Big Sisters Recognizes Quincy School as Community Partner of the Year

Mentoring has an overwhelmingly positive impact on children, reducing rates of high school dropout and increasing enrollment in post-secondary education. City Connects School Site Coordinators regularly refer students to community organizations that provide mentoring opportunities. One of our key mentoring partners is the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston, which serves more than 2,600 girls throughout Greater Boston.

Catherine Riede, Nicole Young, and Judy tk (L to R)
Left to right: City Connects School Site Coordinators Catherine Riede and Nicole Young with Judy Ellman, Manger of School-based Mentoring for Big Sisters of Greater Boston (photo courtesy of Big Sisters of Greater Boston)

At their annual meeting on May 12, the Big Sister Association of Greater Boston named the Josiah Quincy Elementary School as its 2014 Community Partner of the Year. The award recognizes the Quincy’s sustained commitment to Big Sister’s mission to serve girls and families through mentoring programs. The award was accepted by Catherine Riede and Nicole Young, the City Connects School Site Coordinators at the Quincy. Catherine and Nicole serve as the primary contacts for Big Sister at the Quincy, one of Big Sister’s longest-standing and largest partners. The pair were also recognized for their instrumental role in supporting, strengthening, and promoting Big Sisters within the school.

“Our partners at Josiah Quincy have been advocates for Big Sister and have truly welcomed us into their community,” said Deb Re, Chief Executive Officer at Big Sister Association of Greater Boston. “They have not only demonstrated a real interest in getting to know the nearly 60 matches who meet at their school, but also have hosted lunch groups, invited Big Sisters to speak at their career day, and distributed information about Big Sister in their newsletter to parents. We are so grateful for their committed partnership, and look forward to continuing to grow the number of girls we serve at Josiah Quincy in the coming years.”

Congratulations to the Quincy, and thank you to Big Sisters for the important work you do!

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City Connects Community Partner Meeting and “Shared Accountability”

Thanks to all of our community partners who joined us today for our annual gathering! We had a rich discussion about using data to create and sustain effective school-community partnerships. A few notable points from our table talks:

  • Most students in City Connects schools receive more than one service or enrichment program. Is there a way we can examine which combination of services is most effective in contributing to positive outcomes for specific groups of students?
  • In light of Boston not having a neighborhood school structure, would it be possible to examine community outcome data for additional insight into the impact of student support?
  • What other benefits do students experience outside of those demonstrated in academic outcomes? City Connects analyzes thriving measures (behavior, work habits, and effort) because they are included in Boston report cards, but are there other non-academic gains to be considered?
  • Can City Connects use its coalition of community partners to make progress in eliminating service gaps–for example, helping to increase capacity in after-school programs for young children?

This meeting with our partners came on the heels of a new Education Sector report, “Striving for School Success: A Model of Shared Accountability.” From the report:

“In the current school reform atmosphere, in which individual schools and teachers are being judged by their own students’ outcomes, this notion of ‘shared accountability’ is rare … But little will be accomplished—in Cincinnati, the Promise Neighborhoods, or elsewhere—unless the supports and services essential to fighting poverty are tightly coordinated and the providers are held accountable for their performance. It may seem obvious that, working together, providers can have a
greater impact than they can have toiling in isolation …  The idea of shared accountability is to not just coordinate these disparate efforts but also to focus them on a common vision for student success that is backed by the collection and analysis of data on a range of related indicators, such as early education, nutrition, and even housing security.”

City Connects and its coalition of partners in schools and in the community definitely have a common vision for students, and our gathering today further demonstrates that we are all committed to ensuring that every student comes to school ready to learn and thrive.

For more information:

  • Read the full Education Sector report here [pdf]
  • Follow Education Sector on Twitter @EducationSector and read tweets related to shared accountability using hashtag #sharedacct 

Cradles to Crayons Donates Leap Pads to City Connects Schools

C2C Volunteer Day
The City Connects team at Cradles 2 Crayons

City Connects believes that all children can learn and thrive in school if their non-school needs are addressed. A critical partner in meeting these needs is Cradles to Crayons, a powerhouse Boston nonprofit that provides, free of charge, disadvantaged children with the essential items that all kids need to flourish. Cradles to Crayons has supported Boston’s children by providing vital items like backpacks filled with supplies at the start of school and hats and coats during the winter.

On June 17, as part of a year-end day of service, City Connects School Site Coordinators and Program Managers spent the day at Cradles to Crayons’ “Giving Factory,” a warehouse in Brighton, where they inspected, sorted, and packaged clothing donations for children. Emily York, City Connects Program Manager, said:

“Cradles to Crayons has been an important partner for City Connects for several years, thanks in part to the hard work of several of our School Site Coordinators, most notably Amy Cluff, Brendan Adams, and Elizabeth Centeio. With their move to the new Giving Factory space in Brighton, our partnership has been strengthened even more.  Since Cradles to Crayons is such an important partner for us, we were excited about the opportunity to spend some time volunteering. We were divided into teams to create bags of clothing items for children of certain ages and genders; it was so much fun!  The staff there are friendly and energetic and we could not have asked for a better day.”

Following the volunteer day, Kylee North, Cradles to Crayons’ Manager of Distribution Partnerships, contacted us to let us know about availability of a special donation: 400 Leap Pad learning tablets. Our Program Managers were thrilled and thought the donation would be perfectly suited for students at three City Connects elementary schools in Boston that were closing–the Farragut, Emerson, and Agassiz. In addition to those schools, there were enough Leap Pads to share with six more City Connects schools: Edison, Winship, Jackson Mann, Dever McCormack, Holland, and Mason. Said Kylee:

“Cradles to Crayons is dedicated to serving kids in need. Our vision that one day, every child in need will have the essentials to feel safe, warm, ready to learn, and valued, drives us to partner with different agencies across the state that share in that vision. City Connects is no exception. We know that when we provide children’s items to City Connects, those items go directly to the kids who need them the most in the Boston Public Schools. It’s collaborative partnerships like these that help Cradles to Crayons deepen our impact and further our reach to serve more children in need.”

Emily York says that with Kylee’s help, a more streamlined process has been created allowing School Site Coordinators at every City Connects school to place orders more easily. They can provide families with the items they need with more accuracy and quicker than ever before.

Thank you, Cradles to Crayons, for all the great work you do on behalf of Boston’s children!

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Community Partners Health & Wellness Breakfast: Video Posted

Over on our YouTube channel, we’ve posted video of the speakers’ presentations from our May 11 community breakfast, where the topic was “Creating Dynamic School Partnerships to Increase Health & Wellness of Students.” The 5 videos include:

  • Dr. Mary Walsh, executive director of City Connects, discussing  the critical roles health and fitness play in student success, as well as City Connects data about health and wellness services students receive.
  • Dr. Linda Grant, medical director, Boston Public Schools,  discussing prevention, intervention, and management strategies that schools can and are using to support children.
  • Jill Carter, executive director of health & wellness, Boston Public Schools, discussing initiatives in her department to support health and wellness across all schools in the district.
  • Simon Ho, principal, Josiah Quincy Elementary School, discussing how he implements a comprehensive and coordinated health and wellness program for students at the Quincy.
  • Patrice DiNatale, director of new practice at City Connects, discussing how City Connects integrates health as a core component of student support.