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Community groups come together in Wyandanch

A group from Wyanchanch community-based organizations met at

A group from Wyanchanch community-based organizations met at the Wyandanch High School to discuss what each is doing to support students in the low-income school district. (Feb. 13, 2012) Credit: Erin Geismar

There may be metal detectors and a security guard at the entrance to Wyandanch Memorial High School, but on Monday a contingency of outsiders was welcomed.

Since the start of the school year, a growing number of community-based organizations has met monthly at the school to discuss what each is doing to help support students in the low-income Wyandanch Union Free School District.

On Monday, Roslyn Savings Bank, State Farm insurance, the New York Civil Liberties Union and Phoenix House were just a few of the organizations gathered to discuss recent initiatives and issues involving the community.

Jamie Ward, a guidance counselor at the high school, said in a district with limited resources such as Wyandanch, having the support of community organizations makes an enormous impact on student success.

“We just don’t have enough time or resources on our hands to deal with all the issues our children face each day,” she said, noting that Roslyn Savings Bank recently ran a financial literacy course for students and State Farm sponsored a successful college day.

The monthly meetings started in the fall and are organized by Sabrina Fearon, project coordinator for the Economic Opportunity Council of Suffolk, which runs a program called SNAP out of Wyandanch High School. The program works to keep students from engaging in destructive or at-risk behavior.

Though not a district employee, Fearon works from an office in the high school. She suggested all the outside organizations working with the school unite when she realized that two organizations were working toward the same grant for separate programs at the school.

“All of us have the same initiative,” she said. “It made sense for us all to work together and be aware of what the others are doing.”

In addition to the monthly meetings, which Fearon said have resulted in better programs for the students, there are benefits to community representatives having a physical presence at the school.

This month, counselors from Phoenix House, the substance abuse rehabilitation center, will begin working from an office at the Wyandanch high school and middle school, said wellness counselor Wendy Alfaro, an attendee of Monday’s meeting.

Alfaro said Phoenix House has been working with the district in both schools since September to help counsel at-risk students with a focus on prevention instead of treatment.

“We’ve realize the benefit of someone being here full-time in the building,” she said at the meeting.

Fearon said she hopes the meetings will continue to grow as more of the community takes an interest in student success.

“Everyone is bringing in one piece,” she said. “When everyone looks at the issues we’re facing and takes one piece of it, it makes it that much easier to accomplish.”

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