City Connects has expanded. We’ve launched in the Success Academy, a trauma-informed school that’s part of the public school system in Jamestown, N.Y.
“Success Academy serves students in grades five through ten who have experienced some school avoidant behavior due to either trauma or mental health needs that have manifested as difficulties doing well in school,” Maureen Diehl, the City Connects Program Manager, explains.
“These students are invited – not required – to attend our unique program, which has smaller class sizes and staff who are there to focus on students’ social emotional and behavioral health.”
“The goal is to get students on the right track and help them move back to their home schools.”
The school, which opened last fall and serves 50 students, is part of School Superintendent Brett Apthorpe’s effort to “combat the losses district students were experiencing due to the 72 percent poverty rate and every day poor living standards,” the Jamestown Gazette reports, adding, “The District has an unacceptable absentee rate as well.”
To implement City Connects, Diehl came to Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development to attend City Connects’ annual summer training program for our program managers and coordinators.
“It was invaluable to meet the other program managers and coordinators and really learn how they do this practice with older students,” Diehl says. “We were able to go into the school year fully prepared to do those reviews.”
Once school started and it was time to conduct a whole class review, Jamestown’s City Connects Coordinator Michelle Cobb met with teachers. She also used surveys to solicit feedback from all the different subject teachers that students in the seventh through tenth grades have. Cobb and the homeroom teachers then used the surveys to create a full picture of students’ strengths and needs.
The school’s family liaison, who reaches out to parents and does home visits, contributed to the whole class reviews. And Cobb collected feedback from older students by using a survey that was distributed on iPads.
“We were able, through the whole class review to identify those students in need of intensive support.”
All this information fuels insights and action.
“City Connects emphasizes evidence-based practices. And that gives our coordinator a language to use to talk about what she’s doing and really explain to teachers how this work is beneficial.”
The result, Diehl says, is that “we’re not just talking about student problems. We’re doing something about them.”
As they are at all City Connects schools, the other vital players are community partners. And at Success Academy, these partners often bring their services right into the school building.
“We’ve had Chautauqua County Mental health counselors come to school as well as social workers and organizations that provide groups on drug and alcohol abuse prevention.”
Intandem, a regional human services agency, “does care coordination, supporting families and getting them linked up with counseling and doctor’s appointments. They’ll also do skill building classes for our students.”
Other community partners teach students social and life skills and help them boost their social/emotional learning skills.
Enrichment is also essential.
“We have a yoga instructor,” Diehl says. “And we have a partnership with Jamestown Community College; they help our students with college and career readiness.”
There’s also tutoring, drumming, and someone who comes to school each month and offers haircuts.
“City Connects gives us the structure to do all this work,” Diehl says. “The whole class reviews help us set priorities so our coordinator can be effective quickly.”
That effectiveness is vital for students and for the larger school community.
“Sometimes students come to us, and we think their challenges are overwhelming, but now we can say, you know what, there’s this program in our community that can address that concern. Let’s link this kid up. It’s all about what we can do for our students.”