FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. – North Forsyth High School has partnered with several organizations this year to better support students and their goals.
At the Forsyth County School Board meeting on April 19, Amy Dykes, North Forsyth High School student support coordinator and graduation coach, said the initiative was part of the school work of school community strategy.
It all started, she says, with community focus groups that answered questions about their goals, passions and gaps they see in education. From there, staff developed partnerships with Place of Forsyth, Family Ties and Worksource Georgia to provide additional resources to North Forsyth High School.
Atlanta Community Food Bank donates $455,000 to nonprofit partners
Dykes cited data from the United Way’s Child Wellbeing Index that shows the community is at or below average when it comes to child wellbeing. For this reason, United Way provided North Forsyth Secondary School with financial support to establish a school pantry, known as The Source, as well as a chapter of the Helping Hands Ending Hunger Food Capture program.
Dykes said The Source provides a variety of items from toiletries and snacks to simple meals for students and families who can visit the pantry before or after school. There is no qualifying process and families can even order certain items once a week.
The food capture program, on the other hand, involves collecting uneaten food in bins or a milk cooler after breakfast and lunch, which is then cleaned and returned to the community through The Source or Place of Forsyth. Dykes said more than 800 pounds of food are collected each month.
“One of our biggest messages to our students is that food is not trash,” Dykes said. “So we really want them to understand that food can go to someone in need.”
Local nonprofits look to advocate in the new year
Additionally, Dykes said, the school’s partnership with Family Ties provides counseling and therapy during the school day at no cost to students, removing barriers, such as transportation, when it comes to responding to mental health needs. Two full-time therapists visit the school each week and see more than 80 students, Dykes said.
Finally, Worksource Georgia offers soft skills sessions to better prepare students for college and work. Dykes said the sessions cover topics like resume writing, financial literacy, time management and interview techniques.
In June, Worksource Georgia will be offering a four-week welding boot camp for students and new grads. By the end of the camp, Dykes said, they will be fully certified in welding, including Six Sigma and Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, Safety Certified, and have the opportunity to interview companies for potential jobs.
“We have opened this to all schools in our county, and we have four students who are not North Forsyth students who will be attending during the program,” Dykes said. “And then we have 10 of our own students going through the program. We’re really excited about it.
Charities join forces to create a help center in Sandy Springs
Board Vice Chair Kristin Morrissey said the partnerships build on the district’s PROPEL program, or Pathways for Reaching Opportunities in Preparing for Excellence in Life, which was designed to increase rates of local high school graduation.
“[A few years ago,] we met at [Forsyth Central High School] and one of the concerns was about mental health services and how we could potentially integrate those services into the school,” Morrissey said. “The barriers have always been transportation and funding, and the fact that you’re addressing that by offering these services to students for free…. I’m so excited you found an answer.
School board member Lindsey Adams said she was “blown away” by the efforts of Dykes and her staff.
“When you talk about community, you’ve really touched the whole community that’s within your schools and who you then reach out to,” Adams said. “I’ve always said Forsyth is just great because there are so many nonprofits and so many groups doing such great things, so why should we reinvent things here when we can associate us? That’s wonderful.
In other business at the April 19 meeting, the board unanimously approved a new dress code for the 2022-23 school year that incentivizes a violation of the rules, while continuing to give principals the authority over what they choose to allow in their schools.
Construction of the new Hope Elementary School in Forsyth nears completion
Todd Shirley, director of school safety and student discipline at Forsyth County Schools, said the revised dress code was inspired by the Portland School District. The main difference, he said, is that it allows staff to punish students for using the P3 whistleblower line to anonymously harass other students.
“In other words, give inaccurate advice…” Shirley said. “Even though this is an anonymous tip line, if this tip line contains information that is harassing to an individual, through a court order, we can look up that IP address and find out who is making these statements of harassment and then work with law enforcement to reverse it.”
Additionally, at the meeting, the board voted to move its executive session to 5 p.m. for future meetings and continue to start regular meetings at 6 p.m. The audience will still be allowed to speak for three minutes each and there will be no limit on the number of speakers.
Council chairman Wes McCall said the change was necessary to allow staff to return home before public participation in meetings begins. Audience participation has increased in recent months due to controversy over district policies regarding books containing sexually explicit material.
“I will say that our public participation policy, in consultation with our attorney, is probably the least restrictive public participation policy in the Atlanta metro area,” McCall said. “But the board felt confident that they wanted to continue to give our community unrestricted access to the board and to speak for three minutes.”