Minot employees pour volunteer time into Washington school

Jill Schramm/MDN Breann Bischof, right, with Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota chats with students at Washington Elementary during a summer safety fair May 20.

Life has been root beer, story time and other fun for employees of Blue Cross Blue Shield in Minot since adopting an entire school of children last fall.

The BCBS of North Dakota employees partnered with Washington Elementary this past school term and now are planning summer activities as they continue their efforts to enhance education and wellbeing for students.

“Our goal is to make an impact on our community, be active in our community, let everyone know that Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minot is here,” said Breann Bischof, individual sales representative with BCBSND.

Bischof said employees worked through Souris Valley United Way to find the right school and the right-sized school for their office, which has 12 people on staff. Last August, employees helped kick off the school year by serving root beer floats to students and their families at orientation.

Since then, employees have partnered with classrooms to read once a month. They have conducted Junior Achievement activities, served as lunch buddies, helped with gas stamp collections for families in need and with Family Engagement Night, hosted a pizza party for the classroom collecting the most boxtops, served tacos and participated in a Halloween fun night.

Jill Schramm/MDN Students enter a drawing for Blue Cross Blue Shield prizes during a safety fair at Washington Elementary School May 20.

“Those students get to know you and they recognize you coming in every month and they get excited,” Bischof said. “Then when you see them outside of here – you get a random hug in the grocery store or whatever – it’s nice to know you can have such a positive impact on their day.”

Washington school counselor Jackie Geiger said it is good for students to build connections with the community through interactions with BCBSND employees.

“Having some more positive role models in our students’ lives is always a good thing. Seeing how these adults give back to their community is such a good thing for those kids,” she said. “They are choosing to give back to us. It’s a good example. We want, in turn, to give back to somebody else.”

For the school and its Parent-Teachers Association, BCBSND’s involvement ensures reliable volunteers are available so activities such as fun nights or engagement events can continue to be held for students and their families, Geiger said.

BCBSND employees have participated in some activities with a wellness focus but many activities promote education in general. With the reading program, the school provided volunteers with a word of the month, such as “preseverance.” The volunteers would pick books in keeping with that theme and talk about it with students.

Submitted Photo Terilynn Hoff with BCBSND reads to students at Washington Elementary.

Getting out of the office to go back to school is encouraged at BCBSND.

“Our company is big on volunteering and community involvement so they allow us the opportunity to use our work hours for volunteering. But we know that the school has needs that are outside our working day,” said Terilynn Hoff, team leader. “So there’s been employees who have donated their personal time too.”

Hoff said the Adopt-A-School concept originated with BCBSND’s corporate office in Fargo. The Fargo office has implemented Adopt-A-School for many years.

“We are the first district office outside of Fargo that has taken on this program,” Hoff said. “We had to talk long and hard to make sure that we, as a small office, were OK to commit to it, and it’s been a blast. We are sad that summer is here, but we are not done helping. We have ideas and projects we are going to work on through the summer and be ready to start again in August.”

They expect to be partnering with Washington in the years to come because adoption is a commitment, Hoff and Bischof said.

“We are in it for the long haul,” Hoff said.

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