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Support Innovative Projects That Improve Schools

June 9, 2014

In 2010, the public education committee of the MetroTex Association of REALTORS®--which has a long history of supporting area schools--established a grant program to fund special projects at area public elementary, middle, and high schools and invited local student organizations to take the initiative and apply. In the program’s first year, the committee selected three winning proposals from more than 20 applications. Students at the Caesar Chavez Elementary School in inner-city Dallas proposed the creation of a powerhouse of a chess club. The student council at the Gene Pike Middle School in the Dallas suburbs wanted to get students involved in a program to stop bullying. And in the rural community of Scurry, Texas, Scurry-Rosser High School’s National Honor Society felt strongly that the student body needed a place to gather, study, and meet outdoors. Each of these three schools received a $3,000 grant. “The committee looked for projects that had the greatest potential impact for the most students and would lead to a positive environment for the whole school. And they felt it was important that a student organization be the driver behind the project,” says Bill Head, the association’s director of communications. In the coming years, the MetroTex Association of REALTORS® hopes to expand the program, which is funded by association fundraising events. “When people are looking at neighborhoods, communities, and towns, schools are very important,” says Bill Head. “For some families, it’s number one on the list. So it’s important that REALTORS® are giving back to the schools and communities as a whole.”

In 1989, the Dayton Area Board of REALTORS® (DABR) and Ruskin Elementary School in Dayton, Ohio, were paired as partners in education. Since then, the DABR Foundation has provided nearly $350,000 in support to the K-8 school, much of it raised through the foundation’s annual event, usually a golf outing. Through the partnership, every Ruskin teacher has a $150 “incentives and supplies” reimbursement opportunity, and DABR has partnered with Books & Company to provide another $150 per teacher for books. The association also fields special requests to cover a range of costs from graphic calculators for an entire class to repairing musical instruments to graduation gowns and track and field T-shirts. But DABR’s commitment extends beyond funding. “Members of the Dayton Area Board of REALTORS® take their commitment to Ruskin seriously,” says Nicholas Popadyn, the association’s director of professional development. They give of their time and talents by tutoring and reading, judging science fairs and speech contests, and by participating in holiday activities, teacher appreciation lunches, school uniform clothing drives, and an end-of-the-year carnival. Some real estate offices have even adopted classrooms.

Every school has different needs. Among the more than 1,800 students at the Palo Duro High School in Amarillo, Texas, 85 percent are economically disadvantaged and 75 percent are minority students. The school has put a positive behavior program in place to reinforce the idea that Palo Duro “Dons” are Focused, Organized, Respectful and Consistent Every day--dubbed the D-FORCE project. The Amarillo Association of REALTORS® contributes $500 a month during the academic year to help fund the program and provides lunch every six weeks for students who meet certain program milestones--including no disciplinary referral or unexcused absences--and achieving a grade point average based on criteria set by the school. Hundreds of students attend the lunches. “One of the best parts is seeing the REALTORS® and students engaging in conversation,” says Denise Price, RCE. “The Palo Duro staff is amazed at how well the REALTORS® and students converse with one another.” At the end of the school year, the association hosts a carnival. Member companies sponsor booths--for a basketball throw, face painting, karaoke, and a dunking booth where teachers, school staff, and even the Palo Duro principal have been dunked. Candy, popcorn, and hamburgers are served up. It’s a real community event, bringing the students together in support of the D-FORCE project and sending a powerful message: the community cares about its students.

Here are some other REALTOR® associations that provide funding and support for innovative school projects:

  • The Jefferson City Area Board of REALTORS® in Jefferson City, Missouri, has established a nonprofit corporation that works with business partners to purchase school supplies and help students in need with school-related expenses.
  • The Montrose Association of REALTORS® in Montrose, Colorado, has a grant fund serving two local elementary schools that provides additional educational programs for students.
  • The REALTOR® Association of Prince William in Prince William, Virginia, organizes an annual back-to-school shopping project.
  • The Reno/Sparks Association of REALTORS® in Reno/Sparks, Nevada, organizes an annual school supply drive.
  • In 2010 and 2011, the La Crosse Area REALTORS® Association in La Crosse, Wisconsin, sponsored a Fair Housing Poster Competition at a local international school in celebration of Fair Housing Month.
  • In 2008, the Greater Louisville Association of REALTORS® in Louisville, Kentucky sponsored an art contest with area elementary schools to recognize the service of American veterans.
  • The Pickens County Board of REALTORS® in Atlanta, Georgia, sponsors an annual school supply drive and a scholarship program.

 


Web Resources

Community Matters1
Information on the Safe School Ambassadors program.

How to Build School Partnerships2
Valuable insights on how to create school-community partnerships from Learning Point, an educational consulting firm.

National Network of Partnership Schools3
This network at Johns Hopkins University facilitates community-school partnerships at the school, district, and state level and with organizations and universities, and provides research and tips on effective partnerships. The network’s guidebook School, Family, and Community Partnerships: Your Handbook for Action is available for sale on the website.

1 www.community-matters.org/safe-school-ambassadors/
2 www.ncrel.org/sdrs/areas/issues/envrnmnt/famncomm/pa400.htm
3 www.csos.jhu.edu/p2000/

See related article in Issues in Public Education, “Cultural Issues: The Achievement Gap.”