North Carolina Community Schools Coalition Visits Asheville-Buncombe

On Thursday, May 2, United Way of Asheville and Buncombe County hosted 25 community school leaders and practitioners from the North Carolina Community Schools Coalition as well as from OnTrack Greenville, SC. Participants saw the work in action at three different community schools: Erwin Middle, Enka Middle and Asheville Middle. 

The day started with a Lunch and Learn at Erwin Middle, where participants were able to hear about highlights and challenges of the community schools work in Asheville and Buncombe County as well as to collaborate and problem-solve across initiatives and districts.



The visitors toured Erwin Middle’s School-Based Health Center, run by Blue Ridge Health, and were then treated to a tour of the school by Erwin’s Welcome Warriors, a student-run leadership group for 7th- and 8th-graders.

 “It was a great visit to the West to tour the Community Schools. I really could sense the sincerity of the work,” shared Hipp Barclift, University Program Specialist at the Rural Education Institute in Elizabeth City, NC. “I especially loved the students being tour guides!”

The next stop was a visit to the Buncombe County Schools Family Resource Center, which is housed at Enka Middle. The Resource Center serves families across the district and includes a full food pantry, second-hand clothing boutique for students and families, and case management support for families experiencing homelessness. Alec Greenwald, Associate Director of Strategic and Special Initiatives at Duke University, noted, “It was wonderful to walk into the Family Resource Center at Enka Middle School and hear colleagues from the other side of the state begin discussing how they could replicate the model in their districts.”




The day ended with an energizing and upbeat tour of Asheville Middle School, led by three student ambassadors. The tour included stops at Blue Ridge Health’s School-Based Health Center, AMS’ resource room, and the offices of In Real Life, an innovative, award-winning after-school program led by the Asheville City Schools Foundation. The tour ended at AMS’s weekly Community Night, a family engagement event with a full catered meal and tutoring support for students. That night’s event also featured bingo, a big hit with students, families, and teachers!

“It was extremely valuable to have concrete examples of Community Schools in action that we can bring back to Central North Carolina,” said Luke Carman, Director of Community Schools Partnerships at Student U in Durham, NC. “It was even better to build community and relationships, and learn from small conversations across roles and experiences.”

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