1. Tell us about your community school.
We are in the second year of implementing the community school strategy at Enka Middle School. We are part of the Asheville-Buncombe Middle Grades Network, a collective impact group that includes representatives from two school systems (Asheville City Schools and Buncombe County Schools), four area middle schools, community partners, local universities and others.
This year, we have been working on building on the momentum of the first full year of implementation and acting on the recommendations of the needs and assets assessment that was completed at Enka Middle last year. We have started bringing in local community partners to provide programming for students, adults and families at the school. Some of those programs include: volunteer tutors and mentors for students; additional school-based mental health services for students; Homework Diners (more on that below); English as a Second Language and GED classes for adults; and Triple P parenting groups for parents of teens and pre-teens.
2. Why do you do what you do?
I work as a resource coordinator because I believe strongly in the value of partnerships between schools and the community. I enjoy playing a role in helping students, families, staff and the school get connected with resources and support services. In a time when funding (and public support) for public education is a constant battle, it is important to rally communities around schools and show our schools that the community values the work that our teachers, staff and students are doing every day inside the buildings.
3. Can you tell me a story about a student, family or community that you directly impacted as a coordinator?
This fall, we have started up weekly Homework Diners at Enka Middle (based on the success that has been enjoyed in Albuquerque, where Homework Diners started a few years ago). These diners give families a chance to come together each week, enjoy a delicious meal (catered by a local non-profit called Green Opportunities) and work on homework together as a family.
We are working on building a stronger sense of community and connection between the school and families, many of whom may have had negative schooling experiences when they were growing up. As one parent noted at our first Homework Diner, “This is the first time I have felt real hope for my child at school. I was able to meet with his teachers and it wasn't some huge deal. We just spoke and I feel like I was actually heard. THIS diner is a good thing.”
4. What are your biggest challenges?
I would say the biggest challenge is educating the school and community at large on what a community school is and what the resource coordinator’s role is at the school. Part of this challenge involves getting key stakeholders (school staff, community organizations, parent and student representatives and so on) to first understand the purpose of a community school and then be able to rally others around a common vision and goals for the school and community. It takes time and intentional work to get the word out about the supports available to students and families, especially in a school that has been around for a long time and seen lots of programs and initiatives come and go. We want to let the community know that we are looking to build a hub of service at Enka Middle School that will last for years into the future.
5. What is the one thing you want to accomplish the most by the end of the school year?
The one thing that I would like to see happen by the end of the school year is to have Homework Diners continue to evolve into a flourishing community-building event that is leading more parents and families to be involved at the school. We have taken a good first step with our first few Homework Diners this fall. We are hopeful that the momentum will continue to build in the spring so that more and more families are coming weekly for the meal, the homework help, access to community resources, and, most importantly, the sense of community.
6. What’s one piece of advice you would give other coordinators?
Take your time. This work is difficult, and it doesn’t happen overnight. It can be easy to get frustrated if things are not moving as quickly as we’d like, but remember that what we are trying to build is a community school foundation that will last for many years.