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PIE looks to expand programs

Partners in Education Is looking to expand this school year, and leaders of the organization say they are open to various methods of partnering organizations and volunteers with students.

According to PIE board member Cora Heffner, the organization began in 2006 through Clark County Community Education.

“Originally the program was set up so that businesses could have employees go on a paid hour a week to tutor or mentor a student,” Heffner said. “As we started expanding we found more businesses that want to participate, but they’re too small to do that or they have factory lines and people can’t leave to do that.”

Since then, PIE has grown to encompass several different programs, including its original partnerships with businesses and organizations, a network of volunteers and a list of community members who speak about their careers and hobbies to classrooms.

PIE operates in every school in the district, including Clark County Preschool and the Phoenix Academy.

To facilitate the expansion, Executive Director Greg Yates’ position with PIE has been changed from a part-time to a full-time position, Heffner said.

“The goal is to increase the number of volunteers, but also increase the number of partners and types of partnerships,” she said.

One such partnership was a co-op program started last year by Leggett and Platt, which enabled several high school aged students to interview for, receive job training and ultimately work for the company. Upon graduation, all three of the program’s participants accepted offers of employment from Leggett and Platt.

Yates said the company is looking to begin the co-op again this year, and he is searching for other businesses that may be interested in taking part in the program.

However, co-ops aren’t the only partnerships the organization is looking for. Heffner and Yates said if any business, church or organization has an idea to help CCPS students, Yates and the board will gladly meet with them to figure out a way to make it work.

“Whatever suits the schedule of the people who want to be involved in students lives, Greg will find a way to make it work,” Heffner said.

PIE ended the last school year with 16 partners and 58 volunteers, Heffner said. Since then, the organization has added three additional partners, and is hoping to make the goal of ending with 75 volunteers.

Yates said the three newest businesses to join PIE, Williams Insurance, Neely and Wade Insurance and Members Heritage Credit Union are all examples of smaller businesses that wouldn’t have fit with the original PIE model, but that have employees available to help on alternative schedules.

Individual volunteers have a bit more flexibility, Heffner said. They can work in the schools as tutors and mentors, or just help the organization itself by assisting with behind-the-scenes work, such as creating posters or setting up at events.

The only qualification, Heffner said, is that people care.

“We have so many students who don’t have someone at home to sit with them and be an adult,” she said.

Those volunteers who work with students at any grade level are under the guidance of a teacher, who can give instruction and advice to tutors and mentors.

Yates said one particular area he would like to focus on this school year is finding partners and volunteers at for the Clark County Preschool who could work with the students there by reading to them or assisting with other activities.

Those who want to be involved but can’t commit to a regular schedule can volunteer for the Experts in Education program, which brings professionals into classrooms upon request to speak about their careers, hobbies or other things their passionate about.

Those who are interested in working with PIE can contact Greg Yates at greg.yates@clark.kyschools.us or 859-745-8840.