Anderson Children's Foundation

Palm Springs USD

Art with Heart (2020-2021, 2018-2019, 2017-2016, 2016-2015, 2015-2014, 2014-2015)

The groundbreaking Art with Heart program continues to focus on mentoring at-risk teens and gang invention and prevention. These innovative art classes include kids who have been bullied, beaten, physically and sexually abused, outcasts, teens who resort to violence kids who are trapped by poverty and hopelessness. AWH is a lifeline for children who have been discarded.It brings humanity to education. AWH helps kids graduate with art for credit classes at Wenzlaff Education Center and Mt. San Jacinto Alternative High. These innovative art classes add creative expression and culture to a bare-bones education. It is a much needed vehicle for leveling the playing field.

AWH students participate in art exhibitions, opening up possibilities. AWH is team-taught by award-winning artists, Meridy Volz and Luiz Castro (2017 recipient of the Shiney Apple Award). They will be assisted by apprentice, continuing the mentoring. We will coordinate with Louisa Castrodale (PSUSD). Art with Heart has been extremely successful in mentoring thousands of troubled kids for a decade. Meridy Volz began AWH as a program for incarcerated kids in Juvie (2007-9). In 2010, AWH worked with street kids in DHS at the First Community Baptist Church. From 2011 to the present AWH has held classes at Alternative High Schools.

Over the decade, Art with Heart has saved lives. We have turned angst into art, offering creative expression as an alternative to teen suicide, crime drugs, violence and hopelessness. We have seen self-esteem rise from the depths, and it is here that possibilities open up and hope returns. AWH students have won numerous awards for their art. Art can be transformative, changing lives, turning outcasts and thugs into respected members of the community.

COVID-19 Emergency School Fund (2020-2021)

The Foundation for the Palm Springs Unified School District, the nonprofit fundraising arm of the district, has launched a special PSUSD COVID-19 EMERGENCY SCHOOL FUND to raise urgently needed resources for the nearly 21,000 students in the district’s elementary, middle, and high schools. 

During this time of isolation and social distancing, as well as school shutdown, students risk getting pushed further and further behind in their required course work. They struggle to stay connected. Add in the layer of fear and anxiety that students experience around falling behind, and you have an situation that creates stress and ultimately can result in poor academic performance. Students need help staying on track, especially high school students who will be facing graduation.

It’s crucial that we keep students learning and thriving while they’re doing lessons and trying to keep up at home. Now it’s more important than ever to help especially the most challenged among our students stay engaged in school, finish, and build a healthy, high-achieving future for themselves and by extension for our communities. We cannot let the pandemic sideline learning!

Many of the expenses involved in keeping students learning while at home are things that parents of low-income students have not budgeted for – school supplies, books, art supplies, and other essentials, including things as basic as portable desks and desk lamps that are needed for online learning while at home.

PSUSD is exhausting its general-fund accounts at breakneck speed – from feeding all children under the age of 18 and providing students in grades 3-12 with a Chromebook and internet Hot Spot . . . to building the infrastructure so that teachers can teach, and students can learn online. We are now deficit-spending, and the federal relief will not cover or reimburse these funds. As a result, we need to raise $1 million over the next 10 months to purchase supplemental education materials to keep our students’ education intact and moving forward. Students need more than a computer screen to stay focused, engaged, and learning at home. We’re turning to our community and asking help for basic school supplies; help in protecting the arts; and to help keep kids reading.

Fitness for Life (2018-2019)

The Fitness for Life project was developed by the Elementary Physical Education Department for the Palm Springs Unified School District (PSUSD). We are asking for your support to give children access to new innovative fitness equipment that is fun, engaging, colorful, and age appropriate. The fitness equipment will be used by 1st-5th grade students to enhance their overall health and wellness. Children will participate in fun fitness workouts inside PE fitness rooms. These fitness classes will help decrease the number of overweight and obese children in our schools. The fitness rooms will also be used by staff, and families to encourage community health and fitness.

The Fitness for Life project is a new and fun way to provide our children, teachers, and community knowledge and skills for a lifetime of good health and fitness. We serve a diverse group of students, staff and community members. Over 85% of students are socioeconomically disadvantaged. Our project will directly impact over 9800 elementary students and numerous staff and parents in PSUSD. The project will serve 4 cities within the PSUSD including Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, and Rancho Mirage.

