More Than a Checkmark – Together for Tomorrow

Together for Tomorrow Mural across the street from Downey Elementary School

Together for Tomorrow Mural across the street from Downey Elementary School

  “But the end is reconciliation; the end is redemption; the end is the creation of the beloved community.”

                                                                                                -Martin Luther King, Jr.

When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. conceptualized the thought of a beloved community in his 1956 speech, Facing the Challenge of a New Age, he envisioned a society where all people regardless of race, background, or position, were united in a common purpose to establish justice for all and ensure a better society for generations to come.   Almost sixty years later, such a vision and approach is still necessary as we recognize the varied injustices and inequities that exist within some of our lowest performing schools.  When we often think about improvement in these schools and the opportunities of creating a culture of education excellence and high achievement, we may not readily view families and community based organizations (CBO’s) as equal partners in this process.  However, such engagement by the aforementioned groups is essential to ensuring educational success for all youth.  Their roles in the educational sphere are just as important as those of school teachers, principals, and officials.

For many school districts, the creation of such a vibrant, educational community – where students’ grades improve consistently and the educational environment is healthy and safe – may seem to be a daunting task as strong ties between school, family, and community stakeholders seldom exist.  Yet, on a recent visit to Harrisburg, PA, the U.S. Department of Education Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships (CFBNP) observed how Downey Elementary, under the guidance of the Harrisburg School District and in partnership with families, CBO’s, and institutions such as Messiah College, defies these odds.   Through Together for Tomorrow, an initiative that spotlights and fosters partnerships among schools, families, national service programs, CFBNP staff observed how the collective care and capacity of these stakeholders breathes life into the cultural fabric of Downey and inspires students to step into their roles as academic leaders.

 When I grow up, I want to be a scientist.  I want to cure all types of sickness and cancers.  I am learning about some of this in my science class, and when I finish the fourth grade next year, I am going to the Math Science Academy where I can learn much more!

These words, spoken by a third grade student at Downey Elementary, echoed the similar sentiments of many Downey students who proudly communicated to CFBNP staff that they 1) were leaders, 2) planned to go to college, and 3) planned to make their neighborhoods a better place.  It was evident and also communicated by Downey Elementary Principal Travis Peck that the school and community encourage students to recognize their leadership capabilities and take responsibility in assuring their own present and future successes.

In addition to positive encounters with youth, CFBNP staff also met with parents who spoke highly of how the school included them in the education process and sought the welfare of their children.  One parent stated,

 A few months ago, my child was a victim of bullying at his former school.  After talking with school leadership, the problem still continued until I had to remove him from the school. I then transferred him here to Downey.  Just a few months later, my child is not only safe, but he is successful, is a leader, and is respected by students and teachers.  I think it is important for someone to ask “What it is about Downey that makes it such a positive and safe learning environment in the same neighborhood as my son’s former school, which is only right down the street?”

ED CFBNP Special Assistant Eddie Martin, Jr. with Downey Principal Travis Peck (left) and Messiah College Department of Education Chair, Don Murk (right).

ED CFBNP Special Assistant Eddie Martin, Jr. with Downey Principal Travis Peck (left) and Messiah College Department of Education Chair, Don Murk (right).

What is helping Downey Elementary to become a vibrant and cohesive school community is its intentionality in making sure that all stakeholders have an equal share in providing for the life and educational needs of the students. For example, organizations such as the Harrisburg Symphony, Salvation Army, and United Way have engaged in unique and innovative methods to serve the school.  Messiah College continues to make its contributions to Downey by engaging its students in various service learning projects that enhance both the appearance of the school and the learning opportunities for its students.  The school houses a Parents’ Academy that encourages parents’ participation in school and allows them to receive up to 15 credits towards a college degree. Teachers receive training on engaging students and parents. Downey also contains on onsite health clinic to address the health needs of students.   Additionally, the elementary school has a Vista member employed through the partnership between Messiah College and the Corporation for National and Community Service who helps to build the capacity of the school.  The Harrisburg School District also has a Parent Engagement Specialist who oversees Parent Liaisons and implements programs to help parents become better advocates for their children.

