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Box Elder school aims to build relationships with staff, families

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The Badger Clark Elementary School parking lot in Box Elder was the site of a back-to-school bash Friday, put on by a new committee called the Action Team for Partnerships — a committee made up of Badger Clark staff with the goal of building relationships between staff, families and the community.

BOX ELDER — An initiative called the Patriot Exchange is the first of a new committee out of Badger Clark Elementary School aiming to build relationships between staff, families and the community.

The Patriot Exchange initiative is the brainchild of a 13-person committee called the Action Team for Partnerships. The initiative itself aims to encourage consistent student attendance, while supporting students and their families.

“We know that our students really don’t have a say on whether they get here or not at the K-3 level,” said Kristyn LaBine, librarian at Badger Clark Elementary School and co-chair of the Action Team for Partnership committee.

One of the aims of the Patriot Exchange is to help alleviate struggles that may prevent families from getting their kids to class. There are sometimes essential needs that families aren’t able to get a hold of, she said, such as laundry detergent, which might result in not wanting to send kids to school in dirty clothes.

“So our idea is you bring them to school, we'll get them a world class education,” she said. The program awards students two "Patriot bucks" for every day they're in class. At the end of the month, families can spend their Patriot bucks at the Patriot Exchange store, which will have essential need items for them to purchase.

The store is already set up inside the school, and their first stock of items was essentially sponsored by the city of Box Elder. LaBine said they were allowed to work some of the city’s summer community events, with all proceeds funding the store’s inventory. Students will begin earning Patriot bucks Sept. 1, and be able to cash in at the store in October.

The committee itself was born of a five-month course offered through the Black Hills Special Services Cooperative’s South Dakota Statewide Family Engagement Center. LaBine and co-chair Chandra Canaan took the classes out of Pierre, which they first learned about through an email sent to South Dakota educators.

They had to write letters explaining why they wanted to be involved, which is how they were then chosen to participate.

“It was really powerful,” LaBine said.

In a post-COVID education world, she said there was an added layer of learning about student engagement. They left Pierre with two big takeaways and a task to start an action committee.

“Families want to see their child succeed,” she said. “And whatever that looks like, that’s on us to also see how can we be there to help them help their children succeed.”

The second takeaway was the value of partnership and collaboration.

"Collaborating with our families and our community, and really just bringing together for the betterment of our students," LaBine said.

They hope to see the committee grow to the district level, but the seed starts with Badger Clark.

Friday evening, the committee hosted their first event — a back-to-school bash with inflatables, music, games and food.

“This is just the start of what we’re looking to do,” LaBine said.

The committee plans to host more events throughout the year, such as bingo and movie nights — “just having those things where we can bring the community and our families together,” she said. “We’re really excited.”

LaBine said the committee is looking for future sponsors for the Patriot Exchange program, and has an Amazon wish list available for those looking to engage with the program.

–Contact Laura Heckmann at lheckmann@rapidcityjournal.com

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