Marquita Butler is the volunteer and community partnership manager for The Harvest Network of Schools. The Network consists of Best Academy, a K-8 school; Harvest Preparatory School, for grades K-4, and The Mastery School, also for K-4 students.
Approximately 1,200 students, primarily low-income African-American children from the north Minneapolis area, attend the schools. The Harvest Network is unique in that all enrolled students have an opportunity to participate in Junior Achievement through the support of corporations such as Cargill.
Butler manages the school’s interactions with about 12 community and corporate school partners, including Cargill and Junior Achievement. Cargill has supported the Harvest Network schools since the 1990s, and has directly supported JA programs there for the past two years.
“We have three different JA programs that we do throughout the school year,” Butler explains. “We have JA in a Day, and the scholars in K-8 get exposure to that. And there’s JA Job Shadow, where Cargill volunteers come in and talk with the scholars about careers. And in past years, we’ve done both JA BizTown and JA Finance Park. Cargill provided volunteers for JA in a Day and JA Job Shadow. Cargill has really been a huge champion for us by giving us financial contributions and volunteers.
“In addition, JA does a really good job of taking the brunt of the work off [the schools’] shoulders for the programs,” Butler adds. “It’s very organized and the teachers don’t have a lot extra to do, because teachers don’t have a lot of time. Whenever JA comes in, it’s collaborative and impactful. The JA staff is very dedicated and supportive of our network of schools, and whenever an opportunity comes up, they think of us. They’ve also really bridged the relationship that we have with Cargill.”