Mike Walls

Mike Walls is a retired firefighter and one of the people behind Toast to Technology 2, an effort to raise $40,000 to purchase computers and other technology for three schools: Sam Hughes and Fruchthendler elementary schools, and Dodge Middle School. The Toast to Technology is a $100-per-ticket event at a private home on Saturday, Oct. 15, that will include a tasting of Arizona wines and food from five local restaurants, as well as musical entertainment. While tickets to the event are nearly sold out, organizers are seeking donations. For information on how you can help, contact Walls at mkwalls1@msn.com.

Tell me about the Toast to Technology.

Vintners from Arizona are going to pour their wines, along with wine from three Arizona wineries. We also have five different restaurants that are going to contribute. We have salsa and cumbia music.

Are tickets still available?

We're very close to sold out, but ... people can contribute to the effort even if they can't attend the party. There are so many people in the community who would like to contribute to a cause like this, but never have an opportunity. They support bond questions and overrides that fail. We're reaching out to them to contribute even $5 or $15, because it all adds up. That will help us get to our goal, and our goal is simple: We want to help kids learn about technology.

So you're buying computers for the classroom?

For Sam Hughes, we're actually going to buy cameras, screen projectors, tables, 10 computers and other equipment. Our goal for Sam Hughes is $20,000. For the other schools, it's $10,000 apiece. We appealed to the teachers and the principals at these schools. We wanted to help them in their classrooms.

Why is it important to get these computers into the classrooms?

This morning on the news, I heard that Arizona is in the bottom of the states for

education. We are trying to do our share as citizens and make a difference for our kids. If we can start introducing them to the world of technology—which is what this world runs on—at a young age, we're going to give them a fighting chance to make it in life. It starts when they're young. We're trying to help our youth succeed.

Are these schools where a lot of kids don't have access to computers in their homes?

In Sam Hughes, about one-third of our student population receives free lunches. A significant amount of those kids are bused in from (lower) socio-economic areas of the city. So, my guess is these kids do not have computers at home. This is one way we can bring them up to speed and help them keep up.

This is the second year you've done this. Are you hoping it will become an annual event?

It might. We as parents contribute to a lot of fundraising in schools all year long. This event is one where the parents actually contribute money to all of the kids in the schools that we're trying to support, yet at the same time, we get to have an adult environment to socialize in, and taste Arizona's finest wine, and eat very good food from Tucson restaurants. Yet what we've done is huge for our kids.

Have you tried these Arizona wines before?

Absolutely. Last year, we had four wine vintners at our event. Throughout the year, we've been visiting the vintners and tasting their wine and letting them know that we're very interested in having them help us out again this year, and they're on board with that. It's been a great adventure, and these guys have been wonderful and excited about coming on board.

Who else has been helping out?

We've had a tremendous interest in what we've been doing. Raytheon has been a big part of our fundraising and helped put in the computers in our schools last year. They'll probably be with us again this year. TUSD's IT staff was able to start putting a new computer lab in the Sam Hughes library last year. Before that, we had virtually no computers for students on the campus, and now we have 16 computers in our computer lab. We were able to purchase 10 more for the teachers and some of the other staff there. We raised $16,000 last year, and our PTA kicked in $10,000 to purchase the things we needed in our computer lab. We're hoping to boost that significantly this year, and if we're successful, we would like to include a lot of other schools that have the same problems that these three schools do— which is under-funding for technology.

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