In total, GE Aviation has donated $10, 000 to Pride, Grapevine, West Broadway, and Jesse Stuart Elementary Schools via their newly formed “Aviators Club” program, which seeks to “help kids fly with literacy.”
Though raising literacy levels is the main focus of the partnership, the purpose of GE’s involvement is actually multifaceted, as it will provide needed upgrades to the schools’ Accelerated Reading (AR) programs, will give GE employees a chance to interact with locals on a face-to-face level through mentoring and other voluntary services, and will aim at bringing a closer relationship between local industry and the community. Additionally, GE hopes their partnership with the schools will inspire other businesses in our area to follow suit.
To find out more information on the project, iSurf News spoke with GE’s Plant Leader, David Groth, who explained that, “The goal is to improve literacy in the schools closest to our business. We are a ‘city company’ and we have lots of different places that we can donate our money to, but we thought, ‘What better way to serve the community than through our children who are probably in the most need?’ Literacy is an issue and it’s a challenge in those schools.”
As outlined in Groth’s presentation at the BOE meeting earlier this week, the percentages of children living below the poverty line for the Madisonville schools are approximately: Grapevine—72%; Pride—71%; Jesse Stuart—71%; and West Broadway—56%. In line with this data, Groth’s presentation added that “numerous studies have shown childhood poverty to be highly correlated with poor performance in academics, lower IQ scores, and an increased risk of dropping out of school.”
In relation to how the Aviator’s Club partnership will play a role in developing a stronger bond between the industry and the community, Groth stated that, “Madisonville’s GE plant has about 600 employees and we’ve been looking for a way to allow more of them to volunteer in the community. We’re working on the details of the volunteer portion of the partnership, but what I’m trying to get is a ‘champion’ for each one of the four schools from my plant that could work with the principals. Volunteering and working in the community is a major initiative of GE and GE Aviation.”
Though GE will be finalizing the details of the volunteer portion of the program between now and early 2011, there are 3 main areas of focus that they are considering: hands-on reading, mentoring, and other miscellaneous projects. Additioanlly, GE volunteers working with children will be required to allow the respective school to perform a background check as well.
“Having adults come to their schools and doing things like reading and mentoring can have the biggest impact on the students’ lives,” said Groth. “And, really, that translates into helping the future of Madisonville as well.”
iSurf News also contacted the Hopkins County BOE’s Director of Elementary Instruction and Title 1 Director, Lonnie Strader, who has been working closely with Groth and GE to get the partnership off the ground.
“We are elated with GE’s voluntary partnership with our inner city schools,” said Strader. “As I said at the BOE presentation the other night, sometimes you get those phone calls or emails that you dread because you know they’re not going to be good, but Mr. Groth’s email was a pleasant surprise.”
While iSurf News spoke with Strader, he explained a little more about the AR programs as well, stating that, “The Accelerated Reader is a group of books that are on an approved list for children to read. The children read the AR books in their grade level and then they have the opportunity to take a test on the computer to see if they had enough comprehension to pass that test. Once they do, they get a certain amount of points for reading the book, and those points accumulate. Each school has a little different point system and they have some rewards that the students can get once they earn so many points. It’s been a very good program for us.”
As Strader explained, the donation from GE will allow each of the four schools’s to broaden their AR program to include more books and tests.
Specifically, each of the schools will receive the following funds for upgrades on their respective AR program: Grapevine—$1,622.20 (AR Enterprise); Pride—$1,802.77 (AR Enterprise); Jesse Stuart—$2,073.61 (AR Enterprise); and West Broadway—$983.47 (STAR Enterprise). Once divided between the schools, the remaining funds will be used for new AR training.
“We are excited about GE’s willingness to allow their employees to come and volunteer, to mentor, to come in and maybe eat lunch with the kids, or to read a book—or just to spark some interest in reading all together,” said Strader. “Just seeing community folks come in and show interest in them will have a huge impact on the students, too. Plus, it will show them that if they stay in school, get the skills, and do the reading, they’ll have an opportunity to work at local places and make a difference in people’s lives.”
In addition, Strader mentioned that, “We are also hoping that other community businesses see this and think, ‘We could do the same thing,’ because our goal is that we’d love to have all the schools have a donation of not only money, but also a donation of people’s time for volunteering.”
“I think Mrs. Clinton said this, but it does take a village to raise a group of students or a child,” said Strader, “and it just goes to show you that if all of us get involved in this, it does make Hopkins County a place of excellence. It’s a good partnership to have.”
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