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Community Schools to solidify success under United Way of Greater Knoxville

August 18, 2023

Transition benefits students, families, educators, neighborhoods and Knox County

Thousands of Knox County Community School students returned to classrooms in August with more opportunity than ever before because of the initiative’s transition to United Way of Greater Knoxville.

“With United Way of Greater Knoxville, Community Schools can achieve its full potential,” said Matt Ryerson, chief executive officer of United Way of Greater Knoxville. “Our organization’s abilities to unite people, distribute critical resources, strengthen communities and solve systemic issues is exactly what Community Schools needs to serve Knox County residents now and continue to grow and expand its efforts.”

Community Schools are public schools, intentionally located in the most marginalized areas of Knox County, that provide services to help students, educators, families and neighborhoods thrive. The model removes non-academic barriers that prevent children from being mentally present and engaged at school, advancing learning and enriching lives.

In March 2023, the Knox County Board of Education voted to allow United Way of Greater Knoxville to take operational control of Community Schools. The organization assumed oversight of the initiative in July 2023.

“Until now, Community Schools has been managed by education-focused entities that, while experts in teaching our youth, didn’t have full access to the network of wrap-around services that support students outside of the classroom,” said Adam Fritts, director of Community Schools. “Our recommitment to the Community Schools strategy will lead to better outcomes for not only children but their families, educators, neighborhoods and all of Knox County.”

United Way of Greater Knoxville works with more than 200 local nonprofits that Community Schools can access. The transition significantly expands assistance to those in need at a central location. A full-time coordinator will be at each Community School to ensure services reach people and make a meaningful difference where it matters most.

Non-profit partnerships will be utilized to address the four pillars of Community Schools including: Shared Collaborative Leadership, Expanded Enrichment Opportunities, Family & Community Engagement and Integrated Student Supports. United Way of Greater Knoxville’s approach also will maximize Community Schools’ impact, going beyond the basic needs of students to prepare them for long-term success.

“This school year is just the beginning for Community Schools’ new era,” Fritts said. “We are eager to welcome and start working with students, educators, families, partners and neighbors to make our whole community stronger, healthier and primed for the opportunities ahead.”

About United Way of Greater Knoxville

United Way of Greater Knoxville (UWGK) is part of United Way Worldwide, the largest charitable organization in the world. With over 100 years of impacting our community, we are proud to be the problem-solvers actively working to create a community where all our Knoxville neighbors can thrive.

Our mission is to create an equitable community through partnerships, impact and commitment to transformation. Today, we support over 90 nonprofit organizations and impact areas such as education, economic mobility and health.

UWGK is committed to being a change-maker in our community, creating a more equitable Knoxville with stable housing, financial security, quality early care and education, access to food and more. For more information, visit