City Connects Coordinators always ask the same important questions: What do students need? How can Coordinators help? How can community partners help?
Asking these questions at the Indian Orchard Elementary School in Springfield, Mass., led to a productive partnership.
“We’ve collected clothing donations on our own, and we still do,” Shandria McCoy says. McCoy and Alaina Lyman are Indian Orchard’s City Connects Coordinators. “But last year our principal asked me about bringing Catie’s Closet to our school.”
It’s a great match. Catie’s Closet is a nonprofit organization that provides students with donated clothes by setting up spaces in schools where students can go to get these clothes. And students at Indian Orchard sometimes need clothes, especially since they wear school uniforms – khaki or navy blue pants and blue or white shirts. Springfield Public Schools started requiring school uniforms in 2008 to help students stay focused on schoolwork.
But for some families, affording clothes can be a challenge.
The pandemic didn’t just shut down schools, it also shut down team sports.
Now, Joy Richmond-Smith and Brad Maloon, two City Connects Coordinators in Salem, Mass., are working together to bring sports back to students.
“Last year, I connected several kids to the Jr. Celtics program,” Richmond-Smith, the coordinator at the Saltonstall School says. “They were limited English speakers, and they had never had the chance to play on an organized team, and they really wanted to.”
The Jr. Celtics Academy is a basketball program for middle school students run by the YMCA in Marblehead and the Boston Celtics.
“Some of the kids have never been to Marblehead,” a wealthy town next door to Salem, “and they had never been to that Y.”
Keisha Anderson is working to engage more African-American men and bring them into her school.
“I want to open school spaces to dads, uncles, male mentors, pastors, barbers, whoever has a positive male influence in students’ lives. I am opening doors so they can come into our building.”
Anderson is the City Connects Coordinator at Belle Haven Elementary School in Dayton, Ohio, and although she’s excited about having mothers, aunts, and female mentors in her school, she says that these women already show up. Teachers are already comfortable reaching out to mothers. And there are already a number of programs that focus on girls.
To be inclusive and focus on boys, Anderson reached out and formed a community partnership with Dayton Flight, a professional basketball team.
A new article published by the Washington, D.C., think tank Brookings, highlights the dynamic market for “student support” services that’s emerging as public funding increases to help schools address students’ social service and mental health needs, many of which were aggravated by the pandemic.
Wasser Gish is the Director of Systemic Impact, at the Mary E. Walsh Center for Thriving Children, the home of City Connects, and Jiang is one of the center’s Research Associates.
“With the field’s increasing understanding of what effective student support strategies look like, policymakers should establish quality benchmarks to help districts ensure a minimum, evidence-based standard of care for students,” Wasser Gish and Jiang explain.
“Just as the Food and Drug Administration strives to ensure that the health benefits of a new treatment outweigh potential harms, policymakers in education can use evidence to minimize potential risks and maximize the benefits of student support interventions.”
Among the risks that local, state, and federal policymakers can minimize are: