City Connects students win a Sole Train running award

City Connects Coordinator Ashlei Alvarez does not enjoy running. When she was in school, she was the cross-country runner who hid in the bathroom. 

But every Friday morning, Alvarez goes running around the Boston Common with 30 fourth- and fifth-graders, two parents, and a number of staff members from the Josiah Quincy School where Alvarez works.


“My first year here I noticed that we didn’t have a lot of extracurricular, sports-based programs,” Alvarez says. So when a teacher at her school told her about Sole Train: Boston Runs Together, a running program “that’s about deconstructing the impossible,” Alvarez and Kelly Garcelon, a kindergarten teacher who does like running, brought the program into their school. 

Alvarez expected five students to sign up. Instead, 30 did. “We were shocked,” Alvarez says. Continue reading

Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy the holiday!

City Connects: A decade of growth in Springfield

In 2010, City Connects launched in Springfield, Mass., and since then we’ve seen a decade of strong growth in the city. 

We recently shared this progress at a meeting of the Springfield Public Schools’ School Committee. 

“City Connects and Springfield have a strong partnership,” Anastasia Raczek says. She is the Associate Director of Research & Evaluation at the Center for Optimized Student Support, where City Connects is based. The center is part of Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development. 

City Connects’ growth in Springfield from implementation at a small scale into a districtwide solution offers a model for other districts considering how to address the non-academic and out-of-school needs of their students.”  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.”

Harvard’s Education Redesign Lab report shares City Connects’ success

We’re proud that City Connects’ work in Salem, Mass., and in Chattanooga-Hamilton County, Tenn., is featured in a new report from the Education Redesign Lab at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education.

The report – “Sustaining Cross-Sector Systems of Opportunity for Children: Interim Lessons from the By All Means Consortium” – follows up on an earlier report about the work of the By Any Means necessary (BAM) communities, a network set up in 2016 to “create collaborative, cross-sector solutions to address the multifaceted needs of children.” 

Action at the city and state level is exciting because it shows how powerful local leaders can be in addressing the barriers that students face outside of school – from tooth aches to homelessness – so that they can thrive academically in school. 

Two of the Education Redesign Lab’s BAM members, Salem and Chattanooga-Hamilton County, are doing this work using City Connects.  Continue reading

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

City Connects launches a new data system

We’ve done a major update of our technology platform. We’ve given it a new name, MyConnects. And we’ve made it a more powerful tool that’s easier to use – for implanting and sustaining City Connects, and for conducting research. Plus we have more updates and new features coming.

In the old days our City Connects data system relied on paper records. Over time our data moved to a server, then a website, and eventually to a software platform that was launched in 2011. 

“People would have to be heavily trained to know which information was available where,” Brian Ward, City Connects’ Manager for Technology Support and Administration, says. 

 Now, MyConnects lets us do this work more efficiently and effectively. 

To develop MyConnects, we surveyed our City Connects Coordinators; they are our front-line data collectors, gathering student information during whole class reviews and individual student reviews.  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