Phoenix Suns stepping up game to help Phoenix high school

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- Less than five miles away from the action inside the U.S. Airways Center, an academic game plays out at Central High School.

The school is home to 2,100 students who collectively speak more than 50 languages.

“It is truly a melting pot,” said Dr. Schavon Waggoner of Phoenix Union High School District.

It’s a uniquely diverse school, but one in need of a little assist, which is now being delivered by the professional basketball team down the street.

“We’re a school that is sometimes in the shadows,” said Dr. Waggoner, who served as assistant principal at the school. “To say, ‘hey, kids matter, we want to invest in our future.’”

Waggoner describes it as a game-changer. Phoenix Suns Charities has committed more than $500,000 over three years, according to Waggoner.

The money pays for over 20 student-teachers from ASU and ten interns, which adds up to thousands of hours in personalized tutoring.

“That is an extension of staff that our budget couldn’t necessarily afford,” said Waggoner.

One-on-one learning that has made the difference between passing and failing for some students.

“Whatever time I need help, if I need help, they help me,” said Samira Nazirullah who moved to Arizona from Afghanistan two years ago.

“It was really hard to improve my English and improve my grades,” said Nazirullah.

However, through the specialized help she wasn’t receiving from her regular teachers, her progress in the classroom is giving her new hope for her future.

“If my dream is to come to USA, I made that goal, so my next goal is to be a lawyer,” Nazirullah told 3TV smiling.

“We all have a vested interest in our students, so to see a business say, ‘hey, I want to find out how I can help you, it truly is a partnership.

While the High School still has a “C” rating, the District said AIMS scores are showing gains and the dropout rate has fallen, decreasing by nearly 40%.

On Wednesday Mayor Greg Stanton, alongside other Valley mayors, will research a research report on the economic impact of high school dropouts in Arizona.

Note: Dr. Schavon Waggoner, who served as assistant principal at Central High School at the time of the interview for this story, now serves as principal at Betty H. Fairfax High School.