Editorial: Partnership between school system, City of Refuge will have long-term benefits for community

We hear often about how government is the problem, and it certainly can be.

But in Friday's newspaper we report on a partnership between Dalton Public Schools and City of Refuge, greatly assisted by funds from the state Department of Education, that should bring about long-term benefits for the youth of our community and, by extension, the community as a whole.

The story outlines how the school system and City of Refuge, which provides multiple services to low-income families, have joined together for an after-school program that will focus "on the whole child," as Whitney Cawood, director of marketing for City of Refuge, said. City of Refuge and the school system have partnered for the past four years on summer educational programming.

Academically "at-risk" elementary school students in the Dalton Public Schools system will benefit from a four-day-a-week after-school program that starts Tuesday that will include not only educational instruction but also what are called "enrichment activities," such as in the fine arts, student clubs, social and emotional learning, and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

Many other local organizations will assist with the programming, including the Creative Arts Guild, Dalton State College, the Northwest Georgia Healthcare Partnership, Rock Bridge Community Church and Dalton First United Methodist Church, so it can be seen that this is an effort that combines the best of both government — the school system and its dedicated educators, and a five-year, $1.6 million grant from the state — and non-government entities, such as the churches and City of Refuge.

The end goal?

In addition to helping with the education of our precious youth and their parents, who can also benefit from classes, there is a larger picture.

"This is an exciting partnership for Dalton Public Schools," said Caroline Woodason, director of school support. But, she noted, "This is an opportunity not just for Dalton Public Schools and City of Refuge but the entire community."

As these current and future students benefit from the after-school program and find success in their educational endeavors — Cawood said research has shown a strong connection between children who take part in extracurricular activities and those who go on to college — they will most likely become engaged and vital members of the community, strengthening the community thanks to this valuable collaboration between public and private actors.

We commend all of those who are responsible for putting this program in place, and celebrate all of the hardworking educators and others who will assist with the programming.

The community thanks you.

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