City Connects in the news

City Connects was featured in the news this summer in articles that emphasize the importance of providing integrated student support.

Here’s a roundup of those stories and their focus on key aspects of the City Connects model, including funding sources, data collection that supports students’ success, our work with community partners, and our partnerships with academic researchers.

Click on the links below to read more.

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“$7.5 million to fund Indy school program tackling out-of-class issues”
Fox59 News: “The city is putting $7.5 million toward a new in-school program to address out-of-class issues they say make learning more difficult. This includes issues like mental health care needs, food and housing.

“The program is called City Connects and it will be organized through Marian University’s Center for Vibrant Schools and Boston College, where the program first began.

“ ‘If the student is coming to class every day not having eaten, you can put a million academic interventions in place, and it just won’t address it,’ Jillian Lain, City Connects Midwest Coordinator, said.

“Essentially, if basic needs aren’t met, students can’t learn.

“ ‘City Connects not only talks about the academic challenges but also addresses out-of-school factors like needs of the family,’ Lain explained.” 

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“NY Pilot Project Uses Data to Connect Students to Services”
Government Technology: “Less than a year into a three-year pilot program, Poughkeepsie City School District and Dutchess County, N.Y., are using interviews and a data-tracking system to measure out-of-school factors that could impact student grades, then matching those students with local organizations to help them. Officials say the City Connects program has shown promise, and they hope to expand it to other districts in the future.

“The program is paid for by the Path to Promise initiative, a county effort launched in 2017 that works with local organizations to connect kids aged 10 and under with resources in six ‘domains’: learning, material basics, safety, family-social relationships, mental health and physical health.

“Karmen Smallwood, assistant commissioner for youth services for the Dutchess County Department of Community and Family Services and the leader responsible for the City Connects program, said program coordinators interview students, their teachers and parents to obtain information on the aforementioned ‘domains’ to develop Individualized Student Success Plans. That data goes into the MyConnects digital platform, where it can be used to track and analyze individual student, classroom, grade-level and district-wide outcomes, specifically in academics, social-emotional learning, family and health.”

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“Five Springfield schools receive sporting equipment”
WWLP 22 News: “ ‘Students at Alice B. Beal Elementary School in Springfield were greeted with a special surprise Thursday morning, new sports equipment.

“ ‘We have a lot of fun. I think we have more fun than the kids. They get excited, you can see it in their faces,’ said Gary Delisle of Springfield Together.

“Springfield Together is a local organization [that]… received a grant through Dick’s Sporting Goods, to donate new gear to local schools. Forest Park C3 officers were also involved and helped greet the students as well as Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno.”

“City Connects Coordinators represented the five participating Springfield schools. Imani McCoy is the coordinator for [the] Alice B. Beal [school], and she explained the importance of donation, ‘we were able to purchase sneakers for students who are in need because sometimes they come to school with shoes that are not appropriate for the gym. We got water coolers, and a few basketballs. We’re just excited the students will have the tools they need to further their physical education.’ ”

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“Penn GSE professor helps author first national guidelines for Integrated Student Support”
Penn GSE News: “Released this month, the national guidelines for Integrated Student Support offer a starting point for dialogue and decision-making around how to take on issues like hunger, housing and mental health – obstacles that prevent students from getting the most out of school.

“The COVID-19 pandemic shook up the way we think about schooling, introducing new variables to an always shifting setting. But many of the problems that were around before the pandemic have returned to the classroom alongside students. COVID-19 has exacerbated these problems and heightened the public’s awareness of them.

“ ‘In policy, so much hinges on the moment, on the context, on the political will, and on what people want to see public investments going toward,’ says Penn GSE Assistant Professor A. Brooks Bowden, who worked on the new set of national guidelines for Integrated Student Support. ‘Because of the pandemic, the public learned more about the level of hardship many families and kids are facing, and the importance of serving kids holistically.’

“Bowden leads Penn GSE’s Center for Benefit-Cost Studies of Education (CBCSE), which joined a working group led by Boston College’s Mary E. Walsh Center for Thriving Children. The working group’s leading experts and practitioners partnered to provide schools, districts, and policy makers with resources to address a slate of new and renewed problems. It brought together occasionally competing models — such as City Connects, BARR, and Communities In Schools — and drew from their collective learnings. 

“The standards underscore the importance of considering both the essential and the extracurricular, making sure basic needs are met — food, shelter, physical and mental health — as well as providing creative outlets and mentorship. ‘It’s hard to learn if you’re hungry,’ Bowden says, ‘and you can’t really be part of school and engage with learning if internally you are facing crisis, or if you don’t have enough outlets to develop your interests.’ ”

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