COLUMBIA — The International Downtown Association will award The District with a Downtown Merit Award for its work and partnership with Douglass High School, according to a news release from association.
Through Columbia Public Schools' Partners in Education program, Douglass students worked as interns for the The District Clean Team, said Carrie Gartner, the former Community Improvement District director who was involved with the partnership. The interns took care of general maintenance for The District, including cleaning the streets and handing out information to merchants.
The Partners in Education program aims to pair schools with businesses and organizations to help enhance what's going on in the classroom, said Michelle Baumstark, the school district's community relations director who was involved with the program.
"This is a true partnership including volunteering, sharing resources and getting involved in activities together," Baumstark said.
What started off in May 2012 as job training soon became life skills training, Gartner said.
The partnership is being recognized in the Downtown Leadership and Management category, which showcases comprehensive and unique approaches to solving community issues downtown.
"There are problems that have really toolbox solutions, and each town can approach it in the same way," Gartner said." (But) we realized that our partnership with Douglass had to be of a different nature. There are students there that are overcoming adversities. We wanted to really do something that will be meaningful to their lives."
Although the award doesn't require partnership, the association does look for it — an acknowledgement that "the best solutions come when you bring everyone to the table," Gartner said.
"We're absolutely thrilled," she said of receiving the award. "They've worked so hard, and 80 percent (of the students in the program) have graduated, which is fantastic."
The District's efforts will be recognized during the International Downtown Association's 60th Anniversary Conference and Tradeshow in September in Ottawa, Ontario.
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