Partnership program at Wilkinson Junior High serves educational, emotional, nutritional, financial needs of community

By Wesley LeBlanc
Posted 3/10/21

MIDDLEBURG – Wilkinson Junior High is much more than a school. It’s a food bank, a laundromat, a clothing boutique and more.

Wilkinson became a community partnership school a couple of years …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Don't have an ID?


Print subscribers

If you're a print subscriber, but do not yet have an online account, click here to create one.

Non-subscribers

Click here to see your options for subscribing.

Single day pass

You also have the option of purchasing 24 hours of access, for $1.00. Click here to purchase a single day pass.

Partnership program at Wilkinson Junior High serves educational, emotional, nutritional, financial needs of community

Posted

MIDDLEBURG – Wilkinson Junior High is much more than a school. It’s a food bank, a laundromat, a clothing boutique and more.

Wilkinson became a community partnership school a couple of years ago, and since then, it’s grown to be an extremely important part of the surrounding community. The school serves not just students, but anyone in the area, and its impact has never been more resounding than this past year.

“COVID-19 has made things even tougher for people,” WJH principal Christina Cornwell said. “Being a community partnership school is about the whole student and every aspect of their lives.”

Cornwell said it’s obviously important to work with students to help them succeed in school, but factors outside of the classroom can have a big impact on what happens inside. A student that’s hungry won’t be able to focus as well, for example. That’s why WJH and its community partnership school director, Shawn Smith, have worked hard to ensure all bases are covered.

The school has a food pantry that feeds hundreds of students and community members every month. Students can take home grocery bags of food on Fridays. People can make appointments to stroll through the food bank on campus and pick out items to take home. A Farm Share food drive on every third Thursday, something Smith says is a great demonstration of the partnership aspect of community partnership schools.

Cornwell said after a community assessment survey was sent out to community members, the school learned its surrounding community needed food.

“The survey results showed us that people were saying they couldn’t get healthy food on a regular basis,” Cornwell said. “We’re kind of far from healthy food and there isn’t any public transportation out here so a lot of our people are locked out of getting healthy food easily.”

Cornwell, Smith and her team learned of some other needs and that’s how the campus became the home of a laundromat, a clothing boutique and a food bank, too. In one of Wilkinson’s portables, you’ll find a room filled with racks of shirts, pants, jackets, dresses, shoes and more.

“I especially love this area,” Smith said, gesturing to the school’s clothes closet suit jacket rack. “There are a lot of people that don’t have suits or even suit jackets and I love that we have this entire rack of jackets for anyone in our community that needs it.”

The clothes run through all different sizes, and there’s things like body soap, body spray, other hygiene products and even a new twin-size mattress.

Attached to this clothing closet is a space that’s been turned into a changing room that looks like something you’d find in any clothing store and beside that closet is another space that’s been turned into a laundromat.

Two washers, two dryers and all of the things you’d need like detergent and softener can be found here and Smith’s favorite part is that much like the food bank and the clothes boutique, the laundromat is free to whoever needs it. The school even has a shower that can be used by anyone who needs fresh hot water.

The other big facet of Wilkinson’s community partnership school services is mental health counseling. The school has its standard guidance counselors, of course, but they’ve been inundated with helping students return from virtual school to brick and mortar classrooms and the usual guidance counselor needs, but what about the students struggling mentally elsewhere? What about the students that aren’t handling COVID-19 and its effects well, or the students with problems at home that bleed into their school life?

The school’s guidance counselors and full-time social worker do a great job, but Cornwell said the school had to hire a full-time mental health counselor. This hire is just another showcase of the school’s commitment to its students and community.

“We have four pillars that dictate how everything is run here at this community partnership school,” Smith said. “We have expanded learning, wellness supports, family and community engagement and collaborative leadership.”

Those four pillars work hand in hand with the many partnerships the school has with community leaders, businesses and organizations. Specific to WJH, those core partners are Baptist Health, Wolfsons Children’s Hospital, the Clay County School District, Children’s Home Society and St. Johns River State College.

“Every bit of success we have with this community partnership school can be attributed to people like [Cornwell], our partners, and our four pillars,” Smith said. “We have the best community and we serve the best people here.

“We love our community here at Wilkinson.”

Comments

No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment