Sometimes a community partner provides fun, exercise, inspiration, confidence, and a chance to cheer for grown-ups. That’s the story of Girls on the Run Twin Cities, a nonprofit organization that teaches girls how to fulfill their potential, serve their communities, and run a 5K race.
As the school year draws to a close, City Connects Coordinators across the country are helping students prepare for summer, connecting them to services and opportunities that will help them succeed when school isn’t in session.
For Asha Quattrocchi, a City Connects Coordinator at the Cold Spring School in Indianapolis, Ind., this means sharing information and making connections.
From the earliest days of the pandemic, we’ve seen how powerful it is for schools to provide integrated student support.
To share knowledge about this powerful approach, the Mary E. Walsh Center for Thriving Children – home to City Connects — has just released the first “National Guidelines for Integrated Student Support,” a joint project of experts in research and evaluation as well as in the practice of integrating comprehensive school- and community-resources for students.
The guidelines are a “first effort to encapsulate evidence-based best practices and define what high quality implementation looks like in the day-to-day functioning of schools.”
“Our hope is that, in your hands, this knowledge will raise the standards of care and opportunity provided to our nation’s children and youth,” the guidelines’ website says.
The need is glaring.
“Students’ learning and wellbeing are increasingly impacted by the complex challenges of our time,” the report notes, adding:
“More than a third of high school students in the United States experienced poor mental health at least most of the time during the pandemic.”
How do you turn lessons about food into life skills? Ask City Connects Coordinator Keisha Anderson.
Anderson, the coordinator at Belle Haven Elementary School in Dayton, Ohio, teaches students about nutrition using her own upbeat energy, a cooking competition, and the help of a community partner.
Anderson worked with Donna Kuykendall to ensure that an afterschool nutrition program was both informative and fun. Kuykendall works as a Regional Program Assistant for Central State University Extension’s Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program. The program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
When Anderson and Kuykendall put their heads together, they came up with two culminating events: a “Chopped” competition and a family dinner.
Making nutrition fun is a crucial part of addressing challenging health issues, Anderson says.
“Belle Haven’s students are disproportionately and negatively impacted by health concerns that can be prevented through healthy eating and movement. High blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes can be prevented based on what we eat and how much we move.”
Before COVID-19, the MassMutual Federal Credit Union used to hold its book drives the old-fashioned way: put a big box in the hallway outside the credit union’s office to collect new and gently used children’s books from the 6,000 or so people who passed by each day.
The approach worked in part because the credit union’s office had a highly visible location right next to the cafeteria. The results were mostly good, lots of books for young children that were passed on to City Connects Coordinators in the Springfield Public School system — and a few very old dictionaries that could serve as doorstops.
Once Covid hit, however, Samantha Barnes, the credit union’s Marketing Specialist, had to adapt and so did City Connects Coordinator, Stephanie Sanabria. What they ended up with was a better book drive that more closely meets the needs of students and schools.