Gazette opinion: Cheers for Partners in Education

May 1, 2017 GMT

Nearly 100 Billings businesses and organizations volunteered as Partners in Education this academic year.

The Career Center alone has dozens of partners who help students learn in fields ranging from house construction to health care.

The Career Center’s health careers program received support from St. Vincent Healthcare, Billings Clinic, RiverStone, Shiloh Veterinary Clinic, The Animal Hospital, Billings Fire Department City College and Stillwater Mining Co. Donations of money and staff time helped the Career Center launch its first emergency medical technician training program last August. Students soon will be taking national EMT certification tests.

The Billings Home Builders association has partnered with the Career Center for more than 30 years to build a house each school year.

Other partners, such as Valley Federal Credit Union, tutor primary students in reading, and help with school carnivals. Valley partners with Miles Avenue Elementary.

United Way of Yellowstone County works with schools throughout the city on the Attendance Matters initiative. By focusing on a goal of having every student in class every day, staff and volunteers have reached out to families to overcome obstacles to attendance. This school year, student absences have decreased by 17.5 percent while student tardies are down 43.7 percent, compared with the 2015-2016 school year.

ExxonMobil engineers have monthly lunch-and-learns with Bench Elementary fifth-graders to acquaint the kids with engineering careers.

Meadowlark Elementary fifth-graders learned about the design of Ben Steele Middle School from Sanderson Stewart engineers.

Kampgrounds of America is a longtime partner with Ponderosa Elementary where KOA employees host an ice cream social to welcome students back to school, and later in the year sponsor a reading challenge.

Because of partners recruited through the Foundation for Billings Public Schools, 20 of the district’s 22 elementary schools and some middle school students have hands-on Science Technology Engineer Math (STEM) lessons. Private donations supplied partial funding for this Project Lead the Way because the school district alone could not afford the supplies and training required.

The elementary levy that is being voted on today and Tuesday will expand and sustain the STEM program in all 22 elementary schools and the six middle schools, including Ben Steele.

Last week, the foundation hosted a luncheon to honor Partners in Education and to applaud the class of 2017 valedictorians and Senior High Platinum Scholars.

There is a strong connection between school volunteers and student success. The mentors, job shadows, math tutors and other volunteers enrich our students’ education. Volunteers shows students that their community cares about them. Students need to have caring adults in their lives.

All the Partners in Education deserve accolades.

There’s still plenty of opportunity for more partners. Burlington, Poly Drive, Alkali Creek and Beartooth don’t have any partners. Other schools would welcome additional partners.

To learn more about Partners in Education, check the link with this Gazette opinion at billingsgazette.com.

Please consider how your business or service organization can volunteer in the schools and contact Krista Hertz, executive director of the Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools at 245-4133 or hertzk@billingsschools.org.

Volunteers usually find that they receive more than they give — when they help students succeed.