Read On – Avondale promoted during award presentation

The second time was the charm as Avondale captured an All-America City Award during a repeat appearance in the finals of the national competition.

Avondale was among 15 U.S. communities designated for the award June 16 at the National Civic League Convention in Denver.

Twenty-nine cities were up for the honor in a competition that involved the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading to recognize communities that have made measurable progress for low-income children toward early reading success.

In 2016, Avondale was a finalist for the award, but was not among the 10 cities that got the honor.

This year, Avondale’s application for the award was submitted by the Valley of the Sun United Way based on the Read On — Avondale program.

The United Way formed the program in 2014 along with the city and the Avondale Elementary School District to target third-grade reading proficiency.

In Denver, Wendy Kubasko, assistant superintendent of the Avondale Elementary School District, delivered a three-minute presentation on how the community came together to make a difference for literacy.

She told judges how the program determined the need, then developed a literacy guide, got library cards for 1,000 school children, collected 3,000 donated books and developed an early childhood program.

The program puts a priority on reaching children in public housing and other vulnerable children.

Avondale City Councilman Lorenzo Sierra, who represented the city in the six-member delegation at the convention, said Kubasko “knocked it out of the park” with a presentation that he called “stirring.”

The award is “a reflection of all the hard work people are putting in to make sure our kids move forward,” Sierra said.

He said literacy early in life is an indicator that children will be doing well in life.

“If we accomplish our goals, peoples’ lives are better,” he said. “The final payoff comes when those people are having very successful lives.”

Sierra noted that the award will boost community pride and aid the city’s economic development efforts.

“We can have that emblem on everything we put out,” he said. “Once we’ve won the award, we’re an All-America City for the rest of time.”

Mayor Kenneth Weise, who led the city’s presentation at last year’s awards, said the city was excited about the honor.

“It kind of tells you the quality of work we’ve doing in Avondale to be nominated two years in a row and to win this year,” Weise said.

This year’s award application was coordinated by Dawn Gerundo, Valley of the Sun United Way’s community impact director of Education and Children.

She said Avondale competed against communities that had been operating reading programs for years.

“The most impressive part is the commitment the community has to grade-level reading,” Gerundo said. “We were very excited to show what a community can do.”

The honor was created 68 years ago by the National Civic League, an organization that works to advance good governance and civic engagement.

The award was won by Goodyear in 2008. Phoenix is a five-time winner, most recently in 2009. Tempe, Mesa and Chandler have also won in the past.

Avondale was the only Arizona city competing for the award this year.

Other cities that won this year are Springdale, Ark., Stockton-San Joaquin County, Calif., New Britain, Conn., Delray Beach, Fla., Suncoast (Sarasota and Manatee counties), Fla., Council Bluffs, Iowa, Des Moines, Iowa, Dubuque, Iowa, Springfield, Mass., Kansas City, Mo., Montgomery County-Dayton, Ohio, Lane County, Ore., San Antonio and Roanoke, Va.

Other cities in the competition were Tahoe-Truckee, Calif., Ames, Iowa, Quad Cities, Iowa and Illinois, Worcester, Mass., Gulfport, Miss., Lafayette County-Oxford University, Miss., Wake County, N.C., Rochester, N.Y., Syracuse, N.Y., Newport, R.I., Dallas and Salt Lake City.

Glenn Gullickson can be reached at