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‘Go forth…and do great things.’ Southeast Guilford wins prestigious award for plan to improve high school transition, mental health resources

The Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro granted Southeast Guilford High School $12,000.

GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. — Inside the sprawling square footage of Southeast Guilford High School, the falcons fly to the beat of the same drum.

"Go forth, young people and do great things," exclaimed principal Christopher Scott with a smile in talking about the school's unofficial motto.

He explained, "You'll hear students say, 'I'm doing great things, I'm doing great things, so we're able to have a conversation about what those great things are.'"

Scott is a tenured GCS teacher-turned principal in 2022, becoming Southeast's first new leader in nearly a decade and inheriting a complicated post-pandemic rubric. He stepped into the principalship at a time when the state's report card showed a decline in academic performance, and the school did not meet its academic growth range.

"We needed to make sure that didn't happen again. That's where we focus on teacher clarity and what teachers are learning. It had high yield for us. Our proficiency scores went up in nearly every subject area," Scott said.

Biology teacher Kenya Jenkins, who has spent her entire teaching career at Southeast, agreed.

"It's only uphill from here. COVID took a hit on everybody, but we re-grouped, and we just have to find what's working well for us and build upon that," she said.

Jenkins and Spanish teacher Robinson Bustos have witnessed a communal belonging breeding success.

"The first year I came here, I was impressed when I went to the teacher lounge, and I found the snacks -- all the snacks -- and you don't have to pay for it. I said, 'You know, somebody's thinking of you, your wellbeing,'" Bustos smiled.

Yet, wellbeing, oftentimes, wears a price 

"One of the things I've noticed is, monetarily, money can become a barrier to doing something," Scott admitted.


That observation is why Scott applied for the 2023 Humphrey Award -- $12,000 gifted annually by the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and Community Foundation of Greater Greensboro to a school aiming to improve student outcomes. Out of 14 applicants, Southeast won...with a plan to leave no penny unspent.

Scott plans to use nearly a fifth of the Humphrey Award money to transform the school's currently-bland e-therapy space into a safe haven, equipped with sensory furniture.


"Mental health is a major thing for teenagers in high school. It also helps with grades to get that 95% passing average for graduating," said ROTC sophomore and psychology club secretary Addison Taylor.

ROTC senior Mikayla McKoy agreed.

"Pushing to support others' mental health is really important, because a lot of people are scared to speak out on their own mental health," she said.

Taylor, McKoy and their fellow cadets attest the road to emotional health hinges largely on laying groundwork.

"Every teacher was respectful. They would just support and help," said senior Isabelle Fields in describing her first years at Southeast.


That help is what another $3,000 of Humphrey Award money will support, quarterly, for eighth graders embarking on the high school journey.

ROTC senior Lucinda Beverly explained, "I really appreciate the sense of community here. The middle school is right next door. You really go to high school with people you already know. "

Scott added, "The quicker we're able to make a connection with the students, the more likely they are to have success throughout that four years."

He knows funding those four years is fundamental, as dreams take shape. "Great things," as Southeast Falcons know, mean sky...is the limit.

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