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In the Know: Partnerships and service – keys to learning

Superintendent Rick Sansted shares how the school district works together with others in the community.

InTheKnow RickSansted.jpg
A Golden K Kiwanis volunteer offered a morning greeting to an Alexandria Area High School student recently.
Contributed photo

By Rick Sansted, Superintendent, Alexandria Public Schools

Alexandria Public Schools’ vision is to be an extraordinary school district that tailors learning for each child, by working together. I want to focus my sharing this week on the “working together” portion. The following are just a few recent examples that come to mind – there are many more but impossible to fit in the space limitations of the column.

Starting with our earliest learners, we are working in collaboration with the Alexandria Area YMCA and All-Pro Childcare Center to conduct early childhood screenings for 3-year-olds.

In our elementary buildings, the Junior Achievement program supports students in understanding the basic concepts of business and the important role education plays in their future. Junior Achievement volunteers dedicate their time and energy to supporting student learning.

We also recently held our annual STEAM Expo. Community partners such as the Alexandria Education Foundation, Alomere Health, Pope/Douglas Solid Waste Management, Sanford Health Alexandria, ALP Utilities, Alexandria College, REA and 3M engage students in a variety of activities to help create hands-on activities to better understand the world around us. Our PreK through grade 8 students and families had a great time learning and engaging with the themes of science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics.

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Our middle school opportunities continue to grow. Coming up in May is our annual Day of Caring for our 8th-grade students. This is a partnership with the United Way of Douglas and Pope Counties. This program has our 8th-grade students along with staff and volunteers conducting service projects all over the community. Students help community members and organizations with a variety of tasks including yard clean up, garden prep, window washing and other outdoor services for homeowners or the community. We also have invested in our outdoor learning spaces at Discovery Middle School. Our summer Makercamp has greatly appreciated the support of local volunteers and businesses including Hilltop Lumber, Contech and Stennes Excavating. The results of the work are not only adding to our outdoor learning spaces but also access to nature through a network of trails located on the Discovery Middle School campus.

At Alexandria Area High School we are able to offer students real-world experiences through our community partnerships. Our annual Career Expo was recently held which is part of the Freshman Academy experience but all grade levels had opportunities to participate. Several area businesses had exhibits in the booth area and/or speaker sessions where they shared their knowledge specific to their industry and how that relates to career path opportunities for students. Another example was through the 9th annual Empty Bowls Project held last month. The AAHS Civic Service and Engagement class partnered with United Way and Calvary Church with all proceeds supporting he Outreach Food Shelf, AAHS’ The Shelf, Discovery Middle School’s The Shelf and United Way’s Backpack Attack. This event raises awareness and donations to address community hunger and provides invaluable service-learning experiences for students.

Coming up on May 23 is our annual Honors Night where our community supports our high school graduates with traditionally over $240,000 in scholarships. This event will likely be live streamed so check out alexschools.org/aahs if you'd like to tune in.

This past Thursday we also had a partnership return to AAHS. The Golden K Kiwanis members have a long tradition of greeting our high school students each Thursday morning when they arrive. I know this is a great start to the day for our students and also for our Golden K members. It was heartwarming to see this group back in the building this week.

I want to conclude with a huge thank you to our staff and our community – our parents, our business partners and our non-profits. These opportunities would not be possible without the commitment of all involved and a spirit of service and helping others. This is how we as a community live out our vision to create an extraordinary school district – by working together!

Rick Sansted is the superintendent of Alexandria Public Schools. "In the Know" is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.

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