Teachers talk about City Connects

While the City Connects model focuses on getting the right services to the right child at the right time, our approach also helps teachers. We highlighted their comments in our 2022 Progress Report, and we’re sharing some of them here.

At the heart of City Connects is the whole class review conducted by coordinators who meet with teachers to explore the strengths and needs of every student. As one coordinator explains of this process: 

“It’s an opportunity for someone to listen to them. Because for years, teachers have sat with this knowledge in the classroom with no one to act upon it. And now here comes another adult in the building that wants to know about your kids. I want to know what you see as strengths. I want to know what you are concerned about. And I’m writing it down. So if I’m writing it down, it must be important, right? And it might be something I can follow up with. Teachers are feeling like, ‘Someone’s listening to me and someone’s going to help my students.’ Because teachers are passionate about what they do. They care.”

A Minnesota teacher elaborates, adding: 

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From the archives: Checking in with City Connects staff

While the blog is on summer vacation, we’re sharing past posts about the many ways City Connects helps students thrive. 

This week’s roundup looks at staff members who are or have been part of City Connects, which is based at the Mary E. Walsh Center for Thriving Children in Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development. 

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Practice and research: a conversation with Maria Theodorakakis
City Connects Blog, November 11, 2021 

Even as an undergraduate at Boston College, Maria Theodorakakis was looking for a way to combine her academic interests with hands-on work.

“I was looking for a major that really kind of combined my interest in psychology and sociology with my interest in helping kids and working in schools,” Theodorakakis recalls.

A conversation with the late John Cawthorne, a former Associate Dean in BC’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development, led her to transfer from the College of Arts and Sciences to the Lynch School – and that’s where she found City Connects.

Back in those days, in 2007, when City Connects was only in five Boston schools, Theodorakakis applied for and received a summer research fellowship, joining the City Connects team. 

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From the archives: the power of fun

While the blog is on summer vacation, we’re sharing past posts about the many ways City Connects helps students thrive. 

This week’s roundup looks at how City Connects Coordinators bring fun activities into their schools. 

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Community Partners: Girls on the Run Twin Cities
City Connects Blog, January 25 2018

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.

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Summer opportunities fair at Dayton Early College Academy

Summer: services, opportunities, and fun
City Connects Blog, May 30, 2019

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.

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City Connects releases its 2022 Progress Report

We’re happy to announce the release of City Connects’ 2022 Progress Report. It’s a look at our history, our growth, and the progress we’ve made in schools as the world has navigated the pandemic.

As the report explains:

“In high-poverty urban schools, children face out-of-school challenges that can impede their success in the classroom and in life. Since the 1960’s, researchers have concluded that socioeconomic background is a significant factor affecting students’ academic achievement.”

City Connects helps by implementing a systematic, evidence-based model of integrated student support that addresses the out-of-school challenges stemming from poverty. And as City Connects has grown, expanding into more U.S. cities and into Dublin, Ireland, we’ve also seen growing interest in integrated student support.

“…particularly in the context of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, interest in this work has grown in the worlds of practice, research, and policy,” the report says.

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A City Connects Coordinator shares her superpower: asking people for help

Student painting from a “Paint and Sip” event at Southbridge Academy

“People want to help. All you have to do is ask,” Kelly Moulin says. 

Moulin is the City Connects coordinator at Southbridge Academy in Southbridge, Mass., and she is exceptionally good at asking for help and inspiring people to say yes.

Southbridge Academy is a PBIS school — meaning the school provides Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports – that has 40 students in grades 6 to 12 who have individual educational plans or who need more support.

Because the school community is so small, and Moulin isn’t shy, one thing she does is ask students for their input. Moulin sends out student interest surveys to get guidance from the kids on a number of issues.

“The top three things that the students listed on their interest survey were music, sports, and art,” Moulin says. Unfortunately, Southbridge Academy doesn’t have a full-time art teacher so Moulin asked the part-time teacher to help. “We did an age-appropriate version of ‘Brushes and Beverages’. We call it a ‘Paint and Sip’ party, and we provide soda, popcorn, and chips and free canvases and paint and brushes for the kids.”

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A new name, a transformative gift


What’s in a name? Sometimes, there’s a promise to change the world, and an invitation for changemakers to join in this work.

That’s why we’re excited to announce that the Center for Optimized Student Support, the home of City Connects, is being renamed the Mary E. Walsh Center for Thriving Children

Helping children thrive is what Mary Walsh set out to do in 2001, when she founded City Connects. Now, as the executive director of City Connects and the Daniel E. Kearns Professor in Urban Education and Innovative Leadership at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development, Walsh is in her third decade of helping children overcome out-of-school challenges so they can succeed in school.

The newly named Center for Thriving Children (CTC) arrives on the wings of a $10 million endowment gift from an anonymous donor.

“We are so pleased about this extraordinary gift,” Stanton Wortham says. He is the Charles F. Donovan, S.J., Dean of the Lynch School, where the center is based. “For three decades, Mary Walsh has been building an exceptional program that is improving lives for tens of thousands of children. She conceptualized it, raised funds for it, built it, and commissioned research that shows it is both successful and extremely cost-effective. Her consistent focus on developing the whole child fits wonderfully with the BC mission of formative education.”

“This is a transformative gift,” Walsh agrees. “It is a tremendous honor to all the members of our team over the years, our school-based coordinators, thousands of educators, and community partners who have been instrumental to this work.”

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