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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Too Big or Not Big Enough: Community Outreach Catches On

At first, there seemed to be too much space. It didn't take long for that to change.
By Edutopia
Edutopia Team

Two years ago when Marsha Spears, coordinator of federal programs for South-Western City Schools in Grove City, Ohio, first saw the 4,000 square-foot space for the Family Resource Center, she panicked. "No way will we be able to fill this space," Spears remembers confiding in a colleague.

With free land use and in-kind support from the district and money from the federal and state governments, the Family Resource Center was opened in 1995 to serve the needs of families and students who were at risk of academic failure.

Open every weekday except Christmas and Thanksgiving from 7 A.M. to 9 P.M., the center provides in-house services to more than 180 families on a daily basis and outreach services to another 300 families.

This "one-stop-shopping" center, just outside metropolitan Columbus, provides health and social services as well as educational services. For example, the Head Start program offers a full-day and two half-day classrooms and also provides health, educational, nutritional, social, and parent services.

A Title 1 federally funded program for parents includes a family lending library that distributes books, games, toys, and videos; a referral system that provides access to information on all community services in the city; individual building activities such as pizza dinners following back-to-school night; and parenting sessions that address topics such as "How To Talk So Your Child Will Listen; How To Talk So Your Child Will Talk."

The Adult Basic and Literacy Education program works with members of the community wishing to earn a G.E.D.; improve their reading, writing, and math skills; and become a learning partner with their children. Other programs include an Attention Deficit Support Group and an Even Start Program. Numerous agencies, including the Franklin County Board of Health, Columbus Health Department, Children's Hospital, and Franklin County Department of Human Services, also provide services on-site at the Center.

"The word is out about the center," says Spears, "and people are calling us to bring their program here." Faced with the unacceptable prospect of having to turn service providers down, Spears says they need more space. Four thousand square feet is not big enough.

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