On October 21, 2015, I climbed into a bus at the United Metropolitan Missionary Baptist Church, with the hope of learning a little bit about how the United Way of Forsyth County is partnering with local schools. The bus set out and traveled its route to East Forsyth Middle School, and I began to realize that I had been thinking about “education impact” too narrowly, and I had previously failed to consider how our community, its challenges, and its solutions, are all deeply intertwined with our educational system.
As we traveled, we were encouraged to observe our surroundings; we drove past shops, local residents, restaurants, homes, and natural spaces, all of which are existing assets that have the ability to enhance and strengthen the communities in which they are found. Perhaps it was this particular stretch of road, but I was astounded by the number of schools along the way – we passed Atkins High School, Petree Elementary School, and East Forsyth High School. These special community assets, our schools, all point to the strength and potential that exist within our neighborhoods. These places of learning offer educational experiences that can open up opportunities for students, their families, and other community members.
Upon arriving at East Forsyth Middle School, we were warmly welcomed by Principal Poteat and several faculty and staff, all of whom conveyed a unified vision for educational success and a passion for addressing the holistic needs of students. I learned that the school, in partnership with the United Way of Forsyth County’s Women’s Leadership Council, has implemented programs to assist students with navigating their middle school years from start to finish. These initiatives also seek to equip students with the skills and tools needed for continued achievement throughout high school, college, and career endeavors. The school offers the Summer Success Academy for rising sixth graders, provides after-school tutoring for all students, and utilizes a family engagement coordinator to provide targeted care and advocacy for students. I am thankful for the engagement and investment of these teachers and staff in our community; they are building foundational relationships and working tirelessly to tear down potential barriers to student success. Principal Poteat mentioned that he is always overjoyed to hear about his students’ successes after they’ve moved on to high school and beyond, and without a doubt, we should all share in that excitement as community members who benefit from the advancement and enrichment of our fellow Forsyth County residents.
In the space of a Wednesday lunch break, on a brief bus ride and in a middle school library, I was inspired, challenged, and encouraged – that we are all part of this community, and we therefore all have a stake in the educational outcomes of students. Without a doubt, the Education Impact Tour had an impact on me. It shed light on some of the challenges we face in Forsyth County, but more importantly, it illuminated the great possibility that lies in uniting our common resources to promote growth and overcome those challenges.
Written by Nadia D. Clevenger, CPA
Tax Senior Associate
Dixon Hughes Goodman LLP