Evans Community School officially opened its doors to the community Oct. 13, and the grand opening celebration included a community health-and-resource fair with more than 50 vendors, a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open-house tours of the community school.

Evans Community School is the first of its kind in Florida, with a mission to empower students and families to achieve lifelong success while strengthening the Pine Hills community. Not only does the school help students at Evans High School, it also serves as the hub of Pine Hills by offering much-needed services to local residents.

“Evans Community School provides a strong partnership, which strengthens the overall student and community. Doors are being opened for students, empowering them to dream big and to work to achieve those dreams,” said Jenny Gibson-Linkh, Evans High School principal.

Evans Community School is led by founding partners Orange County Public Schools, Children’s Home Society of Florida and the University of Central Florida. The partners have worked together for more than three years to coordinate the strategy and development of the community school. JP Morgan Chase is recognized as the community school’s founding funder.

“We are proud to be the first university in the nation to play a major role in the development of such an effort,” said Michael Frumkin, dean of UCF’s College of Health and Public Affairs.” UCF has prided itself in being a partnership university, and there is no more important partnership then the one we are celebrating today.”

Evans Community School provides activities, programs and services, education, and leadership and engagement opportunities to help students, parents and local residents achieve academic and life goals. Such services include onsite medical services, mental health services, a parent resource center and a food pantry, among many others. These services are made available through the founding partners and other local health, cultural and social service organizations.

“At Children’s Home Society of Florida, we are committed to always do better for kids and families, and we are honored to be part of such a significant partnership that has brought together leading organizations to provide more opportunities for students, families and community members to achieve lifelong success. The grand opening of Evans Community School is truly a cause for celebration,” said David Bundy, president and CEO of Children’s Home Society of Florida.

Although Oct. 13 marked the official grand opening of the community school, the school has already impacted the lives of students and local residents. Marklyne Joachim, Evans High School senior, has been involved with the community school since its research and planning phases. She serves as an ambassador to help engage students and increase their awareness of the resources the community school provides.

Joachim relates well to her classmates because she understands their struggles firsthand, including hunger. Her personal experiences fuel her passion to let others know about the benefits of the community school. She is also grateful for the resources that will be afforded to her younger siblings as they grow up. “I am glad to know the community school will be here to help my brother and sister have more opportunities than I had,” Joachim said.