“People want to help. All you have to do is ask,” Kelly Moulin says.
Moulin is the City Connects coordinator at Southbridge Academy in Southbridge, Mass., and she is exceptionally good at asking for help and inspiring people to say yes.
Southbridge Academy is a PBISschool — meaning the school provides Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports – that has 40 students in grades 6 to 12 who have individual educational plans or who need more support.
Because the school community is so small, and Moulin isn’t shy, one thing she does is ask students for their input. Moulin sends out student interest surveys to get guidance from the kids on a number of issues.
“The top three things that the students listed on their interest survey were music, sports, and art,” Moulin says. Unfortunately, Southbridge Academy doesn’t have a full-time art teacher so Moulin asked the part-time teacher to help. “We did an age-appropriate version of ‘Brushes and Beverages’. We call it a ‘Paint and Sip’ party, and we provide soda, popcorn, and chips and free canvases and paint and brushes for the kids.”
Daniel Triana Alvarado was 7 years old when his family moved from Mexico to Westborough, Mass., where he began a journey through public education that prepared him for and led him to the Mary E. Walsh Center for Thriving Children, the home of City Connects.
Westborough, Triana recalls, was a town with resources for families and students. In high school, Triana had a guidance counselor, Steven Favulli, who talked to him and his family about college.
“My parents still talk about how important Mr. Favulli was,” Triana says. “He made my parents feel like they had a grasp of what was going on in school because he spoke Spanish, and he took the time to help them understand.”
Triana enrolled in Worcester State University (WSU) where he decided to major in business administration, attracted by the range of doors the degree promised to open.
“What did I get out of going to Worcester State University?” Triana says, musing about his college years. “Opportunities.”
These weren’t typical opportunities. Triana was working full time in college, so he couldn’t participate in internships. And he hadn’t developed career aspirations based on seeing the careers of his parents or of family friends. Instead, his opportunities came in the form of personal connections.