Partnership for Educational Excellence and Success | City of Ideas

Posted 12/08/2012 by Collaborate Boston Application

Issue to be Addressed:
Whittier Street Health Center, Higher Ground and Teen Empowerment have entered into an innovative collaboration to increase graduation rates and prevent dropouts in middle and high schools, focused on boys of color that constitute 80%-90% of the male students in these schools. 

Beginning with the Higginson/Lewis K-8 School, we will build a solid relationship with current middle school students and follow their academic progress through high school graduation.  Higginson/Lewis is within Higher Ground’s impact zone and has engaged with Whittier Street to meet the needs of its students. 

The School is located in an area of Roxbury still plagued by gang violence placing students at risk.  We are concerned with the negative impacts of experience or exposure to violence on educational outcomes.  One in four male public high school students carried a weapon during the 2007-2009 school years (Boston Public Health Commission annual report).  Our partnership will work to inoculate the students against peer pressure to join gangs. 

We plan to extend our work to other schools in coming years and engage with one or more schools based on their level of interest, assessment of the challenges faced by the students and our collaborative’s capacity to successfully impact outcomes.

Project Proposed:
We will identify and mobilize peer leaders within schools beginning with Higginson/Lewis and will conduct mental health-based interventions with boys of color that have experienced and/or been exposed to violence and trauma.  With the help of peer leaders we will engage, empower and educate youth that have faced significant challenges and disparities in the target neighborhoods.

Whittier will extend its School Education & Community Outreach programs, which have been successfully implemented for over ten years in several Boston Public Schools and will be further enhanced with the expertise and capacities of Higher Ground and Teen Empowerment. 

Teen Empowerment and Whittier have extensive experience working with at-risk youth.  Both organizations employ youth peer leaders who are trained and mentored by experienced social workers and community organizers.  The student peer leaders will develop the skills necessary to connect with fellow students and youth in their neighborhoods and become change agents.  Our partnership will increase the combined peer leader capacity of the two organizations by about 50% and will enhance our curriculums by weaving lessons and methodologies together to create a stronger tool to educate boys in our community and help keep the youth off the streets.

Role of Collaboration:
Teen Empowerment will provide training and technical assistance to the partners and utilize its effective youth leadership development methodology to prepare student peer leaders.    

Whittier will support the partnership with its peer leadership program, school-based mental health services, school outreach and education to support academic success and general wellbeing.  It will also provide health and mental health support to the students and their families.  In addition, Whittier will work with the Higginson/Lewis team to develop monthly educational sessions for parents, students and teachers on agreed upon topics.  Session topics will include Substance Abuse and Use, Nutrition, Sexual Health Education, Inoculation Against Violence (Healthy Touching, Inappropriate Touching), Mental Health, etc.
Higher Ground will serve as the partnership coordinator.  Inspired by the Harlem Children’s Zone, Higher Ground achieves excellent outcomes for children, youth and their families by leveraging capacities of its partners and collaborators and by supporting coordination and integration of services provided by local community-based organizations.

Collaborate Boston support will enable our partnership to develop an effective program at Higginson/Lewis and complement the school’s efforts to ensure that students’ progress is not hampered by health, mental health and other family and community challenges.  It will help extend our reach to other schools in coming years.  Outcome measures will be academic progress, improved attendance, timely completion of high school and pursuit of higher education and career goals based on talent, capacity and interest. 

Higginson/Lewis middle school boys and their families will become more engaged with the school and take greater initiative in selecting high schools.  During each of the next three years we will substantially increase the number of 8th grade graduating boys applying to high schools of their choice. 

Increases in high school selection and admission rates will indicate greater parental involvement in the education of their children which is directly related to improved educational outcomes.  Increased rates of successful completion of middle school and high school by boys of color will result in increased expectations of educational success within the school community which in turn will leverage greater parental engagement in future years with less intervention from outside the family and the school community.

