We want to put more community services in more Metro schools

FamilySupportDinner-napier From a homeless child needing shelter to a working family running short on food at home, Community Achieves programs use the Community School model to address the needs that can affect how students feel and perform at school.

Taking away these barriers is a team effort between school and community. Community Achieves acts a bridge with the resources and supports families need, connecting them to community partners, agencies and other services.

"Community Achieves identifies the wrap-around services needed to support students socially and emotionally as well as academically," said Alison McArthur, Community Achieves coordinator for Metro Schools. "It supports a positive school climate and promotes improving the conditions for learning inside and outside of the school day."

The $390,000 budget request for the 2016-2017 school year would expand Community Achieves sites from 20 to 23-26, depending on matching school funds. Every Community Achieves school is supported by a full-time site manager, therefore an expansion would require hiring more school-level staff.

The program has also reached a point where more district-level staff is required to support the site managers and help them coordinate community resources.

The success stories of Community Achieves are many as the program focuses on four key areas: family engagement, college and career readiness, health and wellness as well as social services.

Crisis intervention

Whether a student has housing can be a major factor for that student being able to focus and succeed at school. Rising rents in Nashville are presenting challenges as some families become at risk for homelessness as a result of Music City's rapid growth.

When a landlord decided to stop taking Section 8 housing vouchers, for instance, Community Achieves was there. Convincing the landlord to extend the lease for an additional month to allow the family to find affordable housing made a big difference. Community Achieves site coordinators make relationships with families to know what is going on and when to advocate on their behalf.

"They get to know the families," McArthur said.

One student at Pearl Cohn spoke of the impact a Community Achieves coordinator made in his life:

“Being a part of a CA school is great because I am an 18 year old senior and independent student and some things are hard for me to do. When I met Ms. Hill, I was homeless and struggling to get to school every day. Ms. Hill has helped me find housing and showed me how to get government assistance for food. I also was able to receive clothes and school supplies from our FRC. I can truly say without this wonderful school, I don’t know how this school year would’ve ended. I am excited to be graduating with my class this May.”

Enhancing community partnerships

"We have formed new partnerships that we didn't have last year."

Community Achieves site coordinators identify the gaps in services, capturing the opportunity to grow resources and collaboration.

This means convening community partners on a regular basis at the school level, and aligning everyone to be on the same page with school and district goals.

"They're really able to serve more," McArthur said.

Having a Community Achieves Office at Buena Vista allowed the school to implement enrichment programs to serve students outside the classroom in a new way. This year, they added programs from Girl Scouts, Girls on the Run, Girls, Inc. and Big Brothers Big Sisters.

"Through these programs, we are providing socio-emotional support to 45 students through character-based extra-curricular education," said Buena Vista Enhanced Option Elementary school Principal Michelle McVicker.

"Buena Vista's Community Achieves office has identified new community partners to assist us with our greatest needs: school supplies and school uniforms. We have a new partnership with First Lutheran Church, who donated school supplies to each classroom, as well as over $200 worth of school uniforms for our clothing closet," McVicker said. "Buena Vista has also partnered with the Nashville Sounds this year to provide new playground equipment for our students and our community. After collecting money throughout the Sounds fall season, the Community Achieves site Manager is working with the Sounds team to design our brand-new playground, which will be unveiled in the spring of 2016."

With the help of Community Achieves, two of Buena Vista's community partners, 15th Avenue Baptist Church and First Lutheran Church, worked together to sponsor a 4th grade field trip to the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga. See the photo from the trip below:

"We know that when students are given support and can be part of a culture and a community that they know is on their side, our children can be successful," said Tony Majors, chief support services officer for Metro Schools. "To move Nashville's youth forward, we look forward to partnering with the community on enhancing Community Achieves so that the program can continue to address the barriers youth face everyday."

To view this year's budget request for the Community Achieves, program, click here or view the proposal below:

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