Tallahassee Democrat Reports on Need for Community Partnership Schools

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Couch: Tallahassee needs Community Partnership schools

By Betsy Couch, My View, Tallahassee Democrat

Betsy Couch
(Courtesy of Tallahassee Democrat)

What does it look like when we build bridges to success for children?

It looks like a child eager to learn. A student able to focus in class because her hunger pangs have subsided. A high school senior trying on his cap and gown as he prepares to be the first in his family to graduate high school.

It looks like a community that believes in the potential of its youth – and commits to creating opportunities to empower those youth to achieve their full potential.

At Children’s Home Society of Florida, building bridges to success for children is more than a statement – it’s our mission. Perhaps you know CHS for its stellar reputation in adoption and foster care. Or maybe you’ve heard testimonies from families who’ve found hope through Early Steps, counseling or the Children’s Advocacy Center. All are tremendous programs that empower children and families to look toward brighter futures.

But CHS does far more than that – and the impact is astounding.

CHS is going deeper into the challenges that affect our state’s most vulnerable children. Never satisfied with status quo, CHS has been a leader in bringing a game-changing model to Florida’s education system – a model that addresses the most pressing issues interfering with students’ ability to learn.

Why is this so important?

For many children, school is distraction from their painful truths. It’s an escape from violence outside their window. It’s a chance to fill their growling belly – maybe for the only time that day. For some, it’s knowing they’ll be someplace safe because, when the school bell rings, they’ll be on the search for a place to sleep that night.

How can we expect students to concentrate on reading, writing and math when they’re consumed with such harsh realities?

Teachers see this baggage. For some students, teachers are their only source of support. Too often, teachers wear many different hats: social worker, disciplinarian, nurse and confidant – yet we still expect them teach.

CHS has the answer: Community Partnership Schools.

Children’s Home Society of Florida, in partnership with UCF, brought this model to Florida in 2010 and is now a partner in nearly a dozen Community Partnership Schools.

The results continue to amaze me. Graduation rates are increasing, student attendance and parent involvement are increasing, and disciplinary actions are significantly decreasing.

Each school is building that bridge to success for children.

This model isn’t new to Tallahassee’s leadership. Our House and Senate members, our city officials and school superintendent are well versed on its impact. I strongly believe we need more Community Partnership Schools in Florida, and I’m pleased that we’re beginning the process to start one here in Tallahassee.

I join CHS in requesting legislative support to continue to fund the current Community Partnership Schools through a $1.5 million appropriation and to allocate an additional $1.3 million to implement this model as an alternative approach to failing schools.

Let’s show Tallahassee’s children we will come together so they may cross that bridge to success.

Betsy Couch is a Children’s Home Society Board Member and community volunteer.

Note: This article was originally published at www.tallahassee.com/story/opinion/2017/04/23/couch-tallahassee-needs-community-partnership-schools/100815708/.

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