At The Children’s Aid Society, we often talk about community schools as "a strategy, not a program"− a strategy for ensuring that schools address the full range of students’ developmental needs. In our direct service work in New York City and through our national technical assistance efforts, we have found the community schools strategy to be particularly effective in meeting the needs and harnessing the strengths of immigrant families.
This second issue of Partnership Press explores how the community schools strategy is translated into practice with immigrant students and families in New York City, other U.S. cities and internationally. In our own country, we learned from the 2000 Census that the United States is currently experiencing the largest wave of immigration in our nation’s history. This pattern is mirrored in countries around the globe, many of which have sent representatives to see our community schools in action over the past 15 years.
They, and we, have created schools designed to be the centers of their communities − schools that welcome and support newcomers; that hire multi-lingual, multi-cultural staff; that offer responsive services for students and their families; and that create opportunities for the school to connect with the broader community. Two good examples of Children’s Aid’s work with immigrant parents are the Ercilia Pepin Leadership Institute for parents, found at all the schools in Washington Heights, and our early childhood programs, which address newcomer parents’ needs as well as their children’s. Children’s Aid’s parent coordinators and early childhood staff act as gatekeepers for identifying, welcoming and integrating immigrant parents into our schools.
We also look for opportunities to celebrate their culture; as such we recently hosted our annual African American and Dominican Heritage celebration at the Salomé Ureña de Henríquez community school in Washington Heights (The Children’s Aid Society’s first community school, now in its 17th year of operation). Over the years, this event has grown in scope and popularity. This event drew around 1,000 community residents and featured performances by students and parents from several of our schools; a host of elected officials, including Rep. Charles Rangel (D-NY), Assemblyman Adriano Espaillat, New York City Council members Miguel Martinez and Melissa Mark-Viverito and Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer attended. (See the photos on Children’s Aid’s website.)
The Children’s Aid Society staff live and work in a city where 40 percent of our neighbors were born in other countries. We recognize the many ways that this experience both enriches our lives and challenges us to adapt our practice. We are pleased to discuss in this issue a few of the ways we and colleagues are responding to this global phenomenon through the community schools strategy. Please let us know about your work in this arena by writing to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jane Quinn, Director, National Technical Assistance Center for Community Schools Richard Negrón, Director, Community Schools