/ Modified aug 6, 2019 10:49 a.m.

School turned shelter, Arizona Teachers Academy growth, preventing cybercrimes

A look at how a former Phoenix school is being repurposed into a shelter for asylum seekers.

This week we revisited the issue of how communities can best offer temporary shelter to asylum seekers just released from federal custody. Pima County’s decision to utilize an unused area of a juvenile detention center came under heavy scrutiny. In Phoenix, groups facing a similar challenge found a solution in a former school.

More than a decade after the Ann Ott Elementary School closed its doors to children, the International Rescue Committee has reopened them to asylum-seeking families in what’s now called the Welcome Center. The IRC leases the property from the Phoenix Elementary School District for $500 a month.

When it opened in late July, it welcomed 30 people belonging to 12 families during the first weekend. Currently the Welcome Center can shelter up to 70 people. As the building undergoes renovations, the IRC expects capacity will increase to 277 people. While the number of people requesting asylum has decreased during the summer months, community engagement director Stanford Prescott told Lorraine Rivera the IRC anticipates the number will rise again in the fall.

“We see this as an investment. We expect that numbers will go back up in the fall when it cools down and families continue making that journey. So we do want to have this space available and ready so that we can welcome those families so that we don’t get a repeat of what happened last year here in the Phoenix area where families were just being dropped off at the Greyhound Bus Station,” Prescott said.

The IRC has helped resettle refugees in the Phoenix area for more than 25 years. Prescott said its response to the surge in asylum seekers represents the group’s first time delivering emergency humanitarian assistance on U.S. soil. Prior to opening the Welcome Center, the IRC teamed up with St. Vincent de Paul to open a day center that helped more than 5,000 people between March and June.


As a new school year begins, hopes are high for a program aimed at reducing Arizona’s teacher shortage. The Arizona Teachers Academy is offered at all three of the main public universities. Students accepted into the academy receive tuition waivers and in return they commit to teaching in high-need, public schools in the state for as many years as they received scholarships. As the program enters its third year, legislators approved $15 million in funding for the academy. Arizona Board of Regents chair Ron Shoopman discussed the program’s impact.

“We find that teachers and people who want to teach are passionate not about the money they’re going to make, they’re passionate about helping children. Now it’s up to us and the school districts to provide the environment for those teachers to prosper,” Shoopman said.


Enrollment in the Arizona Teachers Academy more than doubled in its first two years, from 221 students to more than 450 students in the last school year. Each university offers its own version of the academy. The University of Arizona College of Education has two, one-year master’s degree programs. Lorraine Rivera sat down with a former and current student of the academy to learn more about their experiences. Caitlin Brenton received her master’s degree in May and will teach science at Flowing Wells Middle School. Chauna Mae began her coursework this summer and expects to graduate next May. She plans to teach special education in the Marana Unified School District.


Americans are more likely to be a victim of cybercrime than any of the other top eight forms of criminal activity, according to a 2018 Gallup poll. Information stolen leads to billions of dollars in losses for victims each year. According to the FBI, cybercrime is becoming more commonplace. Special agent Michael Foster offered insight into how the agency investigates these types of crimes, as well as emerging trends.

According to Foster, cybercrime can be defined as any crime facilitated by the use of the internet. Foster added that anyone can be targeted but in Southern Arizona the elderly make up the largest population affected by cybercrime. His agency often sees instances of data breaches and extortion.

“Extortion typically happens through an email stating they’ll either release some photos or your personal data unless they’re paid,” Foster said. “When urgency happens, some of our common sense goes down. We just need people to take a deep breath. Taking that extra 30 seconds may save you thousands of dollars.”

Foster said people can report a cybercrime at IC3.gov.


Protecting our data online can be difficult depending on how we’re used to browsing the web. Arizona 360 learned more about what people should consider to keep their data safe from Matt Hashim, an expert in security and privacy at the University of Arizona Eller College of Business Management. While most social media websites are free, Hashim said there is a transaction happening that many users often overlook.

“If they’re free, they’re not just giving that away because it makes them feel good. They’re giving that away because they use and collect your data and then sell that or use that in other ways to make some money,” Hashim said. “We need to know that there’s not really this expectation that everything I do is between me and that particular site that I’m going to. There may be some sharing or some use of that data in other ways.”

Hashim also urged people to set up two-step authentication. It refers to when a website needs a user’s password and a secondary code that is often sent to the user’s phone in order to login. He also cautioned against being too trusting when using public Wi-Fi.

“There should not be 100% confidence that someone else is not intercepting my data. So if I’m at a public Wi-Fi, I don’t do banking. I don’t do business.”

Arizona 360
Arizona 360 airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on PBS 6 and Saturdays at 8 p.m. on PBS 6 PLUS. See more from Arizona 360.
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