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!

For more information:

Excellence in School Wellness Awards to 4 City Connects Boston Schools

Last month, Boston Public Schools (BPS) bestowed Excellence in School Wellness Awards to 13 schools, four of which were City Connects schools. Congratulations to the Edison K-8, JFK Elementary, Quincy Elementary, and Trotter Elementary schools, whose innovations promoting student health and wellness were commended at the Sixth Annual BPS Health and Wellness Summit!

“Collectively, these schools demonstrated innovative efforts in creating connections to improve the school environment to make the healthy choice the easy choice,” said [BPS Superintendent]  Dr. Johnson. “For a school to be successful in its mission to provide an education for all students, it must prioritize their physical, mental, and emotional health.”

Health is one of the four domains central to City Connects (along with academics, social/emotional, and family). With the support of the New Balance Foundation, our School Site Coordinators lead school-based health and wellness initiatives that teach students how to make healthy choices about nutrition, exercise, and social relationships. The New Balance Foundation Health & Wellness program increases students’ health literacy, resulting in better behavior, work habits, and effort in the classroom. These skills help students combat critical issues like obesity and bullying—both in and out of the classroom. In short, healthier students are better students.

For more information:

Two City Connects Schools Commended for Promoting Student Health

“Healthy Connections” awards were presented to two City Connects schools, the John F. Kennedy and the Josiah Quincy elementary schools,  at the Boston Public Schools (BPS) 5th annual Wellness Summit on May 30. Seven awards were given to schools with innovative approaches to promoting student health and wellness.

“The schools we recognize today have shown innovative, collaborative, and service-oriented approaches to delivering Coordinated School Health to BPS students and families,” said BPS Superintendent Dr. Carol R. Johnson.

The JFK Elementary school’s health and wellness efforts included a range of activities: a Girls on the Run running club partnership with Hill House, Playworks recess activities, yoga instruction, a Winter Walking Club, dance and movement classes with the Boston Arts Project and the Hyde Square Task Force, nutrition lessons from the Martha Eliot Health Center, and a Step It Up walking challenge with Partners HealthCare. Beyond student activities, parents and caregivers were invited to attend weekly meditation and stress management classes and staff participated in Zumba.

In addition to winning a Healthy Connections award, the Quincy Elementary was given one of 10 national “Praiseworthy Pioneer” grants from the Active Schools Acceleration Project (ASAP). ASAP is an initiative of ChildObesity180, an organization at Tufts University committed to facilitating cross-sector collaboration to reverse the trend of childhood obesity within one generation’s time. ASAP seeks to increase quality physical activity in schools to promote healthy, active living and to evoke the beneficial behavioral and academic outcomes that follow. The $2,500 Praiseworthy Pioneer grants were given to support physical activity programming in schools.

“We are honored to be recognized. The award  will help support the Quincy’s Jammin’ Minutes, Playworks, GoKidsGo, and Sports and Scholars physical activity programs,” said Pauline Yee, a physical education teacher at the Quincy.

In City Connects, health is one the four domains of student strengths and needs that we examine, because healthy students are better able to learn and thrive in school. Congratulations to the JFK and the Quincy schools on these awards!

For more information:

Shoes That Fit & Nordstrom Donate New Balance Sneakers to Josiah Quincy School Students

One hundred children at the Josiah Quincy Elementary School in Boston’s Chinatown neighborhood received new footwear thanks to a donation from Shoes That Fit, a nonprofit organization teamed up with Nordstrom. With the financial support of the Nordstrom Giving Tree program, 100 pairs of New Balance sneakers have been distributed to children in need.

Raghida Jeranian, a City Connects School Site Coordinator at the Quincy school, worked with the Red Oak Afterschool Program at the Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center to coordinate the donation and delivery of the shoes. Red Oak offers academic support and extracurricular opportunities in afterschool and summer programs and provided the shoes to its predominantly low-income student population as a result of its strong partnership with City Connects.

“We always encourage students to be physically active, and these new shoes will be a big step forward in promoting exercise,” Jeranian said. “Having a donation of 100 pair of new sneakers that fit properly is a huge benefit to these students.”

A Josiah Quincy School student displays her new pair of shoes.

Shoes That Fit was created in 1992 after its founder had a conversation with a school nurse about a student who was crying on the playground. The nurse examined his feet and found them to be stuffed into shoes three sizes too small; the boy’s family couldn’t afford new shoes in his size, and he was in pain. Thus began Shoes That Fit, which provides shoes for about 100,000 children each year and will soon be marking 1 million pairs of shoes donated at more than 1,900 schools in 40 states.

Shoes That Fit works by connecting a sponsoring organization with a school; in this case, the Quincy school was chosen in a lottery.

“We can be wherever people want to help. We match up schools that have children in need with sponsors in their community who want to help—any group of people or type of business,” said Shoes That Fit Program Manager Lee Kane. “Sponsors determine how many shoes they can offer, the school identifies and measures children with materials we provide, and then members of the sponsoring group purchase and deliver the shoes. It’s a very hands-on, grassroots approach. They really enjoy the process and we’d love to help more schools in Boston.”

The Nordstrom Holiday Giving Tree program runs through December 24. One hundred seventeen Nordstrom stores across the country are displaying holiday trees with tags that customers can purchase for $20, which represent a child who will receive a new pair of New Balance athletic shoes. Thanks to the Nordstrom Holiday Giving Tree Program, a minimum of 11,550 pairs of shoes will be distributed this year to children in need!

For more information:

  • Shoes that Fit is always looking for sponsors–to find out more, please contact Lee Kane

City Connects School Wins Health Award

Alliance for a Healthier GenerationThe John F. Kennedy elementary school in Jamaica Plain, a City Connects school, is being honored by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation for fighting childhood obesity. The Alliance, founded by the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation, has recognized the JFK school for transforming its campus into a healthier place for students and staff.

