Valdosta education leaders look to build new support center

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Emma Wheeler | WCTV Eyewitness News
August 20, 2019

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) -- Educators and community partners are setting their sights on new ambitions to brighten the futures of local students.

On Tuesday, Valdosta State University and Valdosta City Schools teamed up to brainstorm ideas on developing a new 'wrap around support center,' a new facility that organizers say is meant to transform the lives of students and their families.

The center is meant to serve as a sort of community center that provides different resources to set up students for success. Tuesday's meeting was meant to be the first opportunity to get stakeholders involved and brainstorming what this could look like in Valdosta.

School officials looked at examples from other communities across the state. Some of the examples of resources provided at other support centers include 'laundry literacy,' where people can get help with literacy work while having a place to do laundry. They also included food pantries and GED support for parents looking to further their education.

Mirakal Jackson is a seniors at Valdosta State University, participating in Tuesday's summit. A graduate from Marietta High School, she said her high school created s support center during her senior year. It offered things like counselors, homework help and a place to hang out that felt like home.

She said the center changed her life.

"I feel like the main thing that's missing is support. I would not be able to accomplish what I've been able to accomplish without support, and I know that goes for any student here," Jackson said. "The entire atmosphere of the school changes, and I can't really put it in to words. It's more like, a lot of the students that I've seen struggle, close friends, cadets, even faculty members. When that came here, it was something even more to be proud about."

Tuesday's meeting is the first of a long process to develop a center here in town. Organizers said, they don't know exactly what this center will look like in Valdosta, but they hope more partners will get involved to support local students and their families.

"We're at the beginning of determining what could a wrap around service, a support center look like," said Kate Warner, Interim Associate Dean of the VSU College of Education and Human Services. "Transform families, help children thrive and be successful beyond test scores."

School officials said they expect it will take about one to two years to get the center up and running.

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