MIDDLEBURG – The challenge was daunting for officials at Wilkinson Junior High and the Children’s Home Society of Florida, but nothing as daunting as the challenges too many families in the Middleburg and Clay Hill areas face.

Together, they committed to working tirelessly for two years to show how the school would benefit from being a University of Central Florida certified Community Partnership School.

UCF clearly was impressed with the school.

Wilkinson became one of just 11 schools in Florida to be accepted into the program, and it means the school would get extra resources and funding. But more than anything else, it will provide students and residents a path to success.

According to the university, UCF’s College of Community Innovation and Education contributes more than 543,000 hours of teaching, serving and researching agencies, clinics, communities, industry and schools aimed at improving lives through the power of education.

Wilkinson was the first Community Partnership School in Northeast Florida. It’s much more than a school. It’s a food bank, clothing store and laundromat. And it’s an important hub of information and benefits for one of the underserved communities in the county.

With a statewide budget of $7.1 million, UCF will be able to enhance those services.

“UCF certification represents years of work focused on implementing the model and changing the trajectory of students’ lives by addressing key barriers to learning,” said Shawn Smith, the director of Wilkinson’s Community Partnership School program.

“This focused on implementing a certain model that will change the trajectory of students’ lives by addressing key barriers in learning. When you become a UCF-certified partnership school, it’s a huge honor, especially in areas of intentional collaboration. What happens is you’d have to pass 12 rigorous benchmarks with UCF because they fund this program, community partnerships schools. As a certified school, it helps us now because it’s a partnership.”

According to Smith, the certification includes governance; structure and leadership; after-school programs; and comprehensive wellness services for the next five years.

“Wilkinson Junior High, a UCF-Certified Community Partnership School, provides a wide variety of supports for students such as a Health and Safety program, Gardening, STEM, Color guard, Dance, FSA Boot-Camp, Summer Excursions and YMCA Visits facilitated by the CPS. Not only are these programs offered throughout the school year, but also over the summer,” said Dr. Amy Ellis, the director of the UCF Center for Community Schools. “In addition, the CPS offers a range of medical, dental and social services. They have developed partnerships with a local dental office, an on-site medical clinic, and the school employs a full-time mental health counselor on campus.

“Wilkinson has grown into a high-quality holistic setting for students to realize their greatest potential. Made up of an intricate and expansive CPS network of partners, Wilkinson Junior High is harnessing the collective power to build stronger futures for the lives of students, families and the community.”

The Community Partnership Schools model at Wilkinson is a long-term commitment among Children’s Home Society of Florida, Baptist Health, Clay County School District and St. John’s River State College. Together they bring high-quality academics, health care, counseling, mentoring and more – right on site at the school where students and families are comfortable.”

Keystone Junior/Senior and Orange Park highs also are Community Partnership Schools, and both are working on their UCF certifications, Smith said.

The school will celebrate another milestone in August when AZA Health Clinic opens a branch at the school.

Originally posted by claytodayonline.com

By Don Coble