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CSS/Grant School Collaborative win inaugural Carter Partnership Award

The College of St. Scholastica/Grant Community School Collaborative program has been named winner of the first Minnesota Carter Partnership Award. The award was presented by former President Jimmy Carter on Saturday, Feb. 21, at a ceremony in St....

The College of St. Scholastica/Grant Community School Collaborative program has been named winner of the first Minnesota Carter Partnership Award. The award was presented by former President Jimmy Carter on Saturday, Feb. 21, at a ceremony in St. Paul, attended by former Vice President Walter Mondale, Minnesota Sen. Mark Dayton and over 800 Minnesota business, education, community and government leaders.

The Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Partnership Award for Campus-Community Collaboration recognizes exemplary collaborations undertaken by a college or university in partnership with a community group, addressing critical areas of public need. The honor includes a $10,000 award.

Receiving the award on behalf of the St. Scholastica/Grant School Community Collaborative were St. Scholastica Director of Academic Support Services Jay Newcomb; St. Scholastica student Matt Hoeschen, who is a senior majoring in psychology; and Collaborative staff members Kathy Bogen and Suzanna Didier. Bogen is a 1997 St. Scholastica graduate.

"We were very gratified to win," said Newcomb, "because there are so many good collaborations in Minnesota between colleges and communities. We were told we won because we reflected the best understanding of this type of collaboration. St. Scholastica and Grant School stopped acting as individual entities and had formed a new entity that was truly a collaboration between the two."

St. Scholastica President Larry Goodwin said: "The results of our efforts in this collaboration go beyond good feelings. Reading scores, attendance and parental involvement all have improved significantly at Grant."

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The project is particularly appropriate for St. Scholastica, Goodwin said, because the St. Scholastica learning experience emphasizes community involvement.

"We say that our students are 'learning to touch the world,'" Goodwin said. "That's never truer than when they're involved in projects like the Grant Collaborative."

Currently the collaborative has 80 St. Scholastica students, faculty and staff volunteering in the Grant Reading Partners Program at Grant --double the number of last year's volunteers. They expect to give over 2,600 hours of their time during the school year. St. Scholastica is the single largest source of readers in the program, in which volunteers work one-on-one with children at Grant to help develop their reading skills. According to Newcomb, some volunteers contribute five to six hours of time each week to the program.

The Grant Reading Partners program has been successful. Attendance on the days students meet with their readers has reached 96 percent, and reading scores have jumped. For example, before the program began one-quarter of all Grant third-grade students were in the lowest of four reading levels and none was in the top group. After three years of the program, one-quarter of the third-graders are in the top group and only 5 percent are in the bottom group.

In addition to the Reading Partners Program, the Collaborative conducts after-school programs attended by over half of Grant students, as well as culture clubs and events such as the "Aztec Dance" and pow-wows, and storytelling evenings for students and families. An East Hillside Youth Theatre Program is directed by Bogen; Hoeschen is assistant director.

"Everything we do is connected to academic performance at the school," said Newcomb. "We also have the goal of getting more parents of color involved to really strengthen the school."

The $10,000 award will help offset recent state education budget cuts that affected the Collaborative's programs, Newcomb said.

The Carter Partnership Award is named for Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter as a tribute to their lifelong efforts to develop and support safe, healthy, caring communities throughout the world. The award is intended to increase the number and enhance the effectiveness of campus-community partnerships, and encourage cooperation among education, community, government and business leaders on important social and economic issues.

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Minnesota is one of four states recently chosen as expansion sites for the Carter Partnership Award. It is sponsored in Minnesota by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, which works to better the futures of disadvantaged children, and is hosted by Minnesota Campus Compact. The organization is a nonprofit coalition of 49 college and university presidents committed to engaging their students and institutions in strategic partnerships that strengthen communities and education for informed and active citizenship. It is part of a nationwide network that includes over 860 college and university presidents in 30 state coalitions.

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