It’s a Thursday morning at the John Winthrop Elementary School in Dorchester and Jaymie Silverman is multitasking. She’s on the phone, and she’s talking to a parent who just came in, checking in with a student, and preparing for an upcoming meeting. As the school’s City Connects Coordinator, Silverman is responsible for connecting all of the school’s 330 students to the tailored services they need to be successful inside and outside of school.
“We were identified as a school in which 60-90 percent of our students live in neighborhoods with exceptionally high levels of poverty and crime,” she explains.
Indeed, in 2013, Winthrop was declared a Level 4 school, the state’s designation for schools that are struggling based on “an analysis of four-year trends in absolute achievement, student growth, and academic improvement trends.” Continue reading →
Mentoring has an overwhelmingly positive impact on children, reducing rates of high school dropout and increasing enrollment in post-secondary education. City Connects School Site Coordinators regularly refer students to community organizations that provide mentoring opportunities. One of our key mentoring partners is the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston, which serves more than 2,600 girls throughout Greater Boston.
At their annual meeting on May 12, the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston named the Josiah Quincy Elementary School as its 2014 Community Partner of the Year. The award recognizes the Quincy’s sustained commitment to Big Sister’s mission to serve girls and families through mentoring programs. The award was accepted by Catherine Riede and Nicole Young, the City Connects School Site Coordinators at the Quincy. Catherine and Nicole serve as the primary contacts for Big Sister at the Quincy, one of Big Sister’s longest-standing and largest partners. The pair were also recognized for their instrumental role in supporting, strengthening, and promoting Big Sisters within the school.
“Our partners at Josiah Quincy have been advocates for Big Sister and have truly welcomed us into their community,” said Deb Re, Chief Executive Officer at Big Sister Association of Greater Boston. “They have not only demonstrated a real interest in getting to know the nearly 60 matches who meet at their school, but also have hosted lunch groups, invited Big Sisters to speak at their career day, and distributed information about Big Sister in their newsletter to parents. We are so grateful for their committed partnership, and look forward to continuing to grow the number of girls we serve at Josiah Quincy in the coming years.”
Congratulations to the Quincy, and thank you to Big Sisters for the important work you do!
Yesterday, more than 100 members of the Boston community joined City Connects as we convened our annual gathering of Boston community partners to discuss “Supporting Immigrant Students and Families.”
On our panel, Vera Johnson, Director of the Boston Public Schools (BPS) Newcomer Counseling and Assessment Center, shared her experience working with families new to Boston and its public schools. After finding that parents and caregivers kept returning to her office when they had questions about schools, Johnson created a position dedicated to supporting families beyond their students’ initial enrollment into school: Parent Liaisons. Speaking a variety of languages, Parent Liaisons educate families, encourage participation in school events, and provide assistance maneuvering the BPS system. Johnson’s office, in response to the needs of new families, also began offering English classes for adults. She reports seeing parents grow into “savvy” members of school communities.
Panelist Suzanne Lee, a community activist and former BPS school administrator, shared her first experience with school after immigrating from Hong Kong. Lee was a top student in grade 6 when she left Hong Kong but upon arriving in Boston, was told she should be in grade 4; her lack of English skills led to the assumption that she “didn’t know anything.” She learned how to rely on herself and ultimately earned a college scholarship and spent her career working in education and community activism. While teaching English to garment workers in Boston, she said she realized why her mother–once a garment worker herself–worked so hard: she was looking for an opportunity to get ahead, and her hopes and dreams were with her children. As a teacher and principal, Lee learned that it takes more than good teaching and learning for children to succeed. “All children can succeed if we meet their needs,” she said. “The first rule is to listen.”
We also heard from City Connects’ own Raghida Jeranian, a Program Manager who supervises School Site Coordinators in Boston. She relayed the story of a Coordinator who welcomed a Somali student and her family midway through the school year. To help with the student’s transition, the Coordinator set up a lunch group where the student could make friends with others new to the school and secured a space in an after-school program with a focus on homework help (the student’s parents didn’t speak English and were not able to help with homework). The Coordinator learned from the student that the family could not afford furniture in their apartment. Sensitive to the family’s privacy and pride, the Coordinator reached out to let them know of the services she could connect them to outside of school, like free adult English classes and donations. Thanks to their burgeoning relationship, the mother felt comfortable requesting help furnishing their apartment and the Coordinator was able to secure donations. This family shared with others how the Coordinator was able to assist them and they, in turn, felt more comfortable contacting the Coordinator and becoming more engaged with the school community.
Thanks to all of our partners who joined us yesterday, and thank you for your ongoing collaboration! Together, we are ensuring that students to come to school ready to learn and thrive.
City Connects School Site Coordinator Sarah O’Connor was a featured speaker at community partner Cradles to Crayons‘ Family Volunteer Day recently. Sarah is based at the Gardner Pilot Academy (GPA) in Boston’s Allston neighborhood and says she’s a “frequent flier” at Cradles to Crayons (C2C), which provides children living in homeless or low-income situations with the essential items they need to thrive – at home, at school and at play. Sarah spoke to nearly 200 volunteers at C2C’s “Giving Factory” warehouse about the impact donations have on students.
“Cradles to Crayons is an essential partner for the Gardner Pilot Academy,” Sarah said. “Cradles helps to meet the basic needs of many of our students and provides them with the items that they need to be successful in school. We are so grateful for their ongoing support.”
This year, all GPA students received new backpacks full of school supplies at the beginning of the year and the soccer team was outfitted with cleats before taking the field this season. It’s a two-way partnership–GPA hosts donation drives at the school for C2C and brings students to volunteer at the Giving Factory.
“Sarah has been an all-star and really taken this partnership to the next level. We are so thrilled to have her hands-on support and knowing that she puts so much time and effort into each child’s needs is reassuring to us. We feel privileged to have her as the point person for so many children in our community,” said Dave Cotugno, Family Philanthropy Associate at C2C. “C2C is thrilled to have such a strong partnership with City Connects and provide them with tools to help children thrive inside and outside of school.”
C2C will be honoring the Gardner at the upcoming “Un-Gala” event on December 7, which will allow every GPA student in grades K-5 to receive new pajamas and a book to take home for winter break.
This week is back-to-school time in Boston Public Schools (BPS), and we’re excited to be working in 18 schools across the city! Check out where you can find City Connects in Boston here. Across the US, according to IES, about 50.1 million students will attend public elementary and secondary schools beginning this fall.
“Every child has a right to healthy, nutritious meals in school, and when we saw a chance to offer these healthy meals at no cost to them, we jumped at the chance. This takes the burden of proof off our low-income families and allows all children, regardless of income, to know healthy meals are waiting for them at school every day.”