In the non-profit/charter world, we all wear many hats. Though I’m the Sr. Director of Marketing and Communications for Freedom Prep, I have the privilege of doubling as a Community Outreach team member. One of my responsibilities in that role is seeking out new, mutually beneficial relationships with community partners and cultivate existing ones. In order to give our students a well-rounded education, our school depends on community partners to fill in the gaps. Our mission is to prepare students PreK-12 to excel in college and in life – and we know that takes a village!
A couple of years ago, our Community Outreach Team started working with Agape North and they quickly became one of our trusted, and (dare we say, favorite) community partners. When we first learned about the concept and strategy behind “Giving Days,” we were shocked to learn that such a selfless, impactful program existed. In the education business, we are always careful that no one feels like they’re “saving” our children, not even us. So we very cautiously approached the partnership and the relationship building with our school partners, Houston Middle School and University of Memphis (U of M). Those relationships began to flourish in ways we couldn’t have ever imagined, and we realized that the motives of Agape North were pure. And that this would be a partnership that would continue to grow and flourish throughout time.
As our community partners are an integral part of the larger Freedom Prep community, we believe we have a responsibility to appreciate and honor those who give their time, talents and treasures to Freedom Prep. Every year, we host a Community Partner Banquet and awards ceremony, whereby we honor those connected to us through their service. We traditionally select five community partners who demonstrate the core values that drive every interaction at Freedom Prep: Respect, Responsibility, Integrity, Community and Excellence. However, in addition to these awards, we choose one outstanding organization or individual to receive our Ubuntu award, which represents the Zulu philosophy that I am because we are, humanity towards others, and the belief in a universal bond of sharing and caring that connects all humanity. When we hosted our 4th Annual Community Partner Banquet in the fall of 2017, we couldn’t think of anyone more deserving of the Ubuntu award than Jason Baker and the team at Agape North.
When we form a new relationship, we look for a partner that is not only going to enhance the school experience for our students, but will find fulfillment in the work they do with us. Agape North is one of those organizations that seems to get more joy out of connecting people and possibilities, and working with schools than making T-shirts (arguably, the bread and butter of their operation). The company’s vision to serve and give back while providing a quality service is one I’ve never seen before. They are literally creating little silk-spun webs of love, care, smiles and community all across the south, country, and even globe. And we love them for that.
Connecting people in neighborhoods that might never cross paths is something that our separate and many times segregated communities need. We look different, we talk different, and our homes are different. But on the inside, we have similar thoughts, similar dreams and aspirations and similar spirits. Our fellowship with Houston Middle and U of M, through Agape North, has taught us that first-hand. Sure, some might say together we just we play basketball, do cheers, talk and laugh. Spend 45 minutes horsing around. Contrarily, these activities seem simple but they are oh so powerful. Through these activities, Agape North has given us the opportunity to share and connect with one another and learn about cultures and traditions that are new to us and different from our own. THIS creates the foundation of a collaborative, accepting and understanding society. THESE are the types of interactions and connections that make our beautiful and troubled city, country and world better places. When we take time to share and learn from each other, our divide decreases. We are more ONE than TWO. And when that happens, everyone wins.
We look forward to continuing these partnerships and to establishing new ones with new partners Agape North will surely enable. And as our Community Outreach Team sets out to establish new partnerships on our own, we will take with us the learnings and principles we’ve used to build our relationships with Houston Middle and U of M. Our hope is that more community organizations, schools, companies, etc. would adopt the vision of Agape North and help bridge the gap to our communities in their own unique ways. They’re onto something…
We are thankful for all of our community partners, including Agape North, Houston Middle School and University of Memphis. We can’t wait for our next opportunity to connect with someone new and learn something new about our friends and about ourselves.
Candace A. Gray
Sr. Director of Marketing & Communications
Freedom Preparatory Academy Charter Schools