We Are Community Schools Buck Lodge Middle School

         1.  Tell me about your school?

Buck Lodge Middle School is a Title I middle school in Prince George’s County, Maryland.  Eighty percent of students travel to and from Buck Lodge via school bus, over 70% qualify for Free and Reduced Meals, and over 50% are English Learner’s and newcomers to this country. Many of our students have been exposed to trauma and violence in their homes and neighborhoods. It is also a school that is full of diversity – full of a variety of languages and cultures. From the moment you step into our building, you realize that there is a large amount of character at the school.  Our school theme is "Be a Hero" which means that we want our students to find their superpowers. Our cafeteria is an artistic expression of our diversity, there are flags representing more than 50 countries on the ceiling. And as you can see, our walls are filled with student work and projects - it’s such a vibrant school.

2. How does your work support, youth, family, and community?

A community school coordinator is like a conductor, who generates partnerships, services, and programs to better serve our students, families, and the community. By being in the school every day, we’re able to build relationships, provide referrals for vital services through our many community based partners, and host community and families for a variety of academic and nonacademic activities. My attempt is to make sure that our students have their needs met and that we can prepare them to be ready for learning during the school day. The way I see it, my role is to serve as the obstacle remover and resource provider to ensure that they’re ready to learn and thrive with their families. 

3. Tell me a student or parent story that made your day?

There are multiple stories that have taken place during my time in this role. One story in particular is that of one of my students, an 8th grade student. I met his mother while hosting a series of parent workshops. After ongoing conversations, she voiced her concerns about her son’s grades and academic progress. From this point we enrolled her student in one of our after school programs that has a mentoring component, math support and various enrichment activities. During the second quarter, the student approached me and said, "Ms. Sandoval, I wanted to let you know that my grades went up!" This moment made me realize the importance of having a mentor, having that additional cheerleader, and the importance of having your academic needs met.

4. How is the community schools strategy helping students at your school?


The community schools strategy is helping students at our school because we offer tailored services based on the needs of our students and families. The principal, his staff and I work hard to ensure that our school is a place where every student is valued for their strength and assets. Through the community school strategy we are helping our students build connections with their peers and the wider community. For example, a new project this year has been the creation of the Hall of Fame to highlight successful Buck Lodge alumni.  We also invite alumni to come back to talk with students about their education and careers after Buck Lodge. This is an effort to build connection, boost confidence and improve motivation to achieve higher.

5. What are your goals for youth, family, and community every day when you wake up?

My goal is to create a safe spaces where our families can feel valued, appreciated and comfortable. My other goal is to make sure that I can assist them in accessing resources, learning new skills and improve their lives. My hope is that families will reciprocate and help others in their communities.


6. What was your aha moment about learning at your community school?

I have had multiple aha moments so it’s hard to pinpoint one. In this position you’re always learning.  One time I was working with a student who was the younger sibling of a youth I had previously worked with through another program with the Latin American Youth Center/ Maryland Multicultural Youth Centers (LAYC/MMYC) and had also worked with their mother and their grandparents! This was the moment when I realized that as a coordinator, you work with generations of families.

7. What are some accomplishments of your community school?

Some of our great accomplishments have been in acquiring impactful partnerships. For example, through our partnership with United Way of the National Capital Area, WUSA 9 News sponsored the renovation of our Green House and Laundry Room.  The renovation projects were featured as part of a WUSA 9 news special.  The University of Maryland has been a great partner, they have provided programming consultants and field trip opportunities for students.  Fun fact - I was a student here at Buck Lodge, so friendraising has been an interesting and easy strategy. 

8.    What are some events at your school that are coming up that you would like to share with the audience?

We are planning to host our May the Fourth be with You Family Fun Day on May 4th.  We invite our community at large to help us with a clothing drive and attend the Fun Day event. 

Also, in partnership with my organization we will be hosting our Health Fair on June 8th and we have monthly food banks available to community members every third Thursday of the month.

9. What is your advice for those who are interested in implementing a community schools strategy?

My advice would be get to know your community. This may sound very simple but it’s a constant effort. It doesn’t simply mean that you conduct a needs assessment. It means you greet students, families, and teachers; sit down with them, learn their stories; provide resources and following up; make every stakeholder feel valuable and make them part of the process. When emphasize your efforts on building rapport, you develop partners within your community to help you build a network of support for the entire school. 

10. We are a community school! Because… (finish the sentence)


We are a family. We work together and have different roles that help us function as a unit. We also create a culture in which we know that we can ask for help when needed and that everyone’s ideas and opinions count. Also, we have our extended families, our partners, to support us in the process. 

4301 Connecticut Avenue, NW  |  Suite 100  |  Washington, DC 20008-2304   |   Tel. 202.822.8405 X111  |  Fax 202.872.4050  |  Email ccs@iel.org
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