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Program to bring together local schools, businesses

NATCHEZ — A group of community and business leaders gathered Tuesday morning to strengthen their commitment to education and help improve the economic future of the entire region.

Approximately 25 people attended a “Partners in Education” meeting at the Natchez Convention Center to learn how local businesses can play a role in local education efforts in both public and private schools.

The program, which seeks to match businesses with local schools, isn’t new to the area but hasn’t operated in many years, Natchez-Adams County Chamber of Commerce President Debbie Hudson said.

Hosted by the chamber’s Education Committee, Tuesday’s meeting was organized to reintroduce and reenergize the program in Natchez.

“We have to do this,” Committee Chair Ruth Nichols said. “The biggest thing our community needs is improved education, and this is the first step.”

Nichols and Hudson said the program is one way people can make a difference in the future of the community.

“People say that our schools need to change. This is one way they can help,” Hudson said. “If a (prospective industry) looks at us and sees that we are trying to make a difference, that will change how people look at our community.”

The program offers several levels of participation from supporting the local schools as a whole to partnering with individual schools.

Past examples of participation from local businesses include providing mentoring and tutoring, assisting in a library or classroom, being a guest speaker, sponsoring a “Student of the Month,” sponsoring field trips and other activities.

In turn, schools give back to partner businesses by putting the names of partner businesses on school marquees, posting recognition on school social media posts, offering free tickets to school events, providing student artwork for display and other benefits.

The program is offered for all schools — public and private — in the area from preschool on up, Hudson said.

Nichols said she hopes the participating businesses and schools will get together once a quarter to share what they are doing and to get others involved.

Hudson said the chamber wants to be the support system behind the program and will help market the effort.

Nichols said Tuesday’s meeting is a start, and she hopes more businesses will join the effort.

Any businesses that are interested in the program and learning how they can become a partner in education can call the Natchez-Adams Chamber of Commerce at 601-445-4611.