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

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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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