Dressed up in blue, young Elliot made a trip to Finley & Cook Friday to take part in a fundraiser for Shawnee Partners, a program where locals adopt classrooms over the school year. Sponsors provide some funding for needed items, as well as donate time and resources to the students as an added support system.

Dressed up in blue, young Elliot made a trip to Finley & Cook Friday to take part in a fundraiser for Shawnee Partners, a program where locals adopt classrooms over the school year. Sponsors provide some funding for needed items, as well as donate time and resources to the students as an added support system.

Elliot's part in the plan was a simple one — hold still, look cute, get kissed. Finley & Cook's Broadway site partners Scott Huebert and Kevin Huddleston were the targets of a fundraising effort which required winners to smooch the 4-month-old miniature Hereford (Elliot) from Magic Eagle Ranch. The plan turned out pretty successful; the company raised $3,000 to see the partners pucker up.

Finley & Cook Manager Sarah Barham said the company has adopted seven local classrooms this year — one from Pleasant Grove, and two each from SECC, Sequoyah and Jefferson.

Jefferson second-grade teacher Summer Yort said she is excited about the community support.

“This is my 13th year teaching and we have never had this before,” she said. “Not only are they providing items that can be used in my classroom, but they are also providing opportunities for my students to have more adult interactions in their education.”

Barham said financial help, though good, is not the group's only goal in supporting the local classrooms.

“The other side of it is Finley & Cook volunteers will interact by reading to the classes, give class parties, attend school programs,” she said. “Really just help the teacher any way we can.”

Yort said she welcomes that interaction.

“I can always use an extra body to listen to a group of readers or give that one child the one-on-one interaction that they need,” Yort said.

Barham said with the funds Finley & Cook raised, each of the seven classrooms received about $430.

“They can buy whatever they want for their classrooms with that,” she said.

Jefferson Principal E.J. Mynhier said 15 of its teachers have been partnered with businesses or individuals to help add needed supplies and learning tools to their classrooms.

“The monetary contributions are appreciated,” she said, “but the most important gift our teachers have received is the encouragement of knowing that their daily efforts to educate the students of Shawnee are supported by the community.”

Sequoyah Principal Terri Lemos also is excited to have multiple partners in her school.

“We have both local businesses and individuals that have adopted classrooms at Sequoyah,” she said. “Every classroom teacher has a partner.”

The support for staff and students has been overwhelming, she said.

“We are thankful for the outpouring of support and look forward to working with all of our partners,” Lemos said.

Shawnee Public Schools Superintendent Dr. April Grace said her district is extremely grateful for the classroom partners program.

“We know this is going to be a big blessing to all our teachers in the community,” she said.

Shawnee Partners

A few years ago, the Greater Shawnee Area Chamber of Commerce promoted a program to aid classroom teachers called Adopt A Class; Shawnee Forward re-instituted a similar program kicking off Classroom Partners with the early childhood and elementary schools (Shawnee Early Childhood Center, Horace Mann, Jefferson, Will Rogers, Sequoyah and Pleasant Grove) this fall.

In the future, the organization said it hopes to expand to the higher grades.

Its mission is to give teachers support, classroom materials and other resources, so their students have better opportunities to succeed.

Shawnee Forward Chair Joe Vorndran said Shawnee Partners is an initiative the Shawnee Forward Education Committee took on recently.

“It was a directive given to them by the Shawnee Forward Board of Directors,” he said, “and they took the ball and ran with it.”

The program secured 100 partners this year who will serve 98 classrooms, Vorndran said, with more to come.

“There's also been a commitment for a matching grant by the Milburn Foundation,” he said. “This program is going to explode.”

The Shawnee Community Foundation is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt non-profit organization. All contributions are 100-percent tax-deductible if made through them.

For more information about Shawnee Partners, visit Shawnee Forward, at shawneeforward.com, or call (405) 273-6092.

More about Elliot

This isn't Elliot's first event in support of local schools. According to the Magic Eagle Ranch Facebook page, Elliot spent Thursday — Shawnee's first day of school — as the class mascot for teacher Dana Markham Farriell’s first-grade class at Sequoyah Elementary.

“What started out as just a quick visit to first grade quickly snowballed into an emptying of the entire school,” the post reads. “Of course you can’t bring a cow to school and only one class gets to pet him.”

the post continued, “We are proud to report that Elliot was on his best behavior, as were all of the students. They listened, learned and enjoyed his visit.”

For more information about Magic Eagle Ranch, visit Facebook and search “Magic Eagle Miniature Herefords.”