Arizona Spotlight on Elevate Phoenix

Arizona Spotlight on Elevate Phoenix

Solstice News by Jenna-Lee Neff | Posted on April 10, 2020, updated for 2022

In 2022, U.S. News reported AZ as one of the states having the lowest average graduation rate at 72% compared to the 88.6% national average.

One valley nonprofit is working to change the future for students before they become a statistic. Elevate Phoenix boasts a 98% graduation rate.

Elevate Phoenix works with students through mentorship, accredited classes, outreach and activities to provide guidance and real-world experience. The programs put an emphasis on showing students their value, providing them with experiences to understand what they can achieve, and honing life and professional skills to set them down that path.

“All kids need to know is that someone cares about and believes in them,” says Elevate Phoenix development director Jazmine Hall. “That’s what Elevate Phoenix does, day after day, year after year, following the kids from grade to grade so that solid relationships are established and maintained.”

Hall shares that students who have been involved with Elevate Phoenix have stayed in school, graduated at a rate of 98 percent or higher compared to the state average which is 74 percent. Elevate Phoenix students often go on to post-secondary education and have the steppingstones in establishing a career.

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According to the Elevate Phoenix website, the organization is on a mission to deliver long-term, life-changing relationships with urban youth. They do so through programs aimed at students from kindergarten to high school and beyond, including a kindergarten through eighth grade summer camp.

“We focus on surrounding kids with a community of support and resources because we know that it is the responsibility of everyone to invest in them and help prepare them to be our future leaders,” Hall shares. “It is easy for low-income, at-risk youth to feel alone in their world, especially those who come from very difficult home lives.”

“Everyone who invests in these youth are what we call ‘Hope Holders,’” She adds. “Like a bookmark, they hold onto the hope for the youth until our youth are able to hold it for themselves.”

The model for Elevate Phoenix comes from parent company, Colorado UpLift, founded in 1982 by Dr. Kent Hutcheson. That program focuses on making a significant difference in the lives of urban Denver youth.

Elevate Phoenix board chairman Bob Barbee recruited the help of PGA golf professional and Scottsdale resident Tom Lehman to replicate the program in Phoenix.

Bob Barbee – Executive Board Chairman

“They wanted to do more than just be an after-school program that only allowed mentors to engage with youth a couple hours a week,” says Hall. “Instead, they envisioned a model that provided youth with continuous 24/7/365 availability of caring adults, coupled with a strong educational base and a viable career component.”

When they opened, Elevate Phoenix partnered with former Phoenix Union High School superintendent to provide support to one class of 25 students. Those numbers have since grown to about 5,000 students every year across three Phoenix Union High Schools. And Elevate Phoenix is laying the groundwork to increase that number exponentially.

“Our goal is to expand into every Title I Phoenix Union High School, to serve more than 20,000 students each year, continue to maintain a graduation rate of 98% or better and ensure that 100% of our students have a post-secondary plan before graduation,” Hall shares. 

“Not every kid has a caring adult giving them the same kind of unconditional love and support that I had,” Tom Lehman shared in a feature about the organization. “In fact, there are thousands of kids in Phoenix who have none of that. Elevate Phoenix changes that, which is why I am so committed to it.”

He encourages people to learn more about Elevate Phoenix and the stories behind the organization to understand how the work they do is transforming the lives of the students involved.

“In today’s society, our youth often hear what is not possible,” Lehman says. “This program shares the hope that it is possible and probable to believe they are more than capable if given the chance.”

Tom Lehman: PGA Champions Tour Professional/Chairman of Elevate Phoenix with his friend and Elevate supporter Sir Charles Barkley NBA Legend.