Teacher Retention in Lake Havasu Unified School District Through DemocraSeed
Ella Wofford, in her freshman year at Lake Havasu High school, recognized a deficiency in her school and community.
Her school’s teacher retention rate dipped noticeably, and the need for teachers – and the resources to keep those teachers – became an urgent matter.
Unwilling to sit passively as her schooling - and as a result, her education – was dictated by forces beyond her control, Ella found DemocraSeed, and set in motion a plan to aid her community’s teachers while showing them that their students cared about them personally, and were there for support.
DemocraSeed is a year-long program where selected youth councils throughout Arizona learn how to implement design-thinking and an entrepreneurial mindset to create solutions to problems that they have found and identified within their communities.
As a civic health initiative of the Center for the Future of Arizona, in partnership with ASU’s Public Service Academy, DemocraSeed fosters civic engagement, creative problem solving and entrepreneurship amongst the state’s students.
Through DemocraSeed, Ella and the rest of the Havasu Youth Advisory Council hatched a plan that would simultaneously provide their school’s educators with necessary supplies while also demonstrating their appreciation for the role their teachers fill within the community.
“We wanted to add a small touch of love to these teachers who really need it,” Ella said. “Because they were struggling when we started doing this.”
The council began Project: We Care with the intention of making care packages, put together with donations from local businesses, containing school supplies and other items to help teachers throughout the school district.
“I think it was important for us to give them the student side and the community side of what they needed to live in Lake Havasu,” Ella said.
DemocraSeed gave Ella and the rest of her youth council the support needed to guide their vision and impact their community through Project: We Care. The teacher’s received the care packages graciously, and were receptive to the kind gesture and helpful supplies gifted to them by their students.
“I think it bridged the gap between the two (students and teachers) because we feel kind of disconnected,” Ella said. “It allowed the students to have a voice and it allowed the teachers to listen and feel appreciated.”
Teacher retention increased after the inception of Project: We Care, partially due to the efforts of Ella and others students in the Lake Havasu City community, and partially due to policy changes allowing for more school funding.
“So, I know from 2015 to 2016, our turnover was 22 percent and then the next year it was only 8 percent,” Ella said.
Ella, now in her junior year, along with her fellow classmates, saw a problem in their community – they felt it, they lived it – and were able to take action to fix it through their tenacious work towards change in addition to the civic-minded guidance of Democraseed.
“We really loved what it had to offer,” Ella said. “We loved the tools that it gave us and it was so, it was easy, it was enough support to get us to where we need to go, but it wasn’t constricting and it didn’t suppress us but it gave us the boost that we needed to make this a reality.”