Our statement on COVID-19

Mary E. Walsh
Mary Walsh, Executive Director of City Connects

Because the students and families we serve will be especially hard hit by the educational, social, and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for strong and effective approaches to student support has never been greater. To help meet this need, the Boston College Center for Optimized Student Support will continue to bring you information and best practices relevant to effectively serving children and families before, during, and after this crisis. The Center’s flagship program, City Connects, is continuing its commitment to provide high-quality, evidence-driven student support in this challenging time.

As schools across the country shut down due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, City Connects Coordinators are responding to the needs of students and families impacted by this ever-changing crisis. 

“Many families of the students in our City Connects schools will be especially vulnerable to the worst effects of this crisis,” said Mary Walsh, our Executive Director. “For families whom we serve, this pandemic means unexpected unemployment, heightened food insecurity, lack of child care, and sudden loss of stability provided by the everyday routine of school.”

City Connects Coordinators have been hard at work preparing for school closures. Across all our sites, the most immediate and critical need is food for families and children who rely on school breakfast and lunch programs. Every city in which we work has found different ways to address food provision for students. In Dayton, Ohio, for example, coordinators are helping with a drive-by pick up service at school so families can easily obtain packages of food. In Minneapolis, City Connects Program Manager Laurie Acker and her team have helped coordinate regular delivery of boxes containing food to bus stops. They are also letting students and families know which restaurants in the Minneapolis area are offering free food for those affected by school or business closures. Continue reading

The people behind our technology: Brian Ward and Kevin Lopez Mader

Brian Ward and Kevin Lopez Mader


City Connects is well-known for its data-informed practice and use of technology to provide the right service to the right child at the right time. For Brian Ward and Kevin Lopez Mader building City Connects’ technological capacity has been part of a compelling journey.

Ward got his first computer when he was eight years old, and he started building computers when he was 12. It was a personal interest that grew alongside his academic interest in philosophy, which he studied at Whitman College and at Boston College, earning a master’s degree.

It was as a philosophy graduate student that he got a job working for BC’s Technology Consultant Organization, providing software and hardware support to faculty at the Lynch School of Education and Human Development.  Continue reading

How graduate assistants add to our work

Every year, City Connects has a dozen or so Boston College graduate assistants who contribute to our work and share our knowledge. 

“One of the best things about having graduate assistants is that they really become true collaborators and members of our team,” Claire Foley, City Connects’ Associate Director, says.

“They are involved in all the different phases of our work: research, implementation, and policy. That includes collecting and analyzing data, literature reviews, organizing a community event, or sharing our research at conferences.” 

City Connects selects students from different Boston College programs including Counseling Psychology, Applied and Developmental Psychology, and MESA, the Measurement, Evaluation, Statistics, and Assessment program. 

In addition to learning about the City Connects model, graduate assistants contribute their own intellectual curiosity about how the model works and what makes it effective for students. 

One great example is Despina Petsagourakis, a doctoral student in Counseling Psychology at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development. Continue reading

Growing national action on expanding integrated student support


We know that getting students the right supports and opportunities at the right time helps them to do better in school.
 

That’s the core of City Connects’ model of providing integrated student support (ISS). 

The challenge is scaling this approach so it can reach more children, work that’s being done by the Center for Optimized Student Support at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development. The center is home to City Connects.

In April, the Center for Optimized Student Support worked with the Center for Promise, part of the Boston University Wheelock College of Education, to release a policy brief — “Building Systems of Integrated Student Support A Policy Brief for Local and State Leaders” – that offers guidance to policymakers.

The brief points to “a wide range of activities to address the complex and changing needs of children, youth, and families,” including the work that hundreds of schools do to provide “wraparound” services, have a “collective impact,” and fund community schools and “Promise Neighborhoods.”  Continue reading

Relationships matter in City Connects schools

It’s a new school year, so City Connects Coordinators are reinforcing existing relationships and building new ones. 

At Catholic Central Elementary School, in Springfield, Ohio, where City Connects’ Coordinator Josh Richardt works, he tells students in pre-k through fifth grade, “I am so glad you’re in school today.”

There is also a sign hanging in the hallway that says, “You belong here.” 

These messages weave students, especially new ones, firmly into the school’s fabric. And they build on a key finding from the developmental sciences: Relationships matter. Continue reading

City Connects students pay a visit to Boston College

Recently, Danielle Morrissey, the City Connects Coordinator at Boston’s Thomas J. Kenny elementary school, brought the Kenny’s fifth graders to visit Boston College so that they could see what college is all about. 

“The goal was to motivate and provide a learning opportunity for the students to further understand why we are talking so much about Perseverance, Responsibility, Integrity, Dedication to your Education, and Effort (our PRIDE values) and how their future is connected to these values,” Morrissey says.  Continue reading

Sharing what we know at the ASCA Annual Conference

City Connects is going to the ASCA Annual Conference, which is being held in Boston from June 29 to July 2, 2019. ASCA is the American School Counselor Association.

City Connects will have a booth at the event, and we hope readers of this blog will come see us.

In addition, Lianzhe Zheng, a doctoral student in the Counseling Psychology program at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development, will speak at a session called “Positive School Climate for Immigrant Students” which will cover how the challenges that these students face are associated with mental and physical health problems that can hurt their academic performance.

“At the Lynch School, sharing what we know is an essential part of our work. And City Connects is excited to have a booth at this year’s ASCA Conference in Boston” said Ryan Hand, City Connects’ Communications Manager. “We are looking forward to spreading the word about our evidence-based practice for school counselors, and we invite any attendees of the conference to drop by!”

The power and untapped potential of providing integrated student support

“To the children whom our school system and our society have failed for far too long.”

That’s the sobering dedication that co-authors Elaine Weiss and Paul Reville chose for their new book, “Broader, Bolder, Better: How Schools and Communities Help Students Overcome the Disadvantages of Poverty.”

In this book, Weiss and Reville call on schools and communities to stop failing by creating “systems of integrated student supports (ISS) for all children.”

The two authors say it is crucial to create ISS systems that support the whole child — like City Connects and others in the field — because of the nation’s history of mediocre policy achievements.

“Decades of education reform efforts have yielded modest if any improvements in most places where poverty is present,” they write. “To be sure, there are outliers, schools and individuals defying the odds, but on average, we still have an iron-clad correlation between socioeconomic status and education achievement and attainment.” Continue reading