CHANDLER, AZ (3TV/CBS5) -- Debbie Rubenstrunk is a different kind of teacher, teaching a different kind of class. Ten years ago, Rubenstrunk started up the Youth Arts Council program in Chandler as a way to give young people important life skills and show them how to become well-rounded members of their community.
"I tell them, I'm 65 years old, and I won't hold your age against you if you don't hold my age against me," said Rubenstrunk. "We can both learn from each other."
The nine-month program is held at the Chandler Center for the Arts. Once a month, students will come in and learn about personal finance, public speaking, leadership, art appreciation, even etiquette and manners.
Rubenstruck said that watching the sometimes quiet, shy teens grow into bright, motivated young adults is what keeps her going. "The growth is huge from the very beginning, and skills that they learn and just being comfortable in their own skin," said Rubenstrunk. "For me, it's knowing they can manifest the life they want for themselves and I feel confident they can do that when they leave."
Senol Pekin has seen the tremendous impact Rubenstrunk's class has had on his son Rasmus. They reached out to Arizona's Family to Pay it Forward to the special teacher putting students lives on the right path.
"She is very professional, well mannered, and all the good things she's trying to teach our kids, said Senol Pekin."
"Everything Debbie teaches us really helps us for the future," said Rasmus Pekin. "Everything will be useful when we grow up."
A news crew showed up at the Chandler Center for the Arts last week to surprise Rubenstrunk and give her a $500 gift card. "I kept hearing about all the good work you are doing and all the good things you are teaching, so I couldn't help reach out to Channel 5," said Pekin. "You taught about personal finance - leadership - even public speaking. I thought that was a mini MBA. It's a wonderful opportunity for youth in Chandler ."
"I would like to present you with this $500 gift card," said Pekin.
"I care about their thoughts, their actions, and so we build on that and who they really are," said Rubenstrunk.