We have all heard the old African proverb: It takes a village to raise a child.

Leadership and staff at Gattis Elementary have taken this idea to heart and have launched a mission to build relationships and become “One Family” with their local community.

Gattis administrators, Jennifer Lucas and April Nilson, recognize the value of engaging local stakeholders and forming community partnerships. They believe so firmly in inviting the community to be a part of Gattis that Lucas, Nilson and their staff used a professional development day to network with local businesses, apartment complexes, realtors and after-school programs.

“We wanted the realtors in the new housing developments and businesses in the area to get to know us and see our faces,” Lucas said. “They will be sending new families to our school, and we felt that if we reached out to them, they would be able to speak to the families about their personal experience with our staff. We wanted to develop relationships with community businesses for future partnerships.”

Building these relationships has paid off in a big way. Realtors and apartment managers are now able to tell the story of Gattis, the community has a better understanding of the culture of the school, and teachers feel comfortable inviting business leaders into the classroom to partner and deliver curriculum at a deeper level.

During the fall semester, Gattis focused on using partners during Friday enrichment time known as RISE (Rich, Innovative, Student Enrichment). During this time, students choose an area of interest from several offerings and spend one hour each Friday morning exploring the chosen topic. While students look at the time as fun, many curricular connections are happening.

Because RISE time includes such a rich variety of choices, it lends itself perfectly to the inclusion of partners. For example, the Lego group at Gattis chose to build cities. To help the students understand the intricacies behind building, the teacher invited in a city planner. What started out as playing with Legos turned into a lesson in economics, planning and geometry. This type of authentic, rich learning is the magic of partnerships. Not only are students stretched, but teachers are also.

The local McDonald’s, a long time partner of Gattis, also supported the enrichment efforts with a $5,000 donation to the campus. McDonald’s wanted to do something that directly impacted students. To promote unity, Lucas and staff decided to purchase school shirts for students which freed up money to use to buy supplies for RISE time.

Lucas says she is excited to pull in even more partners during the spring semester as they begin a new round of Friday enrichment.

If you are interested in partnering with Gattis or any of our campuses, please email Rachael Brunson, Community Partnerships Supervisor.