By now, many of you are probably aware of the controversy that surrounded George Washington Bush Middle School’s Veteran’s Day assembly on Thursday, November 9th. At the assembly, a Confederate flag was displayed as part of a program featuring the chronological history of American flags from 1775 to the present.
Bush Middle School is one of the schools in Tumwater served by TOGETHER!’s Community Schools program. TOGETHER! holds equity as a core value in all of our work. Racism is a barrier to the success of our children and, as such, fighting against systemic racism is necessary to our mission of advancing the health and well-being of all young people.
The Confederate flag was never an official flag of the United States of America. Rather, it represents a movement within this country that continues, to this day, to threaten the safety of communities of color. We agree with the district’s position that its inclusion in the assembly was historically inaccurate as well as deeply insensitive.
This incident shines a light on the importance of addressing systemic racism, not only for Tumwater Schools, but for our entire community. The precipice of change in which we find ourselves compels us to focus on collaboration work that is focused on solutions with all of our partners. TOGETHER!’s role within the district has been and will continue to be a supportive one. Through extensive conversation with district leadership, we are deepening our collaborative partnership to support their growth towards providing a truly safe, inclusive, and equitable learning environment.
We do not expect this change to take place immediately or without difficulty. Our commitment to the district and the community is that we will continue doing the work that is so important to us, ensuring that all students have an equal chance to succeed in school and in life.
Meagan Darrow & Meghan Sullivan Goldenberger
A Community School is more than just a building where kids go to learn history and algebra. It’s a place, a partnership, and a state of mind – all at the same time. Community Schools are sites for all kinds of learning and growth: academic, social, emotional and relational. Students at Community Schools learn that they belong in school, where there is a community that cares for them. Their families learn that their participation and engagement in their child’s education is invaluable, and that their school will go the extra mile to get it. Staff at Community Schools learn that they don’t have to work in isolation, but can reach out to community organizations to help them help their students.
So how does it work? It starts with a partnership between a school district and a nonprofit who agree to work together to serve the needs of the students beyond academics, needs ranging from food and clothing to counseling and recovery services to healthcare and transportation. The nonprofit, or lead agency, then reaches out to other community organizations to build partnerships that make a wide array of resources and services as accessible as possible to students in schools. The idea is to weave networks of support that already exist in the community into the life of the school, so that students and families can spend less time worrying about how they’re going to access the services they need to survive and thrive, and more time thinking about their schoolwork.
In 2014, TOGETHER! partnered with Tumwater School District on just such an initiative and now, in our third year, Community Schools has grown to a vital piece of Tumwater’s student support program and, in the 2016-2017 school year, expanded into three high-need elementary schools for the first time. Listed below are just a few of the exciting programs we have developed to serve our students:
If you or your organization are interested in partnering with us, let us know! We are always looking for volunteers to help us fundraise, plan events and keep our resource centers stocked! Here’s who to call:
Arianne Sandel, Michael T. Simmons Elementary, Peter G. Schmidt Elementary, and Black Lake Elementary Community Schools Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org, 360-972-0319
Jennifer Gould, Tumwater Middle School and Black Hills High School Community Schools Manager, Jennifer.email@example.com, 360-999-0546
Lindsey Bates, Bush Middle School and Tumwater High School Community Schools Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org, 360-742-7083
Cynthia Spencer, AmeriCorps VISTA for Community Schools, email@example.com, 360-972-4519
Since the fall of 2014, TOGETHER! has been building networks of support for students in the Tumwater community thanks to a strong partnership with Tumwater School District. This summer, another district has stepped up to join us in the work of supporting the whole children, teens, and families who make up our school communities. Congratulations, Yelm Community Schools, for partnering with us to providing comprehensive services to your students and their families.
Yelm Community Schools is one of the fastest growing districts in the state, and they recognize the value of community partnerships in ensuring their students get the supports they need all the way from pre-kindergarten through high school graduation. To start, TOGETHER! will place a full-time staff member in Yelm’s two middle schools: Yelm Middle School and Ridgeline Middle School. With the support of an AmeriCorps VISTA, they will begin to build the bridges between school and community resources that eventually turn into a comprehensive system of support, a safety net that can catch our most vulnerable students when they need us the most.
Thank you, Yelm Community Schools, for making this commitment to your students, and welcome to TOGETHER!’s powerful network of partners!
With the adoption of TOGETHER!’s core values of equity, community mobilization, and systems change, we launched an exciting new branch of our work that concerns addressing the systems of oppression that impact our agency, our program participants, and our world. Through a partnership with the YWCA of Olympia’s Intercultural Foundations program, we have begun assessing and working to improve our intercultural competency through trainings and other educational opportunities for our staff. To guide this work, we formed the IDEA Group, to nurture and lead TOGETHER! to examine and address systems of oppression both inside and outside of TOGETHER! This work is essential to equitably advance the health, wellbeing, and success of all young people.
