FORT BENNING, Ga., (Sept. 25, 2013) -- Every year, schools, businesses, military units, directorates and other organizations come together to discuss how to improve children's education through the Greater Columbus Georgia Chamber of Commerce's Partners in Education program. The PIE program includes more than 80 schools from five school districts: Muscogee County, Fort Benning, Harris County, Chattahoochee County and Talbot County.

The kickoff held Friday, had more than 20 sessions by various PIE partners, including Fort Benning schools. The sessions discussed successful plans and formulas to help others brainstorm how to implement a PIE with their partners.

White Elementary School principal Glenn Hughes spoke about what made their PIE partnership work.

"We try not to look at (our program) as what our PIE partners can do for us, but what we, we as a school, can do in turn for our PIE partners as well," he said. White's partners are Officer Candidate School and the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

Mitzi Crow, PIE co-chair with Marie Hand at White and who previously worked at Stowers Elementary School, said she realized the key to becoming a top 10 partnerships was documenting everything -- writing down details about PIE events and taking tons of photos. Stowers Elementary School became a top 10 partnership for the first time last year.

Proper planning is also essential to a successful PIE partnership, said Lt. Col. Reggie Salazar, WHINSEC chief of staff. Children know when events are done without planning and adults can miss the chance to connect with children.

WHINSEC brings a cultural dimension to the PIE partnership at White, Salazar said.

"In this day and age of constrained resources, you have to look for creative ways in order to continue to keep these kinds of programs going because you aren't always going to have the money to be able to do certain things. You're not always going to be able to go buy certain stuff, but the one thing that we all have is people. We have each other and we have our time."

Tomorrow's world is about diversity and complexity, he said.

"The sooner our kids and our youth start learning about that kind of stuff … then we're all going to benefit from it in the future. And that's what we (WHINSEC) bring to the table for E.A. White."

You have to make it worthwhile and connect with children on their level, he said.

"It's about getting in tune with Justin Bieber, it's about getting in tune with Phineas and Ferb -- it's about getting into all of that stuff that kids are relating to … because if they don't buy into what you are saying no matter what you are doing, you are going to miss a million opportunities," Salazar said.

For the 2012-2013 school year, Loyd Elementary School was named Top Partners in Education with its partners TIC Federal Credit Union, WRBL and 2nd Infantry, 58th Infantry Regiment. The prior year, Dexter Elementary School and its partners 1st Battalion, 10th Field Artillery Regiment, and 1st Battalion, 29th Infantry Regiment, won the top PIE award.