I am the principal of a state-sponsored charter school in Nevada. This means I am not part of the local school district. My school has a different governing board, and we make decisions based on our students’ needs rather than any other influences. Part of our mission is to unite the community, and we try to bring that to life at my campus. Building synergy around the school and growing our name and reputation in the community is important. We do not have buses and we do not have neighborhoods surrounding us. Our families travel from 32 zip codes to bring their children to school each day. Partnerships with the community have helped us grow our school from 680 students to over 900 students in a few short years.
Ask for Help
We get creative in partnering with groups and people to bring additional services to our students. As a general rule, businesses and community members like to help schools and children. Ask them! We have received in-kind donations of computers, school supplies, food, bicycles, clothing, toiletries, and books for our school. Time is our most valuable asset, and we have had so many people invest their time in our students to inspire and help educate them. We have hosted multiple events with guest speakers from the community and the world that include astronauts, scientists, presidents of companies, pilots, doctors, military members, celebrities, athletes, policemen, firefighters, politicians, and so much more.
Volunteer your Space
There are a lot of groups looking for a free or cheap place to meet. Bring these groups to your school and let them use your space. The Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts use my school for their meetings and occasional events. In return, they have provided countless hours of community service in cleaning, planting gardens, grilling foods at our block parties, and cooking at family events we host at school. It is fantastic, because many of the students in the Scouts are also students at the school. The children form friendships with other children they may not come to know if it weren’t for Scouts. They have a sense of belonging and they have a feeling of pride and ownership in their school when they are participating in events that make it more beautiful. We have let other community groups use our space as well. It builds synergy around the mission of our school and unites the community in subtle ways you may not realize. Let your school be known as a center for learning and a hub for helping the community at large.
Look for Win-Win Scenarios for your Community
There are so many events that schools host in a normal year. Open houses, family literacy and math nights, talent shows, plays, and carnivals, are just a few examples. Invite parents you know who own businesses or other local businesses to attend these events. Ask them to set up a table with information about their businesses, product samples, or coupons. It adds interest for the parents, makes people happy, involves the community at your school, and may help people make connections with each other. It is a win-win for the community, and you may get additional freebies out of it. You will also feel better when approaching the businesses for donations of products or of their time when you know they have gotten something out of giving to your school.
Be Thankful and Go for It
Always show gratitude for the time, effort, products, or money that people share with your school. Write thank you notes, post on social media, and be appreciative. Step out and look for ways to engage the community with your school. You will be rewarded with kindness, generosity, and more than you would have imagined possible!