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 →
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 →
Laurie Acker’s experience with City Connects shows how awareness of students’ needs can lead to action.
“The big ‘A ha,’ that I had with City Connects was hearing that 65 percent of why there is an achievement gap has nothing to do with schools or teachers,” explains Acker, who has worked as both a teacher and a principal in Catholic schools.
That 65 percent statistic comesfrom research that found the achievement gap is significantly fueled by out-of-school factors. Now, as the Program Manager for City Connects schools in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., Acker sees those factors up close every day.
But she also sees how City Connects works with students, families, and community partners to address the many other challenges that children in the Twin Cities face.Continue reading →