Tigers make the week better

City Connects Coordinator Shannon Underwood needed a way to boost students’ morale in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Her students were back at Immaculate Conception Parish School in Revere, Mass., in person and full time. They were wearing masks, using hand sanitizer, and sitting behind plexiglass shields that had been attached to each of their desks. Afterschool programs had been cancelled because of Covid. And work with the school’s community partners had been curtailed.

So Underwood implemented the idea of naming a “Tiger of the Week,” a student who demonstrated excellence through service to others. Students get a certificate and a small trophy. A tiger is the school’s mascot.

“I wanted to incentivize random acts of kindness,” Underwood says.

Continue reading

Coordinating for the holidays

As this difficult pandemic year ends, City Connects Coordinators are making many lists and checking them twice to ensure that families have what they need to get through the holiday season.

Across the country, coordinators are making sure that children have access to the practical, educational, and even magical resources they need to have happy holidays and a successful new year. These include: 

• coats, food stamps, rental assistance, and help for newly arrived immigrants

• tutors, bus passes, and an in-school paraprofessional to support a child with disabilities

• holiday meals and gifts as well as two Trees for Tots Christmas trees — one Minion-themed, and one book-themed – being decorated by City Connects Coordinator Gabrielle West and her colleagues at Catholic Central’s elementary school in Springfield, Ohio. The trees are being donated to two families in need. Continue reading

How City Connects Coordinators are working through the pandemic

Whether their schools are open for in-person learning or open for virtual learning, City Connects Coordinators are working to get the right services to the right child at the right time. 

In their hands, the core City Connects model remains the same, but it is being delivered in increasingly creative and flexible ways. 

One example is Zuleika Andrade, who started working as a coordinator in January. 

“Then,” she says, “Covid happened.” 

So Andrade and her school — Mission Grammar School, a Catholic school in Boston’s Roxbury community – pivoted from in-person to online education. Andrade worked with students virtually running lunch-bunch and snack groups, providing individualized support to students, and helping families navigate access to resources. 

“I was calling families and checking in to see what parents needed now that school was closed, because school provides so much, not just education, but meals, child care, social-emotional connections.”

Last month, the school reopened for in-person instruction with a new, safety-conscious look: in addition to new classrooms, a new lab, and a new ventilation system, there are signs with reminders of where to stand to be socially distant. Continue reading

Award-winning schools are changing the odds in Minneapolis

And the 2019 Changing-the-Odds Award goes to…

… two City Connects schools in Minneapolis: the Ascension School and St. Helena Catholic School. 

Given by, the Minneapolis Schools Finder — which tracks school performance – the Changing-the-Odds Award recognizes schools where students from low-income backgrounds are “academically outperforming the Minneapolis Public Schools average,” and/or “growing academically at a faster rate than the average.” 

Students’ success is measured by their scores on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments. This year, 25 schools won the award. 

What made the difference at Ascension and St. Helena?  Continue reading

Coordinators make plans for a challenging summer

Summer is usually when City Connects Coordinators make sure that students are enrolled in camp or summer school or other programs that will support their growth and development. 

But now, coordinators are planning around the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Summer is a moving target this year,” Lynne Sullivan, City Connects’ Director of Implementation, says. School districts are trying to figure out what programs they can safely offer. Some camps are closing. And parents, especially those who have to go to work, are facing uncertainty. 

“One of the things that coordinators are trying to balance this summer is an emphasis on trying to make up for academic learning loss and address students’ need for social-emotional support,” Sullivan adds.

In City Connect schools across the country, this means connecting students to a mix of creative opportunities.  Continue reading

Minnesota meets coronavirus-generated needs

To cope with the effects of the coronavirus on students and families in Minnesota, City Connects Coordinators started with the basics: making sure families had access to food, housing, and emergency child care. 

Coordinators made phone calls and sent out surveys to assess needs. They worked with restaurants that were donating free lunches. They worked with Sheridan Story, a local nonprofit organization, that sends food home in backpacks. 

“At this point, all our families can access food,” Laurie Acker, Minnesota’s City Connects Program Manager, says. 

But that was just step one. 

Step two was becoming Internet-ready. Coordinators made sure that students had Internet access and laptops. That meant connecting families to free municipal WiFi or helping them sign up for low-cost plans so their children could participate in distance learning. One coordinator also set up a website with resources for families. Coordinators are also organizing social emotional skills groups online and creating related videos. And they are running Student Support Team meetings (where individual students’ needs are reviewed) online.  Continue reading

City Connects takes flight in Ohio

Left to right: Ryan Hand, City Connects Communications Manager; Susan Eichenauer, City Connects Program Manager; Brittany Lewis, City Connects Coordinator

Earlier this week, City Connects attended
“Leadership for Learning,” the Ohio School Board Association’s annual conference. 

The event is “Ohio’s premier continuing education program — delivering practical solutions to help school district governance teams improve student learning and achievement.” 

We attended the conference’s trade show and shared the work we’ve been doing in Ohio, where City Connects has been implemented at the K-8, the high school, and the college levels. 

As we’ve blogged, City Connects was recently written into Ohio’s state budget as one model that schools can use to provide students with integrated student support – the opportunities and services they need outside of school so that they can thrive in school. 

“We’re proud and excited to share our work with Ohio educators,” Mary Walsh, City Connects’ Executive Director says. “And we hope that as more teachers and administrators learn about what we do, they will look to enlist us as trusted partners. We know that poverty can make it difficult for children to do well in school. But we also know how to address these challenges so that students and teachers can focus on the kind of learning that leads to long-term academic success.”

Ohio incorporates City Connects into its state budget

Ohio has made crucial budget progress that includes City Connects.

Last May, when we blogged about Ohio, Lieutenant Governor Jon Husted had visited Chaminade Julienne High School in Dayton to see City Connects in action. 

“We believe that this is a replicable model that can be used in public schools and other schools across the state,” Husted told WHIO Television. “And we want the new money that’s being put into the budget to serve these students to go to programs like this.” 

At the time, Ohio’s Legislature was considering investing $550 million to provide “wraparound services” in the state’s schools, and City Connects provided a local example of how investment in evidence-based approaches positively impacts Ohio students. Continue reading