More than 850 people packed the National Conference Center ballroom this morning to highlight how hundreds of businesses and nonprofit organizations are giving back to Loudoun’s public schools.
Partnerships between engineering firms and elementary schools, farms and middle schools, medical centers and high schools were just a few of the connections celebrated at the annual Loudoun School-Business Partnership Recognition Breakfast.
Superintendent Eric Williams thanked the business leaders for giving of their time and resources to support the county’s 80,000 students and 90 public schools. It helps students learn beyond the walls of the classroom and facts in a textbook and actually take part in real-world problem solving.
“All of the connections with business partners that we’re celebrating today are driving deeper learning among our students,” he said. “With your help we are creating the type of graduates we want to develop: critical thinkers, communicators, creators, collaborators and contributors. When we develop that type of graduate we truly are empowering students to make meaningful contributions to the world.”
Five partnerships received special recognition with Partnership Awards:
- Boulder Crest Retreat’s partnership with Lowes Island and Round Hill elementary schools: Students made gift baskets and crafts for combat soldiers and their families. (Watch a video on the partnership here.);
- Cheers Sports’ partnership with Cedar Lane Elementary: Cheers Sports owner frequently donates spirit ware to students and staff members and is a weekly volunteer. (Watch a video on the partnership here.);
- Great Country Farms’ partnership with Round Hill Elementary: The farm donates farm passes, food, seeds and field trip opportunities, as well as teaching members of team school’s Green Team club how to plant and harvest produce.(Watch a video on the partnership here.);
- Morven Park’s partnership with Frances Hazel Reid Elementary and Smart’s Mill Middle: Morven Park staff have helped Frances Hazel Reid create a waystation for Monarch butterflies and also taught classroom lessons on the butterfly’s lifecycle and migration. Morven Park staff also teaches Smart’s Mill students in-class history and civics lessons. (Watch a video on the partnership here.);
- and United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation’s partnership with Moorefield Station Elementary School: Foundation staff teaches students hands-on lessons to show how geometry is used in everyday life. (Watch a video on the partnership here.).
Of the partnership between Boulder Crest Retreat and Round Hill Elementary, a Round Hill fifth-grader said he will never forget doing crafts with children of wounded veterans.
“I don’t know how it feels to have a parent away from home in the military, but I’m sure it’s really hard,” he said. “It’s heartwarming to me that I can at least do a little something for them.”
Tom Sweitzer and Kim Tapper from the nonprofit music therapy organization A Place to Be received the Make a Difference Award for their work in the schools. They led the effort to create a musical called “A Will to Survive” and perform it free of charge at schools throughout the county. The production is named after William Robinson, a Loudoun Valley student who lost his life to suicide. It’s addresses stress, addiction, and depression, and is designed to teach acceptance and empathy.
Sweitzer told those gathered in the huge ballroom that he recently witnessed the benefits of this relationship between his organization and the public schools. He was volunteering at Inova Loudoun Hospital’s psychiatric center and noticed a girl with a red bracelet on like the one the teen performers in “A Will to Survive” distributed. He asked where she got it, not disclosing that he was involved in the production.
She said she’d seen the play at Heritage High School and, as she later considered suicide, one of the play’s songs called “Reach Out” came to mind.
“So I decided to voluntarily check in to this hospital,” she told Sweitzer.
“That is how we know this work makes a difference,” Sweitzer said to the audience. “And that’s why we are sitting here today, to see how we can make even stronger community connections going forward.”
Two other awards were given in recognition of those who support the schools. Apple Federal Credit Union won the Legacy Award, and Inova Health Systems CEO J. Knox Singleton won the J. Hamilton Lambert Exemplary Leadership in Education and Community Service Award.
Singleton could not make it to the breakfast because he was attending the Inova Leadership Institute, but Stacey Metcalfe, the hospital’s director of Western Region Government and Community Relations and a member of the Loudoun School-Business Partnership Executive Council, accepted the award on his behalf.
“Under Knox’s leadership, every single person in the Inova Health System understands the significance of investing in the communities that we serve,” she said. “And we also understand the impact of being directly engaged in those communities that we serve.”