. A dictionary day was set up at each school and Rotarians had a wonderful time explaining about what the dictionary included and that each was a gift to a student, not to the school.
During the summer of 2008, our club received a special $10,000.00 donation for dictionaries. I requested from Deer Valley Unified School District, BCC’s Canon Elementary, as well as several private schools along the 1-17 corridor the numbers of first- through eighth-grade students at each school. Subtracting the students who had received dictionaries the first year, that special donation and a small amount of money from the club treasury meant first- through eighth-grade students at 12 schools could receive dictionaries. That year you shipped 6,112 dictionaries to the Rotary Club of Anthem. It was a labor of love to get the Rotary stickers on that many dictionaries. Two of our members work for Teen Challenge, which has a ranch about ten miles from Anthem. Teen Challenge attendees put stickers on hundreds of dictionaries for us. They received a Thank You from us in the form of a box of dictionaries for their members to use as they learn to read or improve their reading skills. (I order 10% more dictionaries than the number of students given to me because invariably more students enroll after I place the order.)
Once all first through eighth graders received dictionaries, each year thereafter we donate dictionaries only to first graders at each school. The educators who recommended that dictionaries should be given out starting with third graders were proved in error. As we Rotarians give out dictionaries to first graders, we are amazed at what they are learning at age six. Most students started to learn to read in kindergarten. One tiny first grader, when asked what she wanted to be when she became an adult, announced, "Paleontologist". Many of the lessons that today’s first graders learn, were what those in my generation (I am 68 years of age) learned in third grade.
The thirty-six dictionaries left over during the 2009-10 school year, were donated to the Goodwill Industries adult basic education program in Phoenix.
I learned, too late, of a new school that has started across the highway from Anthem. I donated the forty-six left-over dictionaries to that school in early Spring with the promise that the students there will be included in the Rotary Club of Anthem dictionary donation program during the 2011-12 school year. We have handed out nearly 10,000 dictionaries in the four years we have proudly been associated with the program.
The thirteen schools that have students who have, or will have, received dictionaries from Rotary Club of Anthem, AZ are, from north to south, as follows:
1. Canon Elem. School, Black Canyon City, Yavapai County, AZ (east side of I-17)
2. New River Elem., New River, AZ (east side of 1-17)
3. Canyon Springs Elem., Phoenix, AZ (west side of I-17)
4. Montessori (later renamed Caraus Academy), Phoenix, AZ (west side of I-17)
5. Anthem Preparatory Academy, Phoenix, AZ (west side of 1-17)
6. Anthem Elem., Anthem, AZ (east side of 1-17)
7. Gavilan Peak Elem., Anthem, AZ (east side of 1-17)
8. Diamond Canyon Elem., Anthem, AZ (east side of 1-17)
9. Cross of Christ Christian School (later renamed North Valley Christian School), Anthem, AZ (east side of 1-17)
10. The Caepe School, Anthem, AZ (formerly on west side of 1-17; will be on east side of 1-17 for 2011-12 school year)
11. Sunset Ridge Elem., Phoenix, AZ (east of 1-17, north of Carefree Hwy.)
12. Desert Mountain Elem., Phoenix, AZ (east of 1-17, north of Carefree Hwy.)
13. Norterra Canyon Elem., Phoenix, AZ (east of 1-17, south of Carefree Hwy. & north of Happy Valley Road)
Del Webb developed Anthem on land on both sides of 1-17, which was totally unincorporated land in Maricopa County. Once Walmart and other companies were built on the west side of 1-17, Phoenix annexed that part of Anthem on the west side of the highway in order to benefit from the tax revenues. The city of Phoenix was not interested in taking on the side of Anthem that holds most of the residential property, i.e., the east side of 1-17. Therefore, Anthem is a divided community.
Janice M. Samar
Rotary Club of Anthem Scribe