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Inspire Webinar: Stronger Together-Affirming and Reconnecting

                On August 26th, 2021, Inspire Teaching and Learning partnered with Harmony SEL to discuss what it means to build stronger ties among students, families, and communities. Dr. Susan Green (New York City Department of Education) and Communities in Schools representatives Jessy Cuddy and Jacqueline Stedman were presenters.

                During this webinar, the presenters discussed building a supportive and inclusive learning environment that had strong ties with families and communities. Since these organizations work with multiple vulnerable students, they focus on hearing those student voices to understand needs and strengths better. Dr. Green discussed the impact of building youth advisory councils in building more student buy-in and encouraging student empowerment.  Within the Communities in Schools framework, they work with community partners to install mentors into the school system who can assist students in realizing their potential. This viewpoint of empowering students and building strong relationships was a pivotal piece to both organizations' frameworks.

                Communities in Schools also mentioned that they wanted to ensure that data were utilized annually to see changes within the school populations. This process also included switching from a deficit model to one focused on strengths so that schools were better equipped to utilize those stronger areas to improve areas needing assistance. Such a perspective helped the organization and its partners better suit the communities' needs rather than a one-size-fits-all approach. One of the last pieces to this approach was the evaluation they conducted with full transparency to the stakeholders.

                One question that often comes up is how to engage families and communities better when education happens at schools. From the Communities in Schools perspective, they invite parents and community members to assist in the mentorship of students. Another piece of this work utilizes coordinators who would travel outside of the schools and engage in porch visits to discuss family needs and values concerning education. For the New York City Department of Education, they reached out to communities by discussing the different experiences of community members during the COVID-19 Pandemic. The campaigns they worked to build into their various schools focused on mental wellness and recognizing the impact that was influential to all educational staff members in diverse ways.

                The focus they shared during the webinar highlights the importance of creating an environment of inclusion that also taps into the community resources for holistic student education. If you would like to view this video, you can visit this link: Link. Please go to this link for a complete list of upcoming and previous webinars this year: Link.
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