Mary Bethune Alternative Center (Hattiesburg Public School District) and Trinity Episcopal Church, Habitat for Humanity, Christian Services and Edward Street Food Pantry

Duration of partnership: 10 yrs
Volunteers: All staff members
Students impacted - 61
The purpose of Mary Bethune Alternative Center is to provide an alternative education for students who have not been successful in their regular school environments. Its mission is to provide a safe and structured environment that is conducive to learning while working to improve students’ academics and behavior. The school serves grades 4 through 12.
Three years ago the school commissioned an in-depth evaluation to ensure that Mary Bethune was providing quality services and effective interventions for troubled youth.  Although the school performed well in most areas, it was recommended that they focus on research strategies to improve character development.  The faculty and staff then collaborated to create the Mary Bethune Alternative Center Service Learning Program, which relies on community-based coalitions to help foster positive change in students.
The committee's goal was to create opportunities for students to serve community partners. In August, students delivered fruit baskets to elderly people in the community. They also volunteered with Hattiesburg’s Habitat for Humanity to complete their 60th house in September. In October, students worked closely with Christian Services and served 75 meals to homeless and underprivileged people at the center. Students collected canned goods and bagged rice and beans for the homeless at Edward Street Food Pantry.
Before implementing the service-learning program, Mary Bethune's transition rate was very low. Currently, the transition rate for students successfully returning back to their home schools is over 50 percent. The school's strategy to build community partnerships to improve student outcomes has been very successful. Last year, Mary Bethune received the Governor’s Award of Distinction for its partnership program with the United Way of Southeast Mississippi.