Partnerships with a purpose
October 1, 2009
FORT BELVOIR, Va. -- Schools, organizations, and Soldiers gathered for the Partnership in Education reception at the Officers' Club Tuesday night to create new partnerships and celebrate old ones, one of which has been going on for more than 20 years.
Belvoir's PIE program links up Soldiers and employees to provide tutoring, lunch buddies, reading programs and other mentoring experiences for local school children.
"This is an annual event to celebrate the beginning of the school year as well as celebrate partnerships,"said Mary-Jo Chapman, school liaison officer. "The partnership in education reception this year is really putting an emphasis on expansion. As Belvoir grows in size, we also grow into new communities."
Chapman explained the importance of partnerships to Belvoir.
"We don't want an 'us versus them' mentality. We want to foster a true sense of community," Chapman said. "We need to work together. There are a lot of schools in our area that Belvoir's military children are attending."
"You open your arms and take in our kids. They spend so much time in your care. You help parents prepare their kids for a great future. We can't thank you enough for all you do," Installation Command Sgt. Maj. Gabriel Berhane said.
Installation Commander Col. Jerry Blixt expressed his pride in the community for not only taking care of children, but Soldiers and families, as well.
"Communities help in the taking care of our Soldiers. Belvoir is a very proud member of this community," Blixt said. "To me, teachers are unsung heroes. With all the issues they deal with, everything they do, everything that is going on, they are heroes.
"We are here today to celebrate partnerships as well move this forward. Belvoir is incredibly fortunate to have such great, meaningful partnerships," Blixt said.
One of those partnerships is between 12th Aviation Battalion and Walt Whitman Middle School in Alexandria, which have been partners for more than 20 years.
"The Soldiers here have been such a huge help to our students," said Otha Davis, Walt Whitman's principal.
"You must be a brave Soldier to work with 12-, 13-, and 14-year-olds," Davis said. "Soldiers are the tutors, readers and mentors to these students. Soldiers help with organizing events, as well as chaperoning.
"They are truly positive role models," she continued. "They talk about commitment, pride, integrity, and the importance of education with our students. We want to continue this because everyone benefits tremendously from supporting our schools."
Col. Mark Lindon, currently with U.S. Army Force Management Support Agency, was Fort Belvoir's Headquarters Battalion commander in 2001. He asked the group to think outside of the box to really help and support children.
"This program benefits schools, parents and Soldiers. You only have your own limitations," Lindon said. "Helping schools and students is today's main objective. Students will benefit, and the community will benefit from that."
Chapman concluded with a message for schools and organizations in the surrounding communities.
"Anyone, any organization, or any school who would like to partner should know it's never too late to start. You didn't miss out by not attending. I encourage everyone to participate," Chapman said.
Information on the partnerships, including how to become a partner, is available from Chapman, 703-805-9119, or via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.