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.”
We’re happy to announce the release of City Connects’ 2022 Progress Report. It’s a look at our history, our growth, and the progress we’ve made in schools as the world has navigated the pandemic.
As the report explains:
“In high-poverty urban schools, children face out-of-school challenges that can impede their success in the classroom and in life. Since the 1960’s, researchers have concluded that socioeconomic background is a significant factor affecting students’ academic achievement.”
City Connects helps by implementing a systematic, evidence-based model of integrated student support that addresses the out-of-school challenges stemming from poverty. And as City Connects has grown, expanding into more U.S. cities and into Dublin, Ireland, we’ve also seen growing interest in integrated student support.
“…particularly in the context of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, interest in this work has grown in the worlds of practice, research, and policy,” the report says.
Before COVID-19, the MassMutual Federal Credit Union used to hold its book drives the old-fashioned way: put a big box in the hallway outside the credit union’s office to collect new and gently used children’s books from the 6,000 or so people who passed by each day.
The approach worked in part because the credit union’s office had a highly visible location right next to the cafeteria. The results were mostly good, lots of books for young children that were passed on to City Connects Coordinators in the Springfield Public School system — and a few very old dictionaries that could serve as doorstops.
Once Covid hit, however, Samantha Barnes, the credit union’s Marketing Specialist, had to adapt and so did City Connects Coordinator, Stephanie Sanabria. What they ended up with was a better book drive that more closely meets the needs of students and schools.