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.
“Our thoughts are with our Salem school families who were impacted by yesterday’s fire on Hancock Street,” Salem’s School Superintendent Stephen Zrike said in a news release.
“Salem Public Schools’ City Connects Coordinators, Family Engagement Facilitators, and school leaders are working with identified staff and families who may have been impacted. If you have questions or have been impacted by the fire, please contact your school to be connected with those who can assist.”
In Indianapolis, Ind., Mayor Joe Hogsett is addressing the city’s mental health challenges. In March, he pledged to “implement a clinician-led mobile crisis team to respond to calls for help involving mental health situations in Indiana’s capital city,” the Indianapolis Star reports, adding that another part of the city’s efforts to address mental health is City Connects, which “lets the city work with school children and their families on mental health-related issues.”
And as Indianapolis and other City Connects sites show, the supportive work that coordinators do inside schools integrates with and enhances community wide efforts.
Last month, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett and Marian University President Daniel J. Elsener issued a press release announcing the launch of City Connects in Marion County, “an initiative that will invest $7.5 million in 12 public schools on the city’s Far Eastside over the next three years.”
For the new year, we are reflecting on where we’ve been and looking forward to what’s ahead. Writing in our current newsletter, Mary Walsh, the Executive Director of City Connects, says:
“From all of us at City Connects, I wish you and your loved ones a happy, healthy new year. 2021 has been another challenging year in schools for students, for families, and for staff.”
“Despite many pandemic-related challenges, Coordinators are moving mountains to support children and families. We are implementing in an ever-expanding set of schools. City Connects is currently delivering supports, services, and enrichment opportunities to tens of thousands of students in the United States and in Ireland, and the U.S. Department of Education has featured City Connects in a number of its publications.”
Taylor Herring is a new City Connects Coordinator at Boston’s Ellis Mendell School, but she’s already into the full swing of the holiday season.
For Thanksgiving she worked with the United Way to secure food baskets for families in need. And the family council at her school raised funds to buy Stop and Shop gift cards that also helped families put food on their Thanksgiving tables.
“We’re a small school. We have about 270 kids. But we were able to help around 70 families,” Herring explains. “Our principal noted that because of Covid there has been an increase in the number of families who needed resources.”
Now that Christmas is coming, Herring is in the midst of managing a toy drive.
“We created an Amazon wish list that we publicized, and we also had awesome donors who gave a lump sum of money, so we were able to fulfill the wish list and get Target gift cards that families can use to buy toys or necessities. They can also use the gift cards for other siblings in the household.”
The research draws on several sources: surveys of City Connects Coordinators conducted in the spring of 2020 in 94 schools across six states; a database of the student services these coordinators provided; and on coordinators’ estimates of the three most common challenges schools faced when they were closed.
In schools across the country, students face barriers that make it tough for them to thrive in school, to do well academically, socially, and emotionally. One student could be hungry. Another might need a winter coat. A third may have witnessed violence on the street or at home. A fourth might need a tutor. A fifth might be struggling to learn English.
The list goes on, and no one school can meet all these needs on its own.
Walsh is the Director of the Center for Optimized Student Support, (COSS) part of Boston College’s Lynch School of Education, which co-hosted the conference with the Rennie Center for Education Research & Policy. The COSS also houses City Connects.