Throughout its 125-year history, the halls of Gainesville High School have bustled with students. Come January, the main entrance will bustle with more than just the treading of feet, but with empowerment, as The Hub student success center comes to fruition.
Gainesville students heading back to school in a matter of days will notice the new security vestibule at the main entrance, put in place to allow any Gainesville City or Hall County student – or their family members – access to the mental health, college prep and workforce development resources just behind the center’s door, without needing to navigate through the school itself.
For Principal Jamie Green, The Hub is about helping students and their families find balance in their lives, at any life stage, and in a one-stop shop.
“We have a ton of support in the community and we’re really fortunate to have that,” said Green. “What we want to do is we want to invite them to come here and be with us. We don’t want to have a family, a student or a friend of a student come in, looking for support and we have to send them two miles down the road. Or maybe they’re using a range of supports and they want some help filling out applications and maybe they need some other support, so we don’t have to send them two different places.”
The Hub will connect resources already utilized by the Gainesville City School System and put them in one location, centralized for the district and for the Hall County School District. The construction of the center is paid for jointly by the school district and the Medical Center Foundation. Just as important as the centralized location is the accessibility to students and working parents.
“When a student is at school, you look at the hours you are here, then after that if they’re involved in extracurricular activities, they may be on campus until 7 o’clock at night,” said Hub Director Tonya Sanders. “Same thing with our families if they’re working or they have other responsibilities. A school can’t just exist in traditional hours, you can’t just provide support in the traditional 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. system anymore. We’ve got to do something to make the resources more accessible our families. And another reason for this is that the support that a student needs for the challenges that they face, it’s typically not one isolated need. They’re all intertwined.”
So intertwined that The Hub will also cover all the basic needs they can, from a food pantry to a new-to-you closet. This is all part of Gainesville City Schools wraparound system, which is designed to support the “whole child” instead of just the academic student.
In the two and half years of planning, the community already attests to the need for the center, with The Hub named as the beneficiary for the upcoming Northeast Georgia Medical Center Foundation golf tournament.
Sanders said during those years, they worked to determine what needs students needed the most. They were able to narrow it down to college and career prep, workforce development and mental and behavioral health.
In addition to providing access to community partners like Avita, the Boys and Girls Clubs of Lanier and The United Way, to name a few, Sanders said there will also be forums, workshops and other events to help connect both students and parents to the information they need to be successful, especially when it comes to the trauma students can face behind closed doors at home, like in a domestic violence situation, or in the school setting, from bullying and feeling isolated to the pressure that can arise from academic performance.
“Remember, The Hub is a connector. They may need therapy or counseling that’s a little more intense and personalized and that’s where we can utilize our existing services, but we can make that connection for them, whereas they may not have known to do that before,” said Sanders. “If a student has dealt with domestic violence within their home, they may not know ‘Which agency do I go to,’ or ‘How do I seek help for this?’ So we want to be that centralized one-stop shop so they’re getting access to the services they need, they’re getting educated, but there’s also collaboration to make sure we’re addressing the whole child needs, not just the academic piece.”
Green said he doesn’t think anyone can really survive the perils of high school and transitioning into adulthood without a little extra support, but so many students have had to rely on themselves or on sheer luck to find the resources and support they needed.
“This is just an effort to be intentional about providing those supports and it’s not a matter of ‘lady luck’ it’s a matter of walking through The Hub and we’ll be there to help. Doesn’t matter if you’re a Gainesville High School student, a student from one of the Hall County schools or a family member of somebody that attends one of those schools. We’re going to connect you.”