by Michelle Bennett
Director of Hands On Asheville-Buncombe
Strong schools that produce successful students all have one thing in common: community support. When you integrate academics, social services and afterschool programs with community engagement, you see improved student learning, increased parent and family participation, and more time for high quality instruction from teachers. In 2012, Hands On Asheville-Buncombe and United Way’s Middle School Success joined with the YMCA’s 21st Century Community Learning Center and Enka Middle School to do just that.
Enka Community School will conclude its second school year in June – and it’s been a great one. Programming has been expanded to serve even more students and their families. A volunteer program was created to support afterschool and some school day efforts to support student learning. Best of all, more students, parents, families and community members were able to participate.
Quality Time with Community Mentors
We’ve operated seven afterschool clubs including yoga, creative writing, knitting and Girls in Charge to name a few. To date, 95 students have taken advantage of these opportunities. One of those clubs, Girls in Charge, ended in March. This group was designed to help sixth grade girls make healthy choices for themselves and create sustained, positive changes in girls’ body image and esteem. Women’s Leadership Council members volunteered as mentors.
Students took a survey about their attitudes toward school before and after participating. Overall, scores reflecting their attitudes about school improved an average of 5 points. This a success story with numbers to back it up. The majority of girls really gained confidence and empowerment from being in the group – and the mentors got to actively connect with the girls.
Parent and Family Support for Their Children’s Education
School hours don’t usually match up with work hours, transportation schedules and other family demands. Enka Community School offered 12 out-of-school events for families including service days, computer classes, reading and writing, financial management, and healthy cooking on a budget. There was even a community meal – neighborhood engagement with a side!
Of the 203 participants, 100% reported that the class or program provided them with new knowledge or skills, 93 % reported that the resources provided to them during the class were useful and 94% reported that they would attend another Community School class or event.
What’s Next for Enka Community School?
The power of community schools lies in the flow of resources running from the community to the school and back into the community. Benefits to families, such as increased physical, economic and emotional stability, clearly contribute to the stability of their communities. Another benefit: relationships among community agencies, businesses and civic organizations are strengthened and a greater awareness of the services they offer is built. These connections help create the social networks that define and strengthen a community for everyone who lives there.
100 people have volunteered to support the Enka Community School this school year. Some are recurring volunteers who tutor students, some help with family events and others help with beautification projects to create a welcoming environment at Enka Middle School. To add more clubs for students and events for families, we need more volunteers. We need your engagement, investment and skills. Please join us.
Enka Community School is hosting a free resource fair for the Enka-Candler community on Thursday, May 1 at 5 p.m. Families will learn about community resources, summer learning opportunities and other summer events. Activities that evening include face painting, Live United corn hole and a raffle. Let us know if you’d like to volunteer to provide support or lead activities. For additional volunteer opportunities with Enka Community School, please click here.
Michelle Bennett is the Director of Hands On Asheville-Buncombe, the volunteer center of United Way and go-to organization to find volunteer opportunities and volunteer management training in Buncombe County. For more information on Hands On’s services, contact her at Michelle.Bennett@UnitedWayABC.org or (828) 239-1033.