Most importantly, all of the previously mentioned partners, in addition to the Principal, Superintendent, and other officials overseeing the school, seem to care deeply about the students and have established good report with one another as they have embarked upon a common goal to promote the holistic welfare of their students.  For Downey, engaging families and communities in the life of the school extends beyond addressing a simple requirement or “checking the box” of community inclusion.  They recognize the power and benefits of working with families and CBO’s to raise student achievement.

During lunch with CFBNP Staff, the Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent of the Harrisburg School District expressed that they were pleased with the progress that Downey Elementary has made under the scope of Together for Tomorrow.  Alongside the Principal, they expressed that the school still has room for improvement but are excited about the direction it is heading with the support of their partners within the school and the greater community.  Collectively, these stakeholders reveal that anything can be accomplished by working together to achieve a cause that improves the life outcomes of our youth.  Educational inequities can be addressed, injustices can be corrected, and students can ultimately thrive.

 

Ceiling Panel Mural Created by Downey Elementary Students

Ceiling Panel Mural Created by Downey Elementary Students

 

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Eddie Martin is Special Assistant in the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Education.

A Year of Progress Through Partnerships

Cross posted from the White House blog here

In a commitment to advancing opportunity for all Americans, the President pledged that 2014 would be a year of action. He has spent the last 12 months working with Congress where he could, and taking action on his own where needed to revitalize the economy. He also worked closely with leaders from businesses, nonprofits, education, and communities to expand opportunity for more American families. These efforts have helped to create jobs, provide more Americans with high-quality education, promote new sources of energy, and protect the environment.

To help advance this work, the Administration has formed partnerships with faith-based and community organizations. Most Americans have ties to at least one faith or community organization, and they frequently turn to these organizations when they need help. Faith-based and community groups are often uniquely positioned to match people with the benefits, services, and protections they need. Sometimes these connections make the difference between a life of struggle and one of success.

Today, we are publishing a report that highlights a few of these kinds of partnerships as well as others that advance Administration priorities across the nation and around the globe.

A critical function of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships is to coordinate Centers for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships across 12 federal agencies. Each Center works with faith and neighborhood organizations on specific challenges to transform communities and change lives. The close of the year provides a timely opportunity to highlight some of this work.

As we end this year and look to the next, we remember President Obama’s charge:

Instead of driving us apart, our varied beliefs can bring us together to feed the hungry and comfort the afflicted; to make peace where there is strife and rebuild what has broken; to lift up those who have fallen on hard times. This is not only our call as people of faith, but our duty as citizens of America, and it will be the purpose of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Thanks to our many partners for the opportunity to work with you on achieving these goals. With your help, we are truly becoming a more perfect nation.

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Melissa Rogers is the Executive Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Way to Be!

Center Director Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell with students on the playground.

Center Director Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell with students on the playground.

Be Safe | Be Respectful | Be Responsible

To this day I believe we are here on the planet Earth to live, grow up, and do what we can to make this world a better place for all people to enjoy freedom – Rosa Parks.

The Way to Be motto and the Rosa Parks pledge are the first words of the day that students hear at Rosa Parks Elementary School in Berkeley, California after being greeted by their energetic principal, Mr. Paco Furlan.

If there were a picture to place beside the words “family and community engagement” Rosa Parks Elementary School would be a great one! From the moment I joined the students and staff in the courtyard at 8:30am I witnessed the presence of a vibrant caring community. Children came from every direction of the campus reaching out to Mr. Furlan, saying good morning, offering a high five, volunteering to set up the microphone, helping their classmates get into line, vying for the opportunity to lead the Rosa Parks pledge and nominating classmates for “Way to Be!” Recognition.

Principal Furlan dedicates every Tuesday and Thursday for classroom visits and general teacher observations. It is Tuesday. The PTA President is helping children get to their classrooms. She stops to greet me and is excited to share the mission of the Rosa Parks Elementary School PTA which is to help insure every young boy of color in this school will have access to the highest level of community support, through tutors, mentors, encouragement for their families. She rushed off to help in a classroom after saying “All of our boys are going to succeed!”

