Businesses, foundations play a large role in school success

Published 2:15 pm Thursday, May 31, 2007


How many times have you seen someone shake their heads and lament that the schools in his or her community just aren’t any good? The truth is communities have good schools when they expect them, demand them and do what is necessary to support them.

Businesses and foundations play a large role in school success. In every corner of this state, you will find excellent examples of ways in which businesses and foundations partner with schools to provide additional resources and opportunities for teachers and students.

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Based in Jackson, the Bower Foundation has funded a number of programs through the Mississippi Department of Education’s Office of Healthy Schools. They have helped fund the infrastructure of the office, grants to help schools implement wellness programs and activities, grants to study the impact of removing unhealthy beverages and snacks from vending machines, and grants to help purchase cafeteria equipment that takes the place of fryers.

In the Delta, the Clarksdale-Coahoma County Foundation for Excellence in Education has established a Writing and Public Speaking Academy for grades 1-3 and 9-12. The academy will help students learn to write and present information so that they will be prepared to enter the workforce with the language arts, writing and presentation skills necessary to succeed. A committee has been formed to establish the institute and begin fundraising for this project. The Gulf Coast Community Foundation supports a number of education initiatives in addition to a number of other community improvement programs. They have a number of funds that award grants to projects that impact education and schools in South Mississippi. The Gulf Coast Community Foundation also honors teachers that have developed interesting and creative projects that will help spark the imagination and fuel the fire of interest in their students through the Leo W. Seal Awards, which are awarded annually.

The five teachers selected this year submitted project proposals on a number of different topics, from I-pods to forensic science that students watch on television shows like C.S.I. These projects will improve critical thinking skills and problem-solving abilities. This is exactly the way businesses and foundations can help fill the gap between what teachers want to do and schools can afford.

In many cases, it takes several organizations and individuals coming together to benefit schools and students. The North Mississippi Media Alliance recently launched a public service campaign aimed at dropout prevention. The campaign was funded by a $130,000 grant from the Three Rivers Planning and Development District and grew out of discussions that began last year in the CREATE Foundation’s Workforce Development Committee. Directed at students, their parents and grandparents, the campaign consists of a series of print, radio, television, cable and outdoor advertisements. The members of the North Mississippi Media Alliance, a consortium of newspaper, television, radio, outdoor advertising and other media representatives, will donate space and air time for the ads as a public service.

These are just four of the more recent examples of the outstanding initiatives that foundations are implementing across the state to help our schools, teachers and students succeed. There are many, many others throughout the state that have a tremendous impact on K-12 schools in Mississippi. It is impossible in a short article to name all of the many organizations that play such a vital role in the success of our schools every day. I appreciate all of their efforts and their commitment to helping the boys and girls of Mississippi achieve their dreams and fulfill their potential.

I hope that business, community, civic and philanthropic leaders in other communities will use these as a springboard for fresh ideas of ways to help their schools to excel. I would also like to encourage school leaders to reach out to these individuals and help identify ways in which they can assist the schools. When these kinds of partnerships are developed in all of our communities, our children will not just survive. They will thrive.

And our communities will thrive also.