One way that TEP helps expand educational opportunities in our community is by backing the charitable foundations that support local schools. Here are some ways those groups help teachers and students.

When Assistant Principal Riki Valdez learned about an opportunity to start a new student program, he immediately thought about adding an e-sports class and team at Utterback Middle School.

Sports and competition are in his blood as a former athletic coach, he said, and he’s always been into gaming and building computers, including with his son. E-sports – competitive, multiplayer videogaming – bridged those interests.

“I wanted to provide equity to the kids. Some don’t have video game consoles at home. Some don’t have internet at home,” Valdez said.

After the initial funding didn’t materialize, Valdez made a pitch to the Educational Enrichment Foundation (EEF), which supports Tucson Unified School District campuses. He was so convincing that partners came on board to build the 25-computer Unicorn Gaming studio that opened in November 2023. TEP donated $10,000 to support the project from corporate resources, not customer rates.

In the first full semester of the program, the middle school team ranked 5th regionally in a spring e-sports competition. In the fall 2024-25 school year, the class is expanding to four periods and the program is being added at the high school level.

The class isn’t just about playing video games. There’s a full curriculum that goes with it, including teamwork, math and science lessons, aligning with TEP’s focus on developing students’ skills in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). The class partners with the e-sports program at the University of Arizona, which helps with live broadcasting.

“The overall response has been tremendous,” Valdez said. “It makes me proud to build this program and to be the model school for something that many others have already expressed interest in bringing to their schools.”

Educational Enrichment Foundation

In addition to supporting the e-sports program, TEP encourages leadership and involvement with EEF. Ryan Anderson, TEP’s Business Development Manager, serves as president of the foundation’s board, and Doyace Wilson, TEP Engineering Project Manager, is the board vice president.

Our employees often participate in EEF’s shoe shopping events, helping students pick out pairs of new shoes and socks.

TEP’s donations also have funded EEF Classroom Grants for STEM projects, along with school-specific initiatives, including a STEM lab at Maldonado Middle School.

Amphi Foundation

TEP’s representative on this foundation’s board, Community Program Coordinator Tara Barrera, served as co-chair of the spring fundraiser gala, which TEP sponsored.

With last year’s $15,500 contribution to the foundation, TEP sponsored the Full Steam Ahead program, which provides gift cards to each Amphitheater School District campus to purchase classroom supplies. We also provided a matching donation for Giving Tuesday, allowing the foundation to extend the contributions of others.

TEP employees also assist with shoe-shopping events for students. Read more about a computer donation to Amphi.

Sunnyside Foundation

Similarly, TEP regularly contributes to the Sunnyside Foundation, which has a mission to provide educational opportunities in the Sunnyside Unified School District.

Through our donations, the Sunnyside Foundation provided mini-grants to teachers for projects, reaching 14 educators and nearly 3,000 students in 2022-23 alone.

To prepare students for college, our donation provides dual enrollment scholarships for high-achieving high school students to participate in the University of Arizona Biosciences program. The opportunity allowed 30 students to take classes toward college credit.

This story highlights one of TEP’s philanthropic focus areas. From July through September, we focus on supporting education. TEP works with nonprofit partners to develop invitation-based donation requests for community assistance efforts. Funds come from corporate resources, not customers’ rates. Learn more about donations.

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