In the last year, IDEA Group has coordinated several film screenings, lunchtime discussions, and special projects within our staff. Moving into the future, we hope to deepen and expand this work by making necessary changes to policy and program where we find that we have not been adequately addressing the systems of oppression that impact our organization and the families we serve. To learn more about the history and mission of IDEA Group, what we mean by “systems of oppression,” and why this work is crucial to our mission, please visit the IDEA page here.
Tumwater School District and TOGETHER! have been working together for three years to bring necessary in-school support to the students of Tumwater and beyond. One of our most powerful and popular programs is the annual Back to Basics event series, where volunteers from the medical community come together to provide back-to-school care to students at no cost.
Our first Back to Basics event took place on August 1st at Tumwater High School. An incredible team of volunteers from Tumwater Family Practice, Providence Tumwater Valley Physical Therapy, Olympia Orthopaedic Associates, Providence Sports Medicine, St. Peter Family Medicine, Tumwater Vision Health, and Tumwater School District’s own Health & Wellness Department provided free sports physicals to over 250 middle and high school students. Participation in after-school sports is shown to increase school engagement and pro-social behavior in students, but lack of medical access is a common barrier that prevents students from accessing these benefits. At Back to Basics Sports Physicals Clinic, we not only provide sports physicals for free, but also work to connect families with insurance coverage and primary care physicians, so that the rest of their healthcare needs can be met into the future.
The second and final event was the Back to Basics Immunizations Clinic on August 22nd at Peter G. Schmidt Elementary School. Immunizations were administered by Thurston County Medical Reserve Corps and community partners Hands On Children’s Museum, South Sound Reading Foundation, Tumwater Youth Programs, CHOICE Regional Health Network, Tumwater School District, South Sound YMCA, Head Start, and Tumwater Timberland Library tabled outside the clinic with information and resources. In all, the clinic served 88 families and 105 students. Among those 105, 132 vaccinations were given to 65 students who needed additional immunization to meet school requirements.
Financial support for Back to Basics 2017 was provided by Kaiser Permanente, City of Tumwater, and Tumwater Walmart.
TOGETHER! is excited to be moving into the next phase of our partnership work with YWCA of Olympia's Intercultural Foundations program. Since October 2016, TOGETHER! and Intercultural Foundations have been working together to assess and improve our individual and organizational capacities for building inclusion and equity in our community. This coming phase will consist of reviewing our policies, procedures and organizational structure with our Board of Directors and the Intercultural Foundations team and making revisions as needed to ensure alignment with our values of equity, mobilization and systems change.
from YWCA of Olympia:
"The Intercultural Foundations program of the YWCA of Olympia is built on the belief that if we invest in tools to build intercultural competence, we invest in a better world for all. We consult with local organizations to assess and improve their culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion, at both the individual and institutional levels. By providing leaders in our community with the necessary tools to work across cultural differences, we create space for the perspectives of folks who are most impacted by marginalization to be centered and heard.
The Intercultural Foundations team is thankful to have had TOGETHER! as one of our first project partners. With this group, we have created a space to probe the depths of our socialization, revealing how implicit bias and internalized oppression impact our ability to make change in the community in an effective and equitable way. The commitment of TOGETHER!’s leadership to the process of deep internal assessment and structural change has been crucial to the program’s success, and serves as a model for our future projects."
We feel the same way! Thank you, Intercultural Foundations, for your guidance and support through this transformative process. Your service to our community is truly invaluable.
TOGETHER! is proud to be a partner in the Graduate Yelm! initiative, which is being lead by Yelm Community Schools.
Graduate Yelm! is a community-wide effort to advance graduation readiness at all times, starting in kindergarten and continuing until students walk across the graduation stage. Alongside the City of Yelm, Yelm Community Schools and TOGETHER! will be working with other community partners towards the goal of achieving a 100% graduation rate.
Students who graduate and move into a post-secondary education, whether college, trade & technical schools, the military, apprenticeships or other work development programs, significantly increase their employment opportunities and career earnings. We know that the graduation readiness mindset begins as early as kindergarten, so our goal is to support the entire Yelm community and school district in fostering this mindset in their students from the very beginning.
As a partner with Yelm Community Schools, TOGETHER! provides opportunities for family engagement and support that make the difference for struggling students. It's hard to focus on graduation readiness when your basic needs are not being met at home or at school, so we work with students and families to make sure that every child has what they need to be successful at school and in life: enough to eat, adequate school supplies, access to needed healthcare, a way to get to school, and all the other big and little things that come up every day.
Thank you, Yelm Community Schools and City of Yelm for being our partners in this work. We are so excited to work with you.