Reasons Why the School to Community Connection Matters
Helen Keller said, “Alone we can do so little; together, we can do so much.” This truth certainly applies to the critical connection of our schools to our communities. Yes, the funding comes from federal and state resources, but the local community should be the real sustenance of learning experiences.
Because a community of people live in the same area and have common interests, there should be an understanding that they will influence each other’s lives in some way. And, what better way to expose students to real life experiences than to form partnerships with businesses, volunteer organizations, retirement homes, and churches to bring added resources and accountability to schools.
XQ America proposes Super Schools where educators collaborate with small business owners, large corporations, and healthcare providers to enable students to study in a multitude of scenarios. Because learning is authentic, and not just classroom-based, students are able to watch and assist business leaders as they work through interactions and negotiations intended to bring success to the company. XQ America espouses 4 key strategies to connect schools with the community:
- By repurposing vacant buildings in the community into schools (in the same manner as a mixed-use downtown area), students are then able to interact on a regular basis with surrounding businesses, museums, and healthcare institutions. In this way, students get real-life experiences while the community has a true stake in the success of the school.
- Schools should develop partnerships with community partners to accomplish projects that have real use to the community. They “want to broker access to opportunity and resources to change privileged knowledge to common”
- Early access to internships helps local businesses identify talented students who could bring value to these companies while exposing the students to potential future employment and career opportunities.
- Provide early access to higher education through partnering with colleges and universities nearby for dual credit courses.
Within our schools are students with physical needs, and the schools themselves cannot meet all of these alone. Community partnerships should not only focus on educational opportunities, but also on aiding families with physical needs. Connecting families with mental health services, dental and medical services, and food banks is another critical area. Some concrete ideas for connections aside from mentoring and internships are:
- Afterschool homework help and enrichment activities
- Neighborhood involvement day with activities such as planting flowers in the yards of elderly neighbors, or planning and maintaining a community garden.
- Enlist retired teachers and older people to be reading and lunch buddies for students.
- Participate in multicultural events and arts activities.
The New Hampshire Department of Education reports that “these partnerships result in sharing and maximizing resources. And they help children and youth develop healthy behaviors and promote healthy families”. And the Michigan State Government found that “when families, schools, and community institutions (e.g., local businesses, community colleges, and health agencies) collectively agree upon their goals and decide how to reach them, everyone benefits.” Collaborating with the surrounding community can only strengthen the students and their families while building strong relationships with businesses, healthcare providers, and volunteer groups.