Group of students outside
Augusta University College of Nursing students with Jessye Norman School of the Arts Executive Director Gary Dennis.

College of Nursing students partner with Jessye Norman School of the Arts

“Community is what you make it.”

“Community is working together to lift each other up.”

“Our responsibility doesn’t stop at the four walls of the hospital.”

Augusta University Master of Science in Nursing Clinical Nurse Leader students shared these sentiments after their community project presentations.

The College of Nursing students worked with Jessye Norman School of the Arts after meeting with Executive Director Gary Dennis to determine their Integrated Healthcare class project focus: availability and access to health care and mental health care for the population the school serves.

“Partnering with Gary through our community health project, it answers the question of ‘why’ our group chose to be in nursing,” said student Brandon Jones. “Often we encounter patients in the hospital and see a diagnosis without the full story that led to a patient’s situation. This opportunity allowed us to identify the circumstances that many members of our surrounding community face every day that led to the reasons we encounter patients in the hospital.”


Jessye Norman School of the Arts was started in the Sunday school rooms of St. John’s Methodist Church in 2003 as an after-school program and has sustained substantial growth in its nearly 20 years of operation. The program that started with one administrative assistant and a part-time director now has 25 staff members and serves more than 1,200 students and their families each year.

Group 7, which was comprised of Annie Gunn, Karen Gunter, David Hagelston, Judy Finch, Brittany Bates, Brittany Smith, Taylor Hamilton and Caroline Harari, said their focus was providing information about mental health care.

The students created an infographic with pertinent information given through a “parental lens” as a tool to educate parents of JSNA students on mental health aspects relating to both children and parents. The infographic provides resources that can be facilitated by parents to their children as well as resources parents might utilize for themselves.

Group 11, which was comprised of Elizabeth Beacham, Nikki Tarver, Gail Threat, Mary Grace Veal, Kalani White, Michael White and Jones, said their goal was providing information on available health and community services in the area JSNA serves, focusing on free and affordable options.

The students created a pamphlet with primary and prophylactic care, women’s health, prompt and wellness care, and mental health services. The pamphlet also contained information on how to access, inquire and sign up for Medicaid and other state-run insurance options.

“We emphasize health and well-being, often falling short of addressing the needs that allow people to live a healthy, prosperous life,” Jones said. “Gary and his staff at Jessye Norman are addressing these needs head-on, providing a conducive environment for children and the community to succeed.”

On July 22, both groups gave presentations to Dennis and JNSA Board Chair Bill Mills, who both expressed their appreciation for the students’ dedication and hard work on the project.

“I can’t tell you just how excited we are about having had the opportunity to meet and work with the Clinical Nurse Leader students over the summer,” Dennis said. “The research and associated materials will be a positive resource for our families for years to come. The best part of the whole experience is how a small group of people can weave together an expansive, powerful and impactful network of people who care about the community they live in.”

Both groups came together to build and fill a community box, which is located in the JNSA garden facing Greene Street. The community box was filled with nonperishable food items, hygiene products, books and other essential items donated by the CNL class. The groups then reached out to St. John’s Towers and established a partnership to keep the box filled on a regular basis.

“The Blessing Box provided a catalyst for a number of other people to help by keeping the box full of supplies for those less fortunate,” said Dennis.

The community box not only serves JSNA but also the general downtown community. CNL Program Director Dr. Elena Prendergast said at the community box unveiling that the students “are already living the values of what it means to be a nurse.”

“It was an amazing opportunity to be a small part of what JNSA is doing and we hope to continue to work with them in creating opportunities to grow the Augusta community,” Jones added.

Dennis said working with the students has “been a great experience. We’re really grateful to the AU College of Nursing, the Clinical Nurse Leader program, and to the students that made it all happen!”

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Written by
Laura Evans

Laura Evans is the Communications Strategist for the College of Nursing at Augusta University. Contact her to schedule an interview on this topic or with one of our experts at 706-721-4635 or

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Avatar photo Written by Laura Evans

Jagwire is your source for news and stories from Augusta University. Daily updates highlight the many ways students, faculty, staff, researchers and clinicians "bring their A games" in classrooms and clinics on four campuses in Augusta and locations across the state of Georgia.

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