Community Builder: Leaphart Elementary Principal bridges school and community

Community Builder: Leaphart Elementary Principal bridges school and community

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - You've likely heard the saying "It takes a village to raise a child,” and in the community around Leaphart Elementary School in Lexington-Richland School District 5, the whole village is involved in the betterment of the school.

Teachers, students, and parents say that's largely because of Principal Kelly Brown, and that's why they nominated her as a Community Builder.

“She's energetic, fun, and she gets involved with not only the students and the staff, but the parents,” parent Gwen Longino said.

Longino adds Principal Brown has made it her mission to make sure everyone is connected, and Brown said there's a reason.

“Research shows that families, communities, and schools partnering together improve student achievement and provides that support to all of our students,” Brown said.

Brown served as vice principal for two years at the engineering magnet school before becoming Leaphart's principal two years ago.

“This is her fourth year here at our school, and I've been here eight years,” Leapharts' lead teacher Denise Collins-Bennett said. “So I've been able to watch our school grow under her leadership and to see the difference she's made in the culture within our teachers and staff and the way she takes our school out to the community and brings the community into the school.”

Brown has invited local businesses to the school through a program called “Connections” simply so they can learn what Leaphart is all about. She's brought in community mentors to work one-on-one with students, while also launching a program called Real Men Read, inviting 100 men from the community to come read to students. Brown has even started a partnership with Grace Fellowship, a local church.

“We partner with a local church to provide clothing donations to our community and so once a month we give out free clothes to the community surrounding Leaphart,” Brown said.

WIS originally told Brown that we were at Leaphart to do a story about bridging the gap between communities and schools, that's when Mary Mungo walked in to surprise Brown with the news that she was chosen as our latest Community Builder in partnership with Mungo Homes.

“We'd like to recognize you as this week's Community Builder,” Mungo said. “We're going to donate $1,000 to any charity that you choose.”

Even in the midst of the honor, Brown chose to put the spotlight elsewhere.

"We were just talking about how important the community is and how you can't do it the best that you know how without the community,” Brown added.

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