By Jennifer Henn, executive director; Jennifer Bartl, LMFT, CEO; and Jennifer Greenlee, LCSW, chief program officer, COR
COR — not an acronym but a way of life. The root word of courage is cor, the Latin word for heart. And our work is guided by our courageous hearts. COR was started in 2019 by three like-minded friends – Jennifer Bartl, Jennifer Greenlee and Jennifer Henn. Yep, you read that right—three Jennifers. We’ve earned the nickname Jennerators because we make big things happen. In three short years, we created a community of support for students and families at Carver STEAM High School in Atlanta. We started by asking ourselves one question: “What if all students had access to everything they needed to be successful at school?” With over 30 years in the human services field between us, we knew that in order to answer that question, we needed to address the history of race- and poverty-based inequities in education. And to make a difference in the lives of historically under-resourced youth, we should be serving students where they spend the bulk of their days—at school.
COR provides support to ensure that nonacademic barriers don’t get in the way of student success. First, we housed a grocery store inside the school, stocked with fresh foods from Second Helpings Atlanta, clothes, household items and all the hygiene necessities. We know that when basic needs are met, students can focus on learning.
Next, we worked with our initial cohort of students to build The HUB, a student drop-in center. They come for snacks, help with homework, to play PS4 and to chill with their friends. But they get much more than that. They receive emotional support and a relationship with a trusted adult. It’s grown over the years into a lunchtime, afterschool and even summertime destination for many!
Third and maybe most important, COR equips students with life skills, including social, emotional health, conflict resolution and resiliency. Some may call these ‘soft skills’ but we know that in the current climate of divisiveness, ‘hard skills’ are necessary to move tough conversations forward. COR asks, “What’s your COR?” Once youth know what’s important to them and what they value or stand for, they are taught how best to speak up for change, how to show up for themselves and their peers, and how to be an advocate in all spaces they enter.
COR’s school-based behavioral health and wraparound services are provided in partnership with Purpose Built Schools Atlanta, where students are given opportunities to thrive. Most recently, we received funding to provide vital supportive services to assist families during the relocation from the Forest Cove apartment complex in southeast Atlanta. Carver STEAM families who reside in the condemned property are receiving two years of intense wraparound care support as they transition to their new homes.