Steele Creek business leaders align with local students

jmarks@lakewyliepilot.comAugust 20, 2013 

— Steele Creek community and business leaders are aligning with local students for success.

Alignment SW Charlotte, with 40 founding members, includes leaders from a dozen Steele Creek schools, along with businesses, churches and nonprofits. A sit-down session Wednesday included about 80 professionals from 50 organizations.

“We all want to help,” said Charles Wilkerson with Steele Creek Printing. “We all want to contribute, but we don’t know how to engage that with the schools sometimes.”

Group members surveyed schools asking what they need. They also asked civic partners what they need from an incoming work force and what tools those partners have to help current students. The group combed over those responses Wednesday as teams designed plans to meet in the middle.

“It’s about how are we, as a community, going to help,” said Mike Realon with the Olympic Community of Schools. “From cradle to career, how do we help more kids reach their full potential?”

Olympic, Steele Creek’s public high school, in 2006 became five smaller schools in one. Local companies began taking interest in the schools that align with the type of workers they’d like to see coming out of high school.

India Gregory is an Olympic High graduate and sophomore at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University. She hated math in grade school. At Olympic, business partners provided lessons in engineering and robotics. She’s still studying those subjects, and this summer had multiple corporate internships thanks to the jumpstart she got in high school.

Alignment SW Charlotte leaders hope her story will become a common one at Olympic.

“Even more students can continue to be reached,” Gregory said.

Group leaders want to create a “talent pipeline” between local schools and businesses. Knowing the needs and assets is a “vitally important” step, Wilkerson said. The survey showed, for instance, that all five elementary schools need more volunteers to read or eat lunch with students, while individual school needs range from clothes to tablets.

Kennedy Middle School could use replaced technology from companies. The high schools need internship and work opportunities. Meanwhile, groups like Time Warner Cable, Duke Energy, Pricewaterhouse Coopers, Coca-Cola, Siemens Energy and Bosch Rexroth have robotics training, grant money, classroom supplies and scholarships.

Specific partnership projects will be posted online soon.

Alignment SW Charlotte, in time, will hold a meeting similar last week’s to reevaluate needs to see what more can be done.

The Alignment program isn’t novel to Steele Creek, but it is new to the Charlotte area.

There are 15 school districts nationwide using the approach, the most successful so far being in Nashville, Tenn. For more information, visit alignmentswcharlotte.org.

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