A great program at SPS

Published 10:08 pm Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Volunteers from the Coast Guard vessels Bear and Forward, both of which are homeported at the Coast Guard base in Portsmouth, spend a surprising amount of time at Northern Shores Elementary School.

Twice a week, visitors at the school can find Coast Guardsmen hunkered down over math problems with fourth- and fifth-graders who are in need of one-on-one tutoring. Significantly, the children and their tutors are unrelated except for the connection they have through a program administered by Suffolk Public Schools called Partners in Education.

About 145 businesses and organizations participate in the program, which connects businesses, churches and other groups with the city’s public schools in creative arrangements that are intended to improve the educational experience of students around Suffolk.

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Some of those participants, like the Coast Guard, provide volunteers willing to serve as tutors and mentors to students who need extra help. Others provide other services and interactions designed to make teachers’ jobs easier and more enjoyable. Still others help beautify the schools with which they partner.

These past few years have been hard ones for businesses, and those that have maintained their volunteer connections with students in Suffolk Public Schools are to be commended. The students reap huge benefits from the interactions — far more, even, than just improving their test scores by a few points.

And Suffolk Public Schools should receive credit for recognizing the importance of programs like Partners in Education. Students and their educators can benefit from the experiences and ideas of people from all walks of life, and programs such as this one encourage people who might otherwise never step through the doors of one of the city’s public schools to share their unique talents.

It’s a great program for all involved.