A Symbiotic Relationship: What’s possible when a college and an elementary school are neighbors

13th Street may just be the only street in the country where you can go from pre-K to college.
Located just across the street from one another in Reading, Pa., Albright College and 13th and Union Elementary School established a Professional Development School (PDS) partnership ten years ago. PDS partnerships are largely one-way streets, and every year, Albright would send education students to complete their student teaching.
But when that PDS program ended, a lasting partnership began, and in 2012, it was expanded to include more than just the education department.
“A lot of colleges have partnerships with schools, but mainly what they want is to place student teachers or do research,” says Dorothea Miller, director of the partnership. Albright’s partnership, she says, offers something more—real connections. 
Those connections span from arts and sciences to physical education. Art students from Albright have painted murals in the elementary school. Albright fashion students helped the 13th and Union kids design costumes for characters they read about, and then put on a fashion show.
College athletes run drills with the students, and Albright football players spend time in the 13th and Union cafeteria, talking to students during lunch and helping to promote self-esteem.
The partnership also emphasizes the environment: 13th and Union students take field trips to Albright to study streams and wetlands, and to tour Albright’s greenhouse and community garden. Albright students have planted a garden at 13th and Union.
The Ready. Set. Read! program, tutors from different disciplines from chemistry to business, the homework center, a classroom assistant program and more brings more than 50 student volunteers to 13th and Union to help kids learn, and in exchange, Albright students get invaluable experience working with the students.
Albright provides these opportunities to the elementary school students, as well as scholarships for the 13th and Union students, the “13th Street Gang.” But more importantly, it gives the elementary school students, many first-generation and from disadvantaged backgrounds, a glimpse of what college looks like—not a distant ivory tower, but a diverse community just across the street where they, too, can belong. 

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