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Innovative ‘Hubs’ Provide Space to Learn, Socialize and Heal

May 12, 2022
In North Carolina, one school district is reaching vulnerable students with personalized support

The COVID-19 pandemic hit students hard in Guilford County, North Carolina, a sprawling district that serves just shy of 70,000 urban and rural students in and around Greensboro.

School shutdowns during the pandemic led to learning loss, plummeting attendance and social disengagement, particularly for students who weren’t able to log on remotely.

To address the crisis facing their community, Guilford County Schools initially created “learning hubs” during the pandemic to ensure that the most vulnerable students could access the internet, their school work and extra support.

As schools have reopened, these hubs have transformed into something far more holistic – providing students with a more personal, tailored learning experience that increases achievement and builds relationships in a relaxed, social setting.

'Learning Hubs' Boost Academic, Social Skills Lost Amid Pandemic
In North Carolina, Guilford County Schools created a personalized, flexible learning program to help at-risk students recover from learning loss and build stronger connections with teachers and classmates.

Each in-person hub is a space where students can extend learning beyond the traditional day. They receive services ranging from tutoring and college prep to social-emotional support and enrichment activities.

The district uses a Harvard-backed algorithm to identify students most at risk of not graduating, and then invites students and their families to participate. To encourage attendance, the hubs also offset transportation costs for families in need, provide meals and fun incentives, and compensate students who meet attendance goals. As Guilford continues to better understand the evolving needs of students and families, the hubs will evolve alongside them.

The Walton Family Foundation is proud to support Guilford’s goal of providing a more flexible learning experience for all its students – one that increases achievement, a love of learning and ultimately, graduation.

We talked to educators, students and families in Guilford County about how these learning hubs are helping students recover academic skills while building relationships and a new sense of community in schools:

Dr. Sharon Contreras, Superintendent, Guilford County Schools

We allowed each high school to innovate, to take the time to figure out what would work best for their student population.

We also asked the students what they needed and they were very honest with us. It was a reminder to never exclude student voice. They know better than we do what supports they need to be successful.

Learning hubs may seem like a small thing, but when they help students catch up, when they allow them to pursue their dream of college or their dream of a job that pays them well and can take care of their families, it means a great deal to us, because that's changing the lives of our students forever.

Tywon Turner, 10th Grade Student, Ben L. Smith High School

Growing up on the south side of Greensboro, it was rough, I had my good times and my bad times. I'm proud that I grew up in this area because it helps me understand where I get my braveness from.

Getting involved in the learning hub helped me a lot. I have extra resources. It’s a place of learning and a place where you can get comfort. You can talk to people about the things that are bothering you, or about the problems that you have in your life. And, I’ll admit it, maybe learning hub is a social event for me. But at the same time, at least I'm in a classroom.

Gwen Adamson, Grandmother to Daniela and Santiago, Southwest High School

I'm 70 years old, and high school was the most favorite time of my life. For Daniela and Santiago, I could see in them that it wasn't that way.

The pandemic was horrible for them. Some days when I would call, they'd be in bed in pajamas with their laptops. When we finally went back to school, I was elated. And when I heard about the learning hub, I thought, ‘Yep, this is what we need.’

We started learning hub mainly for the academics, but I've seen so much social improvement, especially with Daniela, who was so introverted. She has blossomed. She's a different child. She comes home and she'll sit with me while I'm cooking and tell me about her day.

It also has helped them stay on top of their work, especially for Santiago, who really waits until the last minute.

My hope is that for Santiago and Daniela, they will embrace learning and get a good grip on themselves before they fly away.

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