augusta free press news

Two $300K grants will enable Waynesboro Schools to implement new programs

By Rebecca J. Barnabi
For Augusta Free Press

waynesboro schools
Students at Waynesboro High School hard at work. Photo courtesy Waynesboro Public Schools.

WAYNESBORO — In the 2019-2020 academic year, Waynesboro Schools received two $50,000 Extended Year Planning Grants from the Commonwealth of Virginia for the planning of programs at Waynesboro High School and Kate Collins Middle School.

Last week, the school system announced the awarding of two $300,000 grants for the implementation of programs.

Denise Cotter of Staunton will serve as Community Outreach and Extended Year Grants Manager.

“There’s just a lot of excitement,” said Cotter of the $300,000 grants, which the two schools will have an opportunity to reapply for and make renewable for up to three years.

At the high school’s CTE, the school system’s Building Trades evening class programs will be completed, including a plan for spring course offerings and boot camps in the summer.

“We want to offer [courses] in the summer that will keep that momentum going,” Cotter said.

At the middle school, students will work with Alleghany Mountain Institute to grow a community garden on a quarter acre of land at White’s Spring Valley Farm on Hopeman Parkway.

Cotter said a full-time farm manager will begin in January.

Students hope to grow 10,000 pounds of produce for Kate Collins Middle’s cafeteria.

High school students, according to Cotter, have a plan of three areas to focus on with the grant funds: community health, workforce development and reaching the local community.

Augusta Health and AMI will partner with high school students in working on community health. Cotter said a mindfulness workshop for students is already planned as a partnership between the high school and the Waynesboro YMCA.

In workforce development, students will discover what local businesses are looking for in potential employees.

“And develop our programs for our students to work toward those needs,” Cotter said.

A four-week after-school training program is underway and ‘’giving them those real workforce skills.”

“It’s community driven, it’s student driven, and that’s what our community needs,” Cotter said of the programs that the grants will make possible for Waynesboro Schools to implement.

Cotter, who grew up in Nashville and graduated high school just outside Washington D.C., holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing communications from Mary Baldwin University and a bachelor of arts degree in early childhood development from Georgia State University.

She moved to Staunton in 2004.

Cotter comes to her role with Waynesboro Schools from the American Frontier Culture Foundation, an arm of the Frontier Culture Museum in Staunton.

Cotter said that the museum is bringing education of the history of frontier culture to students virtually.

“They’re making every effort to bring these lessons to them,” she said.

Before the foundation, Cotter served as manager of Gypsy Hill Place in Staunton.

Cotter’s first steps as she joins Waynesboro Schools is meeting with community partners and determining their needs, working with school faculty and administration, and managing the grant funds by determining the best use of the funds. She is also creating a working plan to implement the many ideas for the grant funds effectively.

While Cotter has several goals to reach for, the most important is for the community to see that Waynesboro Schools is not just for Waynesboro students. Waynesboro Schools is for the community.