Community Partners Make a Difference …
Across our schools, we have documented over 300 partnerships that benefit our young people and the staff who work with them. Our schools connect with a variety of partners to support our learners: local businesses, faith-based organizations, nonprofits, and our local college and university volunteer associations. Partners aren’t just donors to us of time, expertise and resources but our young school communities also provide resources and services to our partners as well. For example, all high school seniors participate in a variety of community service activities to provide support to organizations in our community that also need an extra pair of hands to accomplish their work. This could mean helping package donated food with the Blue Ridge Food Bank volunteers, working with United Way and Good Will projects that serve the homeless and our less advantaged community members, reading to senior citizens at a local nursing home, participating in canned food drives, or tutoring younger students after school.
When visiting Woodbrook Elementary this past week, I had the opportunity to interact with one of our Woodbrook partners who provides a unique service in several of our schools, an SPCA/SDV volunteer with trained therapy dogs. Here’s what one teacher at Woodbrook has to say about this volunteer service to her young readers:
“I can’t tell you how much your program means to our students! They will benefit so much. Today they are already asking when they get to do it again.” Allison Greene, reading specialist from Woodbrook Elementary.
I Learned something new, too …
While this particular activity brings trained therapy dogs to the school to be good listeners to our youngest readers, I also learned that this pair of beautiful and perfectly genteel collies also bring a credential for working with children with autism.
It was quite wonderful to see our children so engaged as young readers but also their learning about the dogs from the owner. As they gently touched one of the dog’s foot pads, I could only think that these are the experiences that close children’s learning opportunity gaps as they discussed the roughness of a dog’s foot pads and why those exist to help a dog move essentially barefoot through a variety of environments.
Principal Lisa Molinaro and I were delighted to land in the library and spend time with children, the dogs, and their owner who is a regular volunteer in the school.
Partnerships with organizations are a win for our schools. But there’s also more!
The SPCA is a great partner with us because they also benefit from our student volunteers who go there to help with walking dogs waiting to find owners, cuddling with kittens to acclimate them to human touch, and assisting with other activities that benefit the SPCA.
This past summer, Woodbrook Elementary’s summer program children worked on a project to benefit their SPCA partner, making homemade dog biscuits and cat toys to take there as gifts to the animals while also spending time with a local vet learning about pet nutrition. Woodbrook’s partnership with the local SPCA represents a great story of what it means to educate children for life, not just school.
Our children learn as they move through our schools that community is important and that giving of ourselves to community makes a difference. Our vision for all learners incorporates more than just academic success as an outcome. We also want young people who develop and sustain empathy over time and a value for community. This matters in families, our community and ultimately when our high school graduates become young adults.
Partnerships matter and we appreciate all the many ways that our children learn through our community partnerships. Thank you, Woodbrook and our Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA for being a wonderful model of that.
To volunteer at the Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA, email firstname.lastname@example.org