Partners celebrated a banner school year Thursday. Then, they buckled in to plan for another one.
Close to 100 people turned out Thursday morning at Central Steele Creek Presbyterian Church as part of Alignment Southwest Charlotte, a partnership matching community resources to school needs. The group aims to bring corporate, nonprofit, civic and faith groups together with Steele Creek schools.
“This is our forum for doing that,” said Charles Wilkerson with Steele Creek Printing & Design. “This is about the kids. It’s not about the adults.”
So many community members showed up Thursday they had to crowd around tables set up for each school.
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“This is a great problem to have,” Wilkerson said.
The group has momentum. Last year was the Alignment Southwest Charlotte’s first, resulting in an $80,000 Bosch Rexroth donation to create an advanced technology center at Olympic High School, another $50,000 and 3,000 volunteer hours from the company for a first-year robotics team that qualified for nationals, more than 20 $500 mini-grants for teachers, backpacks full of food for children needing it on the weekends and funding for middle school engineering projects, among others.
“It’s always been about, how do we help children reach their full human and economic potential?” said Mike Realon with Olympic. “We’ve been able to find the square pegs and square holes. We’ve proven we can do that.”
The school district is helping with that momentum. LaTarzja Henry, assistant superintendent for community partnerships and parent engagement, said when she met with the Steele Creek group last year there was hope of a fully funded department for partnering schools with their neighbors, but it was just an idea. Now that department operates similarly to what the Steele Creek group started.
“There is power in connection,” Henry said. “Those relationships are really imperative.”
Yolonda Holmes heads that department in the Steele Creek area. Her group identified school needs for the coming year and used Thursday’s meeting to wrap up recruiting of partners.
“We know it’s vitally important to support our students,” she said. “This is a great area to set a precedent for what it looks like.”
Mark Rohlinger with Bosch Rexroth said it isn’t just altruism or public perception that should lead companies like his to help schools. It’s good business.
“We look at these groups as supply,” he said of local schools, from elementary through community college. “We need these groups to provide our workforce.”
Opportunities range from donations like last year’s for robotics to sponsoring a back-to-school event or family night. Part of Thursday’s discussion was highlighting identified needs from each school in Steele Creek – six elementary, two middle and five schools at Olympic.
Olympic needs male mentors, tutors and after-school options. Kennedy and Southwest middle schools need help with literacy programs. Most all schools need tutoring or reading buddies, and professional development for faculty. Technology support and lab activities are needs. Some need cultural or family involvement training, others to engage their Hispanic communities.
The district hopes to create an ongoing list of community partners, similar to what Alignment Southwest Charlotte is working to continue.