A national conversation on supporting the whole child

The pandemic hit schools hard.

But federal Covid relief funding is giving schools an opportunity to recover and grow stronger by making strategic new investments in supporting students and helping them succeed. 

We’re excited that City Connects is part of this national conversation.

Last month, a federal summit – “From Recovery to Thriving: How the American Rescue Plan is Supporting America’s Students” – hosted by the U.S. Department of Education, brought together “education leaders, advocates, and philanthropic partners” to discuss how American Rescue Plan (ARP) funds are helping schools and students.

Among the summit speakers was Jillian Lain, Director of City Connects Midwest, which is based at Marian University’s Center for Vibrant Schools.

Lain spoke at a session on “Comprehensive Mental Health Supports” and explained how City Connects’ work in Indianapolis vividly shows ways that communities can use ARP funds to address the strengths and needs of the whole child.

Sharing City Connects’ approach now is particularly timely because the Department of Education announced at the summit that it will start “inviting applications for a total of $160 million in Education Innovation and Research (EIR) grants,” according to the education news website K-12 Dive. This funding will be invested in “15 to 35 projects aimed at increasing access to project-based learning and advanced coursework, closing gaps in educational opportunities, providing student social and emotional support, and more.”

As research on City Connects shows, meeting students’ social and emotional needs is a crucial part of boosting their academic and long term success.

And as the Ball State Daily reports:

“While Center for Vibrant Schools staff are confident the City Connects practice works, Lain said she can understand why some districts would be scared to try something new.”

“ ‘It’s a lot of new for everybody, and we know that change is hard,’ Lain said. ‘It’s changing dynamics in school buildings as well, so all of that takes time. But as folks become more and more comfortable and informed about the practice, I think the schools that have implemented it in a really strong way have immediately seen some of those results.’ ”

In other words, change is possible. Armed with federal recovery funds, more schools could implement new student support programs. And we’re excited that City Connects and other successful, evidence-based programs can set an example for schools so that they can use federal funds to help students thrive.

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