In Connecticut, Saving Lives Comes With an Unexpected Perk: Saving Money

Across much of the U.S., a person who’s poor, overweight and a candidate for obesity-related diseases might not visit a doctor until they’ve already contracted diabetes — that is, if they can even find a physician who will accept Medicaid, the federal health insurance program aimed at the neediest Americans.
But in Connecticut, they’re doing things differently. There, state employees actually reach out to those at the greatest risk before they’ve exhibited any noticeable symptoms, then work diligently to connect them with the right care. Doctors are paid a bonus for getting a patient to see the appropriate specialists, and out-of-the-box arrangements are made when other solutions prove necessary; a low-income senior facing eviction, for example, might be given a “prescription” of a rental voucher so that she can remain in her own neighborhood.
In treating poverty as an ailment in and of itself, Connecticut has adopted a proactive approach to improving the health of its poorest residents — and it’s saving money in the process. After switching to a rarely used Medicaid payment model, known as fee-for-service (FFS), the state faced a daunting challenge: Keep those unable to pay out of the emergency room, or see its budget eaten up by soaring medical costs.
Here’s how it works: Using the extensive data collected from all Medicaid patients, the state’s predictive modeling identifies those most in danger of expensive, chronic ailments like diabetes. Then, says Dr. Robert Zavoski, a former pediatrician who now serves as the state’s medical director, “We make sure they’re getting preventive care so that, 10 years from now, we’re not paying for dialysis for renal dysfunction and amputations for limbs that would have been better left where they were.”
After Connecticut dropped three private companies who administered its Medicaid program and decided to run the massive entitlement on its own, other states practically took bets on when the system would implode.
“They patted us on the head and said, ‘Good luck with that,’” Kate McEvoy, who oversees all of Connecticut’s public health services, recalls of the 2010 decision.
In booting private insurance companies off the job (in Hartford, a city that’s known as the insurance capital of the world, no less), Connecticut was bucking a trend. Thirty-nine other states, representing nearly three-quarters of the nation’s enrollees, have hired managed-care organizations, or MCOs, to oversee Medicaid, with even more governors pondering following suit. Of the rest, only Alaska and Wyoming have a system like Connecticut’s.
Without relying on MCOs to set standards and manage the process, Connecticut’s been on the hook for whatever care its Medicaid population requires, which can include check-ups, specialist visits and hospital drop-ins. The looming receipts have created an incentive for Connecticut to keep its poor healthy.
The tactic has already paid off in the short term and promises to deliver even bigger dividends in the future.
According to a recent analysis of federal payment data published in the journal Health Affairs, Connecticut led the nation in reducing Medicaid costs. The state’s per-patient spending on Medicaid dropped by an average of 5.7 percent each year between 2010 and 2014. One explanation is simple. “We got rid of [the MCOs’] profit and overhead,” says Ellen Andrews, the head of Connecticut Health Policy Project, a nonpartisan analyst. But officials also believe, financially and morally, they’ll do better by paying upfront.
“The old adage went, ‘If you can predict something, you can prevent it.’ And yet as a practitioner, when we look at the population of inner-city children, a lot of stuff was happening that you could predict but nobody was preventing anything,” Zavoski says. “Standing in the capital city in the richest state in the richest country in the world, that’s not acceptable.”
Under Connecticut’s FFS system, primary care doctors are given bonuses for coordinating their Medicaid patients’ care. “They don’t just say, ‘You have a heart problem.’ They’ll make an appointment with a cardiologist and follow-up,” Andrews says.
Paying out doctor bonuses won’t break the bank, but other preventive measures do involve five-figure decisions. Previously, under managed care, insurers denied coverage of top-dollar treatments — exclusions the state has now reversed. For example, Connecticut will pay $94,500 for a prescription that cures Hepatitis C, with the confidence that it will lower costs in the long run. Zavoski reasons that a one-time course of drugs, paired with education about reinfection, might be cheaper than a lifetime supply of the older pills, which put the patient at risk of severe liver and kidney damage.
Of course, the resources might not always be there. As Connecticut’s legislature faces a massive budget deficit that could slash health programs and congressional Republicans attempt to dismantle Obamacare’s expansion, Medicaid is under constant assault. But if the Nutmeg State has one lesson for the rest of the country, it’s that deferring treatment will cost us later — in dollars and in lives.
Homepage photo courtesy of Joe Raedle/Getty Images.
Continue reading “In Connecticut, Saving Lives Comes With an Unexpected Perk: Saving Money”

