Representatives from more than 30 businesses and community organizations met Sept. 15 in recognition of their role in the new Tempe/Kyrene Business Advisory Council, a program designed to partner the business and education communities in order to achieve community goals.

The featured organizations ranged from local companies like Changing Hands bookstore and Rio Salado College to bigger names like Intel, Chevron and Chicanos por la Causa.

The Tempe/Kyrene Business Advisory Council is an initiative of the Tempe and Kyrene school boards to reach out to the community and foster a stronger bond.

"We thought that if you could really concentrate and focus the interest the business community had in education, and their volunteer time and financial support, we could harness the resources needed to put behind critical projects," said Cathleen Barton, a co-chair of the council.

The business gathering was during the Tempe Union High School District Governing Board meeting, and was the focus that evening.

"Being able to show our appreciation to our business partners is the best thing about tonight," said Robin Arredondo-Savage, president of the TUHSD school board.

The council is a relatively new initiative, having been established in December 2009. Its intention, according to Barton, is to help produce a college- and career-ready generation through projects from the organization's subcommittees, which include job shadowing, ACT and SAT readiness, and more.

"Our idea was to take the good intentions of the business community and combine them with the expertise of the education community," Barton said.

Students have already benefitted from the project, Barton added, because this summer it was able to garner donations from sponsors to help send students to a summer math program.

Community and education partnership was highlighted as a strong focus for the TUHSD governing board when Arredondo-Savage listed some of the district's other programs, like the Health Occupation Preparatory Education Academy, Jobs for Arizona Graduates program, and a W.P. Carey business program in conjunction with Arizona State University.

One effort unique to all of Arizona is the Innovative Energy Solutions and Sustainability Project, a sustainability program sponsored in part by Southwest Gas, APS and SRP.

"We're excited to be able to retrofit 24 buses to meet higher emissions standards," said Diane Meulemans, TUHSD's chief financial officer.

Kaila White is a student at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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