New Hillwood community room serves families in need

Hillwood Pantry

Families of MNPS students in the Hillwood cluster who need food, clothing, diapers, school supplies, and other items have a new place to get them: the community room at Hillwood High School.

The new room, located on the back side of the school off Hickory Valley Road, is packed with canned goods, pancake mix, pasta, and other dry foods; shirts; pants; shoes; socks; toiletries, and other supplies to help a family get through a challenging day or week.

The facility will be open Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays from the start of the school day until 2:30 pm. It’s a project of ‘Community Achieves,’ the MNPS initiative that brings community partners into more than 30 schools to provide wraparound services to students and families.

“Our school for a year was a city food distribution site, and as things changed in our society, we thought of ways to offer resources in a more sustainable way during the school year and as the pandemic ebbed and flowed,” said Jeremy Quinonez, the Community Achieves site manager at Hillwood.

“And so this kind of became the idea, to have a space at the high school with operational hours where families knew they could be there and always count on somebody to be served. And so this is just the start. We have another room that we’re developing for mental health.”

‘Community Achieves’ site manager Jeremy Quinonez with former NFL player Michael Oher.

Along with tours of the space led by Hillwood’s Student Ambassadors, the launch event for the community room on Thursday featured Michael Oher, a former NFL offensive tackle who played for the Baltimore Ravens, Tennessee Titans, and Carolina Panthers and now lives in Nashville. Oher, the subject of the Michael Lewis book (and movie) The Blind Side, grew up poor in Memphis and said he regularly stole food to survive.

Oher said the community room will be a critical resource for many students and families.

“When I came and saw this, I immediately thought that I was the poster child for it,” he said.

Most of the Community Achieves schools have community resource rooms, but they generally don’t have set hours, said Alison McArthur, director of Community Achieves for the district. Some of the spaces are also used for partner programming and classes for families, she said.

Quinonez said the new room at Hillwood embodies the MNPS vision of ensuring that every student is known and on a path to success.

“When every student’s need is met, we will see thriving young adults with strong futures here in Nashville,” Quinonez said. “The Hillwood Cluster Community Room is a welcoming place for all families and students in the West Nashville area. This is not a place that simply gives away essential items, but it is a welcoming space that our families and students feel comfortable in coming into.”

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