We all know that it “takes a village” to successfully raise a child, and the Rome Alliance for Education is taking that concept a step further to expand the “village” beyond the confines of family and friends to increase the role schools play in a child’s and their family’s healthy development. The Alliance is a nonprofit developed by teachers and funded by an AFT grant to provide additional support for students and families in the Rome school district using a Community Schools Model. The Alliance works closely with schools to determine which of their students’ needs are not being met and how to best address the issues through programming and resources. The schools then contract with the Alliance to offer resources, instead of trying to handle all programming themselves.
Currently operating in three of the elementary schools in the district, the Alliance plans to serve all 11 schools, including pre-k. To date, the Alliance has identified the most glaring needs within the populations at those schools and developed engaging programs to support the impacted students. These supports include family engagement activities, a Homework Diner, experiential learning and classroom activities, and additional teacher education. The Alliance established a food bank in one elementary school, and are set to open another shortly, to address food insecurity issues among elementary school children in the area. Additionally, they have established a mental health satellite office in one of the schools and are set to open others as the program grows.
In conjunction with the schools, the Alliance is taking an individualized and case-management style approach to working with children’s families as well. To successfully address the needs of families in the district, and the barriers faced by the children therein, the Alliance has developed the LINK program. Through this holistic program, care managers on their staff (shared positions with CNY Health Home Network) connect directly with families to determine which struggles may be impacting the children and then link the families with the resources they need. The schools work to identify students who are experiencing issues and then contact the Alliance, which then reaches out to the families directly. The family then meets with a care manager at the school and collaborates to determine how to address the specific struggle. The family is then linked with any of the 32 specialized partner agencies necessary. By engaging the family, instead of the student alone, the Alliance is better able to affect change at the root of the issues. Since the partner agencies all participate with CNY Health Home Network, the student and family can be centralized in a system and given the attention they need. Since October, 2018, the LINK program has assisted with more than 200 family referrals (some for multiple students per family).
As the Alliance seeks to expand its outreach, it has engaged with the New York State Community Schools Technical Assistance Center (TAC) to increase its effectiveness even further. TAC’s executive director and evaluator met with the Alliance, school administrators, partner organizations, and staff to determine how the program could benefit from TAC’s structural suggestions and support. Moving forward, TAC will provide feedback on the Alliance’s programming based on what has worked elsewhere, ideas for expansion, and help with the quantification of the program’s results. As an official partner, TAC will also share what has been learned through the Alliance with other programs in development. To support the further development of the program, TAC will examine other ways to support the structure as well, including possible partnerships with colleges and universities to offer staff more benefits, and access to tools and resources.
By partnering with TAC and potentially partnering with a college or university, the Alliance hopes to not only positively impact the lives of significantly more students within the district, but also become a widely trusted resource for families as a part of their “village.”