Wraparound Transformation Center to Provide Essential Non-Academic Services and Supplies

By J.D. Herman

Students returning to classes at Westbury High School, located in the Brays Oaks Management District, will have extra resources available as they begin the new year thanks to the grand opening of the school’s new Wraparound Transformation Center (WTC). The center, a first-of-its-kind in Houston, is part of a growing national initiative to provide non-academic, “wraparound” support to high-risk students and their families by embedding community resource partners within schools. These comprehensive resource hubs offer a localized approach that relies on the collective action of committed community, professional, and cross-system groups to mobilize resources that best support the needs of students. The Westbury center includes a dedicated space on campus with access to free services and supplies like healthy snacks, hygiene kits, student laundry room, food pantry, schools supplies, mentors, crisis intervention counselors, and healthcare.

Cheers erupted from the students as Principal Susan Monaghan congratulated the team behind the center’s success. “We are ‘group effort’ in this school all of the time,” says Principal Monaghan. “And that is what the Wraparound Transformation Center is all about, making sure we all are doing everything that we can for our kids.” That message was echoed by Wraparound Specialist Craig Zeno, who was responsible for shepherding the idea for the WTC into a fully supported community resource hub. “We have kids, families coming in up until 8 or 9 o’clock at night,” he says. “They just need someone to support them.”

The Wraparound Transformation Center at Westbury High School truly is a community supported program. Representatives from across the district came to champion the new center, the HISD team, and most importantly the students. BOMD Executive Director Ben Brewer and BOMD Board Member Cindy Chapman were in attendance, along with other Brays Oaks organizations (SW 2000, Westbury Civic Association) who recognize the important role the center plays in bringing hope to the community. Other collaborators include Change Happens, City of Houston, Houston Community College, Workforce Solutions, Ascending to Men Project and a strategic partnership with Kroger to stock the food pantry.

HISD Superintendent Grenita Lathan heaped praise upon the team, calling Westbury the “lighthouse” but saved her highest regards to Mr. Zeno. “Everyone in the district wants to replicate this model and steal his ideas,” noting that all HISD schools will have a Wraparound Specialist by 2022. “We have to take care of our kids by focusing on social, emotional, and physical needs first.”

The focus on tackling non-academic needs is what sets the Wraparound Transformation Center apart from other initiatives and Principal Monaghan is committed to providing anything and everything for her Westbury students. “Come to us, talk to us,” she encourages. “Tell us what you need.” The school has also positioned students as Wraparound Ambassadors in order to better understand what those needs are and help raise student awareness of the resources available at the center. The ambassadors are the “eyes and ears” of the project and helped create a video about the WTC’s many services.

WTC is a unique and amazing program that will help foster success in our young people. Brays Oaks Management District is lucky to have such a robust support available to help nourish and support our area high school students and their families. Everyone at HISD and Westbury  High School that worked to create this program deserve the communities heartfelt gratitude. Well done!