In the Know: Partnerships and Service – Keys to Learning – Alexandria Echo Press

By Rick Sansted, Superintendent, Alexandria Public Schools

The vision of Alexandria Public Schools is to be an extraordinary school district that adapts learning to each child, working together. I want to focus my sharing this week on the “working together” part. Here are some recent examples that come to mind – there are many more but impossible to fit into the column space limitations.

Starting with our earliest learners, we work in conjunction with the Alexandria Area YMCA and the All-Pro Childcare Center to conduct early childhood screenings for 3 year olds.

In our elementary buildings, Junior Achievement helps students understand basic business concepts and the important role education plays in their future. Junior Achievement volunteers devote their time and energy to supporting student learning.

We also recently hosted our annual STEAM Expo. Community partners such as the Alexandria Education Foundation, Alomere Health, Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management, Sanford Health Alexandria, ALP Utilities, Alexandria College, REA, and 3M engage students in a variety of activities to help create hands-on activities to better understand the world around us. Our K-8 students and their families had a great time learning and engaging with science, technology, engineering, arts, and math topics.

Our college opportunities continue to grow. In May, our annual Day of Caring for our Grade 8 students will be held. This is a partnership with the United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties. This program has our Grade 8 students as well as staff and volunteers who lead service projects throughout the community. Students help community members and organizations with a variety of tasks, including yard cleanup, garden preparation, window washing, and other outdoor services for homeowners or the community. We have also invested in our outdoor learning spaces at Discovery Middle School. Our summer Makercamp greatly appreciated the support of volunteers and local businesses including Hilltop Lumber, Contech and Stennes Excavating. The results of the work not only add to our outdoor learning spaces, but also to access to nature through a network of trails located on the campus of Discovery Middle School.

At Alexandria Area High School, we are able to provide students with real-world experiences through our community partnerships. Our annual career expo was held recently, which is part of the Freshman Academy experience, but all grade levels had the opportunity to participate. Several companies in the region had exhibits in the booth area and/or speaker sessions where they shared their industry-specific knowledge and how it relates to career opportunities for students. Another example was the 9th Annual Empty Bowls Project held last month. AAHS Civic Service and Commitment Class has partnered with United Way and Calvary Church, with all proceeds supporting Outreach Food Shelf, AAHS’s The Shelf, The Shelf Discovery Middle School’s The Shelf and United Way’s Backpack Attack. This event raises awareness and raises donations to fight hunger in the community and provides students with invaluable service-learning experiences.

May 23 will be our annual honors night where our community supports our high school graduates with traditionally over $240,000 in scholarships. This event will likely be streamed live, so check out alexschools.org/aahs if you want to tune in.

Last Thursday we also had a partnership return to AAHS. Golden K Kiwanis members have a long tradition of welcoming our high school students every Thursday morning as they arrive. I know this is a great start to the day for our students and also for our Golden K members. It was heartwarming to see this group back in the building this week.

I want to close with a huge thank you to our staff and our community – our parents, our business partners and our non-profit organizations. These opportunities would not be possible without the commitment of everyone involved and a spirit of service and helping others. This is how we, as a community, live out our vision to create an extraordinary school district – by working together!

Rick Sansted is the Superintendent of Alexandria Public Schools. “In the Know” is a rotating column written by community leaders in the Douglas County area.