Tell us about your community school.
Norwood is a school of about 500 students. We have over 10 languages spoken at our school, and nearly 20 countries represented. Needless to say, we have a very diverse population. The neighborhood is in somewhat of a transition period as we have many older adults without children living around the school; however, there are lots of new families moving into those homes. This is in addition to the many multi-family units in the area.
Norwood is in its 6th year of being a community school. The biggest impact the community school strategy has had is providing wrap around resources and diverse opportunities and activities for our families and neighbors that they might not otherwise have access to.
Why do you do what you do?
I do what I do because I think the community school strategy is the best way to provide services to families in need AND empower families to be involved in their kids’ school and the neighborhood in which they live.
A bit selfishly, I also love the relationships that this role has afforded me. I get to hang out with kids, their parents, neighbors, teachers, community partners, and volunteers. It’s such a positive position to be in.
What is the most rewarding part of being a coordinator?
There are many rewarding aspects to being a coordinator. Besides the relationships, the most rewarding part for me is being a connector. There are few things more gratifying than matching resources or volunteers to a need or connecting partners.
Can you tell me a story about a student, family or community that you impacted as a coordinator?
The family that immediately comes to mind is an immigrant family that arrived in the neighborhood several months prior to me starting this position. I met the children over the summer while they were attending our summer program. I got to know their mother when we started an English as Second Language Mommy and Me class in Fall 2016. Since meeting the family, they have been involved in about every activity we’ve had from yoga classes and English classes to a summer literacy camp for families. Fast forward to Fall 2017: the mother and I can have conversations in English (she formerly could not read or write in her own language or have a conversation without an interpreter) and her 3-year-old knows her alphabet and can count to 30. The opportunity that we were able to provide for this family that was the most impactful was a social outlet to help combat the isolation experienced by many of our newcomers.
What else are you doing to support your immigrant students and families?
With a significant immigrant and refugee population in our community, this has been on my mind a lot—how do we best support these families? Last year, we hosted a Community Thanksgiving event to celebrate the cultures represented in our neighborhood. The goal was for neighbors to meet neighbors and get to know one another. The event was quite successful, and we replicated the event again last month.
In addition to the Community Thanksgiving event, we hosted an Emergency Planning Workshop for our families to help them prepare for possible incarceration, deportation, hospitalization, or death. This event was possible because one of my co-workers literally created a “workshop-in-a-box” so that we could provide this workshop in different areas of the city that have a high immigrant population.
What are your biggest challenges?
One of my biggest challenges is dividing time and energy between coordinating activities and opportunities within the school and projects and advocacy opportunities in the neighborhood.
What is the one thing you want to accomplish the most by the end of the school year?
One of my main goals this year is to create a slate of opportunities that are inclusive of all our children, families, and neighbors. We have such a diverse population that have such diverse needs. I want to make sure our programming and opportunities are also meeting the needs of the seniors in our community or adults who are not plugged into our school because they don’t have school age children.
What’s one piece of advice you would give to other coordinators?
It’s all about the relationships. Spending time cultivating relationships is time well spent.
What’s one quote that you live by?
“What are we doing to help the neighbors?” - Mary Rogge