Grants help elevate literacy at Gompers and parent engagement at Black Hawk schools

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Great Lakes employees presented checks to both Gompers Elementary and Black Hawk Middle School. Mary Bartzen (fourth from left) of the Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools helped coordinate these Adopt-A-School partnerships. Photo submitted by Great Lakes

By Melissa Gloudeman
Great Lakes Higher Education Corp & Affiliates

Two Northside schools received a big gift just before the holidays. Students and staff at Gompers Elementary and Black Hawk Middle School gathered for a special assembly on Dec. 14, where employees of Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates presented two ceremonial checks totaling nearly $60,000.

The funds are a dollar-for-dollar match of the amount raised by Great Lakes employees in Madison during the 2017 United Way and Community Shares campaign. Great Lakes donates matching funds to its adopted schools to advance the company mission of improving lives through education.

The Northside schools will use the grants in ways that support their ongoing efforts to promote literacy and cultural awareness, and to more effectively engage parents in their children’s education. Gompers will purchase culturally responsive books that are relevant to students’ diverse abilities, interests, cultures, languages and experiences. All teachers will have access to these texts, which will be used for guided reading at all literacy levels, a critical component of a strategy to develop lifelong readers.

“We are very excited to continue our pursuit of excellent instruction at Gompers so that all of our students develop skills to be successful in college, career and community,” said Principal Jackie Smith. “We appreciate Great Lakes’ support of the Gompers school community.”

Black Hawk students will also be reading more culturally responsive books. Additionally, the school will build stronger partnerships with all families with the help of new multilingual translation equipment. At Black Hawk, more than 30 percent of the student population identifies as Hispanic/Latino or Asian, and many of their families speak a language other than English at home. The new equipment will provide simultaneous translation from English to a variety of other languages, including Spanish, Hmong, French and Arabic. Principal Jamie Sims anticipates that using this technology at all school events will encourage more parents to engage with their children’s education.

“The Black Hawk team is so thankful for our partnership with Great Lakes and all the dynamic opportunities that have been made possible through their continued support,” said Sims. “This grant will help our staff continue the positive and thoughtful work that we are so dedicated to at Black Hawk.”

Great Lakes’ Unite for Our Communities campaigns have raised nearly $224,000 for Gompers and Black Hawk since 2014. Previously, funds have supported technology-friendly classroom furniture at Black Hawk, a renovated library at Gompers and a new playground on the joint campus of both schools.

Amy Kerwin, Vice President of Community Investments, said, “Through our Great Lakes Gives employee giving program, we help students at a school located near each of our offices get a strong start, improving their chances of continuing to higher education. The company match is one of the ways we provide those schools with resources that can help change their students’ lives for the better.”

Employees have connected with Gompers and Black Hawk staff and students through the Foundation for Madison’s Public Schools’ Adopt-A-School program. Relationships have been built over several years through volunteer work; snack, book and school supply drives; and other activities.