Wishes come true for alums via Fiesta Bowl Charities
By Mike Kilen
GCU News Bureau
Kennent Sandoval believes that the power of a band is more than a song.
So the band teacher for fifth- through eighth-graders at Maurice C. Cash Elementary School in Phoenix was troubled when the school year began.
“I had to turn down many students from joining band because of the limited number of instruments,” he said. “And most of the instruments our students play are not in the best condition.”
His band, he says, teaches students that “they can choose their life path and are not limited by the places they come from.”
Then just like the mythical River City children whose instruments in “The Music Man” bring new life to a town, Sandoval found his own Hollywood ending.
The Grand Canyon University alumnus was granted one of the $2,500 wishes to equip his band with additional instruments by the Desert Financial Fiesta Bowl Charities Wishes for Teachers program last week. He joined 38 GCU alumni among the 400 recipients of $1 million and gathered with seven of them on a Zoom call to express their appreciation with GCU College of Education leaders.
Sandoval said the prize helps him increase awareness to the value of arts.
“A well-rounded music program is not limited by its location but rather by the hard work its members are willing to do,” he said. “Students CHOOSE to work hard, students CHOOSE to improve the band program, students CHOOSE to be a part of something that will impact other generations.
“By teaching our students music, not only are we helping develop lasting life skills, but we are also helping them learn that they have the ability to choose what they want to do and how they want to be a contributing member of society.”
Fiesta Bowl Charities started the program six years ago after seeing that many teachers spend their own money to enhance the classroom experience. So it invited teachers to make a wish, and with the help of Desert Financial the wish would be fulfilled.
So far, $3.7 million has been granted to Arizona teachers in 400 schools, impacting more than 300,000 students, bowl officials said.
GCU supports the program – and for good reason.
“All professions exist because of teachers,” said COE Dean Dr. Meredith Critchfield. “Teaching is the only profession that creates all other professions.”
GCU alumna Jodi Biasiucci shared how the money will support purchase of art equipment for her elementary students in Lake Havasu City, and Angela Reyes said classroom technology will be added to her kindergarten room in Cottonwood.
“The sheer amount of gratitude that could be felt through the screen from these teachers and GCU alumni was palpable,” COE Associate Dean Dr. Emily Pottinger said. “This is why we do what we do. Being able to grant these wishes and make a difference in these teachers’ lives and classrooms was truly the best gift of all.”
Here is what the GCU alumni who joined the Zoom announcement said they could do with the money:
Jodi Biasiucci: art, Havasupai Elementary School, Lake Havasu City, 5 years. Wish: To purchase art equipment and materials for the class.
Robert Destefano: math, American Leadership Academy, Queen Creek, 8 years. Wish: To provide updated math equipment for the classroom.
Angela Reyes: kindergarten, Cottonwood Elementary School, Cottonwood, 6 years. Wish: To purchase technology for more hands-on learning.
Terrence Valerani-Knoblich: history, Sierra 2-8 School, Tucson, 14 years. Wish: To provide a classroom makeover with updated furniture.
Nathan Johnson: physical education, Westwood Elementary, Phoenix, 18 years. Wish: To purchase new equipment for P.E. class.
Michelle Paschke: third grade, Scales Technology Academy, Tempe, 9 years. Wish: To provide new seating options for students to promote a better learning environment.
Kristi Schabatka: special education, Show Low Junior High, Show Low, 20 years. Wish: To provide new seating options for students to promote a better learning environment.
Kennent Sandoval: fifth-eighth grade band, Maurice C. Cash Elementary School, Phoenix, 2 years. Wish: To purchase additional instruments for the school band.
Grand Canyon University senior writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.