Keeping the Promise: Charline Mitchell

Growing up in public housing with little family history of college attendance, Charline Mitchell had few prospects for getting an education beyond high school. But she is driven to seize opportunities, and she has beaten the odds by taking her education further than she ever expected.

“Without Children’s Aid,” Charline says, “I wouldn’t have applied to school in the first place.”

Her journey to academic and personal success started in high school, where Charline initially struggled with social anxiety and low self-esteem. A guidance counselor helped her cope with the pressures she felt and in their sessions saw a spark in Charline and took note of her talent and potential.

With her counselor’s recommendation, Charline became a participant in Children’s Aid’s Hope Leadership Academy, where she began to blossom.  

At Hope, Charline focused squarely on her academics. She fondly remembers Hope’s tutoring sessions—“I was always the last one to leave,” she says—and she earned high grades as a result. Her academic achievement qualified her for a cultural exchange program in Germany through a Children’s Aid partner.

She also took advantage of internship and employment opportunities—working at A Time for Children and HBO through Children’s Aid apprenticeship programs—and became a community leader, heading a youth group in the neighborhood and volunteering at various nonprofits.

When Charline reached her senior year, Children’s Aid mentors presented the idea of applying to college. Excited by the idea but overwhelmed by the process and the huge costs, she wasn’t sure she could do it. In the end, after lots of guidance, support and partial scholarships from Children’s Aid, she enrolled at St. John’s University to pursue counseling.

As an undergraduate student, Charline continued to take advantage of opportunities, juggling a major in human services, an internship at P.S. 111 in Long Island City and volunteer positions at College Goal NY, iMentor and several other community organizations. She then defied the odds even further by continuing on to graduate school at St. John’s, which awarded her a master’s degree in school counseling in January.

Since then, Charline has been working at The Avon Foundation and the Young Adult Institute while she applies to school counselor positions, aiming to secure employment through the Department of Education by the end of the summer.

“Children’s Aid truly changed my life,” she says. Knowing how powerful good guidance can be, Charline is eager to help others make their college dreams come true.

From the CEO

Dear Friends:

When does a school cost become an investment?

That’s a question we answer in an exciting case study of two of our Washington Heights community schools. Developed with The Finance Project, “Measuring Social Return on Investment for Community Schools” is designed to help educators and administrators across the country begin to measure and communicate the social and economic value of this proven school reform strategy.

As you know, community schools make a major contribution to student academic achievement, children’s social and emotional health, family participation and community engagement—in districts around the country and the world. Still, we face daunting challenges as we try to scale this proven model to achieve widespread impact, especially when resources are constrained and the effectiveness of investments is under increased scrutiny.

That’s why we’re thrilled with our results.

Applying our SROI methodology showed that every dollar invested in programs and supports at our Washington Heights elementary school yielded a $10.30 return on investment. Dollars at this school were invested in the instructional program, early childhood services, parent engagement, after-school and summer enrichment, and medical, dental and social services.

At the intermediate school level, the return was even greater: $14.80 for every dollar invested in similar supports.

At least 50 U.S. cities have created systems of community schools, serving an estimated 5.1 million students. Over the past decade, community schools here in New York City and across the country have been shown to improve academic achievement, increase parent engagement, boost student and teacher attendance and increase graduation rates. These gains are particularly critical in poor and severely disadvantaged neighborhoods, where the academic achievement gap is more pronounced than it has been in decades.

Using the SROI methodology, we can now show that community schools avoid the costs of bad outcomes, such as students repeating a grade and overuse of emergency rooms for routine medical care. We can also document the social and economic value of positive outcomes, such as children reading at grade level and high school graduation.

We know these gains can help make the case for community schools, so we are sharing our methodology in a practical guide for school leaders everywhere.

Together, the case study and guide tell a clear and compelling story: When we apply the best available knowledge about children’s learning and healthy development and bring together the best resources of schools and communities, we can achieve a solid return on investment.


Richard Buery