Bringing Partners Together to Launch a Community Schools Strategy in Fairfield

The United Way Bold Goals Coalition is a group of community partners, led by United Way of Central Alabama (UWCA), that takes on large, systemic issues primarily related to health, education and access to human services. Bold Goals is built upon the philosophy that strongly coordinated efforts among community partners create the most rapid and most significant impact that ultimately brings about lasting change. Since 2014, Bold Goals has generated nearly $11.5 million in support for local projects, and there’s an exciting new program on the horizon.

In March, Fairfield City Schools (FCS) and UWCA hosted a planning luncheon with community partners working to launch a Community Schools strategy within Fairfield to strengthen conditions for student learning and healthy development. Beyond being strongholds of grade-level education, schools can serve as community hubs, bringing together many partners to offer a range of services to children, youth, families and communities; and their importance cannot be overstated. More than 90 partners attended the meeting at Fairfield High Preparatory School and shared feedback on ways they could support priorities, such as college and career readiness, student mentoring, financial literacy, social support programs and medical services.

Based on that input, a Fairfield Community Schools strategy was developed and officially kicked off at the beginning of the 2023-24 school year. During the next three years, UWCA will be investing $1.5 million to support bringing additional programs into the community and making services more accessible.

Now, what exactly is a community school? Community schools involve a public/private partnership between schools and community organizations. They come together to remove non-academic barriers to student success. When these barriers, such as little or no access to healthy foods, social and emotional support and health care services, are removed, student academic performance improves.

A number of programs are already in progress. Fairfield First Class Pre-K Program serves local children with six classrooms at the Forest Hills Community Development Center. Additionally, a 21st Century Learning Program, managed by Better Basics, provides high-quality summer and after-school enrichment programming for students. Several new programs are set to launch as a result of UWCA’s involvement.

UWCA is hiring two program coordinators who will be based within Fairfield schools and will work with school staff, students and families to help bridge the gap between schools and community-based organizations serving the district. UWCA and FCS are also partnering with:

  • Central Six Alabama Works! to launch a Modern Manufacturing program to assist with career and college readiness.
  • Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Birmingham to expand mentoring services for students.
  • Hope Institute to support school leaders in promoting character development.
  • The Community Food Bank to develop an onsite food pantry.

The United Way Bold Goals Coalition is excited to be partnering with Fairfield on this incredible initiative. Thank you to Superintendent Dr. Regina Thompson, members of the Fairfield School Board and school leaders for their partnership in this effort and for their desire to find new and innovative ways to serve and support their students and families.