City Connects and Catie’s Closet: working with a community partner that’s just down the hall

Last school year, Lincoln Elementary School in Springfield, Mass., had a custodian’s closet that was nothing special.

This year that space has been transformed – painted, carpeted and decorated – and turned into Catie’s Closet, a cheerful place where students can get donated clothes and toiletries.

It’s a powerful example of a City Connects’ community partner that places its resources inside schools where students have easy access.

Now, when a student at Lincoln needs clothes, City Connects Coordinator Allison Emhoff can go into the closet and get winter coats, sweaters, pajamas, backpacks, or the school uniforms that students at Lincoln wear. The closet doesn’t have shoes, but Emhoff can put in a special request for them. Students can also get personal products like deodorant or toothpaste. And it’s all convenient because the closet is just down the hall. Continue reading

Using data to promote student success in Salem

For the first time, City Connects has been implemented on a citywide level. The City Connects model is being used in every public K-8 school in Salem, Mass.

Now that the program is in its second year, we have the first year’s data, and this information is helping Salem promote students’ success and helping us understand how City Connects works on a municipal scale.

Before City Connects, “The student population was coming to school with barriers and challenges,” Salem Public Schools’ Superintendent Margarita Ruiz said recently at the national conference on integrated student support that was hosted by the Center for Optimized Student Support, part of Boston College’s Lynch School of Education. Continue reading

A Washington Post op-ed on integrated student support


“Nature or nurture … which is more influential?” Joan Wasser Gish asks in
a recent Washington Post op-ed.

Wasser Gish is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Center for Optimized Student Support, which is part of Boston College’s Lynch School of Education. The center is also home to City Connects.

The answer to the nature/nurture question: Talent is evenly distributed across the population; opportunity is not. Particularly in low-income communities, environmental factors can limit students’ academic success.

“…developmental science helps us to understand why,” Wasser Gish writes. “Students who are exposed to poverty and adversities such as trauma, experience ‘toxic stress,’” that can have cascading negative effects in students’ lives.

To address these problems, Wasser Gish explains, schools can provide integrated student support.

“As researchers and educators better understand how to deliver integrated student support effectively,” Wasser Gish notes, “policymakers are stepping in to spread what works.”

To learn more, read the op-ed.

Happy holidays!

Best wishes for a happy holiday season and a prosperous new year from everyone at City Connects!

Behind the scenes at City Connects with Research Fellow Amy Heberle

Amy Heberle

Amy Heberle worked as a post-doctoral research fellow at City Connects during the 2017-2018 academic year. She is now an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Clark University in Worcester, Mass.

Recently, we caught up with Amy and asked her to tell us about her time at City Connects.

Why did you decide to become a psychologist?

I wish I had a great, thoughtful answer for this! The truth is that I sort of stumbled into it. I became interested in psychology in high school. I was curious about how people cope with mental illness and with stressful life experiences, and I had a vague idea that I wanted to be a therapist. I grew up with a bunch of younger nieces and nephews, and I loved helping to care for them and watching them develop, so I became particularly interested in child psychology. However, somewhere along the way I heard that you had to get a graduate degree to practice psychology, and I pretty much ruled it out as an option. There was no way I could have paid for grad school. Continue reading

City Connects runs on relationships

Will Osier


In education, relationships matter.

As Professor James Comer of Yale University’s Child Study Center said during a 1995 lecture, “No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.”

That’s why City Connects Coordinators are so important. They get to know their schools, and they build relationships that help students learn, and that help families thrive. From the whole class reviews to casual chats in the hallway, coordinators are always connecting.

They get to know every child and work together with teachers and other school staff to gather the knowledge of those who know the student best.

As Jaymie Silverman, the coordinator at the John Winthrop Elementary School in Boston explains: “Relationship building is the foundation of all of this work.” Continue reading

A national conversation on integrated student support

Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos (D-Seattle) and Representative Robert Behning (R-Indianapolis)

In schools across the country, students face barriers that make it tough for them to thrive in school, to do well academically, socially, and emotionally. One student could be hungry. Another might need a winter coat. A third may have witnessed violence on the street or at home. A fourth might need a tutor. A fifth might be struggling to learn English.

The list goes on, and no one school can meet all these needs on its own.

Mary Walsh

“We need a comprehensive approach,” Mary Walsh said at this month’s conference “Building Systems for Student Success: When Academics are Not Enough,” the first national conversation about the cutting edge science, practice, and policy of providing integrated student support.

Walsh is the Director of the Center for Optimized Student Support, (COSS) part of Boston College’s Lynch School of Education, which co-hosted the conference with the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy. The COSS also houses City Connects.

That comprehensive approach, Walsh explained, means meeting the needs of the whole child by providing integrated student support, which COSS defines as “a comprehensive, coordinated and school-based effort to connect students to specific district supports, enrichments and services.” Continue reading

What we are thankful for at City Connects

 

As we reflect on 2018, City Connects has a lot to be thankful for. Together, our dedicated coordinators, community partners, school leaders, and City Connects staff provide students with the resources and relationships necessary to overcome barriers and thrive.

We are grateful for City Connects Coordinators who go above and beyond every day to create safe and supportive school environments for all students.

Earlier this month, C.J. McGowan, the coordinator at Ascension Catholic School in Minneapolis, facilitated a school wide anti-bullying initiative. C.J. collaborated with teachers and other school staff to develop creative anti-bullying lessons and activities, which allowed students from kindergarten to eighth grade to offer their opinions on how to stop and prevent bullying. The end result? An ongoing and open conversation with all students on why no one deserves to be mistreated. Continue reading