City Connects makes connections. We connect students and their families to tailored sets of resources. We connect schools to an array of community partners. And we connect what we are learning about integrating school and community resources to larger, national conversations.
Our work is a leading example of how schools can help students overcome hardships by providing “integrated student support” that weaves services and enrichments into the fabric of schools.
In the high-poverty communities we serve, many of our students experience challenges and traumas, which is why our support of their healthy development takes many forms.
It’s a joint effort that unites school staff, City Connects coordinators, families, and community partners, so that every child gets a network of support tailored to meet their needs.
Part of the role of our coordinators is to use their training as social workers or school counselors to discern who could benefit from more opportunities to build social-emotional skills and relationships to better manage their emotions, and who could benefit from more intensive mental health services to help them be ready to learn.
Once coordinators make this determination, they spring into action. They do regular check-ins with students and families going through tough times. They find community partners who can provide mental health services, including one-on-one counseling. They run social skills groups. And they support teachers and other school staff find productive ways to talk about and address students’ struggles.Continue reading →
To get better at what we do, we look at data and listen to feedback.
In our model, coordinators in each school conductwhole class reviews to learn about students’ strengths and needs. Students are then connected to individually customized services. The data from this work is entered into our Student Support Information System, our proprietary web-based database.
It’s a process that we’re always working to improve. City Connects coordinators are always thinking about how to help the students make progress, and the program managers who support and supervise the coordinators are always looking for ways to improve.
One of the people who gathers this feedback from our staff is Lynne Sullivan, City Connects’ Director of Implementation. She serves as a resource and a conduit for the program managers, ensuring that they have what they need to make sure our practice is working. And when program managers share things that might enhance the practice, Sullivan brings this information back to our implementation team.Continue reading →
Taking their brain’s natural “plasticity” – the ability to change and grow – and combining this with heaping doses of positive people, places, and opportunities.
Researchers call this positive youth development or PYD.
At City Connects, it’s an essential strategy in our work.
“To foster students’ full development, City Connects schools aim for their students to be healthy, caring, socially responsible, knowledgeable citizens,” Una Shannon, a Post-Doctoral fellow who works with City Connects implementation and evaluation teams, says of how we promote positive youth development.
“The focus is on thriving: Building positive relationships, tapping into resilience, and providing opportunities for meaningful participation and leadership.”
In the field of adolescent development this is a vital shift. Instead of seeing “adolescents as inherently ‘at risk,’” as Richard Lerner, a Tufts University Psychology Professor and an expert on PYD, writesin a 2011 report, the PYD approach “views young people as resources to be developed…”Continue reading →