Moms and dads were visible in many of the classrooms participating as readers and adding capacity for teachers as needed. There are even a couple of dogs on site! The family resource center has full time staff, community partners, as well as students from local universities. The “15 minutes” approach encouraging families to spend just 15 minutes with their children 2-3 times a week has been used for the past four years. The social worker credits the program with demonstrating easy ways for families to build self-esteem, compassion for others, encourage a desire for students to participate, and give a better focus for learning.

I asked Principal Furlan what helps keep him going after 20 years in education. He acknowledged that he is surrounded by an enthusiastic, committed and supportive team of parents, school staff and community supporters. But his eyes sparkled when he talked about the children and handed me two handwritten thank you cards given to him by children. I add my thanks to Mr. Paco Furlan for allowing me to shadow him for a day to witness some of the great work going on at the Rosa Parks Elementary School in Berkeley, California. He truly demonstrates the Way to Be!

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Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell is the Director in the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Education.

Hickman Mills—Commitment to Preschool

Preschool aged children reading with teacher.

Young learners engage in reading.

Hickman Mills School District is the smaller of two school districts within the city limits of Kansas City, Missouri. It is typical of many urban school districts with students of color making up 97 percent of the student population and 65 percent of the teachers are white. However, there are a number of things that make the district atypical. For one thing, student achievement is increasing. In the 2013/14 school year student performance increased by 19% on the Missouri School Improvement Program evaluation. This was sufficient to move the school to fully accredited status.

Under the leadership of Superintendent Dr. Dennis Carpenter, the district approaches the goal of being accredited with distinction with community involvement, serious attention to research, and bold strategies. Research shows that understanding race and schooling is an essential component in school improvement, so the district engaged Glenn Singleton who specializes in helping school districts focus on heightening their awareness of institutional racism and implementing effective strategies for eliminating racial achievement disparities.

The importance of preparing students for kindergarten is supported by research that documents what happens to students who arrive unprepared for school: they usually do not catch up. The U.S. Department of Education has taken this research seriously and provided non-regulatory guidance for schools on how to use Title I to implement high-quality preschool programs. This means that schools can choose to use Title I federal funds that are distributed to schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families to provide preschool before they allocate Title I funds for other mandated programs.

At Hickman Mills, they decided to remodel an unused school building and dedicate it to a kindergarten and preschool. Because they are using a district-wide model, Title I funds are used to pay for a preschool program that is available to every family in the district regardless of income. The staff is working as a team to develop an end-of-kindergarten checklist so that all students who leave the building to go to first grade are on track for success.

Of course, using Title I funds for a quality preschool means the school has to give up some Title I programs in later grades such as tutoring and a reading specialist, but the expectation is that by focusing on this early intervention, students will not need as much remedial help in later grades. As Superintendent Carpenter says, “We know what is needed to disrupt the cycle of poverty and assure a path to the middle class: quality preschool. So, why wait.”

On a recent visit to the school I experienced the excitement and energy that permeates the building. A preschool teacher explained to me, “We are all a team here.” While Carpenter and the school board clearly have a plan, they are also flexible in meeting issues as they come up. Because of changes in the school schedule some families had difficulty shifting their work schedules. So, a short term solution was to arrange for the children to be cared for until families could pick them up. This is just one example of the cooperation between families and the school that supports the students. With community support Hickman Mills demonstrates school reform where leadership uses research based strategies and takes advantage of local flexibility in the use of federal funds.

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Ken Bedell is Senior Advisor in the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.
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Secretary’s Back to School Bus Tour 2014: My Brother’s Keeper in Birmingham, AL

Young men and women participate in the Secretary's Back to School Bus Tour My Brother's Keeper Roundtable DiscussionDuring a My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Town Hall on July 21st, President Obama announced that he wants to enter into communities and “feel like something is different,” where collective investment in the lives of youth has become a cultural norm for entire societies.  The city of Birmingham, AL is making countless efforts to establish such a culture, as was evident during the Secretary’s “Partners in Progress” Back-to-School Bus Tour in the historical Civil Rights Movement city.  On September 9, 2014 at JH Phillips Academy, ten vibrant youth from five different youth-serving organizations had the opportunity to share how their own organizations were making a positive impact on their lives and helping to place them on a pathway towards success.   Their perspectives were part of an MBK Roundtable Discussion, which featured Secretary Duncan, HUD Secretary Julian Castro, and Mayor William Bell, where Congresswoman Terri Sewell was also present and delivered opening remarks during the occasion.

