Mary Bethune Alternative Center (Hattiesburg) and United Way of Southeast Mississippi

Duration of partnership: 2
10 volunteers
Impacts 57 students

School turnaround requires extraordinary drive and determination within a short period of time. Mary Bethune Alternative Center in Hattiesburg has created a specialized discipline pattern that targets underperforming behavior in students. The program is based on the Calkins Turnaround Zones Method which uses a three C’s strategy to foster change within the dynamics of the school. Instructional leaders began to change conditions by creating a protected space free of adverse consequences and restrictions. They established targets to increase the capacity of school staff, especially leaders within the marketplace of the district. Finally, they organized clusters of support inside the school district and established community partners to ensure success of the school turnaround.

Through the school's Service Learning initiative, students learn in the classroom how to solve real life issues that affect them daily. The service-learning program included three components, which consisted of small groups, whole classrooms and the entire school. The students’ efforts have fostered sustainable relationships with community partners.

Students became more engaged with the community through a number of service projects. They volunteered with Habitat for Humanity to build a house and with Christian Services to help needy families. They participated in a surprise neighborhood “meet and greet” to deliver fruit baskets to elderly residents. The school formed community partnerships with The Salvation Army, American Red Cross, Oseola McCarty Youth Center, Grandparents Raising Grandchildren, United Way, Trinity Episcopal Church, the National Association of Social Workers, and Youth About Business, a summer enhancement program to help students learn effective business skills.

As a result of these initiatives, the transition rate for students increased 50%, the suspension rate decreased 20%, and no students have been lost to incarceration in the last two years since implementation of the Turnaround Zone Method. This partnership proved that when all stakeholders of the learning organization take the initiative to make a difference in a child’s life, amazing results can be achieved.