FLEMING ISLAND – Keystone Heights Junior-Senior High is the latest school to join forces with a notable University of Central Florida program that will assist students with medical needs, counseling and academics.

At a school board meeting last week, officials recognized Keystone Heights High as a UCF-certified Community Partnership School. The program provides tutoring, hygienic products, help with food hardships and access to medical care and a clothes closet for students.

The partnership’s accreditation needs at least four key partners including a school district, a university or college, a community-based nonprofit and a healthcare provider. Keystone Heights Community Partnership School Director Tina Baker said the health partner was Aza Health, Children’s Home Society of Florida was the nonprofit and the higher education partner was Sante Fe College.

Baker said the partners made the difference. Orange Park High is also a Community Partnership School. It is seeking UCF certification.

Middleburg’s Wilkinson Junior High celebrated the same partnership early last month. The partners are based on proximity: the school partnered with St. Johns River State College, Baptist Health and Wolfson Children’s Hospital.

“Through your commitment, we’ve been able to accomplish so much,” Baker added. “We can continue working against the barriers that keep our children, our families and our community from being successful.”

Keystone High Principal Laurie Burke called the partnership an “awesome endeavor.” Both Burke and Baker said that the organizations and schools felt like a right fit after years of partnership. Burke said Community Partnership Schools had a tremendous impact on students, with more than 1,000 students receiving supplies.

“(There were) 152 volunteers dedicated over 1,300 hours supporting Community Partnership Schools initiatives,” Burke said.

Burke also said 11% of students were able to have medical and dental appointments. According to district statistics, the school has one appointment a day and five referrals for food or laundry a day.

UCF Center for Community Schools Assistant Director Alexius Ferguson called it an honor and privilege for the program to come to Keystone Heights. He presented school officials at the meeting with a plaque and banner.

“Becoming a Community Partnership School is a distinguished honor and it sets Keystone Heights High Junior-Senior High School apart from other schools,” he said. “It represents intentional dedicated work that signs with students’ success and well-being.”

School board chairwoman Mary Bolla said having both Wilkinson and Keystone gain the partnership recently was excellent for the district.

“It’s awesome to see these partnerships flourish as they have,” she said. “ … It’s amazing all that you do.”

Board member Tina Bullock, who represents Keystone Heights in her district, applauded the accreditation approval and work by Community Partnership Schools throughout the county.

“It’s done a great deal for those students who are in need, and any barriers we can remove to make it better for students to be in school, I’m always appreciative of,” Bullock said.

Originally posted by claytodayonline.com

By Nick Blank