Advocacy in Action for Community Schools

The Department of Education Deputy Secretary, Cindy Marte, virtually visited Asheville (and the rest of the country) last week for a webinar to launch Community Schools Forward, a new task force working to strengthen community schools across the country. This group's mission is to provide resources and training for educators, families, and communities. 

A college student, Fabiola Patricio,  who grew up in the same community where United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County has been supporting young people and their families to succeed, was invited to speak at this event, launching essential Community School resources. Patricio was in conversation with Deputy Secretary Cindy Martin in which she asked comprehensive questions about the forward movement of Community Schools, specifically around the process of creating the essential resources and underscoring the most critical aspects of community schools.



Fabiola was chosen to speak because of her impactful history around community schools. Since middle school, Fabiola Patricio has participated in UWABC’s partner programs. 

“I was in a community school for middle school,” said Patricio, “the experience overall was great.” During her middle school years, her peers and school quickly recognized her natural leadership abilities when she worked with the Erwin Middle UWABC Community School coordinator to develop the “Welcome Warriors” groups. Her leadership and willingness to work with others were essential in the creation of the groups, which had students and parents who were new to Buncombe County partner with each other to create a more community-centric environment. From there, she served as a student leadership voice in her school’s Resource Team, which is a group of teachers, administrative staff, and community partners who meet at the Community Schools to discuss resources needed for students.

As Patricio spoke with the Deputy Secretary of Education, she repeatedly stressed the importance of meeting students and parents where they are in life. When asked about the most impactful aspects of her community school, Patrico responded,

 “Based off my experience, I really go to see those close intern personal relationships with one another form. Specifically, my student voice was heard, and the  parents' needs were taken into consideration.”

As a local college student, Fabiola still inspires her community and the nation with her leadership as she serves as a youth leader on a national level, as exemplified by her conversation with the U.S  Department of Education Deputy Secretary. Patricio herself even notes that her experience at a community school helped her beyond middle school by saying,

“So now that I’ve graduated, I can come back and use the advocacy that I learned in my middle and high school years and continue that advocacy now from a distance.”

Although Patrico is studying hard in college, she continues to support and spread the news of community schools. Having a supportive community through programs that partners of United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County run, this young leader continues growing into someone who can lead others just like them!




Watch Fabiola’s insightful conversation with Deputy Secretary Cindy Marten

Click HERE (start at 52:19 to see their conversation)

In case you need a refresher on what exactly makes a school a Community School, we would like to remind you of what is going on to create a school that helps leaders like Fabiola achieve all their goals and dreams.

A Community School is a public school that provides academic, social, emotional, and health support to students at risk of dropping out. In addition to offering extra help with homework or test preparation, Community Schools also provide other resources such as mental health services, after-school programs, access to internships, and a network of community members and non-profits. 

Students who enroll in these schools have access to an after-school program run by community partners that provides mentoring opportunities, college information sessions, and connections with local employers.

These programs aim not only for students to succeed in school but also to feel connected to their communities so they can continue learning even after graduating high school. The Community School strategy is one of the main reasons UWABC has forged a community partnership with over 30 schools, non-profits, social services, health representatives, and community partners to create United for Youth. United for Youth has a Bold community goal to have ALL Asheville City and Buncombe County students graduate from high school ready and fully prepared to pursue their goals and dreams, by 2035. We know that by working with dedicated community partners, our community will see a rise in youth leaders like Fabiola.