MIDDLEBURG – Wilkinson Junior High students will be welcomed back to school with a new shady surprise.
Social distancing at the school will mean the school’s highly coveted courtyard areas will have lower capacities, meaning more children could have been stuck in the sun if it weren’t for the school’s latest project.
A new sun shade will be a place so students to socially distance, eat lunch, catch up on what their friends did over the weekend and more. It wouldn’t have been possible without the surrounding community.
“It takes a community to raise a child is the saying,” Wilkinson Principal Christina Cornwell said. “Well in school, we say it takes a community to raise and educate a child and that’s what our community is doing today.”
WJH is a community partnership school which means that on top of its normal schooling, it features a clothes closet, a free laundry facility, a food pantry, parent resources and finds itself as the site of many charitable drives like monthly Farm Share food drives. Cornwell, her school and WJH Community Partnership School Director Summer Burrell work tirelessly to ensure not just students, but the surrounding community as well, are well-learned, well-fed and well-taken care of as best they can.
For Cornwell, Burrell and WJH, the campus isn’t just a place for students to learn. It’s a holistic community center of sorts where all hands are on deck to make sure people get the help they need. If this sounds like a lot of work, it is but Burrell said the local business leaders make it easier with their help.
WJH secured a grant for the sun shade from the American Academy of Dermatology to fund the project, but Cornwell and Burrell had to figure out how to build the shade after getting the materials purchased. That’s when Burrell reached out to Northeast Florida Builders Association, their executive director Bill Garrison, and the organization’s nonprofit arm, Builder’s Care.
Garrison has lived in the area, less than a few miles away from WJH, for 30 years – two of his children went to Wilkinson – so when he received a call from Burrell, he answered the call to action immediately.
Garrison, his son who went to WJH, another former WJH student, and nearly a dozen other volunteers from NEFBA, Builder’s Care and Clay Builder’s Council gathered at the school Thursday, Aug. 13, to begin work on the shade spot.
“It means a lot to be here today doing this,” Garrison said. “It’s great to take the role I’m in and the organization I work for and leverage that and bring it back to the community we serve.”
The project began at 9 a.m. Thursday and it required hours of the volunteer’s time but despite the sun shining intensely overhead and the 90-degree weather, each person on the project worked diligently with a smile.
“We work for the community and its nonprofits,” Builder’s Care executive director Justin Brown said. “Our mission is to help the mission of other nonprofits and today, that mission brought us here. It’s an honor.”
Cornwell and Burrell are excited to see students again, and they’re especially excited to see their faces light up with smiles when they see the new sun shade.