FORT BENNING, Ga. - Connecting more than 370 students with 100 Soldiers, the partnership between McBride Elementary School and the 192nd Infantry Brigade is an award-winning relationship. The two earned the title Partnership of the Year for the academic year April 20 at the Partners In Education awards banquet.

It's the second time in three years the partners have brought home the top award. They were selected from a group of nearly 200 partnerships at more than 80 local elementary, middle and high schools, said Margaret Koger, gifted education teacher at McBride.

"Our cadre enjoy the opportunity to reach out and share their time, talents and energy," said COL Terry McKenrick, brigade commander. "Over the past year, we have ... focused on improving academic performance, enhancing the life experience for students and growing career opportunities. Along with the teachers and staff of McBride Elementary, we share a passion and enthusiasm for developing our youth."

With their support, the partnership has achieved the gold level award for the last several years, McKenrick said.

Since its beginning in 2000, the partnership has launched several programs, including the Leadership Academy, where kids learn about Army values, veterans assemblies and Pals and Mentors, where Soldiers are linked with individual classes and children.

"Being a partner is just a way for me to (spend time) with the kids, to let them know we do care about them and we all still have a little kid left in our own selves," said SFC Matthew Perkins, who serves as a Pal.

"It makes a great difference for them," he said. "Even though they have their parents in the military ... I think they want to see it from a different point of view. They get a chance to ask a lot of questions. They get a chance to interact with us. And it's fun for us, too. They always keep me on the go, keep me on my toes - they make me feel young."

"It truly is a partnership," said LTC Charles Auer, brigade deputy commander, who mentored a child during the school year.

The kids provide valuable morale for the cadre, and the cadre help put on events for the school, Auer said.

In perhaps their biggest event of the year, McBride celebrated its annual Field Day Friday. The day included relay races and carnival-style rides, thanks to support from the 192nd Inf. Bde.

"I think it's fantastic," said 9-year-old Chantal Lanier, after enjoying several of the activities. "Field day is mostly about where kids get out and get active. It's a day where kids get to have fun ... because we've been doing really good."

The fourth-grader said she liked being with her PIE partners.

"When they come... everybody in my class ... we're all excited and happy. They spend time telling us all about their equipment they use during training," she said. "I like them because they're there for us and we're there for them."

"I just want to say thank you for their help at our school," said 11-year-old Nathan Vanover.
"It makes me feel good because they come here to help us and they don't really have to. They take time out of their day."