Making connections in Poughkeepsie

City Connects has launched in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., a small city with local challenges and rich cultural resources it is eager to share with its students. 

Joining Salem, Mass., and other cities, Poughkeepsie created a Children’s Cabinet that is part of a national network of cabinets based at Harvard’s Education Redesign Lab.

Co-chaired by school Superintendent Eric Jay Rosser and Mayor Rob Rolison, the goal of the cabinet is to create “a community where all children and youth thrive and have equitable opportunities to reach their full potential.”

For Poughkeepsie, achieving this work means addressing local challenges. The city is home to racial and economic segregation. And an estimated 22.7 percent of residents live below the poverty line, according to the school district.

Another challenge for Poughkeepsie, according to municipal officials, is that the city is “resource rich” and “systems poor.” There are, in other words, abundant social and cultural resources. Poughkeepsie is investing $4 million in its 18 parks. Local higher education neighbors include the Culinary Institute of America, Marist College, SUNY New Paltz, and Dutchess Community College. There are dozens of cultural organizations. And while the pandemic has been devastating, it has also inspired new civic ideas and projects.

What’s missing is a way to bring these resources to students. 

That’s where City Connects comes in. Our model of providing integrated student support is being piloted at Poughkeepsie Middle School. 

As Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro tells the Mid Husdson News, “We are grateful to partner with the Poughkeepsie City School District and the Boston College Lynch School of Education on this ambitious endeavor. City Connects aligns with the mission of Dutchess County’s Path to Promise initiative: ensuring every child throughout our community has access to the resources necessary to become successful young adults.”

The middle school’s City Connects Coordinator is Jakira Kellogg, a Poughkeepsie High School graduate who has a master’s degree in school counseling. 

The Mid Hudson News adds: 

“During the first six months of the pilot program, Ms. Kellogg conducted observations of 19 of the 21… sixth-grade classes, noting interactions between students and teachers and entering data into the MyConnects system, which allows the City Connects team to track student progress in the four key areas: academics, social-emotional learning, family, and health. Ms. Kellogg will next hold team meetings with the teachers to determine the strengths and needs of each student.

“One of the initial observations Ms. Kellogg has highlighted is how students benefit from having teachers consistently check on them before beginning a lesson. ‘Asking students questions about how they feel and what’s going on is very helpful for students. Being consistent with it shows you care,’ said Ms. Kellogg.”

This is one of countless examples of how connecting to students on a personal level and connecting students to resources is essential for helping them succeed. And their personal success promises to spillover into their communities. That’s why we hope City Connects’ partnership with Poughkeepsie will produce long-term success for students – and for the city.

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