A new name, a transformative gift


What’s in a name? Sometimes, there’s a promise to change the world, and an invitation for changemakers to join in this work.

That’s why we’re excited to announce that the Center for Optimized Student Support, the home of City Connects, is being renamed the Mary E. Walsh Center for Thriving Children

Helping children thrive is what Mary Walsh set out to do in 2001, when she founded City Connects. Now, as the executive director of City Connects and the Daniel E. Kearns Professor in Urban Education and Innovative Leadership at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development, Walsh is in her third decade of helping children overcome out-of-school challenges so they can succeed in school.

The newly named Center for Thriving Children (CTC) arrives on the wings of a $10 million endowment gift from an anonymous donor.

“We are so pleased about this extraordinary gift,” Stanton Wortham says. He is the Charles F. Donovan, S.J., Dean of the Lynch School, where the center is based. “For three decades, Mary Walsh has been building an exceptional program that is improving lives for tens of thousands of children. She conceptualized it, raised funds for it, built it, and commissioned research that shows it is both successful and extremely cost-effective. Her consistent focus on developing the whole child fits wonderfully with the BC mission of formative education.”

“This is a transformative gift,” Walsh agrees. “It is a tremendous honor to all the members of our team over the years, our school-based coordinators, thousands of educators, and community partners who have been instrumental to this work.”

The CTC will continue to support and build upon the extraordinary work of City Connects, which serves 45,000 students annually. 

Interest in the work of City Connects and the CTC has been growing, especially during the pandemic. As children and families experience disruption, educators and community leaders are looking for answers.

Now, City Connects is expanding to serve more students. And the Center is tackling the question of how to help educators across the country who aren’t in City Connects schools more effectively integrate comprehensive supports for students.

“We have to share the core of what we do with as many educators as we can to help as many children as we can,” Walsh says. “We’ve done the research. We have the evidence. We know this approach works. The one question that we’re asked over and over is how are we going to reach more schools and help more kids?”

To do this, the center has been offering online professional development programs to teachers and school counselors, sharing information about integrated student support, and helping school staff think about how they can upgrade their current practices to meet the needs of all students, not just the ones whose challenges are easy to see.

City Connects sets an example because it provides a practice for supporting every student, and it’s supported by evidence that it improves student learning and life-long opportunities. It’s a model for how everyone invested in the success of children can make a difference. Walsh says that “it takes a village” – schools, families, City Connects staff, universities, and community organizations – to address children’s needs and build on their strengths. This endowment gift will help to sustain and elevate the work of City Connects and the CTC to empower the “village” to be even more effective in supporting and transforming the lives of children and youth.

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