The UCF Center for Community Schools awarded seven schools up to $80,000 each as part of the Community School Grant Program, which was established by the Florida Legislature. Among the winners are Blanche H. Daughtrey Elementary, Caribbean K-8, Colonial Elementary, Jefferson K-12, JFK Middle, Lake Worth High and Pine Forest High.

The Community Partnership Schools model was co-founded in 2010 at Evans High in Orlando by the Children’s Home Society of Florida, Orange County Public Schools and the University of Central Florida. With the success of Evans High, the model has been replicated throughout the state. The model is designed to support students and their families through expanded access to health and wellness support, along with a wide range of new and integrated learning opportunities.

This collective work is grounded in collaboration and partnership with long-term support from four or more core partners — the school district, a nonprofit organization, a healthcare provider, and a college or university. By leveraging the social and institutional capital of their partners, schools are better equipped to offer resources and services in response to emergencies or enduring challenges.

In Lee County, Colonial Elementary is the third school — after Franklin Park Elementary and Fort Myers Middle Academy — to become a Community Partnership School. Both elementary schools feed into the middle school, benefiting students and families by providing a continuity of services, according to Angela Jackson, vice president of Community Partnership Schools for United Way of Lee, Hendry, and Glades counties.

A group of students and CPS staff
Between classes, students at Fort Myers Middle Academy have a chance to reminisce with their former principal at Franklin Park Elementary, along with their current principal.

“All three schools serve the same population with similar needs and more familiarity with the resources and services offered,” says Jackson, “ultimately helping students and families more easily navigate the school system with confidence.”

Community Partnership Schools empower school communities to meet the changing and unique needs of their students and families by connecting them to a wide range of resources tailored to the needs of that community.

A flooded street near homes
Many Florida communities were severely impacted by Hurricane Ian, including those in Lee County.

Lee County was hardest hit by Hurricane Ian, but this didn’t stop the three schools from coming together to help students and families weather the storm and mobilize recovery efforts.

A room full of clothing, cleaning and food supplies with a group of volunteers
The Community Partnership School team at United Way of Lee, Hendry, and Glades hosted a Hurricane Ian Recovery Pop-Up for over one hundred staff members and families of Franklin Park Elementary, Colonial Elementary and Fort Myers Middle Academy. The Pop-Up provided toiletries, home cleaning supplies, clothing, home goods, food, and much more, all donated from community agencies and businesses.

Along with core partners Florida Gulf Coast University, Lee Health, the School District of Lee County, and United Way of Lee, Hendry, and Glades, and other local partners, the schools offered students and families guidance on hurricane preparedness and served as shelters for displaced residents. As recovery efforts progress, the schools have leveraged partnerships with local organizations to offer students and families food, clothing, healthcare, counseling, housing support and more.

“The entire CPS team heeded the call to action.” — Angela Jackson, vice president of Community Partnership Schools for United Way of Lee, Hendry, and Glades counties.

“The entire CPS team heeded the call to action. Their determination and faithfulness are unwavering,” says Jackson.

Along with in-person outreach, nonprofit core partner United Way of Lee, Hendry and Glades set up the SWFL Hurricane Ian Relief Fund, along with an Amazon Wishlist for the United Way School Resource Center.

Students and families at Blanche H. Daughtrey Elementary, Manatee County’s newest Community Partnership School, are facing food insecurity based on multiple factors. Most of the school community lives over half a mile from the nearest supermarket and all students are eligible for free or reduced-price lunches. With support from their core partners — including Boys & Girls Clubs of Manatee County, Children’s Home Society of Florida, MCR Health, the School District of Manatee County and the University of South Florida — the school plans to build an accessible hub that is student-centered, family-focused, and equipped with school-based wraparound services designed specifically for students and their families.

Colonial Elementary has plans to address food insecurity, as well as access to school uniforms. Through existing partnerships with Franklin Park Elementary and Fort Myers Middle, the school will already have frameworks to improve the school’s Food Pantry and Clothing Closet, while still mapping out their Community Partnership School in the planning stage. Other priorities for the school include implementing a tutoring program and increasing classroom support services.

The UCF Center for Community Schools envisions a world of equitable communities, supporting the needs of the whole child with resources that redefine and expand student success. The UCF Center serves as a comprehensive resource for best practices in the advancement of community schools through technical assistance, assessment and evaluation, and university assistance, driving continuous improvement and better outcomes for students, families and communities.