Other information:
Our organizations are an excellent match.  Higher Ground is in the second year of a strategic alliance with Teen Empowerment and committed to leveraging capacities of existing organizations and breaking down barriers between service providers and leveraging their capacities to achieve greater outcomes.

Higginson/Lewis was in need of health services for its families and Whittier’s goal is to extend its primary care to the youth population.  In addition to connecting the school with the health center, Higher Ground helped the school secure a 13-member City Year team that has been working at the school since September.  City Year has a proven record nationwide in helping improve students’ attendance and academic performance by 3rd and 6th grade. 

Too few 8th grade graduates at Higginson/Lewis and other middle schools select high schools they will attend.  Great majority attend high schools they are assigned by default and begin their high school education with less enthusiasm and therefore greater risk of dropping out and into anti-social behavior.  Center for Teen Empowerment has a proven track record in serving at-risk youth and will play a key role in helping to stem violence around the school and providing positive role models and options to the students.

Primary Contact:
Mossik Hacobian, Executive Director of Boston's Higher Ground is the primary contact for this application.

Higher Ground is dedicated to achieving excellent outcomes for children, youth and their families in Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan, by connecting residents with existing programs and services, by helping to improve the outcome of service providers, and by encouraging the establishment of new partnerships that will ensure that needed opportunities and better services are available to all residents of the target communities.

Partner 1:
Higher Ground entered into a strategic alliance with Center for Teen Empowerment and co-located in new space in Boston’s Roxbury neighborhood and has engaged with Whittier Street on development of programs focused on health.  This past fall, we collaborated on a Get Ready for School program at the Higginson/Lewis K-8 School and Whittier’s annual Back to School Community event.  We propose to expand our partnership to support students in middle school and high school.  Our three organizations have active partnerships or collaborations with a network of 30 other organizations and service providers which will support our efforts to address the disparities confronted by youths of color in Boston.  Higher Ground will be represented by Mossik Hacobian, its Executive Director.

Partner 2:
Whittier’s comprehensive health and social services programs include holistic health and educational programs aimed at students in middle and high school with the goal of empowering students to make healthy decisions and promote academic success with focus on violence prevention, mental health and youth development. 

To improve the lives of at-risk youth, Whittier created its Boston Health Equity Project with many goals including engagement of our communities’ youth in prevention and wellness support. Whittier’s health education outreach programs are extensive and have been implemented at several public and private schools including Catholic Memorial Middle School (all boys’ school), Timilty School, Kenny School and several other BPS schools.  Whittier plans to implement this model at the Higginson/Lewis and serve as the Patient Centered Medical Home for students within its primary service area.

Whittier has also incorporated new programs to make a bigger impact in the lives of boys and young men affected by violence. These programs include the Intensive Family Team, Inoculation Against Violence groups, and The Defending Childhood Initiative.  All these programs have a therapeutic component to teach families and youth how to cope with being exposed to and affected by violence in their home or community.

Whittier will be represented by Frederica Williams, President & CEO and Crystal Palmer, its Director of Wellness Initiatives.

Partner 3:
During its 20 year history Teen Empowerment has employed and trained over 2,000 youth who in turn have reached and organized more than 20,000 other youth through events, meetings and focus groups.  Heang Ly, Director of Consulting and Training will represent Teen Empowerment in the partnership.

Partner 4:
The Higginson/Lewis K-8 School was formed in 2008 under Dr. Johnson’s vision "Pathways to Excellence" intended to ensure high-quality schools throughout the city that prepare all children for academic and career success. 

This was accomplished by combining the George Lewis Middle school and the Henry L. Higginson elementary school creating a new K-8 school under the leadership of Principal Joy Salesman-Oliver.  It has a student body of 418 with a great majority living in Roxbury and Dorchester.  The current 6th, 7th and 8th grades include 94 students, more than half boys.  Lena Galloway-Reddick, the School’s Director of Community and Partnership will represent the school in the partnership.

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