The relationship began in the 1980s as an innocent outreach project at St. Andrews Episcopal Cathedral. Two parishioners, teachers at Rowan Middle School, would informally bring the needs of impoverished adolescents in their classrooms to the attention of the congregation. A hat would be passed around, and donations of money, food and clothing would be used for the inner city ministry.
In 1990, St. Andrews officially partnered with Rowan Middle School in the Adopt-A-School program. These days, program coordinator Rose Lee Robinson is busy coordinating scholarship funds and volunteer schedules for tutors, mentors, test proctors and even contest judges. Church members work on school construction projects, help children get eye exams and assist them with other healthcare needs. An emergency program is in place for families that have endured disasters, such as fire or flood.
At the Mississippi Association of Partners in Education (MAPE) 20th annual Partners in Education Seminar and Governor’s Awards for Outstanding School/Community Partnerships to be held April 14, Robinson will learn if St. Andrews will take home an outstanding partnership prize.
“Win or lose, it’s a lovely gesture, and it’s very nice to be a finalist, but we love helping the children, regardless,” said Robinson. “It’s very rewarding for us, and we hope it’s helpful for the children.”
At the daylong conference, beginning at 8 a.m. at the Jackson Marriott Downtown, MAPE, the only statewide organization dedicated solely to fostering partnerships between businesses and other community groups and schools, will launch a new research-based program. Keynote speaker Peter Benson, president of the Search Institute in Minneapolis, an independent nonprofit organization devoted to the advancement of America’s youth, will introduce “40 Developmental Assets.”
“At the heart of the Search Institute’s work is the framework of ‘40 Developmental Assets,’ which are positive experiences and personal qualities that young people need to grow up healthy, caring and responsible,” said MAPE president Jay Lee. “These assets are concrete, common sense, positive experiences and qualities essential to raising successful young people. They have the power during critical adolescent years to influence choices young people make.”
Several hundred chamber of commerce officials, school board members, schoolteachers and administrators, parents, Adopt-A-School partners, School-to-Career coordinators and others are expected to attend the conference, which will include workshops centered on the new program. BellSouth Mississippi, Community Foundation of Greater Jackson, Distribution and Auto Service, Hancock Bank, Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi and Trustmark Bank are program sponsors.
Winners of the fourth-annual Governor’s Awards will be announced at the luncheon for outstanding partnerships in the elementary school, middle school, multi-level and school district categories.
The finalists are:
• Aberdeen School-to-Careers and Stargazers;
• Baker Elementary School and Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz Law Firm of Jackson;
• Power Academic & Performing Arts Complex and Winn-Dixie Stores of Jackson;
• Rowan Middle School and St. Andrews Episcopal Cathedral of Jackson;
• Joseph Frazier Elementary School and 17 community partners in Natchez;
• Bright Horizons and Domino’s Pizza in West Point; and
• Bright Horizons and Parents in Public Schools in West Point.
“Being recognized on a statewide level is very rewarding,” said Melanie Groner, public relations director for the West Point School District.
Established in 1996, Bright Horizons is an umbrella program comprised of more than 80 partners in the West Point area. In 2002, the organization was recognized with a Governor’s Award for its outstanding community support.
“Some of the people who had been involved for a long time were surprised to learn the governor thought what they doing was important,” said Groner. “We’d always thought so, and had our own little awards ceremony. The statewide recognition was great.”
Even though Parents in Public Schools in West Point was established only two years ago, its members have hosted numerous community events for schoolchildren and their families, including Clean-Up Day Competition, where schools compete for nearly $1,000 in grants, and the Back-to-School Splash held during the first week of school that brings together program leaders and participants for the school year.
“The group also raised money and volunteered hundreds of man hours to repair and landscape our school playground,” said Groner. “In fact, one of the members’ dad, a retired contractor, built a 300-seat amphitheater for free. We had gotten an estimate of $45,000, which we couldn’t afford, and the entire project ended up costing us only a couple of thousand.”
This year, two additional Mississippi groups will be inducted into the Governor’s Honor Roll of Exemplary Organizations Supporting Multiple Partnerships: GE Advanced Materials and the Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation.
MAPE has a presence in more than 30 communities in the state, affecting more than 150,000 Mississippi schoolchildren.
“We have many remarkable programs throughout the state,” said Lee. “It is an honor to recognize the best of the best.”
Contact MBJ contributing writer Lynne W. Jeter at email@example.com.