By Melanie Platt and Caitlin Sims
Recently more than 300 Atlanta business and community leaders visited various Atlanta Public Schools (APS) to participate in Project For A Day (PFAD), held on Nov. 6. Project For A Day is an annual event in which volunteers from the business, civic and nonprofit communities volunteer their time on a designated project, and make a tangible impact in the lives of students.
Professionals from multiple organizations spent the morning participating in hands-on, student-focused activities at APS schools. Afterward, the volunteers were among an audience of approximately 600, including APS principals, at the celebratory luncheon at the Omni Hotel to honor student and volunteer efforts.
Project For A Day is sponsored by the Atlanta Partners for Education (APFE), a 33-year-old joint venture between the Metro Atlanta Chamber and Atlanta Public Schools.
AGL Resources was one of the Atlanta-area businesses that participated in Project For A Day by volunteering at Parkside Elementary School. But AGL’s volunteerism goes beyond one day; AGL employees have been volunteering at Parkside for more than a decade.
Parkside Principal Caitlin Sims and AGL Resources Foundation President Melanie Platt share their perspectives on how this partnership benefits the students and volunteers.
Tell us about the school-business partnership between AGL Resources and Parkside Elementary.
At AGL Resources, we believe the path to social mobility and enhanced opportunities includes education and career readiness. Simply put, education is a gateway to everything good in life, so it is very important to us that we support students in their educational aspirations.
The AGL Resources and Parkside Elementary partnership is now in its 11th year, and over the course of that time, we’ve seen it strengthen, thanks in large part to the leadership at the school and the enthusiasm of our employees. It is really a win-win relationship – we’re offering a rewarding volunteer experience to our employees while contributing to the growth and development of the students.
Why do you think it’s important for your employees to volunteer in the schools?
One of our corporate shared values is Generosity of Spirit – we give back to the communities where we live and serve. Our employees truly take this value to heart, donating tens of thousands of hours each year to communities across our footprint. Volunteer activities are as diverse as our workforce, and the volunteer experiences at Parkside are some of our most popular. Whether creating enthusiasm for reading or promoting careers in energy during College and Career Week, our employee volunteers are a positive presence at Parkside and enhance the traditional classroom learning experience. By promoting a love of learning and showing the possibilities that come from a good education, I wholeheartedly believe we’re building a brighter future for individuals, families and communities.
What types of activities have you completed with the students at Parkside?
Over the course of the school year, our employee volunteers have several opportunities to get involved at Parkside. Whether they choose to join the annual PFAD events sponsored by the Atlanta Partners for Education, serve as judges for the Academic Science Fair, or lead Junior Achievement in a Day sessions, our volunteers are helping to prepare Parkside students for success in life. And of course, by participating in College and Career Week, we want to encourage students to consider higher education as a next step – maybe even a career in energy!
But our involvement extends beyond the classroom. During the holidays, we are honored to welcome Parkside students to our corporate headquarters where they treat our employees to rounds of spirited songs of the season, and we, in turn, treat them to goodwill and refreshments. And our employees demonstrate our Company’s value of Generosity of Spirit by supporting students and families in need through our annual Parkside Angel Tree.
AGL Volunteers at Project For A Day:
Q: Tell us about the partnership.
I am very proud of and grateful for the 11-year partnership between Parkside Elementary School and AGL Resources. The AGL team has done an extraordinary job of being a committed corporate partner to our school. The company brings in multiple volunteers throughout the year to talk to our students. We just hosted College and Career Week, which is a major initiative within the Atlanta Public Schools, to educate our students about different options for college and career pathways. AGL brought representatives from different departments – from meter readers and finance to HR and corporate executives – to talk about their careers.
Q: What are some activities the AGL volunteers participate in at the school?
Reading is a big activity and very key for our students. During the Project For A Day event, the AGL volunteers came and read books to different classes.
During the recent College and Career Week, the AGL volunteers passed out drawstring knapsacks to all the kids so they could create their “bag of dreams” by drawing their visions for their career dreams on one side and college dreams on the other.
During the holidays, we take our choral students to the AGL offices and sing holiday carols. This is a nice treat for the employees and a great learning experience for the students, as they get to see a major company from the inside, visit different floors, and see the executive offices. It’s a great opportunity for exposure to the corporate world.
Each year before school starts, I meet with the core volunteer team in the summer and we map out our goals for the year and what we want to get out of the partnership. The team at AGL is very fluid and flexible; they ask what our needs are and how they can help. We develop an action plan together.
Over the years, the AGL volunteers have also contributed tin other ways, serving as judges for our science fair, providing mentoring and tutoring services and providing incentive prizes for students who reached attendance goals. They have been very involved throughout the 11-year partnership.
Q: What are the benefits you see in the students from this partnership and the involvement of AGL volunteers?
It makes such a big difference for the students to see and hear real people talking about their jobs and offer a very direct connection to the “real world.” The AGL volunteers always emphasize the importance of education in each of their visits, and show the students how they connect to a bigger community.
We talk about creating global citizens and graduates who are ready for the challenges of the 21st century – it’s thrilling for the students to have guest readers and guest speakers who can share some of their wisdom and insight. The College and Career Readiness piece is so critical, and it’s fantastic to have a partner that directly supports this is initiative.
The most important thing about the partnership is AGL’s genuine interest in keeping the partnership focused on the needs of the school and the students. That makes it rewarding on both sides. They really care about what will help the students succeed. I am grateful that AGL Resources gives its employees the time to volunteer at Parkside. The students always light up when they see the volunteers at school, reading to them in their classes or talking about their careers. Their involvement has been invaluable.
APFE has been serving the students of APS since 1981 by providing opportunities for the Atlanta business community to become involved in public education to gain a deeper understanding of how they can make a positive difference in students’ lives. The partnership also allows schools to hear from businesses about the job skills needed in the future workforce. For more information, visit http://www.atlantapartnersforeducation.org/