Station Casinos Inc., which owns nine casino properties in Southern Nevada, decided four years ago to establish a program to help children in elementary schools. It started when the Texas Gambling Hall & Casino “adopted” C.P. Squires Elementary School, where a large number of students came from homeless shelters. Texas management donated the coins collected from its wishing well to the school, and soon employees found other ways to become involved with C.P. Squires administration and students. Other Station properties quickly followed suit. Last September, Station Casinos Inc. established the Smart Start School Partnership Program, in which each of its properties, and also the corporate office, adopted a nearby “high-need” school, defined by the Clark County School District as one in which more than 50 percent of the students qualify for the federal school free lunch program.
According to Lesley Pittman, director of community relations for Station Casinos, the partnership program has five components: 1) Each school receives an annual cash award of at least $2,500. 2) A student incentive program is set up to improve an area of need (e.g., poor attendance) identified by the principal. 3) The company sponsors a recognition program for teachers and staff. 4) Team members from the partner property volunteer their time to help with school events and support teachers in the classrooms. 5) Station Casinos donates surplus computers and computer equipment to the partner schools. So far, over 250 computers and printers have found new homes in classrooms and computer labs.
“You might think $2,500 wouldn’t make a big difference to a school,” said Pittman. “But we’ve found that just the opposite is true. Whitney Elementary School, sponsored by Station’s corporate office, used our donation to purchase a handwriting program last year to help students improve their penmanship skills. Teachers at the school took handwriting samples at the beginning of the school year, and then compared them to samples taken after students had finished the program. The improvement was remarkable, and the children were so proud of their accomplishments.”
Joyce Woodhouse, Director of the School Community Partnership Program of the Clark County School District, said, “For these schools, the financial resources donated by Station Casinos are a phenomenal enhancement to what can be done in the classroom. Equally as important, the interaction with company officials and employees provides positive role models for the students.” Woodhouse welcomed inquiries from other firms interested in adopting schools.
In Washoe County, Education Collaborative of Washoe County 775-353-5533
Adopt-A-School is a joint program of the Washoe County School District and the Greater Reno/Sparks Chamber of Commerce. Currently, 83 schools and 140 partners are involved in the program.
Focus School Project (Clark County) 702-799-6560 Beverly Mason
The School-Community Partnership Program of the Clark County School District started out with seven school-business partnerships in 1983, and now numbers over 600. Schools are matched with businesses according to needs and resources, and also geographically. One of its programs, the Focus School Project, serves 85 at-risk schools, both elementary and secondary, but only 60 have business partners. “Focusing on Students is Good Business” is the motto of the Focus School Project, which began in 1989.