How a Service Year Helps Turn Four Walls Into a Home

“A home, to me, is much more than four walls and a roof,” says Adam Hunt, a site supervisor for Habitat for Humanity in Charlotte, N.C. “I try to build homes — where you have Christmas and where you have birthdays, where you come home soaking wet after a rainy day, those kinds of things. That’s home.” As a child growing up in Lynn Haven, Fla., Hunt lived in a home built by Habitat for Humanity, an organization that constructs affordable housing and promotes home ownership for low-income families. While Hunt’s house was being built, he put in a 5-year-old’s version of “sweat equity” — picking up stray nails around the property — just like every other Habitat resident.
In this episode of NationSwell’s eight-part mini documentary series on service years, watch how AmeriCorps service year corps members help increase Habitat’s ability to provide affordable housing in Charlotte.
“[Habitat] meant a great deal of stability for myself and my family,” Hunt says. “I want to be able to give other families that same opportunity.”
NationSwell asks you to join our partnership with Service Year Alliance. Watch the video above and ask Congress to support federal funding for national service. Together, we can lead a national movement to give young Americans the opportunity to help bridge the divides in our country.

6 Stunning Art Projects That Are Making Cities Healthier

Communities coast to coast have added artistic flourishes to troubled or abandoned neighborhoods. But revitalizing areas takes additional finesse — and, oftentimes, creative placemaking projects capable of connecting segregated communities. Here are some of the public art efforts that have helped do just that.

Forty works of art, including “Valence” by Michael Cottrell, are located along a sculpture trail in Huntsville.

Huntsville, Ala.

The midsize Southern enclave of Huntsville always had public art tucked in here and there, but it lacked a comprehensive way to tie those works into the greater landscape. With its profile on the rise, Huntsville created a master plan to make large-scale art more accessible and better integrated into public spaces. This targeted approach has resulted in collaborative projects like SPACES, a revolving sculpture trail with nearly 40 works by 22 artists from 12 different states. According to a report by Americans for the Arts, in 2015, Huntsville’s art initiatives generated nearly $90 million in economic activity while supporting the equivalent of 3,073 full-time jobs.

Philadelphia’s Porchlight Project is made up of numerous pieces of public art, including “Sanctuary” by James Burns.


The mission of the city’s Porch Light program: to strengthen community wellness through public art. By working with those suffering from mental disorders, trauma and substance abuse, Philadelphia has shown how civic engagement can foster healing and challenge social stigmas, while simultaneously giving the existing landscape a meaningful makeover. Since the program’s inception in 2007, dozens of massive murals have been erected throughout the city, providing opportunities (like community “paint days”) for the public to contribute to the meaningful works of art. And research has shown that public art really can promote public health. Philly residents living within one mile of a newly installed mural reported an increase in social cohesion and trust among neighbors, according to a study by the Yale School of Medicine.

Hundreds of thousands of visitors from across the globe have visited the Heidelberg Project in Detroit.

In 1986, troubled by the violence and blight of Motor City’s East Side, local artist Tyree Guyton began transforming empty homes and lots, as well as nearby sidewalks, streets and trees, into a massive public installation. Dubbed the Heidelberg Project, the colorful houses and funky sculptures made mostly from recycled materials and found objects, have attracted an estimated 200,000 visitors annually and generated millions to the local economy since its inception. Last year, Guyton began removing some smaller, less prominent installations on Heidelberg Street to make room for a new vision: Heidelberg 3.0, which organizers say will continue the transformation of the McDougall Hunt neighborhood “into a self-sustainable cultural village for residents and visitors alike.”
Artists Jessie Unterhalter and Katey Truhn were commissioned to create this work, which is located in one of Baltimore’s parks.


Arts programming got a boost when four Baltimore nonprofits banded together to raise the profile of the long blighted area now known as the Station North Arts and Entertainment District (SNAED). Though it lies just north of a major commuting hub, most travelers pass through the zone without ever leaving the station. To encourage passersby to stick around, SNAED holds programs and performances, such as Final Fridays, a monthly public art event, and the “Think Big” awards, which supports local artists, in empty lots and abandoned buildings. Though the neighborhood has long suffered high vacancy rates, it’s become a cultural center, with numerous arts and entertainment venues and several artist live-work spaces opening in recent years.

