Behind the scenes at City Connects with Research Fellow Amy Heberle

Amy Heberle

Amy Heberle worked as a post-doctoral research fellow at City Connects during the 2017-2018 academic year. She is now an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.

Recently, we caught up with Amy and asked her to tell us about her time at City Connects.

Why did you decide to become a psychologist?

I wish I had a great, thoughtful answer for this! The truth is that I sort of stumbled into it. I became interested in psychology in high school. I was curious about how people cope with mental illness and with stressful life experiences, and I had a vague idea that I wanted to be a therapist. I grew up with a bunch of younger nieces and nephews, and I loved helping to care for them and watching them develop, so I became particularly interested in child psychology. However, somewhere along the way I heard that you had to get a graduate degree to practice psychology, and I pretty much ruled it out as an option. There was no way I could have paid for grad school. Continue reading

City Connects runs on relationships

Will Osier


In education, relationships matter.

As Professor James Comer of Yale University’s Child Study Center said during a 1995 lecture, “No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.”

That’s why City Connects Coordinators are so important. They get to know their schools, and they build relationships that help students learn, and that help families thrive. From the whole class reviews to casual chats in the hallway, coordinators are always connecting.

They get to know every child and work together with teachers and other school staff to gather the knowledge of those who know the student best.

As Jaymie Silverman, the coordinator at the John Winthrop Elementary School in Boston explains: “Relationship building is the foundation of all of this work.” Continue reading

A national conversation on integrated student support

Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos (D-Seattle) and Representative Robert Behning (R-Indianapolis)

In schools across the country, students face barriers that make it tough for them to thrive in school, to do well academically, socially, and emotionally. One student could be hungry. Another might need a winter coat. A third may have witnessed violence on the street or at home. A fourth might need a tutor. A fifth might be struggling to learn English.

The list goes on, and no one school can meet all these needs on its own.

Mary Walsh

“We need a comprehensive approach,” Mary Walsh said at this month’s conference “Building Systems for Student Success: When Academics are Not Enough,” the first national conversation about the cutting edge science, practice, and policy of providing integrated student support.

Walsh is the Director of the Center for Optimized Student Support, (COSS) part of Boston College’s Lynch School of Education, which co-hosted the conference with the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy. The COSS also houses City Connects.

That comprehensive approach, Walsh explained, means meeting the needs of the whole child by providing integrated student support, which COSS defines as “a comprehensive, coordinated and school-based effort to connect students to specific district supports, enrichments and services.” Continue reading

What we are thankful for at City Connects

 

As we reflect on 2018, City Connects has a lot to be thankful for. Together, our dedicated coordinators, community partners, school leaders, and City Connects staff provide students with the resources and relationships necessary to overcome barriers and thrive.

We are grateful for City Connects Coordinators who go above and beyond every day to create safe and supportive school environments for all students.

Earlier this month, C.J. McGowan, the coordinator at Ascension Catholic School in Minneapolis, facilitated a school wide anti-bullying initiative. C.J. collaborated with teachers and other school staff to develop creative anti-bullying lessons and activities, which allowed students from kindergarten to eighth grade to offer their opinions on how to stop and prevent bullying. The end result? An ongoing and open conversation with all students on why no one deserves to be mistreated. Continue reading

A City Connects Coordinator addresses bullying

Bullying threatens students’ physical and emotional safety and can negatively impact their ability to learn.

Sadly, too many children in America are being bullied each year. According to stopbullying.gov, a federal government website managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, between 25 percent and 33 percent students have been bullied at school and most bullying happens in middle school.

In a recent survey published by the National Association of Elementary School Principals, school leaders say that they worry about the well-being of their students and that emotional bullying is one of their top 10 concerns.

Fortunately, school staff can make schools safer by working to prevent bullying and by sending the message that bullying is unacceptable. Continue reading

Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch: celebrating local farmers and healthy food

 

City Connects coordinators encourage students to get involved in their communities because this expands students’ world view, helps them develop empathy and leadership skills, and shows them how their actions can have a positive impact. 

Last month, the winner for loudest community activity was the 2018 Great Lakes Great Apple Crunch.

Across the Midwest, at predetermined times, students gathered together and bit into apples to make a synchronous and satisfying crunch. The goal? Educate and encourage the use of healthy, locally-grown foods, support local farmers, grow healthy eaters, and build strong communities across the region.

The event is part of National Farm to School month, an effort to forge stronger connections between farms and schools. 

While City Connects coordinators often help students with tougher problems, there’s an emphasis on connecting students to engaging activities that help them learn while having fun.

“Some of our kindergarteners had recently taken a field trip to an apple orchard,” Cassie Norris, the Coordinator at the Harvest Preparatory School in Minneapolis, says.  At her school students in kindergarten through eighth grade participated in the Great Apple Crunch along with some teachers and administrators. The school “had different crunch times throughout the day.”

Meanwhile in Springfield Ohio, Catholic Central Elementary School celebrated the day with apples from the Steven Bakery and Orchard, according to the school’s coordinator, Josh Richardt. Some 350 K-8 students participated along with 20 staff members. The school also worked with the Ohio State Extensions Office, which organized healthy eating education programs for students.  

“Overall it was a really positive event! It was neat thinking that we were doing this at the same time as one million-plus others,” Richardt says.

As we’ve blogged before, enrichment is vital to students’ success. Music lessons, art classes, and other experiences “can help students gain confidence, develop new skills, strengthen positive relationships, build resiliency, and see themselves in a new way.”

An event like the Great Apple Crunch can help students take more pride in themselves and in their communities, educate them about nutrition and healthy food, all of that while having fun.

The power of data: from collection to action


At City Connects, we believe that to be able to effectively help children succeed in school and in life, we need to take a customized, comprehensive, coordinated, and continuous approach to student support. And one of the most critical ways to do this is to carefully collect data — because data leads to action.

“Our collection of data is one of the most powerful tools we have,” Mary Walsh, the Executive Director of City Connects, explains. “It’s a record of what we’ve done. It enables us to tailor services and identify trends. It’s a source of insights about what we could be doing. And, it turns out, it’s proof that our model of helping students works.”

Coordinators collect data from whole class reviews. They collect data from individual student plans, from service referrals, and from both school-based and community providers.

All of this information is entered into our highly secure Student Support Information System, a proprietary database. Continue reading

A Bed For Every Child: a community partnership in Springfield delivers beds to more than 90 children

Across City Connects schools, community partnerships have a profound impact on children lives. One example is flourishing in Springfield, Mass.

Last year, as we’ve blogged, after a local family’s home caught on fire, Stephanie Sanabria — the City Connects coordinator at Springfield’s Early Childhood Education Center — worked with a team of community partners to secure a bed for the family’s daughter. A few months later, more beds were delivered to Springfield for more children. Behind the deliveries is an initiative called A Bed for Every Child run by the Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless.  The Pioneer Valley Chapter of credit unions helped out with fundraising.

As Julie Donovan, City Connects Program Manager in Springfield, explains, “this initiative is critical for our families. Our students need a good bed to lay in every night, so that they can get the proper sleep — the proper rest to achieve their full potential — and come to school ready to learn.”

Because of local tragedies as well as hurricanes that hit Florida and Puerto Rico, the need for beds has grown. As Sanabria, who has been nicknamed the Bed lady, recently told us, referrals for families often come through word of mouth, especially now that many Puerto Rican hurricane evacuees are receiving housing. Continue reading