New Heights Community Resource Center
The Tuscaloosa City Schools are transforming an empty space in what was formerly Stillman Heights into a community resource center that can serve as a hub for local nonprofit agencies.
The effort is part of the school system’s strategic plan and idea to focus on the whole child. The agencies will work closely with TCS students and their families to ensure needs are being met. The location is also home to TCS’s STARS Academy, an alternative program. By having the agencies on site, the hope is that it will better serve the students at STARS, but also all TCS students and their families.
The proposed center, which is funded through city school funds, will focus on needs based on education, homeless and homelessness prevention services, youth services, mental health and health services. Five community partners have already committed to be based in the center, including the Boys and Girls Club of West Alabama, Schoolyard Roots, Habitat for Humanity of Tuscaloosa, Five Horizons Health, the Kristen Amerson Foundation and Fuerza Multicultral de Tuscaloosa.
“This will provide consistent, direct services to our students and their families, while giving these nonprofits office space at a low cost to help them serve the community,” TCS Superintendent Dr. Mike Daria said. Plans for the center were first proposed last year as an effort to bring community services together and collaborate to make them more accessible, while also utilizing unused space in a building owned by the city schools. As part of the partnership, TCS will offer the space to the organizations, who will in turn pay a small fee to cover utilities and maintenance costs. TCS hopes to open the center to its initial community partners this fall.
Certain spaces in the center, like the library and gym, are being renovated. The school’s library will serve as both a welcome center for the New Heights Center, as well as a community space that can be used for meetings. Upstairs classrooms will be used by the agencies as office space. There is also a hope that a public playground will be built at the center to further the idea that the building serves the community. However, funds for the playground have not yet been allocated.
“We are still looking for agencies to take part in this center, as well as others who can help us bring this vision to fruition, as the need is so great,” Daria said.
The Stillman Heights building, located on 21st Street East in West End, will continue to be home to its STARS Academy.