How Old Coppinville found new life

The Coppinville School of Opportunity

“Historic Coppinville” or “Old Coppinville” has been serving the community since it opened its doors in 1960, whether its as a high school, junior high school or as it operates now as the Coppinville School of Opportunity.

Through cooperation of the City of Enterprise, Enterprise City Schools, the Coffee County Commission and various organizations, the school is now home to four different organizations that serve the Enterprise community.

“In my brief period in office, it’s probably the best example of collaboration between multiple different government entities partnering to put an asset of the communities back into use,” said Enterprise City Councilman Turner Townsend.

When CJHS’ doors were set to close in May of 2018 after the completed construction of the junior high school’s new building, Townsend said a conversation he had sometime in 2017 with Councilwoman Sonya Rich and Mayor Bill Cooper led to the idea.

“That building is such an asset for this side of town and wouldn’t it be great to—number one—keep the building in use? Nothing will hurt a neighborhood more than a big eyesore, a big vacant building for places to people to loiter, squat and all those things.”

Turner said the three agreed that the building would be a great place for a Boys and Girls Club and with Rich and Cooper’s “blessing,” he set out to go contract the Girls and Boys Club of the Wiregrass.

Enterprise City Schools held a similar stance regarding putting the building back to use, according to Assistant Superintendent Dr. Patrick Cain.

“The stance of the school system has always been to try and use our facilities to their maximum or to their greatest purpose,” Cain said. “What we’ve realized over the years is that when you’re not using a building, they get dilapidated, run down and there’s more problems with them than if they are being used.”

Boys and Girls Club Enterprise Unit

Townsend approached the Boys and Club of the Wiregrass Executive Director Phillip Gilley about the opportunity to open a branch in Enterprise. Gilley said he was on board from the beginning.

“I was very interested in doing it because with me—being a part of the Boys and Girls Club—I want to help as many kids as I can if it’s feasible, if it’s possible and economically if it can happen, I’d like it, too. That’s why we have five locations, we’re trying to provide services and positive impact for as many youth as we can.”

After this initial discussion, Townsend said that the action was taken fast.

“They knew there was a need, and they knew there was a scenario that would work for them,” Townsend said. “So then we brought (ECS Superintendent) Greg Faught, Patrick Cain, Phillip Gilley to the table. Honestly, at that point, I got out of the way and let the schools and Boys and Girls Club work it out.”

Although the club only opened in February of 2019, Gilley said the branch’s attendance has almost doubled.

“Without a doubt (it’s been a success),” Gilley said. “Since I’ve opened it, it’s been the most successful one.”

The Boys and Girls Club of the Wiregrass Enterprise Unit provides after school students with classes and activities to help them live healthier lifestyles, become better leaders and help their academics.

“We’ve seen a GPA increase of at least three or four tenths of a point so now we’re above a 3.0, tracking our grades. We have a big emphasis on academic success at the boys and girls club so we provide homework time, homework assistance and tutoring time if need be.”

The program also provides after school students with a meal and a snack. The Enterprise Unit offers a summer program as well for kids, which saw its first year this summer.

Temporary Alternative Placement Program

The CSO is now housing the Enterprise City Schools’ Temporary Alternative Placement Program.

“They have little more flexibility within the confines of an alternative program,” Cain said. “They do have a lot more amenities than at their old location so I think for them, it’s beneficial to be over there.”

One of those amenities includes a gym.

“When they were over here next central office, if it was freezing cold or extremely hot or bad weather and rain, they didn’t have a place to go—it was hard to incorporate physical education activities because they didn’t have a place to go,” Cain said.

He said that the new location also allows the faculty and staff to slowly give the students back freedoms such as eating in the lunchroom to make the transition back into one of the system’s junior high schools or the high school easier.

YES Program

The Coffee County Youth Enrichment Services Program targets 17-24 at-risk youth and helps them them get their diploma or GED as well as prepares them for work.

“The YES Program is not just about education, we’re a job readiness program,” said Coffee County Job Pilot Regina Gulley. “So our intent is to make a better educated workforce. So the more they are exposed to the different jobs people have, different experiences, volunteering, community service (and) those kinds of things, the more well-rounded they are.”

The program had been housed at the Enterprise Parks and Recreation Center for almost 17 years before the move. She said the new location helps expose the youth to new things as well as brings backs memories for some of them.

“So many of the youth came here when they were in seventh grade so they come here and they go, ‘Oh, that was my old locker,’ or something like that so it brings back memories.”

In June, the stage in the gym was host to another graduation when the YES program used it for their yearly graduation.

Cain said that providing the program with a new home was something that he was happy to help with.

“I know for me personally it means a lot for us to be able to provide a nice facility for those students who are in the YES program because our end goal is always providing students with a quality education. We recognize that there are times where the current educational setup might not be the best thing for every single student so I really applaud those individuals who are there with the YES Program for coming in day in and day out, making sure they’re receiving their education as well as the faculty and staff to ensure those students are getting what they need and to be productive to graduate from that program.”

Adult Daycare Center

The Wiregrass Rehabilitation Center’s Adult Day Care was in need of a new building at both its locations in Enterprise and Elba.

He said that WRC Director of Development Cynthia Green had reached out to the mayor for a new facility and that everyone agreed The CSO would be a great fit. Townsend said when the Coffee County Commission was approached about the idea, they were on board from “day one.”

The eventual agreement was that the organization would combine its two daycare locations into one at the CSO and that the county would pave the parking lot of the location.

Green said the move was a much needed upgrade.

“We were in a small house—basically, at both locations—that used to be a public health department and we had gotten where we had outgrown it,” Green said. “We have several who are in wheelchairs and they could really only make small paths to get to the kitchen or the restroom so this is enhancing our way to not only provide more programs, but for them to feel more independent where they get out and go into different rooms.”

She said the fact that it’s at a school is huge to the clients.

“They have always called daycare wherever they are, ‘school,’ so for them to come back to school and them to be like the leaders in this school, it’s a big deal to them,” Green said.

She recalled the reaction the clients had at the open house for the new location.

“We had an open house for our clients when we moved in and all their parents came that could. If you could have seen the expression on the clients’ (faces) being able to show their parents or their siblings where their new school was, it was amazing,”

At this location, clients are given the care they need while also getting to participate in activities such as sewing, arts and crafts, games, bingo, flower potting and many more.

Cain said that some students are former ECS students.

“For me—as well as everyone else in the system—it really does a mean a lot that we are able to provide a quality education, K-12, and we’re still able to provide a benefit to those former students,” Cain said.

These four organizations are now the lifeblood at Old Coppinville as it continues to serve its community.

Townsend said that the location’s continued success and life is a testament to the city itself.

“As a citizen, business owner, father and as a city councilman and leader in the community, it’s humbling and gratifying to know and see what our community is capable of when everybody pulls together. When everybody came to the table with the spirit of cooperation, it just happened. It’s encouraging to know that the big things can happen and it’s a very sustainable program we have over there.”

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