Often City Connects grows because of, well, connections. That’s what happened when Una Shannon came from Ireland to Boston College to be a postdoctoral fellow. Shannon learned about City Connects and shared our work with Eugene Wall, the president of Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, Ireland, as well as sharing it with ministers from the Irish National Government.
The result: Irish educators are planning to launch a City Connects pilot program this fall in 10 Dublin schools.
“It strikes me that any ‘school person’ who hears about City Connects tends to have an ‘aha’ moment,” Shannon says. She’s a former teacher who earned her bachelor’s degree from Mary Immaculate College. “It just makes sense to support the whole child, to have a strengths-based perspective, and to have a systemic, systematic, and sustained approach to student support that’s in rhythm with school life.”
Sometimes a community partner provides fun, exercise, inspiration, confidence, and a chance to cheer for grown-ups. That’s the story of Girls on the Run Twin Cities, a nonprofit organization that teaches girls how to fulfill their potential, serve their communities, and run a 5K race.
As the school year draws to a close, City Connects Coordinators across the country are helping students prepare for summer, connecting them to services and opportunities that will help them succeed when school isn’t in session.
For Asha Quattrocchi, a City Connects Coordinator at the Cold Spring School in Indianapolis, Ind., this means sharing information and making connections.
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.
When C.J. McGowan became the City Connects Coordinator at Ascension Catholic School, she saw students who had many needs — and also many strengths.
“I saw a Catholic school in the north side of Minneapolis, which is the toughest side of the city, probably of the whole Twin Cities in terms of crime and poverty,” McGowan said, recalling her early days at Ascension.
“There were a handful of kids who had gone through trauma. The trauma of immigrating. The trauma of being poor and not being able to afford food on a regular basis. There were academic needs and some intense behavioral health needs. And yet, there were a ton of resilient kids doing their best and doing pretty well.”
She knew that — in addition to addressing students’ comprehensive needs — building on strengths and generating feelings of competence and confidence could change the way these students saw themselves as learners and could help them thrive. So that is what she did.
While the blog goes on summer vacation, we’ll spend the next few months sharing past posts and social media coverage about the many ways City Connects helps students thrive.
This week’s roundup collects some of the articles, research briefs, and policy proposals published by our partners and by the Mary E. Walsh Center for Thriving Children that share insights drawn from City Connects’ evidence-based model of integrated student support.
The Center for Thriving Children is the home of City Connects and is based at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development. The Center “advances science, implementation, and innovation to promote healthy child and youth development, learning, and thriving.”
These publications speak to long-standing student needs and to the ways these needs have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
From the earliest days of the pandemic, we’ve seen how powerful it is for schools to provide integrated student support.
To share knowledge about this powerful approach, the Mary E. Walsh Center for Thriving Children – home to City Connects — has just released the first “National Guidelines for Integrated Student Support,” a joint project of experts in research and evaluation as well as in the practice of integrating comprehensive school- and community-resources for students.
The guidelines are a “first effort to encapsulate evidence-based best practices and define what high quality implementation looks like in the day-to-day functioning of schools.”
“Our hope is that, in your hands, this knowledge will raise the standards of care and opportunity provided to our nation’s children and youth,” the guidelines’ website says.
The need is glaring.
“Students’ learning and wellbeing are increasingly impacted by the complex challenges of our time,” the report notes, adding:
“More than a third of high school students in the United States experienced poor mental health at least most of the time during the pandemic.”
How do you turn lessons about food into life skills? Ask City Connects Coordinator Keisha Anderson.
Anderson, the coordinator at Belle Haven Elementary School in Dayton, Ohio, teaches students about nutrition using her own upbeat energy, a cooking competition, and the help of a community partner.
Anderson worked with Donna Kuykendall to ensure that an afterschool nutrition program was both informative and fun. Kuykendall works as a Regional Program Assistant for Central State University Extension’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
When Anderson and Kuykendall put their heads together, they came up with two culminating events: a “Chopped” competition and a family dinner.
Making nutrition fun is a crucial part of addressing challenging health issues, Anderson says.
“Belle Haven’s students are disproportionately and negatively impacted by health concerns that can be prevented through healthy eating and movement. High blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes can be prevented based on what we eat and how much we move.”