JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - There's some good news for public schools in Mississippi: The number of high school graduates increased in 2008. Nearly 600 more students graduated last year than the year before.
One reason for that, educators say, is the increased involvement from businesses in the communities surrounding schools.
"Everyone has to hold hands and find a way to help every child achieve in this state," Pascagoula Schools Superintendent Wayne Rodolfich said.
Superintendent Rodolfich knows to reach that goal you start early, and not just in the classroom. His schools and the organization "Backpack Buddies" provide meals during weekends for students.
"If a child comes to school hungry, they're not thinking about learning, they're thinking about eating. And this is one way to help them think about learning," said Rodolfich.
According to the Mississippi Department of Education, if a student isn't reading on grade level by third grade, that child is more likely to never catch up, get frustrated and drop out.
In Greenville's Stern Enhancement School, they've partnered with local high school juniors and seniors to help at risk elementary students.
"We all know it takes a village to raise a child, and it takes students to help students," said Judy Long with Stern Enhancement School.
In at least some cases, without a community partner some schools would have to do without.
"They pay for something, it's money. And they pay for a program that couldn't otherwise be had, or they make a program better then it would be," Governor Haley Barbour said.
The overall goal is to make a difference for each student.
"We teach the whole child, the emotional, the spiritual, the physical, the mental, all those things," said Dr. Cheryl Stone with Highland Elementary School in Ridgeland. "I hope we have an impact on them."
Three school districts and their partners received the Governor's Award for Partners in Education. They are Greenville, Jackson and Pascagoula. Hattiesburg, Natchez and Ridgeland schools received the Partnership Excellence Award.