A Community Night Celebration at Asheville Middle



As the end of the school year approaches, and the heat index climbs, Asheville Middle School had its last Community Night featuring Homework Diner for the 2022-2023 school year. However, this Community Night featuring Homework Diner looked much different than the typical one. Yes, there was still a full free meal for students and families, and staff still buzzed about checking in with various groups of kids, but the focus was on community building in a fun way. That is why the final AMS Community Night was hosted outside as an Asheville Middle School Block Party and featured a snowcone machine, lively music, and games hosted by Steve Martinez, the United Way of Asheville Community School Coordinator. 


“The Block Party at AMS idea came from Jo and me, getting together weekly,” said Martinez as he explained the strong working relationship he shares with Asheville Middle School Principal Jo Landreth. Jo Landreth and Steve Martinez show up for each other by making time to dream and bounce ideas off each other weekly. “Because somewhere in the brainstorming space, you get a really great idea that is new and attracts more people,” explained Landreth. The end-of-the-year Asheville Middle Block Party was just one example of the benefits of the dependable relationship between Community School Coordinators and school staff. Through Martinez and Landreth’s shared dedication to students and families at Asheville Middle, they worked to bolster the awareness and impact of Community Night featuring Homework Diners.

 Landreth explains, “We did a lot of experimenting [with Community Nights] and found success attaching them to events already happening. But the Block party was a different innovation because something got attached to our last Community Night, and now we already have teachers asking about dates for that next year.”


Indeed the Asheville Middle Block Party and Community Night was a roaring success. Martinez accredits Landreth's unwavering support of the Community School model as one of the essential elements that bring families to the school after the traditional school hours are completed. “Jo has been great with helping put Community Nights in the newsletter and making all calls,” said Steve Martinez,  “as soon as that element was introduced and Community Nights had that principal support, we saw new families show up right away.”

Although the 2022-23 school year is nearly finished, Martinez and Landreth have already been thinking of the following semester. Fortunately, they were able to hint at exciting new ideas they have been brewing. “What I’m really excited about,” said Martinez, “ is taking Community Nights and going into other areas that are connected to Asheville Middle.” The innovative ways of positioning Community Nights featuring Homework Diners to support other events and community partners that Martinez and Landreth are working towards directly support the pillar of family and community engagement that can be found in the Community School model. United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County uses the Community School model as our organizing framework to help place staff support, like Coordinator Steve Martinez, into Asheville and Buncombe County public schools. We collaborate with dozens of local partners to achieve our Bold Community Goal of ALL Asheville City and Buncombe County students graduate from high school ready and fully prepared to pursue their goals and dreams by 2035.



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