While our kids and grandkids are doing their best to not think about school in July, I think it is a great time for business to do just that. With just one month until our teachers and students head back to the classroom, a little summer downtime offers the perfect opportunity to consider a new or renewed business partnership with our schools.
Business and community partnerships are critical to the success of our students and school district. The Manatee Chamber of Commerce and School District of Manatee County partner with the ePie (Partners in Education) program. There currently are 220 official business partners giving more than $5 million annually in actual and in-kind services, donations, programs and projects. Through successful partnerships, schools and businesses are able to develop unique methods of accomplishing educational goals that could not be realized without each other. These partnerships often result in opportunities for students that otherwise would not be possible.
Partnerships come in many different forms and sizes and if you and your employees are interested, the Manatee Chamber can help your business connect with a local school.
The Manatee Chamber also has three programs it takes directly into our schools. The statistics for 2013-2014 were meaningful -- 1,425 volunteer hours spent with approximately 4,100 students. Our Big Bank Theory program stresses the importance of financial literacy to 12th grade students. Manatee Chamber volunteers were in all six public high schools. Project TEACH reached 112 4th grade classrooms at 27 local schools and brought information about careers to these students. And, our Real Life 101 program was designed to help middle school students understand the importance of a strong work ethic.
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In addition to partnerships and volunteerism, I also encourage our local businesses to consider supporting students by serving on an advisory committee. Programs at all levels -- elementary, middle, high
and post-secondary -- need business leaders who can help keep curriculum and content relevant. Often the commitment is just a few meetings a year but the impact is big. The expertise you can share helps teachers make connections for their students, enhances learning, and increases school involvement. Important relationships are also nurtured that lead to a community-wide vision for excellence in education.
Through all of these opportunities -- partnerships, volunteerism, committee service -- business leaders also gain key insights into challenges and opportunities unique to education.
Informed advocacy is key at all levels and our students deserve our attention and commitment.
Don't let this summer fade into fall without considering what you and your business could do. Perhaps there is a school right around the corner that needs exactly what you could offer.
Finally, if you want a little inspiration, I encourage you to attend the Manatee Chamber's Annual Business Education Partnership Awards Sept. 5 from 7:30-9 a.m. at the Auditorium at Freedom Village.
You'll hear about some of the awesome things happening in our schools thanks to business and community involvement. Contact Jahna Leinhauser at the Chamber at 941-748-3411.
Bob Bartz, president of the Manatee Chamber of Commerce, can be reached at 941-748-3411 or BobB@ManateeChamber.com.