CORBIN — It’s back-to-school time in the Tri-County and just as teachers and students are planning for the year ahead so are the family resource and youth service coordinators at each school.
Each center offers a unique blend of programs and services determined by the needs of the population being served, available resources, location and other local characteristics.
When the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) was passed in 1990, that’s when FRYSC really got started. Michelle McDonald, a youth service center coordinator for Corbin Middle School, said initially the center was known as the group that fulfilled students' and families' basic needs, but things have come a long way since then.
“There are a lot of people in the community that know what we do but there are still so many that don’t,” said McDonald, who has been serving in this capacity for more than 10 years.
The mission of the family resource and youth service center is to enhance students’ ability to succeed in school by developing and sustaining partnerships that promote early learning and successful transition to school; academic achievement and well-being; and graduation and transition into adult life.
The primary goal of these centers is to remove non-academic barriers to learning as a means to enhance student academic success.
“With that, 'whatever it takes' became the motto,” said McDonald.
Things that the youth service center helps with include getting students ready for college or careers, tutoring and providing mental health counselors just to name a few.
The things that McDonald and co-worker Alisha Hammack focus on as youth service coordinators include referrals to health services, helping students with scholarships, interview skills as well as school based enterprises.
During several activities McDonald said she partners with the Promise Neighborhood, including career days which introduce students to people and places in the workforce.
“Also a lot of what we’re here for is to be a place for students to vent to,” she added.
Youth service coordinators also focus on attendance. McDonald said if she notices a student's attendance is slipping, she may ask that students what’s going on at home or what’s going on at school.
This year McDonald is serving the middle school and said her big focus is going to be anti-bullying.
“Middle school grades are difficult,” McDonald added.
Going along with the middle school theme this year, McDonald is hoping to encourage students to make sure others are feeling included, students are being kind, friendly and saying hello.
McDonald, with the help of Hinkle Printing, has the school restrooms decorated in cheerful and anti-bullying posters that encourage students to be kind, be friendly and stay positive. There are approximately 32 different posters throughout.
“If you keep integrating that into their heads, maybe they’ll get it,” added McDonald.
JeriKay Wynn, who serves as the family resource coordinator and works with smaller children, focuses on literacy skills and helps provide opportunities for families to read together.
FRYSCs have established a record of success based on improved student performance in class work, homework and peer relations as reported by teachers. Parents, too, report they experience greater satisfaction and involvement with the schools as a result of assistance through their local FRYSCs.
According to the 2018 FRYSC Impact Report, FRYSCs are making strides at the local level in many areas including, kindergarten readiness, behavior, reading, math, attendance and parent involvement.
FRYSC doesn’t claim full credit for the gains in the reports but believes as with any effective, forward-thinking, and resourceful program, that success comes when programs work together for a common goal.
McDonald said she loves her job. During her 13 years with students she’s been trusted with things from them that they wouldn’t tell anyone else. She understands the responsibility and privilege her role comes with.
There are moments that stick out to her as to why she shows up everyday.
“I had a graduated student that did not have anyone to go with her to freshman college orientation as her parent. I attended Union College parent day as this student's 'parent,'” said McDonald.
When a senior who thought after football was over he had nothing to come to school for spent many days in McDonald’s office venting about dropping out of school and not going to college has now become an APRN, McDonald knows there’s a reason for youth service centers.