ATLANTA – For the first time, the state of Georgia will spend education dollars on centers that will address non-academic issues.
The $1,040,000 from the Georgia Department of Education will help create school “wraparound” centers that will connect students with resources like food, clothes, counseling, and other services.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education pointed 11Alive’s Why Guy to studies that show issues like hunger, mental health, and a lack of proper clothing can distract students.
“Non-academic factors have an impact on students’ ability to learn,” says spokesperson Meghan Frick. “You can ask any teacher. When a student comes to school hungry, or cold because they don’t have access to warm clothing, or with an undiagnosed physical or mental health issue, that has a serious, negative effect on their ability to learn.”
One study lists a student’s physical and mental health among the top ten educational issues for Georgia.
“We have to help them with those things, those social, emotional needs before we can deal with their cognitive needs,” says Leigh Colburn, founder of the Marietta Student Life Center.
The Marietta Student Life Center is one of a handful of wraparound programs that already exist in Georgia. Located inside Marietta High School, the state wants more places like it. Students have access to clothing, food, and counseling where they can discuss problems at home.
“Being able to focus on kids beyond what they get in the school system has been dynamic,” says Barry Frazier of Boss United, Inc., one of the organizations that support the center.
There is tutoring and workshops that help students with college applications and resumes.
The state is working now to explore where to locate new centers. Services offered will be based on the needs of students in a particular area.