“Schools are often the heart of a community, and in rural Appalachia, community schools are a center of gravity where local and regional partnerships merge to improve outcomes and strengthen local communities. Community schools in three counties in Kentucky have opened the doors for high school students to mentor younger students on their way to postsecondary education, for retired teachers to support schools and their own financial well-being, and for family members to engage in enriched learning opportunities.
Ten years ago, “full-service community schools” started to blossom in Kentucky because of existing funding for family resources and youth services centers, and they grew stronger when U.S. Department of Education funding was expanded. The organization Partners for Rural Impact (formerly Partners for Education) has increased funding for community schools by bringing together partners and districts to apply for funding—as well as combine programs that improve academic outcomes and build on the strengths of local communities for long-term results.
Partners for Rural Impact has worked for more than 20 years to demystify how rural districts can acquire funding for the programs that young people need, and it’s all happened through strong partnerships. The organization brings in public dollars through discretionary grants to provide what is most relevant to local students and families. Federal funding for community schools has been especially effective in building out programming that will lead to improved academic outcomes and postsecondary success.
More specifically Partners for Rural Impact has collaboratively brought in an anticipated $7.5 million in full-service community school grants awarded by the U.S. Department of Education to Knox County in 2014, Berea in Madison County in 2018, and to Leslie County in 2020 (listed under Berea College). As of now, there are 50 schools under the designation of community schools across southeastern Kentucky. Partners for Rural Impact also works with partners like Save the Children, Strive Together, Advance Kentucky, Operation Unite, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation to successfully weave together programs with these community schools efforts.”
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