Thirty years ago a group of local leaders came together with one common goal - to support the students and teachers of Tucson's largest school district.

Today, that group, then known as the Educational Enrichment Fund, has given $4.5 million in assistance, supporting classrooms directly with funds and providing fundamental needs for thousands of at-risk students in the Tucson Unified School District.

The mission of the Educational Enrichment Foundation is to provide resources to expand and enrich learning in TUSD, said foundation Executive Director Pam Francis.

That mission is seen in all of the foundation's programs, from awarding classroom grants for innovative teaching proposals, field trips and other enrichment opportunities to putting shoes on children's feet, providing eye exams and glasses for those who cannot see, and awarding scholarships that help kids attend college, and participate in sports and extracurricular activities.

Shannon Dixon, a 2012 Palo Verde graduate, is one of thousands of TUSD students who have benefited from the foundation's good will.

Now preparing to wrap up her freshman year at Pima Community College, Dixon, 18, has many reasons to thank the organization.

For three years, the foundation paid her high school sports fees for volleyball, and her EEF college scholarship has covered the majority of her Pima tuition.

"(The foundation) is needed, especially in this economy," Dixon said. "They helped me play sports that I otherwise wouldn't have been able to play because I didn't have the funds.

"I also liked that my GPA wasn't the greatest, but they didn't overlook me. It was like a second chance."

Dixon now has her eye on degrees in psychology and criminal justice.

"This foundation has supported the needs of kids for 30 years and they do it quietly," said TUSD Superintendent John Pedicone, who recently donated $35,000 of his bonus to the organization. "They do what good educators do - they save lives behind the scenes."

The sports fund is the area in which EEF has seen the greatest demand - just before the beginning of the school year, the Tucson Unified School District raised fees from $50 per sport to $65.

"We have found over the years that helping students meet these fundamental needs supports their education," said EEF board President Joe Salkowski. "It allows them to take part in school in the same way that every child is expected to."

Francis attributes the organization's success to its strong relationship with the district and donors like the Tucson Conquistadores, the Zuckerman Community Foundation and the Tucson chapter of Soroptimists International.

More information

The Educational Enrichment Foundation will be celebrating its 30th anniversary Thursday at the Old Pueblo Grille Patio, 60 N. Alvernon Way, from 5 to 7 p.m.

Tickets are $30 per person. Buy tickets online at

to help out

To support the foundation, go to

Donations are tax-deductible.

Contact reporter Alexis Huicochea at or 573-4175. On Twitter @AlexisHuicochea