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Community Connections Nurture Students

“It takes a village to raise a child,” according to an African proverb.

In that same sense, “It takes a community to raise a school,” shares Brendan O’Keefe, facilitator for alternative learning environments.

In O’Keefe’s article “5 Steps to Better School Community Collaboration,” he talks about the importance of communities and schools working together. He said he believes the answer to real education and school transformation is strong, authentic community connections that nurture schools and strengthen community needs.

There are new learning spaces at St. Cyprian’s Episcopal School this year. Each one is made possible through a school-to-community connection, and our school is appreciative and excited about this collaborative practice with the community.

Create Lab Powered by Real Graphics is an example of what O’Keefe describes as implementing a curriculum connected to real-world experiences.

Upper School students enjoyed a field trip to Real Graphics this past spring and became interested in connecting their digital design class with entrepreneurship. They asked questions, initiated research and developed a desire to learn how to begin a marketing and design business.

Our campus now has a classroom devoted to this design company’s collaborative endeavor with the school featuring tools and components of a local business.

Their learning excursion turned into a “real” opportunity to expand their classroom experience.

Student Voice as a means for transformation mentioned by O’Keefe in his article resulted in a new chicken coop for the campus. Students were concerned about the crowded living quarters of our chickens.

With a humanitarian cause for better treatment of chickens on campus, they proceeded to collect coins in large water dispenser bottles. Each classroom was determined to contribute to purchasing a larger, more comfortable chicken house.

Local poultry business Pilgrim’s Pride offered to work with them to reach their goal for funding this project, and today there is a beautiful new red coop with plenty of space to stretch wings and shake a tail feather in our outdoor learning center. Hopefully, our chickens won’t panic when they see the Pilgrim’s Pride sign on the exterior of their new home.

Another new space is The Makerspace Powered by Whataburger. Curriculum connected to real-world experiences is essential, according to O’Keefe, for learning beyond the classroom. This space offers the use of STEM equipment such as a 3D printer, robots and digital tools to extend learning and offer hands-on creativity and exploration to research and engage in real-world problem-solving applications with Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

An orange-and-white-themed classroom invites students to say, “What a great place for learning.” This area is dedicated space for collaborating and sharing experiences, skills and time to find ways to make a difference for the community.

O’Keefe reminds us, “When families, community groups, business and schools band together to support learning, young people achieve more in school, stay in school longer and enjoy the experience more.”

We are fortunate to have a generous and caring community that invests in the future by supporting education in schools benefitting St. Cyprian’s Episcopal School as well as other schools in the area.

“What its children become, that will the community become.” Suzanne La Follette, author and journalist shares.

Our community’s future looks bright thanks to partnerships and collaboration that are truly making a difference in student lives and learning in our classrooms.

About Author | Dr. Sherry Durham is Head of School for St. Cyprian’s Episcopal School. Her email address is The column was printed in The Lufkin Daily News on June 22, 2022.

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