Simply put, it’s an investment in tomorrow’s leaders and workers. Students at Chinook Middle School, along with the rest of North Thurston Public Schools, are benefactors of a helping hand program called Partners in Education (PIE). It’s an innovative connection between schools, businesses, and community.

Olympia Therapy LogoThe objective is simple and the results are rewarding.

“There’s lots of hands-on going on, too,” said Cortny Martin, community relations coordinator for the North Thurston Public Schools. “It’s good for our kids, our students, to know the community stands behind them. Supporting them and wanting to see them succeed.”

The objective of PIE is to encourage and inspire students and help them excel, and also to bring schools and businesses together. That partnership involves at least three school events or school projects during the school year.

“It’s a great opportunity,” Martin said. “The community wants to see them succeed.”

PIE Chinook Middle School
Through Partners In Education, Chinook Middle School and the U.S. Martial Arts Center teamed up. Photo courtesy: Cortny Martin

The rewards of PIE are the connections made between schools and community. It’s key in successful student learning. It helps connect schools and businesses through financial support, through volunteering, and through supporting student activities.

Each of the schools in the North Thurston district – from Chinook Middle School to Timberline High School – has a unique set of partners that get involved with the school by providing guest speakers, volunteers, and materials for classes. The participation includes a $500 payment that goes directly to the school.

“That money is used to help in student achievement,” Martin said.

The activities very. Once a business commits to being a PIE partner, a meeting is set up with the principal, Martin, and the business owner. At least three involvement activities are planned for the school year.

That involvement ranges from being a guest speaker in a classroom, to volunteering at a family math night, to reading to students throughout the year, to donating pizza. And then there’s the mentoring, an opportunity to help shape and influence a student’s life.

Chinqually Booters Soccer Club
Chinqually Booters Soccer Club is PIE partners with three schools in the district and donates goal nets to all of them and sends one of their coaches to help teach soccer during P.E. classes. Photo courtesy: Cortny Martin

“Yeah, it’s a great opportunity for businesses to show and talk with the kids about what they do,” Martin said.

Some of the students get to go to the businesses and job shadow, learning a trade. It’s not just the business coming in and speaking.

“There’s lots of hands on going on, too,” Martin said. “It’s good for our students.”

The North Thurston school district began the PIE program six years ago, after getting the idea from the Pasco school district. Few other districts provide the program in the area. From grade school to middle school to high school, North Thurston Public Schools has PIE programs in each of its 20 schools.

“We have over 50 PIE partners,” Martin said.

The high schools – Timberline, River Ridge, North Thurston, and South Sound – have at least three PIE partners.

“The door is open to participation,” Martin said.

The helping hand is needed. North Thurston Public Schools is the 23rd largest school district out of 296 school districts in the state. The combined enrollment of all the schools in the North Thurston district is almost 15,000 and it is expected to increase to 17,000 within the next 10 years. Currently, there are 13 elementary schools, 5 middle schools, and 4 high schools in the district. North Thurston High School has 1,434 student, which is 122nd biggest in the state out of 315 high schools.

PIE chemist
Komachin’s Partner in Education, Earth Friendly Products, sent their chemists, James and Celia to show students how the company makes environmentally safe cleaning products. Photo courtsey: Cortny Martin

Over the years, there’s been an ongoing sense in the community of wanting to help. Melissa Knighton, owner of CrossFit Lacey, grew up in Lacey and went to school there and has a desire to help.

“CrossFit Lacey has always felt a strong calling to give back to our local schools and students,” Knighton said. “We love having the opportunity to engage with the kids and faculties in various ways. We feel that this relationship between our business and NTPS enriches our community as a whole.”

That sense of partnership and wanting to help is what makes PIE work.

There’s a variety of ways a business can volunteer. Northwest Sports Medicine worked with high school athletes, had a guest speaker, and had sports medicine class support. Lydia Hawk and Coordinated Care supported a school garden sponsored dinner for cultural awareness and supported Healthy Kids Club. CrossFit Lacey had a guest speaker, job shadowing, and trained with the swim team.

It’s all about helping.

Anyone interested in becoming a PIE partner can contact NTPS by calling 360-412-4660.

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