Department of Education Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships Director, Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell, facilitated the roundtable. During the discussion, the youth participants expressed how they and the Birmingham Community collectively can serve as advocates for MBK in an effort to “make sure that every American—including our boys and young men of color – can reach their full potential.”  The discussion was unique as it included both male and female participants and captured how MBK incorporates all of our youth, including our young men and women of color.

As Director Mitchell engaged the students on issues related to the six MBK universal goals, the youth participants responded genuinely and passionately, holding nothing back.  For example, when asked the question, “How would you address and motivate your friends and your colleagues who do not have the same opportunities as you,” one student responded:

If I can get my friends to be motivated to do something, then that encourages me. If I can get them up on their feet, then they can walk.  And the next step is to get them to run.  I want my friends to make it all the way to the top with me.

When Director Mitchell addressed the female students and inquired how they viewed themselves as a part of the MBK initiative, one young woman stated:

 Our men are our brothers and uncles.  I have a twin brother.  I see the struggles for black men.  They have to be two times as good just to be recognized as equal.  I see myself and other women as support for our black men who stand by our sides.

And when the students were asked, “If you had the opportunity to address President Obama concerning the educational needs of your community, what would you ask him to do?”  Students responded with such answers as:

 I would ask the President to create more professional development activities and hands on projects for both teachers and students.

I would tell the President to introduce more academic based extracurricular activities in our communities.

I want President Obama to know that the black people here in Birmingham are trying.  There are a lot of things that we know; we just need more opportunities.  We may not have the opportunities to be lawyers or doctors, but I want the President to know that we should open the community to more positive chances…and that we need living examples that are positive in our lives…

Speaking in the academy’s library with over 150 people in attendance, the young participants left an indelible impact on the crowd.  They affirmed that with the necessary resources and collective support of the community as a whole, they would have a substantial opportunity to achieve their dreams as they would continue to strive to reach their fullest potential.

 

 

Young men and women participate in the Secretary's Back to School Bus Tour My Brother's Keeper Roundtable Discussion

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Eddie Martin serves as Special Assistant in the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Local Professional Development Sessions Promote Collaboration to “Bridge the Gap” for Young Children

Cross-posted from the Homeroom blog.

As an early childhood educator, I often wondered about the best ways for stakeholders to work together in meeting the academic needs of young children. Recently, I had the chance to see collaborative planning and intergovernmental work in action at the municipal level, when I attended an event held by the city of Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

The theme was Bridging the Gap – School Readiness by 5, and the event was jointly organized by the office of Mayor Johnny DuPree, the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Education, and the National League of Cities Institute (NLCI), to help boost the success of the city’s young children. In an effort to support teachers and child care center directors, the mayor’s office led a professional development session for educators of young children. The day also included a roundtable discussion by representatives of civic organizations, municipal leaders, and educators who committed to improving the outcomes of young children.

The professional development session was extremely beneficial for me. As an educator, I always welcome meaningful opportunities to gain new skills and learn about resources that I can implement in the classroom immediately.

One of the most memorable presentations was by Dr. Joe Olmi, the director of school psychology at the University of Southern Mississippi. He spoke on the value of social-emotional learning and the importance of teaching self-regulation in and outside of the classroom. He gave great insights on strategies such as “Time-in and Time-out,” in which consequences and privileges are built into the relationship between students and teachers.

Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell, the Department’s director of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, offered her thoughts on the value of family and community engagement. She shared some powerful reflections about her grandmother, who helped her develop a love for reading. She also urged educators to enlist the help of their students’ families to foster community-building in their classrooms.

Another thoughtful presenter was Dr. Tonja Rucker, the program manager for Early Childhood Development in the Institute for Youth Education and Families at NLCI. She provided suggestions to help children and families transition from preschool to kindergarten. I also had the privilege of sharing my perspective, as an African-American male preschool teacher, on transitions within an early childhood program, and ways to increase rigor in literacy for students.

By fostering collaboration among various agencies and organizations, school leaders in this community have been able to make a positive impact in the lives of young children.

