Anderson Children's Foundation

Desert Ridge Academy Middle School

Reading Comes Alive with Author Visit (2019-2020)

I root my teaching in the belief that literacy lifts people out of their own experiences. It builds empathy, strengthens overall academics, and readers are shown to be more successful in life. Most students come to me with a negative opinion about books and reading, which is both a shame and an uphill battle. Reluctant readers need to connect personally with characters and events in books, and Okay For Now by Gary D. Schmidt is a perfect choice. Putting this book- and other similar titles- in the hands of every sixth grader to create a shared reading experience, and culminating the project with a school visit from the Newbery award winning author brings this experience to life. From this, students with no reading identity now have relevant books to remember, recommend, and the rare opportunity to hear and question a decorated author. 79% of DRA’s student body is socioeconomically disadvantaged, and 84% is Hispanic. These students need firsthand literacy experiences with meaningful stories- stories where they can see themselves, their issues, their triumphs. Broadening the scope to all sixth graders creates a literacy revolution at DRA...students talking about a book by choice both in and out of the classroom! This literary connection is powerful and it’s what gets kids to open up to more reading experiences. Books are a timeless tool, and sometimes overlooked with shiny new technology options. But they are more important than ever, in an age where screens are everywhere.

Music Program (2016-2017)

The Desert Ridge Academy Music Department is a place where the middle school students of DRA can learn the skills and discipline necessary to play music. With several classes ranging from band to choir to guitar and Mariachi class, the DRA music department gives students a platform where they can showcase their performance abilities for not only their friends and family, but for audiences all over the Coachella Valley and beyond. Most importantly, The DRA Music Department offers students the opportunity to take part in the musical community that forms in the Desert Ridge Academy music room. It offers students the community and relationships that all middle school students seek. Thanks to the Anderson Children’s Foundation, that education and community which has begun forming at Desert Ridge Academy will be able to expand and reach out to more students within the DRA student body.