SCHOFIELD BARRACKS, Hawaii (March 21, 2014) -- Hawaii Education Week concludes today at the state legislature rotunda by saluting military partnerships.

U.S. Army Garrison-Hawaii's School Liaison Office staff and some 25th Infantry Division and 8th Theater Sustainment Command Soldiers will share education experiences with the public as part of the legislature's Military Appreciation Day.

The School Partnership Program will be featured with displays in the legislature rotunda from 8:30-11 a.m. Legislators and visitors will have the opportunity to learn more about the program from presenters and trifold displays of the program that has origins in the 1980s as the Army's Partnership in Education.

The School Partnership Program is a partnership between Hawaii public schools and the military. It was formally created by the Joint Venture Education Forum (JVEF) in 2001.

The purpose of the partnership is to build a stable and consistent relationship between the school and military communities. It's a program that benefits both Soldiers and students. It includes not only the Army Partnership in Education program, but also school partnership programs of the other military services.

Having Army Soldiers present in the schools offers a sense of familiarity for Army students.

"Working with the children has been a complete joy that brings a smile to every Soldier's face," said Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Neher, Headquarters and Headquarters Battalion, 2nd Battalion, 11th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th ID. "I think we as Soldiers are grateful to have the unique opportunity to facilitate such an awarding experience, and I personally can't wait to do more sponsorship events in the future."

Through the efforts of the late Senator Daniel K. Inouye, JVEF has received approximately $2 million for the School Partnership Program to provide assistance to public schools that have unusually high concentrations of special needs (unique needs due to transition) military dependents enrolled. Schools that are impacted by military training are part of the program, too, to promote positive community relations and to provide an open venue for discussion.

"The sponsorship program is a phenomenal opportunity for Soldiers to interact, relate with and give back to the local community," said Capt. Tony Thomas, commander, HHBN, 2-11th FA, 2nd SBCT, 25th ID.

The School Partnership Program and JVEF have helped approximately 152 public schools throughout Hawaii receive much-needed supplies and manpower. Currently, 52 schools and 35 Army units are actively engaged in the program. More than 650 Soldier volunteers have contributed more than 2,000 hours so far this school year.

"Through the unit's sponsorship, our Soldiers have developed personal bonds with community members, built on the understanding of the military and military presence on Oahu, and devoted themselves to community service," Thomas added.

Soldiers volunteer their time to assist schools with needed repair and maintenance. Projects include campus beautification, installation of basketball hoops and other equipment and repair of playgrounds. In addition to providing labor, Soldiers are invited to participate in educational activities, such as tutoring, mentoring and career days.

The schools and students greatly benefit from this program.

"We are very fortunate to have a partnership with the 2-35th Infantry (Regiment, 3rd BCT, 25th ID)," said Ernest Muh, principal, Helemano Elementary School. "Their willingness to support our students and teachers has had a positive impact on our school."

The Army has a history of partnering with the Hawaii State Department of Education to provide additional services to its public schools with a goal of providing value to the both the military and school communities.