Leland and Gray Union Middle and High School is located in the West River Valley of southeastern Vermont in a small rural town called Townshend. Serving Grades 7 through 12 from ten towns, it is a full-service school that, in collaboration with local partners, serve the educational and developmental needs and aspirations of the whole child.
Over the past six years, Leland and Gray increased academic expectations by adding Advanced Placement courses and support classes beginning in seventh grade, thereby detracking the student body into one college-preparatory curriculum. With these barriers removed, the school then focused on the other factors impeding academic progress. In addition to expanding the role of the school social worker, the school partnered with mental health clinicians in order to reach all struggling students. These professionals provide services to 30% of the student body over the course of the school year.
Teachers participated in Mindfulness training and implemented the practices in their classes. The administration developed tight procedures to address students’ mental health crises, along with providing support for parents, in collaboration with the local mental health agency. With Grace Cottage Hospital one block away, Leland and Gray allows students access to a full range of medical services. When some students were found to lack dental care, the school fundraised to provide cleanings, checkups, and treatment with the local dentist.
Leland and Gray found partners for their work. The Stratton Foundation’s generosity has allowed every student without insurance to receive dental care and a 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant, brought dozens of academic, recreational, arts, and athletic opportunities after school and in the summer for students. Another partner is West River Valley Thrives, a substance abuse prevention coalition, to bring education and activities that inspire students to lead substance-free lives.
Caring for the whole child in a rural community struggling with poverty has made Leland and Gray a true school of opportunity.