BY LOGAN MCCOURTNEY –
Families are the structure and foundation for many children’s success socially, academically, and professionally. A solid foundation and structure can prove to be beneficial for years to come. This belief is held by Ouachita River School District and Rhonda Willborg, their Student Services Coordinator. The Student Services Coordinator is a new position at ORSD that just started at the beginning of the school year.
Rhonda and her family moved back to Mena in 2004 and she started her teaching career at Acorn Elementary as a Kindergarten teacher. She taught for 13 years before transitioning to her current position. Rhonda’s husband Bobby works in the area and her two kids, Jaden and Jeb, both go to Acorn.
Prior to moving back to Mena, Rhonda was serving as a research assistant at UAMS. It is quite the accomplishment to go to college and graduate, but Rhonda actually holds two degrees. Rhonda first acquired her degree in Sociology in 1991, but later went back to school to get her degree in Early Childhood Education. Commenting on her two degrees Rhonda said, “I always loved students, and I wanted to teach and make an impact.”
It is Rhonda’s desire to make an impact in the lives of students that earned her the opportunity to work in Student Services. “Our administration and staff saw a need and an opportunity for outreach to our families in the school community. Teaching doesn’t just mean focusing on the academics, which our teachers do a great job, but it’s hard for students to function if they have other stressers going on in their lives. Not only are our kids important to us, but so are our families and that is where this position really came from,” explains Rhonda. She really understands that there is so much more affecting student’s success in the classroom other than students understanding a lesson. Students need to know that they are cared about for more than just their academic performance so ORSD and Rhonda are trying to better understand how they can serve the students and their families.
The services that are provided are pretty extensive and Rhonda and the staff at Acorn are trying to find other ways that they can help. “In this position, we are able to help families connect to services they may need. It could be helping them receive counseling if they need it, clothes, food, or maybe help the parents filling out the application for AR Kids,” says Rhonda. Both Acorn and Rhonda understand that a big component to students’ success not only in school, but life as well, is dependent on their families, so they are doing everything they can to aide in this process. Rhonda stated, “Any need that our families have, we want to try to help with. I serve as a mediator between the families and the resources that they may need such as doctors, dentists, or more food for the weekend. I spend my time trying to research the best resources in our community to meet the needs of our students and families. If I don’t know what that resource is then I will spend time figuring it out.” Rhonda’s love for students from her time teaching has spilled over into her new position, which allows for her to flourish as she serves the family. “Hopefully we get into the teaching profession because we want to make a difference in the lives of students. Now in my current position, I don’t just have the students in view, but try to view the students and their family as one structure. With this is mind, we try to serve the family and in doing so, we make the student’s lives better as well,” said Rhonda.
Rhonda has a heart for the students at ORSD and their success. Her desire to see healthy students and make an impact has spilled over into the family life. She stated, “We just want families and students to know that we are here and care about them. We never want them to feel like they don’t have somebody that cares.” It’s really clear that Rhonda has the passion for such a position. Not only does she have experience in the school system and knows what it takes to help students be successful, but she has a heart to do more than help students make good grades, Rhonda wants to help positively impact their lives.
Dale Carnegie once said, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.” If you talk to Rhonda about the students at ORSD it becomes clear that she cares so much about her community, the families, and the students. For more information on the services that Rhonda or Acorn Schools can provide you can call 479-394-2348.