This Year, Community Education Partnerships More Vital Than Ever

By Lee Vreeland, Ed.D., President & CEO, An Achievable Dream & Keira Lombardo, Chief Administration Officer, Smithfield Foods.

2020 was an incredibly challenging year, particularly so for students. Their educations have been beset by delays and uncertainty as the COVID-19 pandemic forced school systems into uncharted territories – all to keep students, educators, and the community at large as safe as possible. 

Amid a year of so many hurdles, acts of kindness have meant more than ever before. That is why An Achievable Dream (AAD) was so pleased to receive an annual holiday contribution of food baskets from Smithfield Foods – providing students and their families with a delicious meal during the holidays and a sense of normalcy during an otherwise abnormal year. 

AAD is a nationally recognized K–12 program that partners with public school districts to co-operate in primarily underserved communities, providing additional resources to level the playing field for students. AAD works with public school systems in Newport News, Henrico County, and Virginia Beach City to achieve these goals.

Headquartered in Virginia, Smithfield Foods is an American food company dedicated to producing “Good food. Responsibly.®” Part of that responsibility extends to supporting local communities – Smithfield believes education has the power to dramatically strengthen those communities over the long run, and demonstrates that belief through supporting a range of education initiatives that empower its employees, their families, and their communities.

Partnerships are essential to success in education, and the collaboration between Smithfield and AAD extends well beyond sharing meals. In fact, Smithfield has a long history of supporting AAD in its mission to bring equity to education by providing opportunities for success in school and life, contributing more than $2.8 million since 2004. 

Smithfield’s donations to the AAD annual fund have supported many of the core elements of its educational framework, including extended academic hours, uniforms, field trips, clubs, wraparound services and more. In 2020, this support was especially vital, as AAD explored new ways to reach its students in the current virtual learning environment. In recent months, AAD has worked toward providing substantial technical support, equipment, and access to training and staff professional development to ensure virtual learning accessibility for every student.

Additionally, Smithfield renewed its partnership with AAD in 2020 through a $200,000 grant that will fund core components of their program, provide career readiness training and develop a cultural competency task force. This year, Smithfield redoubled its efforts to address structural inequalities through supporting organizations that work to improve education programs for historically underserved communities, provide access to quality education and bridge divides within local communities. AAD is exactly the kind of partner who will match the company’s commitment to accountability and effectiveness.

Smithfield’s relationship with AAD goes even further, with dozens of current and former AAD families – including parents, guardians, and grandparents across Newport News and Virginia Beach – employed by the company. In fact, alumni of the AAD program have gone on to work for Smithfield, serving as a testament to the success of AAD’s efforts along with Smithfield’s commitment to the uplifting effect of educational opportunities. The communities that AAD partners with are the same ones in which Smithfield employees live and work.

Smithfield’s support for – and collaboration with – AAD serves as a timely example of a successful community partnership. This past year, collaboration was more paramount than ever before in bringing equity to education. Despite the many challenges that 2020 brought, Smithfield Foods and AAD continue to share the belief that education can truly transform communities and providing opportunities for students allows them to succeed in school and life. In 2021 and beyond, AAD and Smithfield look forward to offering students even more moments to learn and grow.

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