Science teacher

PIMA: Science Teacher Learns of Surprise Grant

Ivan Yocum has a mission in life—to instill a sense of wonder and passion for our incredible universe into the minds of his middle school students.

Mr. Yocum is Doolen Middle School’s Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) science teacher in Tucson, Ariz. For the past 17 years, he has taught students a range of subjects from biology and chemistry, to geology and physics. “I never get bored with [my job]. I learn something new from my students, parents and student teachers every day,” he says.

But Mr. Yocum never expected the surprise that came his way during the SciEnTek-12 Foundation science fair this year. At the same time he won Top Science Teacher, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBSAZ) surprised him with a grant for his classroom. And Mr. Yocum found himself “shocked and honored.”

During the fair, BCBSAZ recognized both Doolen Middle School and Mr. Yocum for their outstanding ability to inspire middle school students in science, technology, engineering and math studies, also known as S.T.E.M. Funds from the grant will go toward classroom materials like updated books, more modern supplies, and even chemistry lab tools.

Mr. Yocum—who began his teaching career in 1980 while still an undergraduate at UC Santa Barbara—jokes that when he first heard about the grant, he thought of flying his wife and himself out to Hawaii. But then he grows serious and says, “I want to make sure that however [the money] is spent, it will benefit students for many years to come.”

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Veteran's Habitat Home

PIMA: Veteran Gets New Home

Gabriel helped evacuate U.S. soldiers from Vietnam in 1975 as a corporal in the Marines. Now at age 60, this disabled veteran works a night shift at Walmart to help provide for his wife, Elizabeth.

While his wages put food on the table, they aren’t enough to repair the couple’s home in Sahuarita, Ariz. The house has holes in the walls and ceilings, mold growing in corners, and electrical hazards that have caused midnight fires more than once.  But now, Gabriel and Elizabeth—both Arizona natives—have a NEW home, thanks to a partnership between Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona (BCBSAZ) and Habitat for Humanity Tucson.

BCBSAZ provided a grant to Habitat for Humanity Tucson to help the nonprofit arrange a “house swap,” a new concept never before attempted by the Southwestern chapter. Through the house swap, a donated manufactured home was moved to the location where Gabriel currently lives with his wife.

The grant paid for the move, permits and placing the home on the property. It also helped with painting, making minor repairs, landscaping, purchasing furniture from the HabiStore and turning on the utilities. Additionally, 15 BCBSAZ employees volunteered to help paint, landscape, and prepare the home for occupancy.

A new home means “the world to us,” Gabriel said. “It’s an answer to our prayers for a safe home.”

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