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    Partnerships (Part Four) 

    Last week in the space, I told the first half of the story of how Cambridge’s non-profits support and extend learning for students in the Cambridge Public Schools (CPS).  Continuing alphabetically, I now present the work of the second set of amazing partners we are so fortunate to have in our city.

    CitySprouts gives CPS elementary and Upper Schools the support they need to incorporate garden-based learning in students’ school experience. In the school garden, students explore science, practice writing, and apply key math concepts in real-world questions. Throughout the school year school and in the summer program, the CitySprouts partnership has meant that Cambridge students get outdoor, hands-on learning that engages them academically. The CitySprouts gardens have encouraged children to be healthier eaters and given many children a place and time to explore the natural world that they might not otherwise have had.  Over the past 15 years, the CPS science department and teachers at every grade level have collaborated with CitySprouts to integrate the garden into curriculum, and to ensure a strong STEM “backbone” in the CitySprouts summer and after school program for our Upper Schools.


    For over 80 years, the Community Art Center has cultivated an engaged community of youth whose powerful artistic voices transform their lives, their neighborhoods, and their worlds. Started by a group of neighborhood parents in 1932, the CAC has provided arts programs to thousands of children from the neighboring Washington Elms/Newtowne Court public housing developments. The Community Art Center has a successful history of engaging community, and providing creative, challenging learning opportunities to low-income, high-needs youth within a family-like environment. The unique circle of social and emotional supports includes academic help, mental health and transportation services and up to three full meals a day. The CAC staff works closely with CPS to provide comprehensive services to the families and partner with CPS staff on programming and outreach for specific programs and events like the Do It Your Damn Self!, National Youth Film Festival, 2015 Cambridge Youth Leadership Luncheon, and Be All Right event at CRLS.


    Dragonfly is a private non-profit parent cooperative after school program that serves grades K-4 children in CPS.  Located at the Graham and Parks, the program is designed to meet the needs of children who have already spent a challenging day in school and offers an opportunity to relax and be with friends in an informal way as well as the time to pursue their own interests and activities.  The staff builds strong relationships with the children and their families that often continue after they leave Dragonfly.  As a parent cooperative, families have the chance to help shape and support the program in a variety of ways. 


    East End House is entering its 140th year of providing programs and services to the Cambridge community that help children acquire the tools they need for life-long academic and social success--also providing wrap-around services that are integral to giving families the resources they need to help their children succeed. East End House staff collaborates with CPS to ensure that out-of-school time material complements school day learning.  The Middle School Program was developed in a joint effort with the Putnam Avenue Upper School to increase students' engagement in their education. In addition, the Childcare, School Age and Middle School Programs place a heavy emphasis on hands-on, experiential STEM learning which involves deep collaborations with local professionals that introduces students to dynamic opportunities of the 21st century. This past summer, East End House offered an innovative genetics and genomics curriculum for upper school students, which was delivered by out-of-school time staff as well as volunteers and mentors from the STEM industry to impact youth interest, engagement and knowledge in STEM learning and careers.


    Friends of CRLS is a non-profit association whose six programs enhance CRLS students' learning and support their aspirations toward higher education, technical studies, and careers. FoCRLS programs include Scholarships, Faculty Innovation Grants, Travel Fellowships, the Unsung Heroes Program, the "It Takes a VIllage" College Success Program, and Faculty Distinction Awards. FoCRLS works in partnership not only with the CPS and CRLS administrations, but also with other parent and community organizations supporting CRLS and CPS students - Friends of Cambridge Athletics (FOCA), Cambridge School Volunteers (CSV), the CRLS Arts Committee, and the Cambridge College Success Initiative, among others. FoCRLS estimates that through the investment of parents, businesses, alumni, and the Cambridge public, its programs have impacted several thousand students and over 140 teachers.

    The MIT/Wellesley Upward Bound Program is a year-round educational program serving 50 low-income and/or first generation students who attend CRLS. During the school year at our MIT office, the program provides academic tutoring and educational workshops, as well as college, career and financial aid advising services through after school and vacation programming.  In addition, program staff utilize resource room space at CRLS during the school hours for purposes of monitoring students’ progress. During the summer, students participate in six weeks of rigorous academic study in a residential setting on the campus of Wellesley College. This college-like experience helps to motivate them to pursue education beyond high school. Historically, over 90% of the students completing the Program enter postsecondary educational institutions.


