City Connects, a program that supports K-8 students throughout Boston, New York, and Ohio and was founded by Lynch School of Education Kearns Professor of Urban Education Mary Walsh, has recently been awarded grants from six different foundations totaling $2.6 million.
Having earned her bachelor’s from Catholic University of America and specializing in out-of-school factors that impact learning among impoverished children, Walsh continues to head City Connects by concentrating on individual student needs.
Active in 55 locations spanning three states and encompassing both public and private schools, City Connects addresses issues that children face outside of the classroom and the impact that those factors-particularly those concerning poverty-have on students’ academic abilities.
The organization’s mission is to address children’s strengths and needs across four primary platforms: academic, health, family, and social/emotional.
Launched by Walsh in 2001, the program uses an evidence-based model of identifying the strengths and needs of its network of students. Students are then connected with a personalized set of enrichment services to better prepare them for learning.
“The statistical evidence of City Connects’ positive benefit reducing the high-school drop-out rate provides an example of a benefit that has substantial social and economic return to students and to society,” Walsh said in statement to the Office of News and Public Affairs.
The Boston College-based leadership and research team, City Connects uses full-time School Site Coordinators at each of its member schools to work directly with teachers, counselors, families, and administrators to develop effective classroom interventions and emotionally constructive home-life activities.
According to data published on the organization’s website, 100 percent of City Connect principals and assistant principals reported being satisfied with the program and would recommend it to other principals.
With a three-year, $1.4 million grant from the Barr Foundation, a private organization that funds Boston-area leaders and networked organizations, City Connects will be able to extend its services to more than 7,800 students in the 18 Boston public schools.
The five other grants that City Connects received include:
A two-year, $150,000 grant from the GHR Foundation; a 3-year, $530,000 grant from the Better Way Foundation; a $250,000 grant from the New Balance Foundation; $240,000 from the Mathile Family Foundation; and undisclosed funding from the Charles Hayden Foundation.
The varied grants will allow City Connects to grow within the Boston area, analyze its financial costs and benefits, evaluate the program’s long-term impact, and extend its support services to more young children.
“The New Balance funding continues their support of our work in Allston-Brighton schools with a special emphasis on student health and wellness,” Walsh said in a statement to the Office of News and Public Affairs. “The awards from the Better Way and Mathile Family foundations will allow us to offer a cradle to college continuum for the City Connects system of student support, starting with our youngest learners and then supporting them through high school graduation and on to college.”
City Connects is a project of the Center for Optimized Student Support within the Lynch school. The Center focuses on long-term growth for students by closing the achievement gap, reducing dropout rates, and promoting innovative teaching practices.