Students smile at community support

On any given weekday you’ll find Rushawnda, James and Scott roaming the halls of Lakeview Middle School in search of the next students on their lists. But don’t worry, even at this time of year, they’re only working from the “nice” list as they support the unique needs of local students, their families, and the school in which they serve.

Want to become an automative technician when you grow up? Great, let’s get you connected to a local business person who will help you cultivate 21st century soft-skills, while spending time together exploring career topics that interest you most.  Think you may want to one day start your own business?  Sure!  Let’s enhance your time management and communication skills now, so you’ll be equipped to enter the workforce as a 360° leader in the very near future.

You see, most of their days are focused on the crucial role of reiterating the attitudes, the lessons, and the spirit of embrace that Principal Latonia Copeland and her Greenville County Schools team is pouring into the children each and every day.  They are doing so with structure and purpose defined through specific student support plans,  with the expectation that the next person on their particular list is ready to trust in them and receive the opportunity at hand for the day.

Yesterday, however, was an extra-special and joyful day for this team of Student Support Specialists. It was a day to open up school doors and give back to students and their families without expecting a single thing in return.  No grades to review, no responsibilities to discuss, nothing to focus on other than an arriving with an open mind, a healthy appetite, those closest whom are called family, and the brightest smile a middle schooler can muster when coming to school on a Saturday.

December 2nd was Lakeview Middle’s second-annual Help Portrait® Greenville event.  At the same time as thousands across the nation, people were busy giving instead of taking - pictures, that is! The initial concept was simple. Find someone.  Take a picture of that person. Print it.  Give it to that person.  Why?  To help promote positive self-image, something this team knows is so important in the healthy development of a child.

Hosted by school-based partner Communities In Schools of Greenville, and sponsored by Greenville Health System Bradshaw Institute for Community Health and Advocacy, the nationally recognized event had 164 people spending the morning getting dressed up in their favorite outfits to sit for professional photographers who would capture those all-too-quickly-fleeting moments of any growing family. Local hair stylists and makeup artists pampered the participants, while other local organizations donated prizes and showed up to engage families in a day filled with games, food, and fun.

When Sue Ugenti, Board Member for Communities In Schools of Greenville (CISG), was asked why she showed up to volunteer for the event there was no hesitation in an answer: “We know building stronger families helps increase the chances of students becoming successful in life. Seeing families come together for events like Help Portrait® is what CISG is all about, and I love being part of these exciting moments!”

Elvira Corona Mendoza, Lakeview Middle’s Attendance Clerk, said she supports the event because parents are always focused on their kids, but rarely take time to do something special for themselves and yesterday they were able to do both at the same time. 

Her colleague Sharon Odom asked to extend a special thanks to those from the community for participating, as it “shows students that we care about them holistically, not just about their academics.  We care about them as much while they are in school as while they are out.” 

Lakeview is just one of the many schools opening their doors to community partners and Communities In Schools of Greenville is happy to be brokering events like Help Portrait® Greenville on their behalf. Just ask any student when you walk through the door about their motto for the best reflection of why: “Together Everyone Achieves More”.  

In addition to Help Portrait® Greenville, Lakeview is also one of four middle schools in Greenville County to incorporate OnTrack Greenville. Fueled by a federal Social Innovation Fund grant, United Way of Greenville County, the Greenville Partnership for Philanthropy, the Riley Institute at Furman and nonprofit partners, this initiative aims to help middle school students stay on track, graduate and build a successful, thriving future. There is no doubt that our community is working together to better the lives of our kids and their families. And isn't that a perfect reason to smile?