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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

From Crayons to Computers: Partners in Education

A community unites to improve its schools.
By Edutopia Staff

Alarmed by the bad press one of the city's high schools was attracting, the former general manager of Harrah's Hotel and Casino in Reno, Nevada, moved into action.

Vowing that "this situation cannot go on," he met with the Greater Reno/Sparks Chamber of Commerce and the administration of the K-12 Washoe County School District (WSCD). Through their combined efforts, Partners in Education (PIE) was established to strengthen the educational experience for all 52,000 students. That was ten years ago.

Today, with over 1,200 business, community, and school partnerships and a staff of six, PIE offers five major programs: From Crayons to Computers; Adopt-a-School; Curriculum Enhancement; Special Projects, and One-on-One.

From Crayons to Computers collects donations of leftover items from businesses and individuals in the community and makes them available free to district schools. Based on the motto, "Your trash is our treasure," over $4,000,000 worth of gifts, services, merchandise, and monetary donations have been distributed. In one Adopt-a-School partnership, a local construction company paired with a fifth-grade class to build a playhouse for first-grade students. The older students were responsible for all phases of the project, including survey and measurement, design, purchasing of materials, construction, marketing, and sales (that took the form of a raffle).

Curriculum Enhancement programs facilitate the involvement of agencies and individuals who bring resources and expertise into the classroom. In one instance, Telephone Pioneers of America painted a 20-by-30-foot map of the United States on the school grounds and provided activity resource books for teachers to use the map with their students. Businesses and organizations sponsor special projects to expose students to new opportunities.

In one special project called B. E. *A Success, volunteers from the business community go into each freshman class to talk about steps to getting and keeping a job. Two One-on-One programs -- the Mentor Program and CHUMS -- foster relationships between adult volunteers and students who need individual attention.

Coordinator Judith Simpson reports that PIE is already being replicated across the country. "All you need is an educational community that is willing to open its doors and a business community that cares enough to get involved," she says.

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