Our goal is to provide access for all students to enhance their health awareness, reduce the obesity epidemic, and increase overall fitness levels. Special education classes will also have access to the fitness equipment, while teachers will modify workouts to meet the needs of all our students. The Fitness for Life project will take place during physical education classes. Physical Education teachers will use this equipment when it is too hot, windy, or raining outside. This new fitness program has already been tested at Cahuilla Elementary School in 2016-2017. Cahuilla Elementary Physical Education teacher Joshua Otteson has developed a fitness circuit that his students absolutely love. Now with the help of ACF we plan to introduce this fitness to all PSUSD elementary students.

Scotopic Sensitivity Screener Training (2018-2019)

Palm Springs Unified School District is committed to providing opportunities for all students to achieve academic excellence. As a result of the Anderson grant funding, 24 educators will be participating in a two day training to learn a screening method that identifies struggling readers and provides interventions.

Educators will be trained to screen for Scotopic Sensitivity/Irlen Syndrome (SSS), a perceptual problem that affects performance in all academic areas, particularly reading. SSS is not detected or identified by standard educational, visual, or medical tests. Students with SSS may have slow and inefficient reading, strain, fatigue, or poor reading comprehension. Writing, copying, math and/or computer use can also be affected. Students may be viewed as underachievers with behavioral, attitudinal, or motivational problems. Symptoms include light sensitivity, poor achievement, reading difficulties, poor attention and concentration, discomfort or fatigue when reading, headaches, and poor depth perception.

SSS affects approximately 10-14 percent of the general population. Trained screeners will be able to provide the appropriate colored overlay(s) to students resulting in better reading fluency, comprehension, accuracy, motivation, and academic performance while reducing strain and fatigue symptoms. Screeners will be provided with a supply of protocols and overlays to use when working with students. They will also learn specific modifications and strategies to share with staff at their school sites to improve student academic performance. SSS is a Tier 1 intervention and accepted by the California Department of Education for state testing.

GradCON (2018-2019, 2017-2018, 2016-2017)

The Palm Springs USD WorkAbility (WA) grant program provides comprehensive training in work, employment placement and follow-up for high school students in special education who are making the transition from school to work, independent living and post-secondary education or training. WA is funded and administered by the California Department of Education and offers special education students the opportunity to complete their secondary education while also obtaining marketable job skills for success in the modern labor market. These services have been provided since 1988 to address the ongoing unemployment/underemployment of adults with disabilities.

To assist with the WA mission, GradCon is a one-day event for our high school juniors and seniors where students are immersed in an informational environment related to their life after graduation from high school. Students participate in workshops geared to their specific interests (college, work, vocational training). They gain information from community service providers and get answers to their questions in an upbeat, and effective setting. Last year, students and staff in attendance rated GradCon as a worthwhile and positive experience that should be continued. We are using their suggestions and ideas to make the 2017-18 GradCon program even better. Guest speakers include representatives from College of the Desert, Cal State University San Bernardino, Department of Rehabilitation, Job Corps, members of our local business community, and community resources in nutrition, fitness, and mental health.

Vision Screening (2015-2016)

Currently, California education code requires the screening of all Kindergarten, 2nd, 5th, and 8th graders for distance vision, near vision, and hearing. Many children are difficult to screen due to intellectual disabilities, distract-ability, developmentally, non-verbal challenges, pre-verbal students, or general immaturity.

The Spot Vision Screener is an automated tool which can assess the vision of a student within seconds without any response of the student. The Early Intervention Combo Kit contains technology that can check a student's hearing automatically. These devices, provided for by this year's ACF grant, will be used annually to assist in mass screenings at elementary and middle schools, and used daily for students with special eyesight and hearing needs.

Access for All (2013-2014)

Access for ALL is a program designed by Palm Springs Unified School District’s functional skills classes to help students with disabilities of all kinds. Students in these classes often struggle to articulate their thoughts. New iPad technology, however, helps bridge the gap left by insufficient verbal communication. The award-winning Proloquo2go application provides alternative communication methods, such as tapping buttons or typing onto a screen. Through this program, all 21 PSUSD functional skills teachers will receive an iPad for their classrooms. As teachers learn to utilize the Proloquo2go app, students will begin to express themselves and reach their full potential.