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Schools honor their partners

It’s no secret that a successful education depends in large part upon a strong partnership between teachers, students and parents.

Less well known, however, is the importance of public-school partnerships with individuals, businesses and civic organizations. Suffolk school officials and many of those partners gathered this week to celebrate the success of that collaboration.

With 119 partners working in the city’s 22 schools, Suffolk has an active and vibrant Partners in Education program.

“A Partners in Education partnership is a mutually supportive arrangement between a school and a business, government agency or community organization in which both parties commit to specific activities intended to improve student achievement and to prepare all children for life in the 21st century,” Dr. Lynn Cross, assistant superintendent for special projects, told the group that gathered at King’s Fork High School on Tuesday for the program’s annual celebration.

Some partners participate as mentors or tutors for their charges. Others speak to specific classes within a school or allow visits to their facilities by students. One partner organization, Suffolk Audio Services, spent 720 hours with Nansemond River High School students, particularly in the theater department, this year.

Suffolk Audio was named one of three Star Partners for its work with the school. The Lockheed Martin Center for Innovation, which partners with Forest Glen Middle School, and the Target Distribution Center, which works with Elephant’s Fork Elementary School, also were honored as Star Partners.

But the 2010 Partnership of the Year went to Nansemond River Baptist Church, which partners with Creekside Elementary School.

The relationship began in August, when church members and staff collected and delivered 60 book bags filled with school supplies to the school.

Since February, 10 to 15 mentors from the church, trained through the Virginia Mentoring Program, have devoted time each week to assist selected Creekside students, according to Dr. Cross.

During each half-hour to one-hour visit, church representatives spent time “just meeting with them, hanging out with them and giving them encouragement,” NRBC Associate Pastor Jeff Walton said.

“But it’s not just the kids they mentored” who benefited from the church members’ attention, Creekside Assistant Principal Tara Moore said. “It’s the whole class. They’ve gone above and beyond what they were asked to do.”

Walton recalled the success that mentors had with one student, in particular, who had been getting failing grades in all of his subjects prior to getting involved with the mentoring program. That child is now passing all of his subjects, he said.

The surprise for those involved with the program from the church, however, was the effect that participating in the partnership program would have on them.

“We set out to minister to the kids, and the kids ministered to us,” Walton said.