Aligned Forces Shape Community Schools


This is the illustration we often use to talk about our work. It is an image of a young man, in a school hallway, weighed down by bookbags. Each bag is labeled: hunger, homelessness, illness. They could easily say “my father was just laid off” or “my mother was diagnosed with cancer”. As the student struggles with the bags, he asks “Can someone help me? I’m late for math class.” 
The Asheville Buncombe Middle Grades Network was born out of a realization that, in order to truly improve educational outcomes and graduation rates for all students in Buncombe County, those of us in the business of helping students have to radically alter how we approach our work. We have to break out of our silos and better align our efforts. We have to look at supporting the WHOLE student - which means, in addition to recruiting tutors and mentors, we also have to find ways to better support their family and community issues that also impact student success.  
The community school strategy is all about building partnerships that bring new energy and resources to bear where they are needed most. Here are just a few snapshots of our shared work, the diversity of the partnerships we've assembled, and ways you, or your business can get involved. 


The Early Warning and Response System (EWRS)

Imagine you are a teacher. You have thirty children in your class and you know that the stars and low performers often get the bulk of your attention. But now you have a tool, a dashboard that shows the status of the attendance, behavior and course studies of every student in your class. A red, yellow or green light shows you exactly who is doing well and who is beginning to slip behind and it also lets you see if those students have been connected to a resource/intervention. At the same time, community organizations that serve students have this same dashboard for the students they serve. For the first time in this community (and state) there is a tool that helps parents, teachers and community partners get on the same page about student progress and work together to complement and communicate about how best to support each student. 

"EWRS has helped our teachers look more holistically at their students and seek solutions outside just academic interventions." --Jody Montrie, Enka Intermediate
"[EWRS has given us a] better understanding of 'the whole child,' knowledge about student's school day activities/behavior, more holistic view of what's going on." --Maureen Adamson, YMCA
"The first thing I do when I come in to work is look at my dashboard. It helps me decide who I need to make sure I spend time with during the day and it has changed how teachers and counselors collaborate." Eric Reeves, Erwin Middle School

Homework Diners

Once a week, in four different school districts (Asheville, Enka, Erwin and Owen) families with a K-12 student can bring their WHOLE family (even grandma and baby brother) to the local middle school for homework help and a FREE healthy meal provided by Green Opportunities (GO).  This meal not only brings the community together, and nourishes those eating, it also provides the participants in GO's Kitchen Ready culinary arts training program valuable job skills and experience that they can transfer when they graduate the program. 

Homework Diners literally could not happen if it weren't for awesome volunteers like the team members at businesses like Arby's, DHG, Eaton, Matt & Molly Team, Nesbitt Discovery Academy, Valley Hope Church and Wells Fargo.


Creating Hubs of Support

For almost 100 years, United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County has invested in the education, health and financial stability of our community by way of making grants to a host of high impact nonprofit organizations. But we also work to anchor needed resources in communities and use middle schools as a hub for this support. 
What’s currently underway?
  • increase mental health counseling for students in several schools by funding onsite individual and group counseling opportunities (Access Family Services)
  • support parent-teacher home visitation and relationship-building (Buncombe County Graduation Initiative)
  • increase in-school parent engagement and leadership opportunities (Asheville City Schools Foundation)  
What’s on the horizon? 
  • support key transition years from Elementary to Middle and Middle to High School (Children First/Communities in Schools and the Buncombe County Graduation Initiative)
  • improve health outcomes for students and families by providing onsite Telehealth at Homework Diners - Telehealth is where you can meet with a doctor over a computer while a nurse is physically present in the room. (MAHEC)
  • support kindergarten readiness through unique programming and outreach opportunities (Buncombe Partnership for Children)
The possibilities really are endless and communities across the nation are finding ways to use their community schools to accomplish incredible things. 

Your Next Steps