BUSINESS, SCHOOLS STRIKE PARTNERSHIP FOR MUTUAL BENEFIT

THE BALTIMORE SUN

The days are long gone when the most a kid could earn from a straight-A report card was 50 cents from Mom and Dad.

This year, Havre de Grace public school students with at least a B-plus average and a 98 percent attendance rate will get a discount at stores all over town.

The project is just one of hundreds of partnerships between businesses and schools in Harford County, says Diane Ford, executive director of the Susquehanna Region Private Industry Council (PIC).

PIC, a non-profit job corporation, is the matchmaker that connects interested businesses with schools in the county.

Businesses have any number of options for helping the schools, including:

Providing guest lecturers.

Teaching job application and interviewing skills.

Sponsoring study tours and seminars for teachers and students.

Giving presentations on travel, hobbies, historical topics and space exploration.

Donating surplus equipment and supplies.

Supplying artists, musicians, writers and dancers as role models.

In turn, schools provide businesses with complimentary tickets to school activities, feature the business in the school newspaper and assist with community service projects that the businesses sponsor.

In the Havre de Grace partnership venture, 28 stores, including the Sweet William Ice Cream Parlor and The Blue Earth, a jewelry and leather store, are offering a 10 percent discount for the A-Plus card program.

Students will keep the A-Plus card until their next report card.

Given past school records, about 700 students at Meadowvale, Darlington and Havre de Grace elementary schools and Havre de Grace middle and high schools could be eligible for the discounts when report cards are issued Nov. 16, says Jon Andes, principal at Havre de Grace High.

The Havre de Grace Chamber of Commerce is helping to sponsor the cards, and participating businesses display posters in their windows bearing the symbol of a warrior, the Havre de Grace school mascot.

"We've formed a school partnership of five schools, and we're seeking as many business partners as possible. We need each other," Andes says. "Our hope is that at some point we could extend the card program county-wide."

The educational committee of the Harford Chamber of Commerce introduced the idea of involving county businesses in education two years ago, Ford says.

When the program started, only a handful of businesses signed up to take part. Today there are so many, Ford says, she can't keep track of them all. PIC doesn't keep statistics on how many businesses participate.

"Partnerships are as simple and inexpensive as my going into a classroom and talking to kids about my job and how I got there educationally, to as big as a corporation giving thousands of dollars to a school for computers," she says.

At Youth's Benefit Elementary School in Fallston, a school committee is working with businesses to form an educational foundation to which corporations may contribute money.

Foundation money may be used to improve the safety of the playground by adding soft bedding under the equipment, or adding a second computer lab to meet the needs of the school's 1,200 students, says Jim Dryden, school principal.

Already, the school has received surplus equipment such as photocopy machines for teachers' use and used computers and computer lab furniture for students.

Westinghouse, Programming Systems Institute in Baltimore, Jarrettsville Lighting, Fred's Nursery in Fallston and Bethlehem Steel at Sparrow's Point are some of the businesses that have become involved with the school.

Says Dryden, "We're working on having kids set up business activities in classes, with mentors in the real business world. For example, someone who works in the stock market from the community will come in and talk to the kids. There's potential for things we never dreamed about before."

In a third big partnership venture, a non-profit environmental group has started a recycling scholarship program with the county's nine public schools.

The goal is to set up a $450,000 scholarship program for county students in the next 10 years. In this first year, each high school is guaranteed one $1,000 college scholarship, with the chance to earn more money for college through recycling.

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