A Partnership with a Big Impact

by Sarah Oakford
Peoria Public Schools

It does not take a lot of money to adopt a school—it takes a big heart.

The Peoria Public Schools Adopt-A-School program was established in 1984 in partnership with the Peoria Area Chamber of Commerce. Over two decades, it grew to eventually include 133 businesses, civic organizations and churches partnered with 33 schools. Cindy Morris, now president of the Peoria Public Schools Foundation, was the last coordinator for the program in 2010. Although many of these relationships still exist, there hadn’t been a coordinator for the Adopt-A-School program until this year.

Fortunately for me, when Dr. Sharon Desmoulin-Kherat presented her five-year strategic plan last August, reinstating the Adopt-A-School program was a priority. After many months, a joint partnership was formed in March between the Peoria Public Schools Foundation, Peoria Public Schools and the Junior League of Peoria to bring back the program.

What is the Adopt-A-School program?
The Adopt-A-School program is an effective partnership between education and the business and private sectors of Peoria. Its purpose is to utilize the vast amounts of human resources and talents of our community to strengthen, enhance and enrich the quality of education in the Peoria Public Schools.

Businesses and organizations may choose to participate in the program as an adopter by partnering with a school, by sponsoring the overall program financially, through in-kind donations or by mentoring/tutoring. When you participate in the Adopt-a-School program, you teach, you mentor, you coach and you inspire every student. Yes, this is a community-based program, and you participate as a unit, but your contribution to the program comes from within. The quality of your time greatly surpasses the quantity.

What do adopters do?
Adopt-A-School partners set realistic goals that are agreeable to all involved. The overall objectives of the partnership are flexible in order to utilize the adopter’s resources to meet the needs of the school, and each partnership is uniquely designed to bring about positive outcomes for everyone.

Adopters initiate activities that encourage students and enrich their educational experiences. While developing strong person-to-person relationships, Adopt-A-School partners engage in a variety of projects. Currently, you will see everything from adopters playing Scrabble with students over lunches, to packing “snack packs” with non-perishable food so the children have something to eat over the weekend, to organizing school cleanups.

Imagine that adopting a school today will result in the potential for a long-term return on investment, including a future talent pool and relationships that pave the way to give back to the community. Too good to be true? Think again. The concept of adopting a school is just that. The Adopt-A-School program is meant to be a starting point for working with your local school system and affecting positive change—change that makes a difference in student outcomes.

Why Adopt-A-School?
The Adopt-A-School program represents a tremendous opportunity to positively affect the lives of students, teachers and volunteers. Across the nation, public schools struggle to provide adequate education with inadequate funding. By leveraging human resources, an organization, church or business can have a significant impact on a school, filling the gaps left by small budgets.

However, having a positive impact on the community is only part of the reason to adopt a school. Equally exciting is the opportunity to engage hundreds of volunteers in dozens of different service roles to mobilize an army of volunteers who will be inspired by their ability to make a difference. With the Adopt-A-School program in most—if not all—schools, those volunteers will see an immediate, measurable difference in the appearance of the school, the morale of the students and teachers, and the grades and test scores of the students.

A strong public school system is central to the health and growth of a community. The Adopt-A-School program strengthens and improves our schools, creates a climate of involvement and interaction between businesses/organizations and schools, and involves the community in preparing for its own economic future. Together, we are working to make a positive impact in our community.

What should you consider before adopting a school?
Before your organization moves forward with a plan for a high-impact adoption, consider the following:

  • Do we have a person with a passion for education and kids who will lead and coordinate the adoption?
  • Do we have leaders who are committed to this project?
  • Do we have volunteers who are seeking a project?
  • How many volunteers can we gather?
  • How much time can we commit?
  • What financial resources can we commit?

Adopt-A-School is the commitment of time, energy and expertise of a business or organization to an individual school. The overall objectives of each partnership are flexible, and the relationships grow and flourish through a climate of active involvement and interaction between the school and the adopter.

Will you be committed to our schools?
It does not take a lot of money to adopt a school—it takes a big heart. Adopting a school really does not call for any upfront investment. Needs may arise that the school or district just cannot pay for, such as office supplies, kids who do not have winter jackets, kids with soiled or worn-out clothes, and even basic hygiene items. Needs like these are met through you: our Adopt-A-School partners. iBi

Sarah Oakford is the Adopt-A-School Coordinator for Peoria Public Schools. For more information, call (309) 282-5270 or email sarah.oakford@psd150.org.

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