Education

Partnerships make communities better, families stronger

Head Start teacher, Sandra Bolling, top center, reads to a group of children at Lincoln Park Primary School. Bolling has been at teacher with Head Start for 24 years. (Photo: Tony Giberson/tgiberson@pnj.com)

From the start, the mission of the Studer Community Institute mission has been to improve the quality of life for the people in the Pensacola Metro community.

It’s an important and lofty mission that cannot happen without the involvement and support of people, agencies and organizations throughout the community.

Organizations seek partnerships to add value through combined efforts. Although organizations may have different structures and approaches, they can work together toward common purposes and achieve shared results.

Over the past 90 days, I have been actively pursuing partnerships and building important relationships in our community.

As Studer Community Institute Parent Outreach Coordinator, I spend a lot of time meeting and talking with people, analyzing and evaluating programs, and developing and creating relationships with folks involved in and with early education.

It could be an agency or organization, a church or a school, a daycare or a Voluntary Pre-K program.

The ultimate goal of this parent outreach initiative is to work with parents and caregivers to build strong and effective partnerships that can help children and families strive.

Everything we plan is with the intentions of giving families the support they want and need to reach better outcomes.

A key part of my efforts is building relationships and creating partnerships to be in the best position to offer parents support to help develop the tools and skills to improve their children’s lives.

On Friday, the fruits of my labor came to fruition at the Community Action Program Committee Head Start/Early Head Start Carnival.

CAPC’s Head Start and Early Head Start provide comprehensive developmental services for low-income pre-school children from birth to age five and support services for their families, including services, such as responsive care, for expectant mothers.

For the past eight years, CAPC has hosted the carnival as a family activity for the children they serve and their families at no cost to them.

The event, held at the Gibson Head Start Center on North C Street, also is a recruitment event for local community agencies. CAPC held another carnival at the same time on the same day in Molino.

Nearly 30 community organizations and businesses were invited to to promote their services and products, along with food and fun activities for children and families.

More than 300 people turned out for the event, and for me, it offered the opportunity to share the mission and work of the Institute and gauge community support for our efforts.

As the line of people snaked around the playground at the Gibson Center, mothers, fathers and grandparents with little children cozied up to the table to learn more about SCI’s Parent Outreach Program initiatives.

I watched their eyes open wide and mouths fall open as I explained the goal of assisting parents in helping their children prepare for kindergarten by using the simple tools and strategies of talking to, tuning in and taking turns with their little babies.

They gobbled up my fliers and handouts. The long line stalled at my table as I tried in a few minutes to explain the purpose and promise of SCI’s early education projects.

Some of the eager parents wanted to know when and where to sign up. They were glad to know that SCI and Early Head Start are working on a partnership to include programs to reach mothers of children ages 0 to 3. The devil’s in the details and I was pleased to see the level of interest and excitement.

On Thursday, I will take my show to Weis Community School on North Q Street. CareerSource Escarosa is hosting a Career Day at the elementary school that sits amid an impoverished community identified as a “pocket of poverty.”

The purpose of the event is to help elementary school students begin to their dreams into goals by connecting them with local employers and sparking interest in jobs and careers in high-demand occupations.

Career Day and Career Fairs are no longer just for high school. Principals, teachers and career specialists realize that those occupation-related events are equally appropriate and important for younger students. Exposing children of all ages to the world of work can help broaden their perspective and spur them to more interesting and productive careers.

They get the opportunity to learn about different jobs in their surrounding community as well as throughout the country and world.. Many of them could very well discover something new and exciting to aspire to become.

Some students will learn about careers they may have never heard about, and they can begin to see themselves as people with so many rewarding opportunities ahead of them.

For children in elementary school, a Career Day early in their academic careers reinforces the importance of early learning. It helps link reading, math and science to something tangible in their lives. The hope is that Career Day will create a lifelong interest in education and learning that leads to success careers and productive lives.

Being a part of these events is an example of creating and sustaining strong relationships and viable partnerships.

A partnership is a give-and-take relationship that can strengthen organizations’ capacity for long-term cooperation and collaboration. To achieve the potential benefits of partnership, organizations must be prepared to build, sustain and evaluate them in a thoughtful way.

A partnership can be defined as a collaborative relationship among organizations. While definitions of partnerships vary, there are two common points: The idea of teamwork, collaboration and the sharing of responsibility and reward.

A true community and business partnership works toward common good. It means that business and community groups agree to work together on a project, or over a period of time, to achieve outcomes beneficial to both parties and to the wider community.

It’s rewarding and fulfilling to help build these important partnerships that go a long way to achieving the mission of making this community a greater and better place to live, work and play.