Talking about City Connects, in Ireland

Now that City Connects is running in 10 schools in the North East Inner City (NEIC), district in Dublin, Ireland, we’re proud to see our evidence-based model of integrated student support being adapted to the local culture and shared with the public.

One example is a new video designed to help parents learn about City Connects and how it supports students, which is posted above. The video features Program Manager Gerard Cullen and some of Dublin’s Coordinators, and it provides a front seat view of our work in Dublin.

As Cullen explains in the video, “One of our key beliefs is that every child has strengths, and our job is to find out what that strength is, build on it, while also addressing any needs the child might have, so they can succeed in school. And City Connects is not just for the child with trauma or not just for the child experiencing difficulties, either at school or at home. City Connects is for every child attending one of our partner schools.”

“So that’s what we do, we create an individual plan for each and every child every year. Sometimes it can be quite simple or a little bit more detailed, but every plan is unique and tailored to that child’s own individual strengths and needs. In essence, City Connects creates the right plan for the right child at the right time.”

Continue reading “Talking about City Connects, in Ireland”

Anna Hamilton: from graduate assistant to City Connects staff member

 As a college student at Tulane University, Anna Hamilton was trying to decide whether she wanted to study education or psychology.

“I was very interested in working with children in some capacity and early on as an undergraduate, I got involved in psychological research working in a lab where I studied prejudice and stigma,” Hamilton recalls.

Outside the lab, Hamilton worked with children, leading social-emotional skills groups at an elementary school. She also worked as an intern at a family resource center, providing trauma-informed care for children and families who were involved with Louisiana’s Department of Child and Family Services.

For Hamilton, working with children won out, and she enrolled in Boston College to earn a master’s degree in mental health counseling.

“I thought I was leaving the research world behind,” she says.

But in 2016, a few weeks after she started her master’s program, Hamilton started working as a graduate assistant at City Connects and stepped back into the research world.

Continue reading “Anna Hamilton: from graduate assistant to City Connects staff member”

Reflecting on the past and forging a brighter future

For the new year, we are reflecting on where we’ve been and looking forward to what’s ahead. Writing in our current newsletter, Mary Walsh, the Executive Director of City Connects, says:

“From all of us at City Connects, I wish you and your loved ones a happy, healthy new year. 2021 has been another challenging year in schools for students, for families, and for staff.”

“Despite many pandemic-related challenges, Coordinators are moving mountains to support children and families. We are implementing in an ever-expanding set of schools. City Connects is currently delivering supports, services, and enrichment opportunities to tens of thousands of students in the United States and in Ireland, and the U.S. Department of Education has featured City Connects in a number of its publications.”

This growth has happened in Massachusetts and in Indiana. City Connects has been praised in Ireland; and the Department of Education points to us as an example of an evidence-based model of integrated student support.

Continue reading “Reflecting on the past and forging a brighter future”

Powerful community partnerships: The MassMutual Foundation

Despite the challenges of COVID-19, it’s a new year that’s full of promise; and here at City Connects, we are excited about what’s next. 

We’re growing in Indianapolis and in Massachusetts. We have a new technical assistance center based at Marian University in the Midwest, so that we can work with more schools in that part of the country. We’re hiring new staff, and we’re seeing how the City Connects model is effective, resilient, and making a difference for children, families, teachers, schools, and communities, especially during the pandemic. 

We couldn’t do this work alone, which is why we’re so grateful to our many community partners, the nonprofit organizations and businesses that work with us to support students. 

One example is the MassMutual Foundation. 

Continue reading “Powerful community partnerships: The MassMutual Foundation”

City Connects in Ireland: an update

In the middle of the pandemic and amidst school closures, City Connects launched a pilot program in Dublin in the fall of 2020. Today the program is running in ten schools in Dublin’s North East Inner City (NEIC), a district that was created to spark social and economic regeneration in an area that is addressing the familiar urban challenges of poverty, crime, and untapped potential. 

Earlier this month, at an event in Dublin’s Larkin Community College where NEIC released its 2021 Progress Report, City Connects won warm recognition for its work in Ireland from the country’s Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe. 

