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Twenty-three Organizations, Businesses Join Forces to Offer Cradle-to-Career Support for Norcross Students

Brian Abernathy, a director with Georgia Center for Opportunity, is helping to organize a commuity coalition of nonprofits, churches and businesses dedicated to helping Norcross and Peachtree Corners students succeed at school.
Brian Abernathy, a director with Georgia Center for Opportunity, is helping to organize a commuity coalition of nonprofits, churches and businesses dedicated to helping Norcross and Peachtree Corners students succeed at school.
Twenty-three community organizations and businesses are teaming up to provide cradle-to-career support for Norcross public school students as part of a new initiative that will be launched at 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 2 at Norcross High.

A public meeting will be held to announce the start of the outreach, “Breakthrough Norcross,” a community-based effort being supported by the Georgia Center for Opportunity. The Peachtree Corners-based nonprofit is looking to invest nearly $2 million over the next four years to help community agencies, churches and businesses improve student achievement, college readiness, and career placement for kids in Norcross Cluster public schools. The outreach will include tutoring, leadership development, career shadowing, and more.

It is being coordinated in response to historic poverty data and an Atlanta Journal-Constitution analysis of SAT test performance that showed that despite its status as a high-poverty school, Norcross High is a high performer. The school’s average SAT score of 1513 ranks it among the top third of Georgia schools on the College Board exam. Nearly 7 in 10 Norcross High students qualify for free and reduced-price lunch, a poverty statistic that has resulted in poor performance on the SAT for other schools.

Breakthrough Norcross partners believe that by working together, they can help Norcross High and its feeder schools continue to reduce the impact of poverty on education. They want to develop pathways to success for Norcross and Peachtree Corners students that could encourage them to return home to build their careers.

The plan to provide a safety net of support will be unveiled Monday after a special reception at Norcross High, 5300 Spalding Drive. The event is open to the public.

"This is an investment in the future of students and the economy in Norcross," said Brian Abernathy, a director at the Georgia Center for Opportunity. "Every student in the Norcross Schools Cluster will have access to the necessary support they need to succeed academically, graduate, seek post-secondary training at a trade school or college, and to enter a meaningful, self-sustaining career."

Breakthrough Norcross’ White House Reception, catered by former White House executive chef Walter Scheib, will feature dishes that were the favorites of the presidents that he served.

During the event, organizations, churches and businesses that will partner in the Breakthrough Norcross project will be recognized. They include: Robert D. Fowler Family YMCA; The Gifted Education Foundation; The Growing Leaders Foundation; The Innerman Group; The Norcross Cooperative Ministry; Norcross First United Methodist Church; The Southwest Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce; Norcross Head Start; and Teach for America, among others.

The Center for Opportunity will teach some its partners how to use student performance data to help tailor programs to meet student needs.

"We are fortunate to have Georgia Center for Opportunity in this area of southwest Gwinnett county," said Kim Dorough, member services director of the Southwest Gwinnett Chamber. ”They are an amazing organization that will help our area non-profits create extraordinary impact in our schools, first in the Norcross Cluster, then statewide. By working together towards shared goals and metrics, the non-profits will be able to increase our impact … There is a real energy being created. We all see the possibilities. We are excited about Breakthrough Norcross and what it will mean for our students."

Another Breakthrough partner, Mark Thornell, executive director of Fowler Family YMCA, said Breakthrough Norcross' goals are in line with the YMCA’s strategic mission to improve student achievement. Working with the outreach will lead to greater collaboration between organizations helping kids, said Thornell. Agencies will share information about programs and look for help from other partner organizations in areas where they are deficient.

"If all of the different organizations out there are working together and not against each other, we can actually make some noticeable change not only in preschool, but with adolescents, high school students and in post-secondary education," said Thornell.

Students benefitting from the multi-agency support network may be more likely to seek post secondary education and return to Norcross to "give back to the community," he added.

Chris Saunders, president of the Norcross High School Foundation of Excellence, said the coalition of support for students is evidence of the community's commitment to Norcross High.

"Good communities make good schools," Saunders said. "The Norcross community typically supports the high school. Academically, artistically, athletically, Norcross High is a good school."

For more information on Breakthrough Norcross, visit georgiaopportunity.org/our-approach/ or call (770) 242-0001. To RSVP for Breakthrough’s free White House Reception, visit eventbrite.com/e/breakthrough-norcross-white-house-reception-tickets-9443404477.


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