Strengthening ties between City Connects and Ireland — as Irish schools prepare to welcome Ukrainian refugees 

Mary Walsh, Norma Foley, Eugene Wall

As Ireland prepares to welcome Ukrainian refugees and increases its investments in student support, City Connects staff met last week with Irish Minister of Education Norma Foley to share details about our partnership with schools in Dublin

Mary Walsh, City Connects Executive Director, and her team explained more about City Connects, sharing how its unique features make it effective and how the program is being implemented in Ireland.

We are particularly proud that Foley and her team were also able to visit Boston’s John Winthrop Elementary School, a City Connects school where coordinators have built strong relationships and helped students facing homelessness and the challenges of the pandemic.

“We were just so thrilled to get the opportunity to see the work on the ground today,” Foley said during a discussion about City Connects held at Boston College later in the day. “It was a wonderful example of what it should be and how it actually is operational.

“It is one thing to see it on paper but another to see it delivered effectively in a school community. I’m a strong believer myself that whatever challenges a child has, whatever needs a child has, a child also brings enormous strengths. 

“We are very proud of the work that is being done and very appreciative of your work with Mary Immaculate College and (BC’s) expertise and talent as well and the collaboration we have seen here today as well.”

Foley also spoke to the Boston City Council where she spoke in support of Ukraine, saying, as reports:

“We have opened doors to those fleeing from conflict in desperate circumstances. And we do this because we remember, and we remember well, that others opened their doors, their hearts, and their homes to us.”

Welcoming Ukrainian Refugees

Ireland is preparing to welcome 100,000 refugees from Ukraine; including some 30,000 children – some of whom will attend City Connects schools in Dublin. City Connects staff members are preparing now to meet these children and help them as they join new classrooms. 

Among the immediate needs students will have, officials say, are transportation and English instruction. Students will also be coping with heartbreaking trauma.

To address these and other needs, City Connects will be guided by its principle of empowering schools and communities to help students and families.

Our Dublin coordinators will assess students’ strengths and needs. No matter where students come from, no matter what they face, this is the work our coordinators do. They don’t look away. They don’t say this is too big. They face reality and they come up with resources.

 Investing in student support

Ireland has already been expanding the resources available to provide student support. 

Earlier this month, Minister Foley announced “a major expansion of the DEIS – Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools programme that will see the programme extended to an additional 310 schools” thanks to an investment of €32 million (roughly $35 million).

The 10 City Connects schools in Dublin are all DEIS schools.

“Currently 884 schools and over 180,000 students benefit from the DEIS programme. As a result of this announcement from September 2022, this will increase to 1,194 schools and over 240,000 students.”

Minister Foley says this investment is “a further step towards achieving my department’s goal to ensure equity of opportunity in education and that all students are supported to fulfill their potential.”

City Connects is proud to be a partner in achieving this goal.

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