 Ireland’s Prime Minister Micheál Martin attended the event and said of the work being done in the district, “The ability to create innovation and innovative programs to augment work already underway in this area is key to progress.”

Minister for Finance Donohoe said early in his speech, “I want to pick out three areas in the report that speak to the ambition that we have for 2022. First one which I want to recognize is the City Connects project.” (He starts speaking at the 29 minute mark in this video.)

Donohoe praised City Connects for building “community hope” and “looking at how we can put together a new way of working with all students in our schools to make sure they have the tailored support to support their needs and to develop their talents.”

Continue reading “City Connects in Ireland: an update”

Observations from the pandemic: a policy brief


The pandemic’s global toll has been devastating, especially for students and schools. But as City Connects has moved through the last 18 months, we’ve observed a range of needs that we are sharing in a new policy brief, “Effects of the pandemic on students, families, and school staff in 2020.” 

The brief draws on the power and insights of City Connects’ network, which currently includes over 140 schools in five states and in the nation of Ireland. During the height of the pandemic, we gathered information from City Connects Coordinators who implement our model by assessing students’ needs and strengths and delivering responsive services. In November 2020, 73 of 90 invited coordinators responded to an anonymous survey. The brief is based on a subset of these coordinators’ responses to a longer survey.


Working through a pandemic 

When schools shut down in Spring 2020, the brief notes, “children, families, and staff in high-poverty schools faced the compounding effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing racial and economic injustice.” 

 During this harrowing time, City Connects coordinators continued their work in a range of situations. As the brief explains, “14% of coordinators worked at schools with fully in-person learning and worked in the school, whereas about half of coordinators worked in schools with remote learning and were working from home.” 

Continue reading “Observations from the pandemic: a policy brief”

Renewing our commitment to equity: a message from Mary Walsh

Mary E. Walsh
Mary Walsh

As long as I’ve worked in schools, I have seen and worked against inequity. But the racial injustices of the past year have triggered a national crisis that demands new attention.

These inequities, which date to the country’s birth, have created glaring opportunity gaps that have led to persistent achievement gaps. Along with countless colleagues, I’ve worked to close these gaps, providing support and services to students. 

In 2000, one of the most striking features of many schools was the number of students who were plagued by poverty. They were hungry or homeless or needed eyeglasses or dental care. Here in Boston, there was no systematic and systemic way to meet these needs. School staff spent most of their time assisting students who were “behavior problems.” Students who seemed okay got less attention. If a teacher learned that a student needed winter boots or a coat, there was no clear, systematic way to help.

In 2001, I worked with colleagues in the Boston Public Schools and at Boston College to create a systematic way to address these inequities for every student in a school, because a child who is hungry or cold or in pain isn’t ready to learn. Through a two year planning process with Boston educators, families, and community organizations, we developed City Connects, a model for providing integrated student support that’s based at the Boston College Lynch School of Education and Human Development. City Connects put coordinators, typically social workers and school counselors, into Boston Public Schools. They looked at every student’s strengths and needs and connected each student with a tailored set of supports, resources, and services. The coordinators tracked information and monitored student progress. 

Continue reading “Renewing our commitment to equity: a message from Mary Walsh”

Welcoming our new graduate assistants

Every year at City Connects, we are excited to welcome a new cohort of graduate assistants. The GAs, as we call them, come from different programs here at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development, and they bring passion and energy to our work.

“The GAs typically work with us for an academic year, and we want their experience to be a valuable part of their education,” Claire Foley, City Connects’ Associate Director, says. “Many of the GAs give conference presentations and they contribute to our multi-disciplinary team.”

This year’s cohort of new GAs bring a wealth of experience to City Connects. They are:

Elizabeth Dowgert, earning a master’s degree in School Counseling

Dowgert is working on City Connects’ policy outreach and communications efforts. She’s a former preschool teacher who brings insights from the world of early education, where there’s a strong interplay between “whole child” approaches and education, Foley says.

“Elizabeth is really drawn to the idea that school can be a place where you look at and address kids’ out-of-school needs.” She will be working with us to translate our experience implementing City Connects in early childhood settings into lessons and resources for practitioners and policymakers. Continue reading “Welcoming our new graduate assistants”

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