Case Study: Camelback High School

Jan 28, 2016

Thanks to SVPAZ’s investment, Camelback High is at the top of its class

The Challenge

Before the Social Venture Partners Arizona (SVPAZ) partnership, Camelback High was, in the words of principal Dr. Quintin Boyce, “a kinda run-of-the-mill, inner city public high school.”

The Scenario

Camelback was plagued with a host of challenges including:

  • Poor student performance: high dropout rates, low test scores and disciplinary challenges
  • No unique differentiation to attract future students
  • A sense of hopelessness among students
  • Low morale among staff
  • Lack of school pride
  • A less-than-welcoming atmosphere for campus visitors

 The Solutions

Thanks to the advice of SVPAZ partners and mentors, Camelback has been able to infuse pride into the school and engineer a dramatic turnaround. These are the initiatives that have spurred success.

     Peer-to-Peer Tutoring Program. One third of the approximately 2,000-student population of Camelback benefits from a successful peer tutoring program. Students are identified by a teacher for participation, then paired with either a high-excelling upperclassman or a same grade level peer. As expected, students benefit from the one-to-one attention, but so do tutors, who, as Boyce explains, “learn and digest the material by teaching it. It’s also a resume and credential builder.”

     Montessori School-Within-a-School. Camelback is one of only a handful of high schools in the U.S offering a Montessori college prep program serving students in grades 9-12. Established in 2012, it enrolls up to 80 students a year; its first students graduate in 2016. Boyce says that the K-8 Montessori, which is located directly across the street from Camelback, presented a unique opportunity for the school. “We are neighbors, so having a potential pipeline is good for everyone.”

     Monthly Dinner Series. Dr. Boyce facilitates a monthly “night of fellowship,” which brings together six students (referred by a teacher or counselor) and six SVPAZ partners at an upscale restaurant in the Camelback/Biltmore corridor. Both students and adults share their stories of navigating adversity and chasing—and achieving—dreams. “Networking is a great way for our students to be recognized and rewarded,” Boyce says. While breaking bread, students have obtained internships, scholarships and jobs, but Boyce says of equal importance is the challenging of stereotypes and the uncovering common ground.

     Campus Beautification. Creating an aesthetically pleasing environment for both students and staff has been another important SVPAZ-funded endeavor. Camelback has a sand volleyball court and a huge rose garden, which, Boyce says have provided a campus transformation. “Students care about their school because it is a beautiful place to be.”

     Fostering Civility. Several years ago, Camelback identified that its registration office lacked the kind of warmth and cordiality they wanted to convey to parents, students and visitors. “We weren’t always polite and it wasn’t always a pleasant experience,” says Boyce. “That’s not how we want to engage with visitors.” Thanks to an SVPAZ connection, personnel received training from The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, acclaimed for its “ladies and gentlemen” approach to customer service. “Now from the front gate, visitors are greeted warmly with a smile. And we escort our guests while they are on campus so they don’t get lost.” The etiquette has earned Camelback acknowledgement within its district and cultivated an atmosphere of mutual respect.

The Outcomes

 In the final year of a five-year engagement with SVPAZ, Camelback has numerous reasons to brag:

  • Dropout rates are down, grades and test scores are up and the number of students on the Honor Roll has spiked
  • Camelback has fostered a “healthy climate that encourage academic rigor and expectations”
  • Staff turnover is down; vacancies are quickly filled with high quality candidates


“Thanks to the resources we received from Social Venture Partners, we’ve transformed.”