This collaboration means a lot for educators like me, who often struggle to find the resources, information and support we need to teach our youngest pupils.

To provide the best start for all our nation’s young children, we need more state and local communities to show the cooperative spirit that NLCI, the Department and the city and school leaders of Hattiesburg demonstrated in hosting this valuable “Bridging the Gap” planning session.

James Casey was a summer Leadership in Educational Equity fellow in the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Education.

Six Students Tell Stories About Their Educational Successes

Cross-posted from the Homeroom blog.

What does success in education look like? And what makes it possible? Six students recently sat down at a youth panel on social and emotional learning to talk about the educators that made the biggest differences in their lives.

The students provided real examples of what Professors Kimberly Schonert-Reichl and Gil Noam presented in lectures at a recent conference in Minnesota sponsored by St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, the National League of Cities, the U.S. Department of Education, and others.

The students’ stories illustrate the many ways that educators can play an important role in ensuring that young people succeed.

  • Rich Pennington is a recent college graduate. He talked about the difficulties he had to overcome when he was described as a stereotypical young black male. An employer who gave him a space to fail and two teachers who took time to really get to know him made it possible for him to succeed.
  • Brittany Eich describes herself as an introvert. She had teachers and family who challenged her, gave her options, and then asked her what she wanted to do.
  • Chava Gabrielle has trouble with time management. She found support from peers who were a little older, but they challenged and supported her.
  • David Kim is a college graduate. He had teachers who helped him develop the skill of expressing from the heart and not just from the mind. They showed him a technique that he is now sharing with others.
  • Gao Vue was told she had ADD, but her mother didn’t accept it. She talked about a father who was a negative influence, but taught her how to be strong.
  • Hannah Quartrom says she likes to take over and lead. Her mother was an example of how to solve problems and get through difficult situations.

Employers, teachers, family, and peers, everyone can play a role in helping students develop the social emotional skills they need to succeed.

Ken Bedell is a senior advisor in the Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Center at the U.S. Department of Education.

Recognizing the Importance of Fathers

Cross-posted from the Homeroom blog.

One out of every three children in America —more than 24 million in total — live in a home without their biological father present, according to a 2012 White House Fatherhood Report. Roughly one out of every three Hispanic children and more than half of African-American children also live in homes without their biological fathers.

The presence and involvement of a child’s parents protect children from a number of vulnerabilities. More engaged fathers — whether living with or apart from their children — can help foster a child’s healthy physical, emotional, and social development. While evidence shows that children benefit most from the involvement of resident fathers, research also has highlighted the positive effect that nonresident fathers can have on their children’s lives.

Recognizing the importance of fathers in children’s physical, emotional, and social development, Shirley Jones, a program specialist in the Department of Education’s regional office in Chicago, partnered with the Detroit Area Dad’s PTA and the Detroit Public School system. Together, they organized the “Dads to Dads” forum at Detroit Collegiate Preparatory High School at Northwestern, where 350 men, women, and young adults committed to a day of discussion on how to best support children in their communities.

National PTA President Otha Thornton, one of the speakers at the forum, challenged the parent participants to identify the barriers that prevent them from being more involved in their children’s education and lives. He also talked about finding ways to overcome these barriers and encouraged dads to develop visions for their kids’ futures.

Mentoring programs, support groups, and other resources – such as places of worship, school PTA’s, and local governments – were also presented as places where fathers might turn for support.

Panelist Rev. Dr. James Perkins spoke during the final session and stated, “Your sons and daughters will learn what’s important by what’s important to you.” He stressed that fathers can encourage their children by spending time with them, which will have a lasting impact.

Anna Leach is a confidential assistant for the Center for Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the U.S. Department of Education.

Department of Education Releases New Parent and Community Engagement Framework

Cross-posted from the Homeroom blog.

The fourth quarter of the school year is generally a time of preparation for schools and districts as they finalize next year’s budget, student and teacher schedules, and professional development for the upcoming school year. During this time of preparation, it is important that schools and districts discuss ways that they can support parents and the community in helping students to achieve success.

fce-framework graphicTo help in this work, the U.S. Department of Education is proud to release a framework for schools and the broader communities they serve to build parent and community engagement. Across the country, less than a quarter of residents are 18 years old or younger, and all of us have a responsibility for helping our schools succeed. The Dual Capacity framework, a process used to teach school and district staff to effectively engage parents and for parents to work successfully with the schools to increase student achievement, provides a model that schools and districts can use to build the type of effective community engagement that will make schools the center of our communities.

