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Beyond the Classroom

Community Schools Take a “Big Picture” Approach to Education

Meet Estefania

When Estefania first came to Lincoln Elementary, a United Way Community School, she was an ESOL student with minimal English skills. She has flourished in the years since her arrival, earning self-confidence as her academic achievement improved by leaps and bounds. As a tour guide for the school in 4th and 5th grade, she became one of our most effective ambassadors for the Community School model. Her growth - as a student, as a young leader and as a human being learning to tap into her full potential – is a testament to what’s possible when communities come together around innovative solutions.

United Way Community Schools provide new and positive opportunities for children and families in the Greater Lehigh Valley area. They are also yielding results in Toledo, San Francisco, Salt Lake City, Hartford and many other communities.

What is a Community School?

Community Schools change the culture of a school and a community by removing barriers to learning and instilling students with confidence. At the heart of the Community School model is the notion that much of what influences a young person’s education happens outside the classroom. From access to quality health care for the whole family to steady employment for parents that pays a livable wage: all these issues can impact a child’s capacity to succeed in school, and in life.

Community Schools in Action

Lincoln Elementary is just one of 11 schools in three Lehigh Valley school districts that act as Community Schools, serving students, their families, and the communities as a whole. The positive results can be seen in the statistics. In the last four years, the number of students participating in after-school activities has increased by 15 percent, and the daily attendance rate has risen to 96 percent. At the same time, individuals and families are benefiting from a central location that offers services ranging from dental care to English as a Second Language classes (essential not just for students, but for people trying to enter the work force).

One of the most exciting developments since the expansion of the Community Schools is a free community health clinic at Broughal Middle School. One Saturday each month, the clinic is open not only to Broughal students and their families, but also to people in the surrounding community as well. Medical school students volunteer their time to staff the clinic, and the local health bureau offers free immunizations.

United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley plays a critical role in bringing people together and providing a collective focus for community partners across the Valley. -- Joseph Roy, Ed. D, Superintendent, of Schools, Bethlehem Area School District

The Best is Yet to Come

When Estefania left Lincoln Elementary for Northeast Middle School, she continued to impress everyone with her passion and maturity. At Northeast, she participated in “Leadership Rocks,” a campaign created by 6th graders to support children with disabilities. She also volunteered to return to Lincoln and offer advice and mentorship for younger students following in her footsteps.

Estefania is an inspiring example, because she shows us that Community Schools produce more than model students; they produce model citizens. Her success is a success for her entire community. It’s also an auspicious sign for the future, given United Way of the Greater Lehigh Valley’s plans to double the number of Community Schools in the region over the next eight years.