Thriving Service #3: Community Body

When we “Google it” how many results come up?
The benefits of a community school: 2,250,000,000
How to fund a community school: 477,000,000
Successful school based mental health programs: 588,000,000
Successful school based health care solutions: 325,000,000
How community school increase student achievement: 89,200,000

As you can see, there are literally millions of articles on the benefits of community schools and how they increase student achievement and parent involvement. We such such schools as vital components of a comprehensive and district-wide ACEs prevention strategy. According to Wikipedia (that really had the best description among hundreds), “ a community school is both a place and a set of partnerships between the school and other community resources. It’s integrated focus on academics, youth development, family support, health and social services and community development leads to improved student learning, stronger families and healthier communities.”

And thanks to google, there are many ways to fund the transition of a school into a full-service community schools that enriches the entire school community and ensures that no students are marginalized because of adverse childhood experiences and trauma.

There are many models to choose from as school communities focus on healing and learning in urban and rural settings. Schools can be a key, frontline defense against adverse childhood experiences, but only if they have the resources and the know-how to do this job while providing education and maintaining a safe place for learning. Never is more important in rural communities where a school may be the center of a community with links to vital family resources.

Eric is getting Ds and Fs in most classes yet As in math and engineering. He has the smarts but struggles with untreated trauma. We can support schools so they can ensure that Eric, and all students, succeed.

There are a number of models for family-centered and community schools with the following components to consider:

Component One: A Director

Community schools have a full time community schools director to work with students, staff, families, and neighbors to develop a shared vision and then create partnerships with community assets to help achieve that vision.

Component Two: Health Care and Other Services

Community schools ensure that all students and their families have access to the types of integrated support services shown to increase student health and safety and engage student’s families in the learning process. Potential services that are commonly found in community schools include school-based services such as health care, behavioral health care and dental services, as well as tutoring, mentoring and out-of-school programs shown to strengthen student learning. These services can address ACEs and other challenges that students and families are facing.

Component Three: Schools as Neighborhood Hubs

Community Schools promote authentic family and community engagement, and they transform the school into a neighborhood hub that is open to the community beyond school hours for a variety of uses. They also promote inclusive, shared leadership at the school level so that the school is reflective of the vision of students, staff, families and the neighborhood.

Component Four: Social Engagement

Community Schools offer a community-based curriculum that engages students in community service-learning and neighborhood activism so our students become leaders in reducing the social conditions that produce a variety of social challenges including ACEs.

Family-friendly schools address the underlying root causes of poor school performance. With the right support for schools, we can see test scores, attendance rates and graduation rates get better.

Schools are the one place that even kids in the most difficult of circumstances somehow get to most of the time because of systems that are already in place to encourage and enforce attendance and enrollment. Therefore, the more services we can pack into schools, after school and summer programs, mentoring programs, social workers, case managers, employment centers, medical, behavioral health services and tutoring, the better, and the easier for our children, families, and communities.

If we put all of these services in a place that kids are going anyway, they are far more likely to take advantage of them.

Family-friendly schools address the underlying root causes of poor school performance. With the right support for schools, we can see test scores, attendance rates and graduation rates get better. As an added bonus kids will be safer and healthier. The good news is that there are many models for transforming a school into a community school with the staff and resources to strengthen families and increase student achievement. Innovations, supported by the 100% Community initiative, may focus on creating funding for school services and implementation of programs.

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