Coordinator Spotlight - Curtesa Vanderpool

1. Tell us about your community school. How has the community school strategy impacted your students, families, and community?

Evans Community Partnership School is in the heart of Pine Hills, FL where we have the opportunity to educate close to 2500 students. Prior to becoming a Community Partnership School, Evans was labeled a “dropout factory” by Johns Hopkins University. Since Evans became a Community Partnership School almost 8 years ago, student test scores and other metrics have significantly increased. Evans’ graduation rate has improved from 64 percent in the 2010-2011 school year (when CPS efforts began) to 87 percent in the 2016-2017 school year.

2. Why do you do what you do?

I do what I do because in the eyes of every student, parent, and staff member, I see one of MY family members therefore it is personal for me.

3. Can you tell me a story about a student, family or community that you directly impacted as a coordinator?

I worked with a 15 year old young lady who overcame several traumatic experiences. She is a survivor of sex trafficking and the perpetrator was her mother’s boyfriend. After the incident was reported, she was removed from her home for a few weeks. She and mom did not have the best relationship and were involved in several verbal and physical altercations. During one physical altercation, this student was arrested and brought to the Juvenile Detention Center. Two summers ago, she was in a very dark place so I connected her to the counseling program for services. That same summer she was Baker Acted on campus due to severe self harm injuries that were very noticeable and she also admitted to having suicidal thoughts. After the therapeutic intervention into a mental health facility, the student returned to school and continued counseling through her Senior year. I am very proud of her. As a single mother of 2 (ages 3 yrs. & 8 months old), she continued attending school with the help of support programs that covered her daycare expenses and she was able to comfortably pump her breast milk during the school day and store it in order to feed her son once she arrived home.

Now 17 years old, she recently graduated and is planning to go into the military and study to become a trauma surgeon.

4. One of your students, Sarai Antoine, recently won the Youth Leadership Award at the 2018 National Forum. As a coordinator, how do you support your students’ leadership development and foster a culture of youth empowerment at your school?

At Evans High School-A Community Partnership School, we are fortunate to have a variety of leadership groups on campus. One such group is the Student Leadership Council (SLC); the student branch of the community school. I invest an enormous amount of time into the group especially the executive board. During our many meetings, I model leadership, encourage their ideas and develop their leadership skills through hands-on training. They also have a seat at the table during our Executive Cabinet meetings where all of the higher level Community School leaders set the vision and direction for the community school. Our students have an equal vote and voice.

5. What are your biggest challenges?

Time and Money. There is never enough time to do everything that I desire and never enough money at our disposal to do it!

6. What is the one thing you want to accomplish the most by the end of the next school year?

The one thing that I want to accomplish the most by the end of next school year is to create a culture of health on campus for students and staff members that is sustainable beyond my time at Evans High School-A Community Partnership School.

7. As coordinators across the country get ready to go back to school, what’s one piece of advice you would give to other coordinators?

Stay positive and remember to practice “self-care”. If you are not healthy mentally and physically, everyone in your sphere of influence will be negatively affected. Get Healthy, Be Healthy, Stay Healthy!

8. What’s one quote that you live by?

“What we believe, we manifest.”

If we believe that our students can be successful, they will be.
If we believe that our families can be successful, they will be.

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