In the two most recent blogs, I’ve talked about the Community School model and shared some of the research on how it works to support students, families and schools. Keeping in mind that a Community School is a hub that brings people together—parents, teachers, students, and volunteers—to support students' academic success, build strong families, and improve communities; and that Community Schools become community centers that integrate academics, health/social services and community development; we’ve asked Megan Ward to share details of a specific program operating in Buncombe County at Enka Middle School.
The YMCA’s 21st Century Learning Center program, Enka Middle School, Hands On Asheville-Buncombe and United Way’s Middle School Success Initiative have partnered to create a Community School pilot project. Our goal in the first year is to build the framework for what a Community School is, while trying to enhance services provided to students and their parents.
This school year, two Hands On AmeriCorps VISTA members began the development of a Community School at Enka Middle. Nicole Herbert (Student Success Coordinator) and Megan Ward (that would be me, the Parent Engagement Coordinator) have been hard at work during this pilot year of the project, navigating the school and community culture, forging new partnerships, developing innovative programming and support efforts, and creating exciting volunteer opportunities – all things that provide a stronger link between school and community and support the development of the “whole” child.
And we have had some fantastic early successes! Nicole collaborated with the YMCA’s 21st Century program at Enka Middle to establish a new service-learning club, with student activities ranging from youth mentoring, outdoor cleanups, and the establishment of a community garden this spring. She has also recruited a seventh grade teacher to sponsor a Creative Writing Club.
On the parent and family programming side, I have developed several classes including “Healthy Cooking on a Budget,” which focuses on easy and delicious recipes that meet federal nutrition guidelines and can feed a family of four for under $10, and a “Love and Logic for Parents®” class series that teaches helpful tools for making parenting less stressful and more fun.
Other opportunities slated for this year include garden service projects, community meals, additional learning and enrichment for parents and families.
We are excited about the relationships we have developed and the enthusiasm of the parents, teachers and students. It is clear to us that we are laying the foundation for an even more successful second year.
Hopefully this gives you some sense of the details of how Community Schools can work. My next blog will give other local examples.