When you think of Quail Hollow, you may think of the prestigious golf championship, but would you think of poverty?
"We're right next to the golf course and country club, so the assumption, when you come to the school and you look to your right and to your left and all around you, is that you are surrounded by wealth and upper middle class," said Rachael Neill, principal of Quail Hollow Middle School. "People who don't have access to the data don't recognize that we do have a very diverse student population in regard to socioeconomic status."
Quail Hollow Middle School and Forest Hill Church have formed a partnership to provide families in need with available resources and let the children know that they matter.
Snowden Morris-Littlejohn, a volunteer with Quail Hollow, where her three children attended middle school, reached out to Forest Hill and has been working with church leadership over the past year to develop the partnership.
Even though Littlejohn's children have moved on to high school, she has remained a Quail Hollow volunteer because she has become attached to the families and the children there. She connects families with resources, provides transportation so families can go to medical appointments or a bank, works with utility companies to make sure families have heat and electricity, and provides clothing and food to children in need.
But, she cannot meet everyone's needs on her own.
According to Neill, the goals of the partnership include: providing basic needs such as school supplies, food and clothing for students in need; increasing parent involvement in the students' education; providing academic mentorship for improved student performance; and embracing diversity through community building, so that all the children feel valued.
Quail Hollow Middle draws from a district that stretches past Park Road, through South Boulevard and into the Westinghouse and Sharon Lakes areas.
Diversity is a powerful and valuable benefit to the school, said Neill, who is only one generation removed from poverty.
According to the school's eligibility documentation for free and reduced meals, approximately 65 percent of its students are economically disadvantaged. According to state and federal guidelines, 22 percent of its students lack stable and permanent housing and, according to registration documentation, between two and three percent of its students live in shelters. There are approximately 925 students enrolled at Quail Hollow Middle School.
One aspect of the partnership is a school supply drive through Aug. 14.
Parishioners and community members can donate backpacks filled with items from the school's official supply list at Forest Hill Church on Park Road and at Forest Hill Church - Ballantyne Campus in the Ballantyne Village.
For a cost effective way to purchase the supplies for $21 and have them delivered to Forest Hill, visit www.kitsforkidz.org/forest. The goal for the drive is 500 completed backpacks.
Forest Hill volunteers will distribute the backpacks to families at Quail Hollow's back-to-school open house, called Orientation Day, Aug. 23 from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. The open house will also give parents the opportunity to receive their children's class schedules, turn in completed forms and meet the new principal, Neill, in addition to two new assistant principals.
Prior to the start of school, Quail Hollow Middle School faculty and staff, plus Forest Hill volunteers, will attend Urban Ministry's Bridges Out of Poverty training Aug. 18, which teaches community leaders causes and effects of poverty and how to help those in poverty move toward economic stability.
Under development for the academic year are family nights hosted at the school with the help of staffing and transportation by Forest Hill volunteers. Family nights will include meals, student and parent programs, opportunities for children to participate in clubs and opportunities for parents to connect with their children's teachers.
"Quail Hollow Middle School, only a mile from our SouthPark campus and four miles from Ballantyne, is part of our community. We hope to strengthen the fabric of our community through relationships and enrichment opportunities for students and their families," said Jen Cameron, local service ministry director with Forest Hill Church. "Each child was created for a purpose and our goal is to help put them on the path that is uniquely theirs. Also, when we engage in outreach, we find that it leads to personal growth for both parties."