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Empowering Parents During Crisis

Gestalt Community Schools

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(June 9, 2021) Gestalt Community Schools was awarded $50,000 in operating support from the Mid-South COVID-19 Regional Response Fund in fall 2020, a grant that helped the charter school operator build on momentum that the Community Foundation had already helped it create.

Gestalt operates five K-12 schools, all in the Hickory Hill neighborhood. It takes a holistic, “village” approach to helping their students, parents, and its entire community succeed. 

In 2018, as part of our MLK50: The Next Step Forward grant round, the Community Foundation awarded Gestalt $25,000 to launch the Parent Village Project: creating a physical resource center where parents can use computers and laundry facilities and establishing a Parent Advisory Council (PAC)—a PTA of sorts, with peer-to-peer support and feedback loops to help the schools and the families share issues and solutions. 

The project promotes ongoing, school-based support and mentoring to the families of its 2,400 low-income, predominantly minority students to mitigate factors that impact their success. 

“Our work on our MLK50 grant increased parent engagement from 28 percent to 43 percent within one year,” says Yetta Lewis, Gestalt co-founder and CEO. “The Community Foundation invested in this one small idea that has really mushroomed.”

During the coronavirus crisis, the PAC became more critical to helping Gestalt families weather a difficult and uncertain time. The number of PAC leaders expanded from 25 to 50, helping address problems like food insecurity and issues with homelessness and depression. Gestalt provided each of its families’ homes with Internet access, hosted drive-through COVID testing and vaccine education, and created Spanish-language health and education resources for its rapidly growing Latinx population.

“What sets the Community Foundation of Greater Memphis apart is the amount of support they’re pouring into our schools,” says Dominique Sherrod, PAC president and Gestalt parent. “Our parents are getting to see first-hand how much they care about what happens, and how much they care about our kids and making sure they have the best resources.”

Watch the video below to see more about how the Community Foundation is supporting Gestalt Community Schools families. 


Excerpted from the 2021 Community Foundation Annual Report