COLUMBIA — For the past four years, Erin McCaffrey has devoted 20 minutes of each school week to reading to kindergartners and first-graders.
The Columbia College 2009 graduate fondly remembers the day one Field Elementary child wanted to read to her.
“Seeing their faces really makes it worth it,” McCaffrey said of why she made the commitment.
McCaffrey is one of thousands in the community who has seen the benefits of Partners in Education, a local program celebrating its 25th year.
Michelle Baumstark, communications coordinator at Columbia Public Schools, said 250 businesses now partner through the program to help with the needs of local schools.
“We’re not about money or donations,” Baumstark said. “It’s about the time you’re willing to give.”
For the past 22 years, Columbia College has paired with Field Elementary and offered reading assistance since one of the district's goals is to have every third-grader read at a proficient level, said Faye Burchard, dean of Campus Life at Columbia College.
Burchard said she believes the program is successful.
“Our students just love it,” she said. “It’s such a beneficial program."
Shelter Insurance has also seen the benefits of the program. The business has partnered with West Junior High School for 25 years, said Joe Moseley, vice president of public affairs.
Shelter Insurance provides speakers for the classroom as well as funding for classroom projects, Moseley said. In return, West Junior High School students play music for Shelter Insurance during Christmas.
"It’s a great opportunity to make a difference in a child’s life,” Moseley said.
West Junior High Principal Sandra Logan said Partners in Education is successful for everyone involved. She emphasized the importance of the collaboration with Shelter Insurance, saying the two institutions meet every month to discuss future plans.
"We want to make sure that students and clients are benefiting from the program because that's what it's all about," she said.
Advantages of the program are also reflected in the community. The Central Missouri Food Bank Network partnered with 19 schools in the Columbia area, operating a program called the buddy pack, said John Wampler, food drive coordinator. Elementary school food backpacks are sent home to lower-income families during weekends and holidays.
Another school-community connection involves Rock Bridge Elementary School helping Meals on Wheels with a food drive every fall, said Marcia Walker, executive director of Meals on Wheels. First- and second-graders bring food, and volunteers at Meals on Wheels package the food to be sent out.
Walker said Rock Bridge Elementary students also made birthday cards for Meals on Wheels clients during the year, while Meals on Wheels volunteers give presentations to students on healthy eating.
“What we’re trying to do with our partnership is show that what they can do for us is what we can do for them,” Walker said. “It’s a kind of partnership that gives you a good feeling knowing that you’re both making a difference.”