The Columbia County School District implemented a Wraparound Support Program to create a safe place for students to go, which are also known as Student Life Centers.
Out of the five high schools in Columbia County, each student life center has different items that fit the different needs of students. The one at Evans high school has clothes, school supplies, and food for the students, however, the room serves a higher purpose.
Wraparound Support Specialist, Rachel Czerepak, says, “there may have been a perception in Columbia County that there isn’t this need there isn’t this level of poverty, there aren’t families who are needing support.”
It’s not a hall pass or a bathroom break, the student life center is a place where students can get basic needs.
“Columbia County, 9 1/2% are living in poverty now. I mean that’s like almost one in 10 people,” says Czerepak.
Students can even talk about their mental health with counselors from Transitional Family Services by appointment.
The Graduation Coach at Evans High School, Della Hughes, says, “they come in here with one student at a time and they spend 45 minutes to an hour with each student. Then, they will let me know when they are finished with that student. Then, I will send the other student in.”
Having multiple purposes for one room, reduces the stigma of an office and creates a comfortable environment for kids to come for various reasons. Weinberger furniture donated free furniture to fill each room.
“It’s kind of a no questions asked across the district,” says Czerepak.
These students can come from all walks of life.
“Because our room is so far away from everything else, when they come into this room, no one knows why they are coming in here that was the purpose of having it here,” says Hughes.
Recognizing the need to help a student outside of school, in turn, positively impacts them inside of school.
“It has already started impacting our students, and in the future, I can see it being an even greater impact,” says Hughes.
Evans High School, in particular, has an online form for students to fill out if they feel uncomfortable facing the student life center in person.
“They just feel better. You know, they have someone that they are comfortable with, so they come to me and they don’t feel like ‘Oh my God I have to tell my problems to everybody,'” says Hughes.
If you would like to make a monetary donation to the Wraparound Support Program, you can head to the Columbia County School District’s website.