Best known for the glitz and glamour of the hotel and gaming industry, Las Vegas is a surprising place for an education story. Las Vegas was one of the communities hit hardest by the Great Recession, and recovery has been slow for local industries and the economy. Yet the education story here is one of hope, not despair, with positive change being driven by dedicated business and community leaders, administrators, principals, teachers, and students.
Partnership between business, nonprofits, and educators has been central to lifting up schools and students in Las Vegas. “It’s extremely important for our business community to be engaged in partnership with the school districts, but also in advocacy,” says Kristin McMillan, President and CEO of the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce.
As Superintendent of Clark County School District, Pat Skorkowsky created opportunities for these partnerships to develop. In 2016, he and Principal of Dean Peterson Elementary Krista Yarberry approached Maurice Wooden, the President of Wynn and Encore Las Vegas.
“It’s easy to write a check, but we wanted to roll up our sleeves and become a true partner, to dig in and provide genuine support.”
“They had a mission,” he recalls, “and wanted the Wynn to pioneer and launch a new business/public school partnership.” In the beginning it was just about providing the basic necessities the school needed, but since then it’s grown and the partnership has thrived. “We now have monthly birthday parties, appreciation day for teachers, departments adopting classrooms, and even a career day to expose students to different opportunities,” says Wooden. “It’s easy to write a check, but we wanted to roll up our sleeves and become a true partner, to dig in and provide genuine support.”
You can learn more about the partnership here:
Setting students up for success in the workforce is also front-of-mind for many Las Vegas educators, businesses, and community leaders. “We know that our clientele rely on a healthy economy in order to succeed and grow, and the foundation for that is a healthy education system that produces people to fill the jobs of today and the jobs we anticipate coming down the pipe,” says John Guedry, CEO, Bank of Nevada.
That’s why people like Renu Cantu, Executive Director of Jobs America’s Graduates (JAG) Nevada are so committed to ensuring that each student can realize their potential. “A lot of these young people have been given messages by the education system, inadvertently or purposefully, that they’re not worth the investment, that they’re failures. Our message to them is not only do you belong in school, but this is your vehicle for success,” he says. This message is cutting through: students who complete the JAG program graduate at a rate of 83%—higher than the Nevada state graduation rate.
“We are now world champions, we travel across the country to compete, we’ve help start a robotics team in a foreign country, we have connected with the business community—we’ve come a long way.”
At Cimmaron Memorial High School, college and career readiness comes from the hands on experience the students gain from building robots for national and international competitions. From humble beginnings with just a few students and a wooden robot, these students are now taking on the world. “We are now world champions, we travel across the country to compete, we’ve help start a robotics team in a foreign country, we have connected with the business community—we’ve come a long way,” says Oscar, president of Team 987. “Not only is this program about robotics—it’s teaching students skills that help them in all areas of their lives.”
See more from Team 987 here:
By innovating, collaborating, and communicating, the entire community has put students at the center of its focus and set its sights on a future for them, and the town, brighter than the iconic lights of the Strip.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lucy Davidson is manager of programs for USCCF’s Center for Education and Workforce.