At 85 schools in five states, nonprofit agency City Connects acts as a liaison between school districts and families who may need more assistance than the district can provide, connecting them to community partners that offer assistance, EdSurge reports.
City Connects has been around since 2001 and is funded through a mix of philanthropy, district money and government grants in its efforts to address the problem of poverty by providing a mix of enrichment, early intervention and crisis management.
The program staffs schools with contacts who teachers can reach out to: For example, one such liaison at a Boston elementary school, Madeline Gillespie, was recently asked to check on a frequently absent student, and upon discovering the student’s family was living in a shelter less than a mile from the school, she addressed the issue by arranging for a bus to stop at the shelter.
Programs that connect low-income students and their families to community services can be vital links that help bridge poverty-related achievement gaps. In addition to City Connects, there are programs like Communities In Schools that also use school-based coordinators to bring in community resources and put at-risk students on the path to graduation.
It's not just a concern in urban areas, either. As schools move toward 1:1 digital device programs, for example, more homework assignments are dependent upon students having reliable broadband connections at home, but a lack of internet access is a problem for many rural and urban low-income students alike. There are solutions for that, as well, with programs like Connect2Complete and Learning On-the-Go providing affordable options to families and districts to make sure everyone is connected.
Bilingual liaisons in these services are also important — about 50% of the families City Connects serves, for instance, identify as Hispanic. Often, these families rely on their children to interpret for them, but a bilingual adult on staff will go a long way toward fully understanding a problem and offering solutions.
Even if these gap-bridging services aren't available in a district, administrators could create their own liaison positions. A point person versed in available services could be a reliable conduit between a problem and solution. Many problems, like the absent student who didn’t have transportation to school from the shelter, are relatively easy fixes that just require someone dedicated to reaching out to a family and asking how they can help.