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Taste for Education

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Next week, Tucson's foodie do-gooders will get to enjoy the fourth annual Taste of Arizona, which offers a variety of scrumptious bites, lovely wines and more. Hosted by the Arizona Youth Partnership--a statewide agency that seeks to reduce substance abuse and sexual activity among at-risk youth by working with kids and their families--the event is a fundraiser for the agency's programs.

The event will feature wine and appetizers from restaurants including El Charro Cafe, Metropolitan Grill, Zona 78, Delectables Restaurant and Catering, Bluefin Seafood Bistro, Eclectic Café and Vila Thai Cuisine. Live jazz will be performed as well.

Overall, the event will include "lively music, delicious foods, wines (and) entertainment, as well as a live and silent auction," says executive director Luan Wagner Burn. "Two years ago, we started having a silent auction, which added an upbeat balance to the live auction as well."

Wagner Burn says the auctions will be fun and lively, and will include local jewelry as well as several art pieces.

In an effort to attract more people, the partnership chose to hold the event at the centrally located Stillwell House and Garden, Wagner Burn explains. Last year's event was held at the Reflections at the Buttes in northwest Tucson.

"For five years, we did a motorcycle poker run, which was so much fun!" says Wagner Burn. But four years ago, we started the Taste of Arizona to target a larger part of the community. We wanted to get as many people as possible to attend our event. In the past years, we have had about 150 people show up, and we raised about $12,000, which is good. But we want to raise more for our programs. This year, we are hoping to double that."

Arizona Youth Partnership's mission statement is to "in partnership with communities, develop resources to promote the positive growth of their children." Specifically, the agency provides programs and services to communities saturated with drug abuse, teen pregnancy and other related issues.

As executive director Wagner Burn explains, "We teach kids how to make healthy decisions and choices so they stay in school. And we teach parents how to get along with each other and then with their child." In total, the Arizona Youth Partnership works with youth and families in 29 rural communities in nine Arizona counties.

The organization strives to control teen pregnancy, underage drinking and drug use. According to the partnership, 50 percent of high school seniors say they've tried drugs--and 77 percent of high school seniors report using alcohol. The Arizona Youth Partnership claims that "during the 2006-2007 fiscal year, 32,008 children, youth, and adults participated in AzYP's excellent scientific-based programs designed to teach youth how to make healthy decisions."

While there will be something for everyone to eat, drink and buy at Taste of Arizona, the most special part will come from youths who participate in Arizona Youth Partnership programs, who will speak about their experiences. Wagner Burn says they hope to show what AzYP accomplishes: Helping youth improve their lives by making more educated decisions.

"It will be a great way for people to come out and do community service by supporting the community and listening to what youth have to say about their lives. Finally, this event will help our community understand how Arizona students can stay in school and succeed," Wagner Burn says.

The Fourth Annual Taste of Arizona will be held from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m., Wednesday, March 25, at the Stillwell House and Garden, 134 S. Fifth Ave. Guests can enjoy appetizers and drinks with an admission fee of $50 per person. To RSVP, call 744-9595, or visit the Youth Partnership Web site.

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