Meriwether County is a rural county facing more economic hardships than the surrounding communities. With a modest level of commerce in stable economic periods, Meriwether has been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and faces the loss of many local small businesses. Additionally, rural areas are more prone to poverty and subject to higher rates of social problems. The American Academy of Pediatrics reports that children living in poverty are at greater risk for adverse outcomes, including poor academic performance, behavioral issues, social disconnect, emotional problems, poor health, developmental delays, and school dropout.
Meriwether County School System's poverty rate as of 2019 is 165% greater than Georgia's poverty rate. The median household income was 30% less than the state average. The employment rate of the county is only 47.2% compared to 59.6% for the state. The percentage of adults living in Meriwether County households with children who lost employment income due to COVID-19 is 57% as of December 21, 2020.
Many social problems result from poverty, as demonstrated by the Kids Count Data by County, which reports 711 households receiving Food Stamps and 340 children aged birth to four enrolled in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program in 2019. Further, data shows that children entering school are at a disadvantage because of living in a community steeped in generational poverty.
Today, the community lacks available financial resources for food, with 23.6% of households considered food insecure. Poverty is the prevailing factor for the population of Meriwether County that creates impediments to adequate housing, medical, dental, and mental health care. In 2019, 10.2% of the children in Meriwether County did not have health insurance.
In recent years, Meriwether County has experienced a decline in school enrollment. The enrollment count in the district system is 2,316 in grades PK-12. The rural location of Meriwether County, lack of local employment, and lack of public transportation make it difficult for working-age adults to commute to higher-paying job opportunities. In addition, 12% of the households in Meriwether County do not own vehicles, thus contributing to food insecurity in the community.
With all of these issues, the Meriwether County School system knew they had to offer some form of intervention for their students and their families by going beyond the academics and focusing on the Whole Child. A whole-child approach to education is defined by policies, practices, and relationships that ensure each child, in each school, in each community, is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged.
Wraparound services in schools are designed to give a child the support he or she needs throughout the school day, whether the support is academic, social, and/or behavioral. In most cases, what separates Wraparound from other support systems is its comprehensive approach.
Data from Turnaround for Children (TFC) schools in New York City indicates that providing center-based Wraparound supports to school-age students is a strong evidence-based practice. TFC schools showed dramatic improvements in math, English language arts scores, decreased student suspensions, and reduced teacher absences and turnover.
With the Whole Child in mind, the school system invested time and effort into a center-based school program called Wraparound Services.
In 2020-2021, the Meriwether County School System opened a full-scaled Wraparound Services Care Center within the Manchester High School and Greenville Middle High School. Care Centers were also opened within the Manchester Middle School, Unity Elementary School, and Mountain View Elementary School.
The Care Centers are a school and community-based partnership that provides a one-stop-shop concentrating on the whole child by addressing the learning barrier needs of students. Many of these students' needs may exist or occur outside the classroom, thus impacting the student's ability to be successful in the school. This centralized approach to serving the whole child on a school campus aligns with Georgia's Whole Child Initiative.
The Meriwether County School System started the Wraparound Centers with seed money given through a grant. However, the program further relies on other types of support from the community and private resources to help sustain the continuity of care offered through the Center. The Center is requesting support from the Rotary Foundation to help support the Meriwether County School System Wraparound Services Care Centers for $10,000.
Schools are natural centers for the community, and it makes sense that they become hubs for community support services. The idea is also practical, not only for families who benefit from the convenience but also for taxpayers because school facilities serve more than one purpose.
However, one of the most significant benefits for schools should be attendance and student achievement. Poverty is one of the most critical factors impacting these issues, so by providing services that address the needs of students, schools stand a better chance of keeping students in class and learning for more extended periods. The Wrap Around Center approach will be a strategy for addressing equity issues and improving opportunities for traditionally underserved students.
The Meriwether County School System (MCSS) CARE Centers opened this year amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The goal was to ensure all 2,316 students grades PK-12th have equitable access to food, hygiene products, toiletries, school supplies, clothing, health services, counseling services, and academic support.
In our initial year, the Wrap-Around Care Centers has provided services for over 1,752 students within the county. The top services students accessed were from the Food Pantry, the Clothes Closet, Tutoring, and Academic Support.
In this period of stripped-down budgets, educators, community leaders, and policymakers are more aware than ever of the need to use scarce resources to maximize results. Through partnerships, the Wrap Around Care Centers align and integrate strategies to support students, strengthen schools, and engage families.
With the help of the Rotary Foundation, we can support the needs of Meriwether County students meeting student needs such as School Supplies, Food Pantry items, personal care products, and clothes items for the 2021-2022 school year.
The Rotary Club of Meriwether County plays a prominent role within the Wrap Around Care Centers located within Unity Elementary, Mountain View Elementary, Manchester Middle School, Manchester High School, and Greenville Middle High School. Rotary members volunteer their services by:
Crafting individual "It's a Girl Thing" bags. (Building a weekly supply of feminine products in a unique bag).
Creating Personal Care bags for students (Washrag, toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, and shampoo in a bag).
3. Organizing clothes items within storage bins at each school.
4. Arranging, coordinating, and distributing the food items within the Food Pantry.
5. Arranging, coordinating and distributing school supplies.
Public Image Impact
Engaging with your community is vital for your product or service for many reasons. Being involved in the community helps build strong customer relationships and get your product/service noticed. Being involved in the community allows us to connect with individuals and make valuable contacts.
By engaging with the community, we can accomplish the following:
Build and maintain a positive image.
Inform target audiences about positive associations with a product, service, brand, or organization.
Maintain good relationships with influencers—the people who strongly influence the opinions of target audiences.
Generate goodwill among consumers, the media, and other target audiences by raising the organization's profile.
Stimulate demand for a product, service, idea, or organization.
Public Image Impact Tools
Social Media (Facebook) Promotion
Web Site Page Creation
Local Newspaper Articles
Individual and Group Tours of the Centers
Grand Opening Ribbon cutting of centers
Involve students within the school to be Wrap-Around Ambassadors for the program
Publish Annual Report
|Meriwether County School System|