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The Hub is under construction at Gainesville High. Here’s what it is and who it will help
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Tonya Sanders, director of The Hub at Gainesville High School, stands in the space that will be used for community forums, job fairs and workshops once The Hub opens in January. - photo by Kelsey Podo

A highly anticipated one-stop resource center is quickly becoming a reality at Gainesville High School. 

Walking through the newly constructed rooms and hallways of The Hub, it’s not hard to imagine it buzzing with activity — students picking up clothing or food if they’re in need, seeking counseling services or just meeting up with other students to collaborate on schoolwork.

Plans for The Hub, as it has since been named, were announced in March as officials expanded the school systems  “wraparound” services initiative into a full-fledged student success center.

The Hub, which will be located in the former media center, will connect students with academic mentors; behavioral and mental health support; college and career activities; and assist with providing basic needs through additions like a food pantry and clothing closet.

The Hub’s director, Tonya Sanders, said the next step includes breathing life into the center with painted walls, furniture and technology. Through the efforts of Carroll Daniel Construction, she said the center is on track to open in January. 

“My hope is that when you walk through the hallways it looks similar to a class change, where everyone is going in and out of different rooms to get services,” Sanders said. “The same students who may need to swing in and pick up a few food items, also will go next door and figure out what their post-secondary options are.”

The construction for The Hub was funded through the 28th annual Medical Center Open Golf Tournament, which raised a record-breaking $340,000.

Sanders said the amount exceeded their goal of $300,000, which more than covered the construction costs for the facility. 

The Hub’s 10-person staff consists of counselors who are already salaried employees at Gainesville City Schools. Because of this, only construction funds were needed for The Hub.

Over the past months, Sanders has helped design the layout of the center, choosing the resources that will go into certain rooms.

The services offered at The Hub were decided via surveys that students completed  two-and-a-half years ago. Sanders also gathered data through reading graduation stories, which the school requires every senior to complete. 

“Something universal with every student was the fear of the unknown,” Sanders said. “A lot of it was that they’re proud to be first-generation college students but scared because they don’t know what’s next.”

The main space of the former media center has already transformed into an open room for workshops, community forums, job fairs and other gatherings. It contains three extra rooms, which can be used for break-out sessions at events. 

The Hub also includes a technology center with whiteboards and computer stations to promote collaborative work. 

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The Hub will be a one-stop center for students and families in Hall County to seek resources including help with academic and workforce development, as well as mental and behavioral health services. Construction should be complete by January. - photo by Kelsey Podo

“We want our students to be comfortable with technology and problem solving together, so this is just a fun space to do that,” Sanders said. 

The clothing boutique lies to the right and down the hall from the entrance.

Whether a student needs to wash clothes during school or pick out a free new outfit, the boutique is designed to meet those basic needs. 

Sanders said the University of North Georgia’s education students have taken the lead collecting clothing donations.

For job fairs, she said the boutique will turn into a space with professional attire for parents who need job-appropriate clothing. 

Sanders said The Hub’s biggest community partners include United Way, Avita, the University of North Georgia’s College of Education, Boys & Girls Clubs of Lanier, Georgia Mountain Food Bank, Center Point and The Junior League. 

“I think what we have realized through this over the last couple of months is that while we have our staff here of about 10 people, this place will be sustainable only if community agencies keep it flowing,” Sanders said. “The more we have community agencies coming in, that’s where the livelihood is.”

When The Hub opens in January, she anticipates a huge influx of visitors. 

Sanders said she wants the community to know that The Hub is not just for Gainesville City Schools, it’s for families in Hall County. 

“This is just a center that is able to support the full spectrum of our students and families,” Sanders said. “So, that whatever their post-secondary plans are, it can instill in them more hope, when it may have been lost along the way.”