    Members of the Harvard Black Men’s Forum created Phillips Brooks House Association’s David Walker Scholars Mentoring Program.  In partnership with CPS, the program is designed to empower young upper school-age men of color to develop positive life skills and strong social awareness.  The program educations young on the negative impact of drug use on a community and how to interact with police and other authority figures.  It also teaches and mentors the young scholars on black history and college planning.


    Science Club for Girls operates a variety of programs with more than 200 volunteer mentor scientists reaching over 1,000 girls in grades K-12 annually, with over 70% of participants coming from racial or socio-economic backgrounds that are underrepresented in STEM fields.  SCFG brings professional and student scientists and engineers and girls together in free after-school science clubs and challenge teams that focus on technical skills and inquiry learning. The clubs give girls an opportunity to get involved in science and engineering activities in a fun, nurturing, interactive environment.  Their goals are to foster sisterhood, self-confidence, and STEM literacy.  SCFG has a proven record of positive influence on girls’ attitudes toward science. In the past eight years, 92% of high school juniors and seniors who have participated in Science Club for Girls have gone on to college, with 55% of them majoring in science, engineering, or allied health.  By comparison, only 22.5% of MA high school seniors who take the SAT intend to study STEM in college.  Forty-seven percent (47%) of alumnae said SCFG was their primary introduction to STEM careers.  Forty percent (40%) said SCFG was a very strong influence in their decision to take more challenging science or math courses in high school - an important determinant of post-secondary continuation in STEM studies.


    Tutoring Plus of Cambridge provides free, highly-personalized tutoring, mentoring and enrichment programs to students in grades 4-12. Through a 1:1 tutoring and mentoring programs, students are matched with a volunteer who meets with them on a weekly basis to provide homework support, help in developing study and organizational skills, and a caring adult role model.  CPS math coaches help train volunteers, and teachers and administrators help develop individual student support plans.  Subject-specific enrichment programs provide hands-on learning that helps students connect classroom learning to everyday life and future career options.


    The Work Force is a comprehensive educational enrichment and work-readiness program for low-income teens in Cambridge public housing.  Unusual for its depth of engagement with young people, the program provides participants with sustained networks of learning and support over a developmentally significant five-year span: from the eighth grade through their senior year in high school. To achieve this goal, The Work Force operates from facilities located in the city’s three largest family public housing developments, as well as in the city’s only public high school, promoting particularly strong connections with students and their families and with the school district.  Serving 200 youth annually, the Work Force Program has a strong track record of helping first-generation college going youth matriculate and succeed in post-secondary programs, with over 90% of our graduates matriculating every year in post-secondary programs and over half achieving a post-secondary credential within five year, compared to national statistics of less than a third of youth from low income families attaining a post-secondary credential in six years. CPS works with the Work Force around student data sharing, supporting the Summer College Immersion Program for rising seniors, the Summer Learning and Literacy Program for rising 8th grade students, and housing and supporting their site at CRLS.

    The Cambridge YMCA is dedicated to the enrichment of young lives. Youth development is one of the YMCA's core tenets, and their goal is to provide children a safe space where they can learn, grow and have fun. Young children flourish in the Preschool Program while school age children make their way from CPS buildings to the After School Program every day. The YMCA has partnered with Cambridge Police officer John "JJ" Jones to offer Cambridge teens the Cambridge Police Boxing Program. This program is successfully helping police develop meaningful relationships with families as well as state and local agencies specializing in the care of children. The Youth Basketball Program has been taking Cambridge school kids for decades and teaching them the fundamentals of the game as well as the spirit of teamwork and sportsmanship. The Y’s Aquatics Department works with several schools to give them the pool space they need, as well as providing swim lessons and classes for local youth of all ages.


    On behalf of all Cambridge students and families, I offer my deep gratitude and appreciation for the multitude of ways these providers make a difference in our community.

    This post also appeared in the Cambridge Chronicle.


    Posted by jyoung On December 13, 2015 at 5:14 PM