Children's Aid Society Awarded Two of 30 New York State First Community School Grants
We are delighted that two Children's Aid Society (CAS) community schools, Fannie Lou Hamer Freedom High School and Fannie Lou Hamer Middle School, serving students in grades 6-12, are among the 30 initial recipients of the New York State Education Department Community Schools Grant.
The partnership between CAS and the schools began in 2005, as a campus strategy. The two schools are located across from one another in the nation’s poorest Congressional District (NY-16-South Bronx) and face similar challenges, including extreme poverty and low educational achievement – only 7% of residents have a college degree. Poor health indicators, including high rates of asthma and obesity, and a community deemed as unsafe and lacking in enrichment resources contribute to the adversity faced by area students.
Despite demonstrated success in targeted initiatives, unstable funding has prevented implementation of a full-service community school model to benefit a larger number of students at the campus level. We are confident that this $500,000.00, three years grant will allow for academic and social service supports for all grades, enabling the partnership to deliver the outstanding results evidenced in other CAS community schools.
A unique feature of this partnership is our ability to work with students in grades 6-12; the principals of the middle school, Lorraine Chanon, and high school, Nancy Man, along with Denise Montes, the CAS community school director, work to ensure alignment of philosophies and approaches, to create a seamless transition into high school. This partnership has included academic enrichment initiatives such as: an adolescent literacy program; an attendance improvement initiative; social work services; health and nutrition education; linkage to CAS’s nearby licensed health clinic; a student success center that provides grade level-appropriate assistance with the college exploration and preparation processes; enrichment opportunities through sports, such as archery, and arts, such as video production; as well as parent/community engagement through practical classes, such as ESL, and signature celebrations such as the annual Thanksgiving dinner and a spring peace block party.
“The two main concerns identified by the principals are the lack of college readiness and general health and wellness of students. Despite our joint efforts, many students don’t qualify to either gain admission into college or succeed once they enroll. Health services are provided at our Bronx Family Center, which is about three blocks away, so coordinating access is challenging,” explains Denise Montes. “One of our first steps will be to hire a director of health to ensure that all students have a medical home and get health services to the extent they need. Another immediate step is to hire an education coordinator to develop the academic persistence and performance of all students, not just the willing.”
The grant will allow the partners to truly focus on advancing three key goals: 1) providing targeted and aligned support with the high school’s instructional program for those students identified as most likely to fail; 2) ensuring a successful first year of high school and stronger high school transitions for the middle schools students; and 3) ensuring that the health needs of all students are met to reduce barriers to learning.
To guarantee positive results, CAS plans to implement relevant components of the evidence-based CAS-Carrera Pregnancy Prevention Program (CAS-Carrera) supported by the framework of our community school model. The CAS-Carrera model consists of seven components that align well with the community school framework: education, employment, family life/sexuality education, mental health services, medical care, self-expression through the arts and lifetime sports.
Applying the National Center for Community Schools stages of development rubric to the Fannie Lou Hamer partnership reveals that the work at these schools can be characterized as between “emerging” and “maturing.” We are certain that this new grant will make possible additional targeted investments to help the campus move toward the “maturing” and “excelling” stages.