It Takes a Village: Creating Experiences that Fuel Ambitious College and Career Dreams

Helping young people grow and evolve into mindful, independent and successful young adults takes more than family, more than teachers, more than a coach; it takes a village.

In the 21st century, there are more educational and enrichment opportunities and resources for students than ever before; however, there are also larger gaps in equitable access to these opportunities and resources than arguably ever before.

With this in mind, Gateway Public Schools strives to close the opportunity gap by providing students with access to quality real-world learning opportunities for students both within our schools walls and beyond. Many of these transformative learning opportunities are made possible through community partnerships; working collaboratively with the community to bring a world of opportunity to our students.

Through the lens of it takes a village, it is important to recognize the incredibly important role that schools play in a young person’s life, however, a school alone cannot offer everything that every student needs to be prepared for a rapidly changing and complex world that exists beyond school walls.

Through community partnerships, Gateway is able to augment classroom learning, give students exposure to 21st century skills, and provide internships and experiences that surpass a traditional classroom curriculum and ultimately give students access to real-world learning experiences in a safe and supportive environment. These experiences, connections with mentors and life skills are significant, and they help challenge the norm that has become the passively accepted opportunity gap.

At Gateway, we have learned that it takes time, planning, and a great deal of thought to create and maintain quality partnerships. Here are 5 best practices to keep in mind when establishing a new partnership:

  1. Ensure that the missions align between the organizations and partnering supports both missions.
  2. Establish a clear chain of communication and primary contacts on both ends of the partnership.
  3. Set realistic goals for the first stages of the partnership. Identify initial long term goals as well, but be open to changes once you learn more from the partnership in action.
  4. Clearly identify what success looks like on each side of partnership. What does each partner want to achieve by this relationship? Remember, this is a mutually beneficial relationship.
  5. Think ahead about student recruitment. Who will benefit most from this partnership and who should be involved? What are the recruitment goals?

Thanks to community partnerships Gateway students have learned how to code, how to create their own video games, how to sail on open water, how to build a resume and apply for colleges and jobs, and how to run for political office, just to name a few. Thanks to partnerships, Gateway students have interned in City Hall, architecture firms, tech companies, veterinary hospitals and medical facilities throughout the city. Thanks to partnerships Gateway students have attended professional panels and engaged with guest lecturers who are professionals in the legal, political, tech, medicine, performing arts, nonprofit, and media fields, among many others paths. Perhaps most importantly, thanks to partnerships our students have gained confidence, insight, and professional contacts and have grown to see that there is a giant community of people out there who want to support them as they journey through life.

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