Partners in Education: Celebrating business and school relations

Partners in Education: Celebrating business and school relations

By Kit Dunlap, President/CEO, Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce

Over 100 people attended the Annual Partners in Education Celebration in November. The event not only celebrated the success of the current 333 business-school partnerships but also recognized outstanding program participants and offered a valuable networking opportunity for school leaders and business professionals.

Many Partners In Education participants are currently focusing on creating incentive programs within each school for improving student grades and attendance. North Hall High School and Gainesville High School shared their very successful programs with the group, and Charley Nelson of Jostens’ Renaissance Program was the keynote speaker. The Renaissance Program, now underway at North Hall High includes goal-related incentives for attendance and grades. Platinum, Gold, Silver and Bronze Academic Credit Cards are rewarded to the students who have a 4.5 GPA, all A’s, A’s & B’s, or who have improved their GPAs by .5%. A similar program called Platinum Pride is in place at Gainesville High.

The Greater Hall Chamber of Commerce introduced the Partners in Education (PIE) program in 1986 under the leadership of community volunteer Mary Lou Melvin, who was serving as Chamber Vice Chairman of Education and Community Development. Since that time, PIE has developed into a model program for business-to-school relationships. Wrigley Manufacturing Company was recognized as our community’s first business Partner in Education and teamed up with Fair Street Elementary School 20 years ago.

Under the direction of David Smith, Center Point (formerly the Christian Education Center) provides proactive developmental support to parents, teachers, and students located in Gainesville City and Greater Hall County by offering a variety of services, including alcohol and tobacco prevention, adolescent mentor training, individual and family counseling, and religious education. Increasing the number of mentors for students in each of our schools is still a high priority in the community, and the event also honored the 373 mentors participating in the Center Point Mentor Program. The mentor program enlists adult members of the community to provide one-on-one interaction, guidance and support for students in Gainesville City and Hall County Schools. Center Point Mentor Program coordinates the recruitment, training, and placement of mentors in area schools.

Even though mentors are asked to work with a student for one school year, many continue to meet over several years. In some instances, a warm friendship develops after the student graduates from school. Susan Hosford began mentoring in 1994, the year the program began. She continued mentoring students over the next twelve years because “being with these students, watching them explore the possibilities in their lives, seeing them gain confidence because someone believes in them has truly enriched my life.” Ms. Hosford became Judy Dollins’ mentor in 1995, when Judy was in middle school. She mentored Judy through high school, and continues to play an active role in Judy’s life today. When asked about the importance of having a mentor, Judy states, “A mentor is someone who is there to tell you that you can do anything you want to do, to show you a better way of doing things. Susan Hosford helped me when I didn’t know what to do or where to turn. She’s my best friend.”

Mentor A Child… Invest in the Future

The Center Point Mentor Program was established in 1994 to enlist adult members of the community to provide one-on-one interaction, guidance and support for students in Gainesville City and Hall County Schools. Since that time, over 1,000 adults have invested in the program and many more children have benefited from their time and effort. Research confirms that students who are paired with a mentor improve their grades and their relationships with peers and adults. Mentoring supports students so that they succeed in school and in life! Mentors are caring adults from the community who choose the school they wish to serve. They are then matched with students who need additional support and positive role models. Mentor participation requires an agreement to dedicate one hour a week to a student. In addition, a two hour training class and consent to a criminal background check are required. Mentors are needed! At present, there is a waiting list of students who wish to have a mentor. If you are interested in being a mentor, please call Kate Hoffman, Mentor Coordinator at Center Point, 770-535-1050. Email: