From the archives: Checking in with City Connects staff

While the blog is on summer vacation, we’re sharing past posts about the many ways City Connects helps students thrive. 

This week’s roundup looks at staff members who are or have been part of City Connects, which is based at the Mary E. Walsh Center for Thriving Children in Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development. 

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Practice and research: a conversation with Maria Theodorakakis
City Connects Blog, November 11, 2021 

Even as an undergraduate at Boston College, Maria Theodorakakis was looking for a way to combine her academic interests with hands-on work.

“I was looking for a major that really kind of combined my interest in psychology and sociology with my interest in helping kids and working in schools,” Theodorakakis recalls.

A conversation with the late John Cawthorne, a former Associate Dean in BC’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development, led her to transfer from the College of Arts and Sciences to the Lynch School – and that’s where she found City Connects.

Back in those days, in 2007, when City Connects was only in five Boston schools, Theodorakakis applied for and received a summer research fellowship, joining the City Connects team. 

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Giving Back: Daniel Triana Alvarado joins the Mary E. Walsh Center for Thriving Children
City Connects Blog, April 21, 2022

Daniel Triana Alvarado was 7 years old when his family moved from Mexico to Westborough, Mass., where he began a journey through public education that prepared him for and led him to the Mary E. Walsh Center for Thriving Children, the home of City Connects.

Westborough, Triana recalls, was a town with resources for families and students. In high school, Triana had a guidance counselor, Steven Favulli, who talked to him and his family about college.

“My parents still talk about how important Mr. Favulli was,” Triana says. “He made my parents feel like they had a grasp of what was going on in school because he spoke Spanish, and he took the time to help them understand.” 

Triana enrolled in Worcester State University (WSU) where he decided to major in business administration, attracted by the range of doors the degree promised to open.

“What did I get out of going to Worcester State University?” Triana says, musing about his college years. “Opportunities.”

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Building on a career in school counseling, Jennifer Bouckaert joins City Connects
City Connects Blog, March 31, 2022

When Jennifer Bouckaert began her career in the public schools of Southbridge, Mass., as a school adjustment counselor, she saw that the schools and the students were overwhelmed.

“Students were struggling behaviorally. There weren’t a lot of structures or systems in place to support them. We didn’t have preventative or proactive procedures,” she recalls.

“We were firefighting. We weren’t problem-solving and getting kids what they needed.”

 In 2016, Southbridge’s public schools were taken over by officials from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, who put the school system into receivership, citing years of “persistently low student performance” as well as the fact that “Since 2011, seven individuals have served as superintendent, and there has been a similar level of turnover in other leadership positions in the district.”

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Rebecca Schmidtberger: a City Connects Graduate Assistant
City Connects Blog, June 2, 2022

“I am passionate about the gap that exists between educational research and practice,” Rebecca Schmidtberger says. “There’s a lot of wonderful work that’s being done in research settings that isn’t being translated into schools.”

Today, Schmidtberger is a City Connects graduate assistant who has spent her career alternating her work in schools with her own pursuit of higher education.

Her love of education started in classrooms. As a Bates College student, Schmidtberger was chosen to be in the Bonner Leader program for students with a strong interest “in experiential learning and community engagement.” Schmidtberger worked in a local housing project with the Somali community running a program for Somali youth.

“The times that I learned the most and enjoyed the most were when I was applying what I learned in the classroom to my work with students and community members,” she recalls.

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