March 31, 2003

Emory partners with two more DeKalb schools

By Eric Rangus

As part of the DeKalb Partners in Education program, Emory signed partnership agreements with two area schools at a March 25 ceremony attended by more than 150 school principals, parents, students and business representatives.

Emory signed partnerships with Shamrock Middle and Cary Reynolds Elementary, two schools with which the University has had informal ties for some time. The signing, which was attended by staff from Emory’s Office of Governmental and Community Affairs, the Institute for Comparative and International Studies (ICIS) and faculty from the Spanish and Portuguese department, makes those relationships official and should lead to expanded programming options on both sides of the team. The ceremony, which featured 28 DeKalb County schools, took place at the DeKalb Instructional Center.

The Partners in Education Program brings together business and community organizations throughout the county to work with faculty, staff and students to enrich education in DeKalb. The addition of two new schools increases Emory’s partnerships to four; the University has been a longtime partner of Fernbank Elementary and Druid Hills High schools.

At Shamrock Middle, students from educational studies have taught classes, and several Emory employees have volunteered as tutors and mentors, said Governmental and Community Affairs’ Patrice Grimes. Joseph Cadray, senior lecturer in educational studies, led a developmental workshop for Shamrock’s teachers, as well. That effort led Emory to pursue formalizing its relationship with Shamrock, Grimes said.

Now that Emory and Shamrock are official partners, a goal is to expand the volunteer tutor program. “The idea of tutors and mentors is a major initiative with Shamrock,” said Tom Davis, the school’s principal. “Kids love adult attention, and it’s shown that mentoring improves attendance, academics and behavior.”

Davis added that Shamrock also will team with Druid Hills as part of an International Baccalaureate Program, a highly demanding curriculum that prepares students for college work. The schools are in the midst of the two-year application process.

Cary Reynolds is the most international elementary school in the state, and much of Emory’s ties to it have been cultural. Emory students sponsor and take part in cultural programming, and for three semesters students in Senior Lecturer Vialla Hartfield-Méndez’s classes have served as Spanish literacy mentors, working with both students and their parents—many of whom speak no English.

Hartfield-Méndez said, once transportation has been confirmed, her students will serve as hosts and accompany Cary Reynolds students and parents to the April 5 International Cultural Festival on campus.

“It’s great to be able to introduce students to a college atmosphere,” said Cary Reynolds Principal Melanie Bilda. “Many of them will be the first generation of their family to go to college, and it’s important for them to see what it’s like.”

For several semesters, Emory study-abroad students have gone to Cary Reynolds to work with students. ICIS outreach coordinator Alta Schwartz said because of the many languages spoken by Cary Reynolds students, Emory foreign-language students were able to keep their fluency current.

The hour-long March 25 ceremony, which featured welcoming remarks from Jacquelyn Anthony, director of community affairs, was filled with good cheer. School principals, parents and representatives from the diverse array of new partners (ranging from the Alliance Theatre to Chick-Fil-A, to AMF Stone Mountain Lanes to Emory) shared in the upbeat attitude.

“What can be more important than taking care of a child?” said DeKalb County School Superintendent Johnny Brown, who spoke briefly to the new partners. “By your presence this morning, you all understand the importance of partnership.”