A new video introducing our work

We’re excited to announce the release of our new video, “Introducing City Connects.”

Filmed at Boston’s Winthrop Elementary School last fall, the video is an overview of our work that will help us share our approach with schools and educators that are not part of our network.

The video covers some of the many barriers — among them food insecurity and a lack of safe housing — that prevent children from focusing on school.

City Connects addresses these barriers so that children can focus on learning, because, as the video explains:

“Opportunity is possibility. For an educated student, the possibilities are endless.”

Welcoming immigrant students to City Connects schools

As immigration to the United States continues, schools are enrolling immigrant students and working to meet their needs. 

Providing this support to students and their families is a core strength of the City Connects model. This is especially true at City Connects schools which are located in Boston, Springfield, Minneapolis, and other areas with immigrant communities. In these communities, City Connects Coordinators have been assessing students’ strengths and needs and connecting them to services, supports, and enrichment programs. 

One important result is better outcomes for students. As City Connects’ 2022 Progress Report explains: 

“Immigrant students who experienced City Connects significantly outperformed immigrant students who never experienced the intervention on both reading and math achievement test scores. City Connects also narrowed achievement gaps between immigrant students and their English-proficient peers.”

This finding comes from research conducted by Eric Dearing, a Boston College professor at the Lynch School of Education and Human Development. 

In a recent conversation Dearing noted, “We certainly have immigrants who are pulled to the United States who have high levels of education. But we also have many immigrants who come who are being pushed to the United States from countries that are experiencing war, trauma, and poverty.” 

Continue reading “Welcoming immigrant students to City Connects schools”

To boost attendance, build a stronger school community

Myriam Villalobos has so much optimism and energy that she has turned chronic absenteeism into an opportunity for building a stronger school community. And last month, she was awarded a $20,000 grant from the Boston Public School system to do this work. 

“I am a teacher. I am a therapist. I am not a grant writer,” Villalobos, the City Connects Coordinator at Boston’s Maurice J. Tobin School says. “I have never asked for money, so I had to learn about the process, and I was fascinated by that.”

Her approach was to think globally about the big picture – and to do so with compassion. 

The Tobin had 66 students who missed more than 20 percent of school. Another 144 students missed 10 percent. Chronic absenteeism is typically defined as missing at least 10 percent of school. 

“Sometimes we are very critical about why parents decide to keep their children at home. But there are many social issues there. There’s inequality, transportation, and parents who don’t speak English and need their children to be translators. There are also parents who get sick and don’t have anyone they can ask to bring their children to school. 

Continue reading “To boost attendance, build a stronger school community”

The Weekly Connect 10/24/22

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

Here are some of the things we’ve been reading about this week:

LGBTQ+ students report less access to positive curricular resources or supportive staff.

Schools can access $280 million in federal funds to provide students with more access to mental health services

Boston grapples with late and no-show school buses

To read more, click on the following links.

Continue reading “The Weekly Connect 10/24/22”

Teachers talk about City Connects

While the City Connects model focuses on getting the right services to the right child at the right time, our approach also helps teachers. We highlighted their comments in our 2022 Progress Report, and we’re sharing some of them here.

At the heart of City Connects is the whole class review conducted by coordinators who meet with teachers to explore the strengths and needs of every student. As one coordinator explains of this process: 

“It’s an opportunity for someone to listen to them. Because for years, teachers have sat with this knowledge in the classroom with no one to act upon it. And now here comes another adult in the building that wants to know about your kids. I want to know what you see as strengths. I want to know what you are concerned about. And I’m writing it down. So if I’m writing it down, it must be important, right? And it might be something I can follow up with. Teachers are feeling like, ‘Someone’s listening to me and someone’s going to help my students.’ Because teachers are passionate about what they do. They care.”

A Minnesota teacher elaborates, adding: 

Continue reading “Teachers talk about City Connects”

The Weekly Connect 5/23/22

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

Here are some of the things we’ve been reading about this week:

Since the pandemic, teachers need more help supporting kindergarteners.

Some school districts have revived mask mandates. Other districts face mandate bans. 

How some schools are coping with the recent mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y

To read more, click on the following links.

Continue reading “The Weekly Connect 5/23/22”

Children Are Resilient: A Letter to the Editor from Dr. Mary Walsh

An April 24 article in the Boston Globe tackled the challenges educators are dealing with in the third year of the pandemic, including how to support struggling students.

“Everything I’ve trained for, everything that’s worked in the past, none of it’s working,” said Laura Messner, a middle school English language arts literacy specialist in Scituate. “I’m very worried about what’s coming down the pike if we don’t think about how we’re going to address these challenges that are not temporary challenges.”

Dr. Mary Walsh, executive director of the Center for Thriving Children and expert in developmental psychology, wrote a response to the article, focused on concrete ways to better support students and teachers.

Dr. Walsh’s letter was published last week. 

“The article “Teachers help students struggling to succeed” powerfully covers the impacts of students’ challenges. It also highlights missed opportunities for more effectively supporting student — and teacher — well-being and learning.

“Though the challenges of the current COVID-19 era are real, children are also resilient. Mental health is bolstered by a range of interventions. Mild to moderate needs can be addressed with a caring school environment; after-school programs; mentors; participation in sports, arts, or other extracurricular activities; and relationships with peers and adults, while serious mental health needs require therapeutic treatment.

“Adding more counselors and social workers to extend current strategies is unlikely to be financially viable or sufficient to meet the need. Instead, schools that create systems of support to provide every student with an individualized support plan are seeing improvements. These systems connect each child to a tailored set of resources and enrichment opportunities to address that student’s strengths and needs, drawing on resources in the school, the community, or both. These systems of “integrated student supports” are now known to improve student well-being and learning, as well as support teachers who, early research shows, are less likely to leave the profession if their school has such a system in place.”

What Dr. Walsh conveyed in her letter reflects the City Connects practice, and its evidence of positive short- and long-term impacts on student learning and thriving. To learn more about the City Connects model, click here and to learn more about best practices for integrated student support go here.

A happy holiday story

Taylor Herring is a new City Connects Coordinator at Boston’s Ellis Mendell School, but she’s already into the full swing of the holiday season.

For Thanksgiving she worked with the United Way to secure food baskets for families in need. And the family council at her school raised funds to buy Stop and Shop gift cards that also helped families put food on their Thanksgiving tables. 

“We’re a small school. We have about 270 kids. But we were able to help around 70 families,” Herring explains. “Our principal noted that because of Covid there has been an increase in the number of families who needed resources.”

Now that Christmas is coming, Herring is in the midst of managing a toy drive.

“We created an Amazon wish list that we publicized, and we also had awesome donors who gave a lump sum of money, so we were able to fulfill the wish list and get Target gift cards that families can use to buy toys or necessities. They can also use the gift cards for other siblings in the household.”

Continue reading “A happy holiday story”
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