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

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

The Weekly Connect 10/29/18

Here’s the new edition of The Weekly Connect. Check it out and sign up to have it delivered to your inbox!

These are some of the things we’ve been reading about:

Education Week explores how principals manage job pressure. 

Federal legislation funds grants to help schools with the opioid crisis.

Boston College’s Center for Optimized Student Support is building a statewide infrastructure of integrated student support.

Students who attend more “advantaged” schools do better on international exams.

To read more, click on the following links. Continue reading

City Connects releases its 2018 Progress Report

We’re excited to announce the release of our 2018 progress report — “City Connects: Intervention and Impact” — an in-depth look at our work and its outcomes.

As we expand into more schools, we continue to see growing benefits for children, the schools themselves, and their larger communities.

At the heart of our work is helping students navigate the challenges of poverty. As the report explains:

“The impact of poverty outside of school contributes to inequality in educational outcomes,” indeed, researchers have found that poverty is “the single most critical factor to address in education reform.”

Schools can’t do this work alone. They need “a systemic approach to addressing out-of-school disadvantage,” and that’s what City Connects provides. Every City Connects school has a coordinator who conducts whole class reviews and builds trust and relationships. Coordinators then draw on these data and the relationships to connect all of their schools’ students to a customized set of support services and enrichment programs that are provided by both schools and a range of community partners, from YMCAs to colleges.

The results? Continue reading

Confidence, competence, and care: building social-emotional skills in Minneapolis

When C.J. McGowan became the City Connects Coordinator at Ascension Catholic School, she saw students who had many needs — and also many strengths.

“I saw a Catholic school in the north side of Minneapolis, which is the toughest side of the city, probably of the whole Twin Cities in terms of crime and poverty,” McGowan said recalling her early days at Ascension.

“There were a handful of kids who had gone through trauma. The trauma of immigrating. The trauma of being poor and not being able to afford food on a regular basis. There were academic needs and some intense behavioral health needs. And yet, there were a ton of resilient kids doing their best and doing pretty well.”

She knew that — in addition to addressing students’ comprehensive needs — building on strengths and generating feelings of competence and confidence could change the way these students saw themselves as learners and could help them thrive. So that is what she did. Continue reading

Leaping over language barriers at the Kenny School

“We’ve been talking a lot about how our parent council is great, but not reflective of our school population,” Danielle Morrissey says. She’s the City Connects Coordinator at the Thomas J. Kenny elementary school in Boston’s Dorchester neighborhood.

“We were trying to strategize around how to bring in other families that aren’t involved in parent council — and about what the barriers might be, and language came up a lot.”

Language diversity is part of the fabric at the Kenny, where 35 percent of the school’s population speaks a language other than English. So Emily Bryan, the school’s principal, decided to reach out to more families by holding coffee hours in different languages. Morrissey helped organize and facilitate them. Continue reading

A new research agenda: Integrated Student Support

City Connects makes connections. We connect students and their families to tailored sets of resources. We connect schools to an array of community partners. And we connect what we are learning about integrating school and community resources to larger, national conversations.

Our work is a leading example of how schools can help students overcome hardships by providing “integrated student support” that weaves services and enrichments into the fabric of schools.

Now a new report — Comprehensive Services for Children in Poverty: Setting the Research Agenda for Integrated Student Support — lays out what researchers know and poses questions that could produce new knowledge that would benefit students and inform policymakers. Continue reading

Community partners: Strong Women, Strong Girls

City Connects works with community partners to provide a wide array of services. Often this means helping students get necessities such as dental care or beds. But sometimes our community partners also provide inspiring role models.

That’s the case with Strong Women, Strong Girls, a nonprofit organization based in Boston and Pittsburgh. The organization provides school girls with college-age mentors, and the mentors can themselves be mentored by career women.

The college mentors visit the schools once a week to meet with a group of girls.

“Each mentoring session, we highlight one strong woman,” Madison Banker explains. Banker is a college mentor, part of a group of students from Northeastern University who meet with Boston students. Mentors come from a number of colleges including Tufts University, Harvard University, Boston College, and Simmons College Continue reading