When it works right, everyone gets a little something.
“It’s rewarding just to see (the students) learn,” said Michelle Voucher, the community relations officer at First Interstate Bank. “You can see how it clicks.”
First Interstate is one of many Billings businesses participating in Partners in Education, a program that encourages businesses to adopt an area school and send its employees into the classroom.
Run by the Education Foundation for Billings Public Schools, elementary and middle schools all over the city receive support from businesses like CTA, ExxonMobile, Billings Clinic, St. Vincent Healthcare and Wendy’s.
The foundation is holding a luncheon this afternoon to recognize the participating companies.
“It works out really well,” said Krista Hertz, the program’s director at the Education Foundation. “Each partnership is unique.”
Kevin Croft, principal at Meadowlark Elementary, said the partnership his school has with First Interstate is important on a variety of levels. It gives the community a connection with its school, he said. Teachers and students see community support from someone other than parents and that builds morale.
“Having outside support is a big deal,” he said.
The partnership also gets people physically into the schools, which fosters support for things like mill levies and volunteerism.
“Nobody leaves this school saying, ‘Oh, what a crummy place,’ ” he said. “The more we can get people to (see the schools) the better off we are.”
Most importantly, it gives the students a chance to interact with adults from a variety of backgrounds and business experience, he said.
When they have a volunteer who comes in pretty regularly they form a relationship, Croft said.
Those visits and the relationships that form are what make it enjoyable for the employees who volunteer.
“They all want to go,” Voucher said.
Four First Interstate Bank branches have partnered with four schools across Billings, including Meadowlark, Highland, Bitterroot and Will James Middle School.
“It’s so important to be involved in the community and help in children’s education,” Voucher said. “Honestly, I don’t know who gets more out of it.”
Contact Rob Rogers at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 406-657-1231.