Recognizing school counselors and City Connects Coordinators

Being a school counselor can be challenging in a normal year. But this work can be grueling in the middle of a pandemic that has triggered a national mental health crisis among children and adolescents.

 So we’re happy that National School Counseling Week, which was last week, brought both recognition and appreciation to school counselors – and to City Connects Coordinators.

As the pandemic continues, counselors are working with struggling students and providing support for burned out teachers and school staff. At City Connects schools, our coordinators are a vital source of this support. Although the pandemic has been tough, our coordinators have been tougher – and more compassionate, creative, and determined than ever.

Coordinators are addressing the isolation the pandemic has caused, while monitoring the racial trauma some students feel since the murder of George Floyd. 

So it was great to see Laurie Roule, the City Connects coordinator at STEM Middle Academy of Springfield, Mass., being acknowledged by her school.

Continue reading “Recognizing school counselors and City Connects Coordinators”

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”

The Weekly Connect 10/12/21

Here’s the new edition of The Weekly Connect. Check it out and sign up to have it delivered to your inbox!

Here are some of the things we’ve been reading about this week:

Springfield Public Schools is using a second $1 million grant from the MassMutual Foundation to continue implementing City Connects.

Head Start study reveals gains for virtual learners

California imposes country’s first K-12 vaccine mandate, which could go into effect in January.

An Arkansas school district opens a food pantry that provides food as well as school supplies, health and hygiene items, and essential clothing. 

To read more, click on the following links.

Continue reading “The Weekly Connect 10/12/21”

Noman Khanani talks about data — and transforming education

Noman Khanani Noman Khanani never expected to work in educational data analytics. But this spring he’s part of the research team that dives deep into City Connects’ data, and he’s sharing some of the results at national conferences. 

“I had always been interested in data,” he recalls. “When I was younger, I always enjoyed math and statistics, but I never really thought of pursuing this as a career. It was just something I was good at in the classroom.” 

Khanani enrolled in graduate school at Boston University’s Educational Leadership and Policy Studies master’s degree program. He thought he would go on to work in administration. 

Then he got a job as a research assistant. 

“That was my first exposure to education research and the use of quantitative analytics and statistics to measure student learning and understand the impact of programs and interventions. This work combined my interests in statistics with working for social good.”  Continue reading “Noman Khanani talks about data — and transforming education”

Job satisfaction for City Connects Coordinators – a research study


What’s it like for City Connects Coordinators who work in high-poverty communities and help students succeed?

A new research study – “Experiences of practitioners implementing comprehensive student support in high-poverty schools,” published in the journal Improving Schools –provides interesting answers, pointing to both job satisfaction and systemic barriers. 

The study was written by Amy Heberle, a psychology professor at Clark University and a former City Connects research fellow; Úna Ní Sheanáin, a former post-doctoral fellow who worked with City Connects; Mary Walsh, City Connects’ Executive Director and a professor at Boston College; and by City Connects graduate assistants Anna Hamilton and Agnes Chung, and former City Connects Coordinator Victoria Eells Lutas. 

We know that the work of supporting students can be emotionally demanding. As Walsh and Springfield Public Schools Superintendent Daniel Warwick have written in CommonWealth Magazine: 

“When children walk into their schools, they make everyone feel what they feel. Teachers, principals, even superintendents can all feel the burdens students carry, especially those who struggle with poverty and despair. Some children talk about their challenges. Others don’t. Either way, educators and administrators feel the weight of the hunger, homelessness, mental health challenges, incarceration of parents, and other hardships that many children bear. We have to feel it, because being connected to children is the only way that we can successfully do our jobs.”  Continue reading “Job satisfaction for City Connects Coordinators – a research study”

Desks meet the remote learning needs of Springfield’s students

 

Stephanie Sanabria

In the past, Stephanie Sanabria, a City Connects Coordinator in Springfield, Mass., had been known as the Bed Lady because she helped secure beds for local families. 

Now, she’s essentially been promoted to Desk Wizard.

“The Massachusetts Coalition for the Homeless helps us with beds,” through its A Bed for Every Child initiative, Sanabria says. “But they realized that the need goes beyond beds. Because of remote learning, kids also need desks. When I got the coalition’s email about this, I thought, We need this in Springfield.”

Sanabria’s long-standing relationship with the coalition made it easier to bring this resource to Springfield students. Continue reading “Desks meet the remote learning needs of Springfield’s students”

Steering through the COVID-19 crisis in Springfield

Back in March, when the dangerous spread of the coronavirus forced schools to close, the Springfield Public School system focused on human needs.

“We know that our schools are much more than education centers for our families. They provide important support and we know that closure will impact on our families,” the Springfield, Mass., public school website explained. 

“Springfield’s first priority was the safety and well-being of all our students and families,” Julie Donovan, Springfield’s City Connects Program Manager says. That meant focusing on the essential basics of food and housing and on keeping kids virtually connected to school.

So Springfield’s 28 City Connects Coordinators got to work. They reached out to families who weren’t responding to teachers, and they helped children living in homeless shelters get laptops and Internet hotspots.  Continue reading “Steering through the COVID-19 crisis in Springfield”

City Connects: A decade of growth in Springfield

In 2010, City Connects launched in Springfield, Mass., and since then we’ve seen a decade of strong growth in the city. 

We recently shared this progress at a meeting of the Springfield Public Schools’ School Committee. 

“City Connects and Springfield have a strong partnership,” Anastasia Raczek says. She is the Associate Director of Research & Evaluation at the Center for Optimized Student Support, where City Connects is based. The center is part of Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development. 

City Connects’ growth in Springfield from implementation at a small scale into a districtwide solution offers a model for other districts considering how to address the non-academic and out-of-school needs of their students.”  Continue reading “City Connects: A decade of growth in Springfield”

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