UCF has earned $900,000 in state funding to continue its efforts to help children in distressed communities succeed in school and attain a higher education.

The Center for Community Schools and Child Welfare Innovation (https://www.cohpa.ucf.edu/communityschools), based at the College of Health and Public Affairs, will receive the funding in the new fiscal year to continue its work with Evans Community School in Orlando and expand the community-school model to other schools in Florida.

“We’ll receive enough funding to award planning and first-year operational grants to schools interested in developing community schools,” said Dave Bundy, director at the center. “We know it is extremely successful in terms of student performance and it is a cost-efficient model.”

The partners who helped created Evans Community School (http://evanscommunityschool.org) in 2012 – Children’s Home Society of Florida, Orange County Public Schools, Central Florida Family Health Center (now True Health) and UCF – launched the Center for Community Schools and Child Welfare in 2014 thanks in part to the success at Evans.

Community schools aim to tear down the barriers that can interfere with a child’s educational success from poverty to a lack of health care. At Evans, for example, students and parents have access to primary health care, dental care, mental health care, free meals, food pantry, snack closet, job-assistantance programs, tutoring, mentoring and additional help. Community partners provide all these services at discounted rates on site year-round.

Bundy said that since Evans started the model, graduation rates have risen from 60 to 80 percent.

“The idea is to remove barriers and let children focus on learning,” Bundy said.

Last year the UCF center provided grants to public schools in Brevard, Pasco and Escambia counties. The new funding will allow for more schools to come online.

The new funding will also allow the center to help with first-year operational costs of the program at each school selected.

Endeavour Elementary School in Cocoa and C.A. Weiss Elementary School in Pensacola are working with the center to develop their plans to follow the community model. They could be eligible for first-year operational costs, thanks to the new funding.

“It’s a good model for schools that struggle in terms of student performance and that are in distressed neighborhoods,” Bundy said. “We are happy to be able to partner with community organizations to help students succeed. Helping students attain a good education is a wise investment in our children and our future as a community.”