" "
Need help? Dial 2-1-1 to contact a United Way call center specialist or click here to find resources.


Full Service Schools turns student’s life around

September 27, 2018

By Nicole Petersen


Deonte Koerner seemed helpless – and his mom hopeless to getting him back on track.

Two years ago, Theresa Stevens, Deonte’s mother, didn’t know where to turn. She was a single mother, injured and unable to work. Deonte, a 10th grader and the oldest of her three children, was failing in school and experimenting with drugs. He was irresponsible, unmotivated and under a lot of pressure.

Desperate and looking for food, Theresa and her family went into the Family Resource Center at Sandalwood High School. The center is part of United Way’s Full Service Schools, an initiative of United Way of Northeast Florida and its partners. Full Service Schools brings together community resources, school officials and neighbors to promote the health and well-being of the community.

After receiving a bag of groceries, Theresa wondered what else might be possible through Full Service Schools. To her surprise, they offered not only food for her family but also counseling for Deonte.

Ultimately, the Sandalwood Family Resource Center was the solution that would change Deonte’s life forever.

Deonte started going to therapy at Sandalwood to talk through his feelings and learn coping skills for his school and home life.

Things started to improve, but the road to success was not easy. Legal issues landed Deonte in front of the Department of Juvenile Justice and he was ordered to complete community service.

He completed these community service hours at the Family Resource Center at Sandalwood. He helped them organize the food pantry, pack college gift baskets and complete other projects. In a sudden transformation, he became known as their “intern,” discovering a passion and motivation to help others.

When his community service was complete, Deonte was a changed person. He completed his homework on time and is no longer interested in using drugs.

Deonte graduated with a diploma from Bridge to Success Academy on Sept. 9, 2018, and is now looking toward a career in computer science.

With the help of Full Service Schools, Deonte was able to get his life back on track.

“I’m so proud of him,” Theresa told a Full Service Schools Sandalwood staff member. “He really is a whole other person.”

Deonte and his family are just one example of the lives changed by Full Service Schools every day. Moreover, Full Service Schools is just one of more than 70 initiatives supported each year by United Way of Northeast Florida in the areas of youth success, financial stability, health and basic needs.

When you support United Way, families like Deonte’s are transformed, and Northeast Florida grows stronger.

How can you make a difference? Help us create a community of opportunity where everyone has hope and can reach their full potential. Donate now to United Way of Northeast Florida — because change doesn’t happen alone.