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A community of learners: Evangel partners with Weller Elementary to enhance lives of local families

November 6, 2013 | Michaela Smith

Evangel University student teachers spend hours each semester in local public schools. This not only helps them apply what they are learning and sharpen their classroom skills, but it helps them get to know their community and the needs that exist for elementary school students.

“Each year, the Evangel University Education Department meets with the principal of Weller Elementary, Marilyn Monroe, and creates an action plan based on the school’s improvement plan,” says Dr. Colleen Hardy, department chair. “This year, each department on campus has committed to providing household items to the Family Pride Store at Weller.”

The new store, which was launched this fall and is designed to reward parents for school involvement, is a follow-up to the Panther Pride Store, which rewards students for good behavior. Both stores were developed through the Cents of Pride organization founded by 1986 Evangel graduate Kim Acuff.

Dr. Kelly Sutherland

Dr. Kelly Sutherland, professor of education, serves as the liaison between Evangel and Weller.

“In the spring of 2009, Cents of Pride began as a partnership between two Springfield, Missouri elementary schools – Walt Disney Elementary, the sponsor school, and Weller Elementary, the host school,” Acuff says. “Students from the sponsor school collect items and donate them to a ‘store’ at the host school – a Title I school – to purchase with ‘currency’ earned for positive behavior.”

Since the Panther Pride Store was such a success at Weller, Monroe knew that she wanted to do more. In her experience, parental involvement at Weller, a Title I school, had been rare. She wanted to see this change.

“A couple of years after the Panther Pride Store was established, and knowing our vision at Weller was always to get more parents involved in their child’s education, I toyed with the idea of having a parent pride store. It seemed like a nice concept, but how?” she says.

Five years after the Panther Pride Store launched, Monroe met with Acuff and the Cents of Pride executive board to present her idea of Weller’s Family Pride Store.

The board supported her idea, and the Family Pride store was launched. Parents can spend their “Pride Bucks” purchasing diapers, laundry detergent or toiletries for their families.

“Parents earn their Pride Bucks for volunteering at the school,” Monroe says. “This helps meet their basic needs as well as gets them in school and involved in their child’s education. They are becoming comfortable with the school setting, even though they might not have had the best school experience when they were a child.

“We logged 428 volunteer hours in the first month of the store’s existence. I could tell from the parents’ faces they really took pride in volunteering.”

A rewarding partnership

Evangel University serves as a sponsor for Weller Elementary’s Family Pride Store. Dr. Kelly Sutherland, professor of education, acts as the liaison and organizer between Evangel and Weller.

The Education Department collects items from all Evangel departments on the first Friday of each month. They are delivered to Weller in time for the monthly opening of the Family Pride Store. Additional sponsors for the Weller Elementary stores include Disney Elementary, High Street Baptist Church and BKD.

“Everyone at Evangel has been supportive of this project as we partner with Weller,” Sutherland says. “Weller is hoping that the Family Pride program will promote and build trust between families and the school and help parents internalize the value and importance of education and volunteerism.”

“Five years after the onset of the Panther Pride Store at Weller, and with the support of the Cents of Pride board, we are scaling new heights with the Family Pride Store,” Monroe says. “Because of the involvement of our caring sponsors, many kids and families have been given the gift of a ‘Cents of Pride.’ It is an amazing story with many giving individuals at the heart of it!”

How to Donate

To donate to Weller’s Family Pride Store, contact Evangel University’s Education Department at (417) 865-2811, ext. 8548.

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