An example of how the elements of the framework can lead to improved engagement is exhibited in my hometown of Baltimore. Baltimore City Public Schools worked to support 12,000 pre-kindergarten and kindergarten homes, and to engage families in home-based literacy practices. Each week students received a different bag filled with award-winning children’s books, exposing children, on average, to more than 100 books per year. The book rotation also includes parent training and information on how to share books effectively to promote children’s early literacy skills and nurture a love of learning. Through the program, families are also connected with their local public and school libraries. At the culmination of the program, children receive a permanent bag to keep and continue the practice of borrowing books and building a lifelong habit of reading.

For more information on the Dual Capacity Framework, as well as an introductory video from Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, please take some time and review our website at www.ed.gov/family-and-community-engagement. In the coming months, we will provided additional resources and information, so that schools, districts, communities, and parents can learn more about family and community engagement, as well as, share the wonderful work they are doing to build parent, school, and community capacity that supports all students.

Read a Spanish version of this post.

Jonathan Brice is deputy assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Elementary and Secondary Education

Higher Ground in Tucson

Cross-posted from the Homeroom blog.

During a recent trip to Tucson, Ariz., I took part in a meeting with school officials, school board members, past and present elected officials, organizers of youth programs and, most importantly, parents and students. Many of those in attendance shared powerful stories about the serious challenges facing children in south Tucson and the heroic efforts that are being made to confront the issues to ensure that children succeed.

I was reminded again of how important it is for everyone to work together to address the needs of students during the school day, but also to address the needs of the children out of school. This was the spirit I saw as people talked about programs and strategies. Every story I heard deserves to be retold, but one story in particular caught my attention because it illustrated that one person can start a chain reaction to make a difference.

It started as a love story. Jansen Azarias met Barbara “Barbie” Maestas six years ago. Barbie had a ten-year-old son named Timothy, and Jansen began tutoring Timothy. Soon a number of Timothy’s friends joined the tutoring sessions in Jason’s living room. Today, Jansen and Barbie are married and Timothy is a high school graduate and enrolled in college.

Jansen soon learned that there were many students in the south side of Tucson who shared the experiences of attending a low-performing school, broken families, gang affiliations, crime, drug abuse, incarcerated parents, poverty, and a lack of support. Inspired to make a difference, he started organizing volunteers and working out of the Mission View Assembly church. At the end of the second year there were 60 students involved in daily programs. Realizing the high need, Jansen and Barbie quit their jobs and devoted full time to what they called Higher Ground.

Today, this program reaches 150 students who receive daily homework tutoring and enrichment activities such as football, dance, jujutsu, art, boxing, bike club, and choir. Students also receive training in financial literacy and character development. Higher Ground expands its program every year, and partnered with the Tucson Unified School District to move into the historic Wakefield Middle School. The organization has also partnered with eight other faith-based groups and five community organizations, as well as with several departments at the University of Arizona, Phoenix University, and Pima Community College.

With the help of these partners and the commitment of more than 50 volunteers, students and their parents pay nothing for participating. All programs are coordinated by a small staff of five people and an annual budget of $150,000, and even with this small staff, students and parents can reach Higher Ground 24/7 if they need anything from financial assistance to an intervention.

Higher Ground is an out of school program, but participant’s school performance has shown improvement. Last year, 93 percent of the students improved their grades and 60 percent were on the honor roll for the first time.

While Jansen and Barbie are extraordinary people, what they have done can be duplicated in other places. First, Jansen started by listening to students and taking seriously what the students said they needed. Secondly, they both used the resources and networks that they have in the community and the church to begin the work. Third, they required that the parents make a commitment. Fourth, they developed a working relationship with the school district and with other community organizations. And finally, they never lost track of where they started with a focus on listening to the kids and responding to their needs. It is a simple model that can be duplicated anywhere.

Ken Bedell is a senior advisor in the Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships Center at the U.S. Department of Education