To earn this award, the JFK revamped its meals service and physical activity programs to meet or exceeded stringent standards set by the Alliance for a Healthier Generation’s Healthy Schools Program, which provides expert advice and free resources to more than 12,000 schools nationwide to help them reverse the national trend in childhood obesity. Schools are eligible for Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum National Recognition Awards based on their level of achievement. The JFK school, a Bronze National Recognition Award winner, joins 274 other schools that are receiving this honor for their healthy achievements.

Rachel Garcia, the City Connects health coordinator at the JFK,  said that as a turnaround school, this milestone is particularly important. The school set out to achieve a National Recognition Award from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, requiring definite changes in the school schedule and the attitudes about increasing physical activity for students.

“With 70% new staff and a new principal, there is a reinvigorated quest for change. The principal, Waleska Landing-Rivera, was very enthusiastic and supportive in establishing a School Wellness Council to improve the overall health and wellness of our students and staff. For instance, Mrs. Landing-Rivera made recess a mandatory daily occurrence for at least 20 minutes, and also granted a second daily recess to kindergarten and first graders. Physical Education was also added to each student’s schedule at least once a week for 50 minutes. Many classes have P.E. twice a week.

Additionally, the City Connects/New Balance Foundation Health & Wellness Curriculum brought in not only content but also daily classroom movement breaks and physical activity exercise games. For next year, we plan to have daily morning Jammin’ Minutes for the whole school to complete after breakfast, which will increase the physical activity movement for every student. We are proud of our Bronze Level accomplishment and next year we will try for Silver!”

Two other Boston schools were recognized at a the June 13 awards ceremony in Little Rock, Arkansas. In response to this award, which comes on the heels of a new health and wellness district-wide  initiative, Boston Public Schools superintendent Dr. Carol Johnson said:

“We are working aggressively to close access and achievement gaps for our students, but for us to be successful in that endeavor we must have healthy, engaged students. We know that if our students are eating right and staying active they will be more engaged in the classroom. We take pride in the staff at these schools who are going the extra mile for our students.”

Last year, seven BPS schools were recognized, including two City Connects schools, the Quincy and Mission Hill. Congratulations to the JFK and this year’s winning schools!

For more information:

Community Partner Breakfast: A Focus on Health & Wellness

Today, City Connects hosted our annual spring gathering of community partners. The meeting, “Creating Dynamic School Partnerships to Increase the Health and Wellness of Students,” featured a panel discussion with (pictured left to right) Dr. Linda Grant, medical director of Boston Public Schools (BPS); Jill Carter, executive director, Health and Wellness at BPS; Simon Ho, principal of the Josiah Quincy School; and Pat DiNatale, director of new practice for City Connects.

Panelists discussed the need to coordinate services and fully integrate health into education to better serve students holistically. Dr. Grant emphasized the crucial role school nurses play in supporting the health of individual students while simultaneously developing knowledge of school-wide health concerns. Jill Carter gave insight into the efforts of the newly formed BPS Office of Health and Wellness and suggested that community partners establish relationships with “Wellness Champions” in the schools they serve. Simon Ho shared the steps his school took to promote student health and wellness that resulted in a Bronze Award from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation. Pat DiNatale discussed the New Balance Foundation Health and Wellness curriculum piloted this year by City Connects and gave thanks to all of the partners with whom City Connects works to promote healthy development of students.

City Connects believes that health is a crucial component to student support–click here to learn more about our philosophy.

Boston Teacher Wins Presidential Award for Excellence in Math & Science

Congratulations are in order for Wai Chin Ng, a 5th grade teacher at Josiah Quincy Elementary School, who is one of 85 educators from across the country to receive the prestigious Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching. The White House has announced President Barack Obama will honor these selected teachers next week.

 “Our students are so fortunate to have some of the very best teachers in the country working in their schools,” said Boston Public Schools (BPS) Superintendent Carol R. Johnson. “A great teacher, such as Mr. Ng, can inspire students for years to come. As we continue to talk about school reform and transformation we can’t take for granted the importance of a great teacher at the head of every classroom. I am honored to call Mr. Ng a colleague.”

Winners of this Presidential honor receive a $10,000 award from the National Science Foundation to be used at their discretion and travel to Washington, D.C., for an awards ceremony and several days of educational and celebratory events, including visits with members of Congress and the Administration. Congratulations to Mr. Ng and the Quincy School!

For more information:

Quincy & Mission Hill Schools Win National Healthy School Awards

The Josiah Quincy Elementary School and the Mission Hill K-8 School have just been named recipients of bronze level National Recognition Awards from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, a partnership between the American Heart Association and the William J. Clinton Foundation. The Healthy Schools Program National Recognition Award is an honor given to acknowledge schools that have implemented changes in order to create healthier school environments.

With one in three US children or teens overweight or obese, the Alliance for a Healthier Generation is working reduce the nationwide prevalence of childhood obesity by 2015.  The Alliance aims to empower kids to make healthy lifestyle choices and to positively affect the places that can make a difference to a child’s health: homes, schools, doctor’s offices, and communities.

Seven Boston Public Schools were recognized. In response to the award, BPS Superintendent Carol R. Johnson said:

“The health and wellness of students in the Boston Public Schools is among our top priorities, and we are pleased to see our schools receiving national recognition for their efforts to fight childhood obesity . These awards reflect the results of an innovative collaboration among the schools, central departments, and partner organizations to increase physical activity and promote good nutrition among students.”

Congratulations to the Quincy and Mission Hill schools!