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.  

At our monthly meetings we have continued to expand our coalition and network of people and resources. We have been 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 .

As the coalition works we have been successful in our goal of not duplicating efforts but rather connecting our highest needs students to the existing resources the community around shares.  Of the 54 students connected with community resources, 47 of these students were connected with Y-AIM, the DA’s office, Mass Mutual, or a community mentor .

An identified need of the High School of Science and Technology (2015 and 2016 MSV reports) has been to have a system in place to match students to interventions.  In response, the school created the HUGS program which has as its mission “to strengthen student interventions by addressing academic, non-academic as well as social emotional needs that will help increase student engagement and achievement.” According to the HUGS Program Coordinator, “the collaboration between HUGS and Rev. Cofield bridges the gap between the school and community resources."

There were an additional 21 students that the router worked with to connect with resources already in the school but that students were not accessing independently.  Facilitating meetings with teachers, sports coaches, guidance counselors, and the school nurse are all ways the router walked beside our students to help them learn how to self-advocate.  The router provided tours and a connection for three of our new students to help them as they transitioned mid-year.

SYC provided MCAS jackets as a special incentive for students achievement in MCAS scores, jackets were purchased with student names, MCAS scores and HSST symbol.

Of the approximately 100 students the router supported, 63 received direct support from the router.  This support came in many forms and, for 4 students, filled the gap when they were not eligible for the HUGS social work services because they did not have insurance.

Rev. Cofield served students on his caseload as their needs called for.  The resources he provided ranged from greeting our late students in the morning, to facilitating teacher meetings, to daily check-ins with students, and crisis intervention when appropriate.

The individual data of attendance and grades of students that Rev. Cofield engaged with went up but the more significant work is engaging the community and its resources into the schools for the particular needs of students.

Fifty-four 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 mentor program with the District Attorney’s office for two of our students.  Ten students received new glasses or had theirs repaired, students were connected with summer jobs and housing concerns were addressed through community resources identified by Willard.

In addition, 23 students were connected with a regular mentor and a men’s group met regularly with 10-12 students.  The leaders of this group came from connections made through the Springfield Youth Coalition.