Wilson Education Partnership builds relationships between students and community
When Wilson Education Partnership (WEP) first joined IEI’s Educational Attainment community cohort, they were doing a little bit of everything to support educational attainment in the classroom—bringing in speakers from local businesses and industries, hosting career fairs, facilitating job shadowing, developing a video series on local careers, and more. Over the past year, WEP has decided to focus on one impactful program called “Communicating with Confidence.” The program combines the strengths of many of their previous efforts and aims to support students and teachers through the development of soft skills and community relationships.
As of spring 2023, high school junior English classes at three Wilson County schools participated in “Communicating with Confidence,” and the program will expand to include five schools in the fall. Robin Williams, the executive director and sole staff member of WEP, facilitates relationships with leaders in the community and connects them with teachers in Wilson County schools. The vetted community members spend time with students in one-on-one interviews, help them identify their strengths, and provide expertise in communication skills, career coaching, resume building and more, ultimately leading to greater self-confidence for the students.
“Kids walk into the interviews very apprehensive. When they walk out, they’re grinning from ear to ear, because they feel like somebody has just believed in them,” said Williams.
One of the most remarkable aspects of the program is the surge in community engagement. The number of community members volunteering as interviewers has skyrocketed from just seven to 85. Students often find solace in discussing personal challenges beyond educational concerns with community members, enhancing their self-esteem and overall confidence.
While “Communicating with Confidence” takes center stage, WEP hasn’t neglected its other initiatives. The “Learning with the Locals” video series persists, helping students explore career options in the surrounding community. Moreover, the addition of a job board and mental health resources to the WEP website showcases their commitment to holistic student development.
Williams credits WEP’s participation in the IEI cohort as a significant factor in their programmatic changes. Networking with others in the IEI cohort has allowed WEP and its board to learn from others with similar missions, challenges and opportunities.
“There’s been so much that’s been accomplished this year,” said Williams. “It has been the best year that we’ve ever had.”
Wilson Education Partnership is one of five community-based organizations chosen by IEI as part of the 2022 Emerging Issues Forum community cohort on educational attainment in NC.