The great part about the movement of investing in schools in the last 7 years is that I don’t think there was a moment in the very beginning where a bunch of us gathered and decided to try to make a difference in education. This concern for schools popped up from many different places all at the same time, and we began to discover each other and believe that something significant was happening. College students from ASU decided to invest in schools through prayer and saw amazing changes happen in the core issues that schools were concerned about. A mega-church in central Phoenix began making meals for the sports team at their local high school while a sports franchise agreed to re-do their football field. Another group of smaller churches banded together to serve the schools on the east side of Phoenix. Young Life College brought a large number of college students into public schools on the west side of Phoenix to work hard on the physical campuses and to share their stories of college in classrooms.
The Washington Elementary School District hired a Community Outreach Specialist to begin to foster community partnerships. A Business Advisory Team was started that brought businesses, churches, civic leaders and non-profits together to invest in schools. DES initiated an Office of Faith and Community that drew resources to schools. Churches all over Phoenix began asking their local schools if they could volunteer or provide meals for teachers or create clothing closets or bring volunteers for service days. Little by little these different organizations began to talk with one another and we recognized the same heart in one another; a heart that believed that schools were at the core of a community and that our next generation deserved our care. I think we all recognized that there had been a divide between the education and faith communities and that this had led to an unfortunate disconnect. Churches and businesses and schools and non-profits each operated in their separate silos when what we really needed was to work together with understanding of our different assets and the richness that we each brought to the community. We needed to understand and respect the proper role of each organization and find ways to use our resources for common purposes.
The arrival of the Luis Palau’s Season of Service to Phoenix was a catalyst fairly early on that brought many different organizations together in our city under the common purpose of service. This is the place where many of us found one another. And as we met we began to be inspired by what was happening. We asked questions and learned from one another and the desire began to grow to see this movement multiply and flourish. So a bunch of us gathered in the fall of 2012 to throw a summit focused on three initiatives; Foster care/Adoption, Hunger and Schools. Out of this gathering we discovered a growing momentum of the faith community’s concern for schools and we realized how important each sector of the community was to this endeavor. Business provided important expertise and funding, civic leaders brought city and state-wide strategies and the faith community brought a multi-generational volunteer base that wanted to make a difference in their schools and neighborhoods. By partnering together we could actually see our schools and communities transformed.
So a small group of us banded together and agreed to be a part of blowing wind into the sails of this movement to love schools. We call ourselves School Connect. We are passionate about our next generation flourishing in our city and we believe that the faith community is an important partner in this process. We believe collaboration is critical to that flourishing and we want to help networking relationships happen. We are throwing another Summit on November 10th at Grand Canyon University and inviting key leaders from these different sectors to gather for inspiration, to learn best practices and to build relationships in different regions. We believe business leaders, civic leaders and faith community leaders can make a lasting difference to the schools of our city!