Building Partnerships in Prevention
The Kyrene Elementary School District (ESD) in Tempe exemplifies how Safe Schools/Healthy Students (SS/HS) initiatives can truly be catalysts for creating partnerships in communities that will help build and sustain the programs. The school district effectively applied the SS/HS communications planning model to build these collaborations with businesses and other local institutions so that the SS/HS programs continue after the grant funding period ends.
Kyrene ESD is a suburban district serving 25 schools in 5 municipalities around the Phoenix metropolitan area. The SS/HS program has had a great success in implementing and promoting antiviolence, drug prevention academic achievement, and healthy child development programs for preschool and school aged children.
At the mid-way point of the 3-year program, the need to increase the focus on sustainability became very clear. “The success of our program and services meant that we had many champions at the district and administrative level, but no funds to continue,” says SS/HS Project Director Samantha Heinrich. “We realized that if we didn’t have a really strong, solid plan to sustain the program, we were going to be the best thing that happened to the area which would be fast leaving ….”
Finding funds to continue SS/HS programs in Kyrene was extremely challenging. Declining school enrollment and budgets meant that resources were limited and the competition for available funds fierce. Since the school district serves five different municipalities, it did not have one local government entity or one mayor’s office to approach. And the fact that the grant served a large metropolitan area meant stiff competition with other worthy causes.
The Kyrene SS/HS grant turned to the SS/HS Communications Team for help and worked extensively with its communications specialist to develop a strategic plan that was tailored to meet their specific needs.
That plan had two goals.
First goal: Engage the Local Business Community in Partnerships to Expand SS/HS Programs and Services.
The Kyrene SS/HS grant did extensive research to create a profile of large and small businesses in the area. This helped them understand various organizations’ goals and values, their commitment to the community, and their “giving” patterns. The research information was extracted from a number of sources, including company Web sites, better business bureaus, and the county non-profit Web site, which details funding patterns and cycles.
The research also helped Kyrene narrow down the kinds of assistance they could seek from various organizations. “We realized that to be effective, we couldn’t ask for the Moon, only a portion of the Moon,” says Heinrich. For example, large companies were interested in operational partnerships, for which they could recruit volunteers and mentors from their large pool of employees.
With companies like Motorola and Intel, which are interested in science and technology, Kyrene requested volunteers to help in the Alternative School Program or the Computer Resource Program. Smaller businesses preferred marketing partnerships that would boost their visibility and showcase their contribution to the community. For them, Kyrene developed relevant activities, including a car raffle fundraiser by a local car dealership and a shopping spree for needy students at an area department store.
Second goal: Use Communications To Create an Institutionalized Culture of Prevention in Kyrene.
Kyrene had done an excellent job of promoting SS/HS programs among internal audiences – board members, principals, teachers -, but had not made headway in promoting themselves in the larger community. They realized that in order to generate funds, they needed to make prevention a priority issue in the entire community.
To achieve this, the grantee conducted a round of focus groups which explored the question: “What does prevention mean to you? They then developed messages that were used in various promotional materials.
Kyrene then relied on its internal audiences to explore personal connections to reach the business world. One of the things the SS/HS grant staff actively did was recruit people from the community and local business to serve on the board of an existing school district foundation. These board members then played a key role in engaging local business partners; they volunteered to set up meetings or initiate contacts with area businesses.
The foundation continues to seek partnerships and opportunities for sustainability, and collaborative efforts seeking business partnerships are on-going as well. According to Heinrich, “We still have much work to do, but we have created a foundation to build upon so that in 5-plus years we can say, ‘Yes, this is how we were able to long-term sustain all of these activities and programs.’”
The SS/HS grantee also used data and highlighted success stories of their initiative to convince large and small organizations to partner in their activities, and before long many had agreed to collaborate in providing financial or in-kind help.
Kyrene’s strategic and innovative plan has yielded results. About two thirds of its SS/HS programs have been sustained. One measure of success is that Kyrene no longer initiates solicitations for funds and resources. Businesses now approach Kyrene on their own, with ideas on how they can work together. As project director Heinrich says, “None of these partnering successes would have happened without the SS/HS grant.”
Communities on the Road to Success: Kyrene Elementary School District, AZ
The Kyrene School District, which serves four municipalities in the Phoenix metropolitan area (Tempe, Guadalupe, Phoenix, and Chandler), uses the PATHS program to address the needs of preschool and school-aged children, adolescents, and their families who are at risk of becoming involved in violence as perpetrators, victims, or witnesses. The project seeks to enhance protective factors shown to promote healthy child and youth development by providing students, schools, and communities with educational, mental health, and law enforcement services.