Thames Elementary School (Hattiesburg Public School District), University Baptist Church and First Hattiesburg

Duration of partnership - 3 years
300 volunteers
716 students impacted

Thames Elementary School's partnership with University Baptist Church and First Hattiesburg has been going strong for three years. Their first meeting was organized by leaders from all three entities whose discussion focused on the mission and needs of the school and how they could be supported by UBC and First Hattiesburg families. The school also reached out to the community to gauge interest and to gather ideas for partnership projects.

From that point, the partnerships were off and running. The groups decided on four broad-based target areas: Healthy Living, Outdoor Learning, Student Growth and School Family Support. All activities, projects and ideas have been planned with careful consideration of the diversity of the school's student population. Thames has approximately 716 students, including 85 with significant disabilities. The school has 12 self-contained community-based classes for individuals with disabilities. Thames also has 34 English Language Learner students, as well as students representing diverse cultural groups.

The community has worked together to build a butterfly garden, vegetable garden and outdoor learning classroom at Thames Elementary. They also participate in a mentoring program, help with school fundraising activities, and created a student uniform closet to assist low-income families. When students don't have adequate clothing to wear to school, or if they lack appropriate clothing for cold weather, they can get the clothing they need at school and not have to miss school or leave early. The Weekend Backpack food assistance program ensures that children have access to nourishing food while away from school, while teacher appreciation activities ensure that teachers are recognized for the vital role they play in classrooms every day.

The partnership program has resulted in a number of successes for Thames Elementary. Thames rose from a Level D to a Level B school in one year, with significant improvements in language and math test scores. The clothing closet is credited with reducing student checkouts during cold days. In one month, average daily attendance for the school rose from 95 to 96 percent. Both University Baptist Church and First Hattiesburg are located within one mile of the school, which makes the partnerships a true engagement of the local community.