Springfield Youth Coalition

Submitted by Tracy Johnson

Pastor Tracy and Pat Murray have been working with The YMCA of Greater Springfield, the Springfield School Department and the Springfield Youth Coalition, a diverse group of leaders, that have developed a plan initially to concentrate on working with students vulnerable to school failure and dropping out to reverse their trajectories initially in the High School of Science and Technology (Sci-Tech). We have hired Pastor Willard Cofield as the ‘school router’. The school router along with the SYC committee identifies an array of community resources and volunteers whose skills and commitments align to the needs of the students identified and ‘routes’ those services to the students and their families in a personal, accountable and coordinated way. This plan surrounds students with a community of support empowering them to succeed in school and prepare for life.  

Forty students were connected with a variety of community resources to meet their needs. These resources included tutoring, provision of material resources – school uniforms, food, clothing, school supplies, scholarships for camps and colleges, and community enrichment programs, such as photo classes for a student who was interested.Willard organized students to participate in a Black College Tour workshop.Five students were connected to appropriate resources concerning health needs.

In addition, 35 mentors were recruited to serve some of our highest need students.Initially 40 students were connected to those mentors, but by the end of the year 10 students were faithful in meeting weekly and after school with their mentors. We learned that mentoring works best if it is during the school hours. Two of the mentors and students were interested in expanding their relationship to Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

At our monthly meetings we have continued to expand our coalition and network of people and resources. One of our goals is to not duplicate efforts but to utilize the existing resources the community around shares. We have been representative and engaged with people from YMCA, school department, Mass Mutual, Islamic Society of Western Massachusetts, Westover Job Corp Centers, Mass Mentoring, Springfield Scholar Athletes, Futures Works Career Center, Hampden County District Attorney’s Office, Springfield School Volunteers, United Way of Pioneer Valley, Springfield College, City Council, School Board, Boys and Girls Family Center, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, and numerous faith communities.

The router connected with 21 families to provide support for their student’s.  He supported families during court appearances – including housing court, grief counseling, drug counseling resources, and accessing financial resources to help pay electric bills.  A number of these families, including one of new students, directly requested support from the router as he worked with them individually to support their academic success.

The majority of the routers time this year was spent learning about the High School of Science and Technology and getting to know the students and staff. In that time, he worked with a caseload of 67 students, including 21 seniors who the school lost contact with and had been identified as needing to be reengaged

Of the 51 underclassmen that he worked with he provided academic support to 30, attendance support to 20, and he worked with 8 students who were struggling to be in class due to their behavioral issues.  He provided college and career support for these students through resume writing support and scholarship applications as well as financial supported students who needed their ID to attend. Willard utilized gift card incentives for students to encourage them.  53% of these students were promoted to the next grade.

Cofield was asked to work with a group of 21 seniors who had essentially dropped out as a last step to try to reengage them.  Of these seniors, 9 graduated and 2 completed their course work with just math MCAS left to receive their diploma.

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