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The greatest gift: 'Adopt a Classroom'

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Adopt - (verb) to take by choice into a relationship; especially to take voluntarily a child (of other parents) as one’s own child.

Since 2008, third grade students in Waxahachie ISD have experienced the joy of being adopted by members of the Waxahachie Community. The adoptive "parents" come in many forms – dentists, retailers, banks, Sunday School classes, CPA firms and law firms. Each has made the commitment to volunteer and serve the students and the teacher in their adopted classroom during the school year. This initiative, known as Adopt a Class, is the only program of its kind in Ellis County and one of the very few across the state of Texas.

Modeled after the Adopt a School initiative, Adopt a Class was developed by the Waxah-achie ISD Partners in Education program. It is designed to engage the community in the learning experiences in Waxahachie schools through a partnership between local businesses and community organizations with classrooms in the district. The partnership enables students to learn more about the community and benefit from the unique skills and resources of their adopting organization.

At the beginning of each school year a process, similar to that of the adoption process, takes place. Businesses and organizations sign up to adopt a third grade class and are "matched."

As part of the adoption requirement, adopters are asked to make the following commitments: spend a minimum of thirty minutes twice a month in the classroom; provide items for the classroom with a minimum commitment of $50 per year; educate others on all Partners in Education opportunities.

Students across the district have thoroughly enjoyed the love and support that has been shown to them by their adopters. Perhaps even more surprisingly is that the adopters feel even more joy than the students. "The program provides rewards for volunteers, also," stated Jim Jordan of Bealls Department Store. Known lovingly as Mr. Jim to his third grade class as Shackelford Elementary, Mr. Jim believes that ". . . third graders can make anything fun, just ask them!"

Each week, Mr. Jim and Bealls Manager, Stuart Stephenson visit Ms. Julie Nazier’s third grade class at Shackelford Elementary and provide a warm, interesting and fun atmosphere that encourages learning.

Citizens National Bank of Texas is another "adopter." Each week the bank sends volunteers into Portia Wood’s third grade classroom at Dunaway Elementary. "For our students, the time designated for our CNB visitors is something they look forward to each week," Portia shares.

"They are excited to know there are adults who want to come spend time with them and help them in the learning process. CNB has been and continues to be very good to us." While the commitment to "Adopt a Class" may seem like a large one at first, all parties involved have continued to express their appreciation for the program as it brings joy to all involved. "As an educator, seeing the positive impact these volunteers have had on the students is priceless," exclaimed Ms. Wood.

"The benefits are immeasurable. I am so thankful for the time and effort that CNB and the other adopt a classroom volunteers are willing to give. These volunteers are making a difference in our children’s life experiences and enriching their education," she said.

Twenty seven third grade Waxahachie ISD classrooms and growing. Twenty seven adopters. Twenty seven million ways to make a difference in the life of a child. Someone once told me that "To receive a gift is truly a pleasure, but isn’t the giver truly receiving the treasure?" I guess when you look at things from that perspective, adopting a third grade class is truly the greatest gift.

For more information on the "Adopt a Classroom" project, contact Melissa Cobb, Partners in Education Coordinator, at 972-923-4631.

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