The Pillars of Community Schools: Integrated Student Supports


If you’ve heard about United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County, you’ve most likely heard about the community school strategy, which guides a large portion of our work. You can learn more about our specific Buncombe County and Asheville City Community Schools here. But in this blog, we want to dig deeper, beyond what is a community school. In this Community School Pillar series, we’ll be taking a close look at each one of the four pillars that support ALL Community Schools.

The Four Pillars of a Community School are as follows: 

  • Expanded and Enriched Learning Time and Opportunities
  • Collaborative Leadership and Practices 
  • Active Family and Community Engagement 
  • Integrated Student Supports.


Today, as you may have guessed by the title, we’ll dive into the value of Integrated Student Supports. From after-school hours to in-school supports - we’re going to cover how integrated student support shows up in our 7 Community Schools and share some amazing stories of impact from the schools themselves. 

Within the pillar of integrated student support, there are multiple strategies that are implemented. If you were to walk into our local community schools, at most you would find Mentorship Programs, School-Based Health Centers, and Resource Rooms. While these three shining examples of integrated student support are not the only showcase of this pillar, they are the most common in Buncombe County and are the three main strategies utilized to ensure that the Community School strategy is being implemented across the county.

Mentorship Programs 

Mentorship Programs look different at each Community School. However, there is a common connector with each program. That connector is the fact that these programs are resources from the outside-of-school community. That means that Community School Coordinators are working diligently to identify needs among the students within their school and then bring in outside mentorship groups. Like our community schools themselves, these mentorship groups look different in each school because every community requires different resources. As of the Fall semester of the 2023- 2024 school year, the Community School Coordinators within Asheville City Schools and Buncombe County Schools are partnering with My Daddy Taught Me That, Journeymen, Big Brother Big Sisters of Western North Carolina, Umoja and UNETE with their FAROS group at Erwin.




Not only do the mentorship groups mentioned within the schools  exemplify the community's commitment to its youth, but mentorship groups help bridge the gap between the school environment and the broader community. They expose students to diverse perspectives, experiences, and opportunities they may not encounter in their day-to-day lives. This exposure broadens their horizons, fosters cultural awareness, and encourages active engagement within the community. In the long run, this can help students become responsible and contributing members of society. You can take a look at the story of Bunni and Bailey, two Enka Middle School students who were empowered by the lessons learned in their mentorship group to create a petition that, in turn, had a positive effect on their school environment. (Read their story here)


School-Based Health Centers 

One of the most exciting and collaborative initiatives within the community school strategy is School-Based Health Centers. The resource of having a fully operating clinic with both a licensed physician and clinical mental health care professional is invaluable student support. As of the 2023-2024 Fall semester, there are 3 fully operating School-Based Health Centers. They are located at Asheville Middle School, Asheville High School, and Erwin Middle School.


These trusted clinics truly exemplify what it is to be integrated student support, as multiple partnered organizations consistently and diligently work together to ensure that students, teachers, school staff, and, in some locations, their families, have easy access to health care. These clinics are focused on providing health care for the entire school campus because we understand that integrated student supports include wrap-around services beyond the social, emotional, and academic supports that exist both inside the school staff and from outside resources. 

To learn more about School-Based Health Clinics and meet a few of the doctors and nurses who keep them going, click here. 


Resource Rooms 

If you have visited a Community School or just popped in to say hello to a Community School Coordinator, you most likely saw the Resource Room. If you stopped by during the school day, you also probably saw students utilizing the Resource Room. These amazing supports are one of the most easily accessed and highly utilized resources for a Community School. From pantry staples to fresh fruit and granola bars, free clothing, school supplies, and family board games, the resource rooms provide a place where students can quite literally grab what they need and go. It is a simple yet highly effective support that is so well integrated into the campuses at Community Schools- that the utilization of these rooms is not stigmatized and touched by all.



Why Integrated Student Supports 

These examples of integrated supports happening in Buncombe County instill a sense of belonging, emotional stability, and self-confidence, contributing to students' social and emotional growth and personal development. They also bridge the gap between the school environment and the broader community, encouraging students to engage with diverse perspectives and experiences actively. This engagement creates a sense of responsibility and encourages students to become contributing members of society. In essence, integrated student supports are a vital component of nurturing well-rounded, successful, and engaged students who are better prepared for their academic journey and active participation in the community.



Next Steps

Staying engaged and working collaboratively are the keystones to successfully moving this work forward. We invite you to take the next step in keeping the momentum going:

  • Volunteer your time at your local Community School 
  • Learn more about the other 3 Community School Pillars here: 
  • Support the work happening in Community Schools throughout Asheville and Buncombe County