Businesses Support Public Schools
The New Helping-Hands Equation: Money + Volunteers x Expertise – Red Tape = Smarter/Motivated Students
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How to Help
Want to help a school? A newly expanded website aims to make it easy to start.
The site, helphawaiischools.com, is like a matchmaker, says Judy Nagasako, DOE specialist for corporate and community partnerships.
"Schools can post their wish lists of how they need volunteers or help. And the reverse is also possible. People who want to offer something can also propose what they wish to offer to a school. The individual selects the school or schools and the message just goes to them."
The site was a pilot project starting in 2006, but this is the first year all 286 Hawaii public schools have been listed. "We're in the middle of training schools so they can access this information and respond to offers that may come their way," Nagasako says.
"We're saying (to schools) that, if you receive an offer, you should respond in a week."
Why Help Schools? Here Are 3 Good Reasons
Before joining the Department of Education, Randy Moore spent 35 years in the private sector, including serving as president and CEO of Kaneohe Ranch, so he knows how important business support and partnerships are to public schools.
"Are they important? Absolutely, and for three good reasons," says Moore, assistant superintendent for school facilities and support services. "One is obviously the value that is added to the school.
"The second is it's a message from the outside community that we value the school, and that's a message that's valuable inside the school. Schools are a kind of bubbles that don't have a whole lot of interaction with the rest of the world. For the folks laboring on campus, knowing that other people care what they're doing is very reinforcing.
"And it's good for the students to know that the outside world thinks that schools are worth supporting. The more people feel they're doing something for the schools, it just elevates the whole community awareness of the value of the school."
The third value shows up in the well-being of the volunteer, says Moore. "There are some interesting studies of the health benefits of volunteering. For people who volunteer there's a specifically valid correlation between their health and their volunteer activities. Those people are healthier than those who don't volunteer."
Making a difference
Several programs supported by businesses have made an important difference in Hawaii's public schools. They include:
Each year, JA rallies at least 330 volunteers, most of them from financial institutions, to teach 6,500 students grade-appropriate lessons on financial literacy.
"In the fall at Aiea High, we did a personal finance program for the entire senior class," says JA program manager Arlene Kihara. "We talked about things like budgeting, investing, credit, identity fraud and insurance. (Otherwise) they don't get that in school."
Oahu Workforce Investment Board
The city's board partners with business in many ways, including bringing 30 or 40 business leaders to Roosevelt High annually for an intensive career day for the junior class.
The program's name stands for repair, remodel and restore public schools and was launched by U.S. Sen. Daniel K. Inouye in 2001. Since then, it has completed projects worth $39.6 million at 186 schools.
Federal and state money covers half the costs and primes the private-sector pump, which has turned out 3,300 volunteers, who donated 13,000 hours of free labor.
Dozens of businesses have contributed and Realtors and staff from Prudential Locations are among the most stalwart, says executive director Ryan Shigetani. The Realtors do two projects a year and donate $5,000 for each project. They recently restriped the parking lot, curbs and some walkways at Pauoa Elementary.
"A lot of companies are looking for team building and community involvement, and leaving a mark on a school," says Shigetani. "What has made our projects a little higher quality is we hire contractors as well. The federal and state money allows us to have a higher standard and it also makes the work our volunteers do more efficient."
As an example, he cites a project a couple of years ago for which Central Pacific Bank fielded more than 100 employees to paint Dole Middle School. Shigetani used government money to hire contractors to prep the walls first so volunteers could move quickly and effectively.
"We did it in a day. The entire campus," he says.
With earmarks all but dead in Congress, Hawaii 3Rs has an uncertain future.
"The future of our program is in doubt right now," said Shigetani. "We've raised over a million dollars privately, but, in the future, it's going to have to be more. With the lack of earmarks we're going to have to revamp our program."
Hawaii 3Rs (A)Rithmetic
Federal funding for the 3Rs program is in jeopardy. Here's where the money comes from:
Source: Hawaii 3Rs
Where to sign up as a volunteer
Public Schools of Hawaii Foundation
Oahu Workforce Investment Board
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