By bringing in more pedestrian activity, Greensboro’s Over.Under.Pass has contributed to the revitalization of an abandoned area of the city.

Greensboro, N.C.

After plans for a roughly four-mile, multi-use walking and biking greenway started coming together in 2001, the local nonprofit Action Greensboro saw an opportunity to help revitalize Greensboro’s city center by installing public art along the route. The project Over.Under.Pass transformed a long-abandoned railroad trestle with Art Deco-style iron sculptures and interactive light displays. Action Greensboro also commissioned ColorHaus, which brought together artists to paint bright, Bauhaus-inspired murals on highway overpass concrete supports. The economic impact of the pedestrian walkway has exceeded expectations, with high visitorship in particular to the Over.Under.Pass section of the trail. “Over.Under.Pass is unlike anything that has been done before in Greensboro,” said project manager Dabney Sanders, “and the interactive aspect of the installation has been particularly well received.”

Inspired by Spartanburg’s textile past, an artist used the worn brick surface of a smokestack as a canvas for a high-powered LED light display.

Spartanburg, S.C.

Seeing Spartanburg in a New Light,” a dynamic public art project built as part of the annual National Night Out, promoted crime prevention, strengthened police-community relations and fostered neighborhood camaraderie. Funded by a $1 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies, “Seeing Spartanburg” brought temporary LED-light installations, including “Glow,” which transformed two of the city’s towering smokestacks into multicolored beacons, and “Benchmark Spartanburg,” a long public bench backed by pulsating lights, to 10 local neighborhoods. According to Jennifer Evins, president and CEO of Chapman Cultural Center, the project began to “cultivate relationships between local residents and law enforcement officers, which is a step towards reducing crime.”
MORE: Want to Fight Urban Blight? Wield Art as a Weapon
Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Jennifer Evins is the president and CEO of The Arts Partnership. NationSwell apologizes for the error.

In Atlanta, This Group Fights Hunger With Tech and Found Fruit

Off the Atlanta BeltLine, about 20 feet from the Freedom Parkway bridge, as teenagers skateboarded, joggers pushed strollers and couples walked hand-in-hand, Logan Pool looks up.
“Do you think this tree can hold my weight?” he asks Katherine Kennedy, executive director of Concrete Jungle, the nonprofit that organized the day’s fruit pick.
Kennedy chuckles. “I’ll let you make that call,” she says.
The branches above him hang heavy with reddening plums the size of golfballs. Farther up the hill, six volunteers pull plums from other trees, filling quart-sized containers with the sticky-sweet fruit.
Concrete Jungle aims to address two connected issues. On the one hand, thousands of fruit trees grow unattended — their ripened fruits drop and rot, contributing to the 40 percent of agricultural products in the U.S. that go to waste, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. And alongside that food waste, people are going hungry. In Atlanta 19 percent of adults and 28 percent of kids are food insecure — a phrase that, in practical terms, means skipping one meal a day based on necessity. Although food pantries and soup kitchens alleviate some of that need, it’s often with donated pantry staples and processed foods, rather than fresh, vitamin- and mineral-rich ones.
Since 2009, the organization has mapped 4,700 neglected trees to create Atlanta’s only fruit-tree map. It’s allowed the small group — which has just one employee and 10 board members — and their volunteers to maximize the harvest and minimize wasted fruit. To date, more than 33,000 pounds of produce have been donated to those in need.
For most of the 10 hunger-relief organizations that partner with Concrete Jungle, this is the only fresh produce they can provide to the families they serve. Subsequently, in places where Concrete Jungle drops off contributions, the fresh produce is used immediately, whether it’s set out for people to grab or set aside for volunteers to prepare as part of a meal.
“Concrete Jungle was the first and remains the most consistent donor of fresh-picked and farm-grown fruits and vegetables for our community,” Chad Hyatt, pastor at Atlanta’s Mercy Community Church, says. “Getting food donations isn’t hard; getting healthy, nutritious, fresh food is.”

Growing Roots

Concrete Jungle started with two friends and some apples. Craig Durkin and Aubrey Daniels had a cider press but, as broke students at the Georgia Institute of Technology, they didn’t have the money for the abundance of fruit required to use it. So they scouted out apple trees in the area and started picking. Before long, they realized the scope of the fruit available in Atlanta — a metro area with so much lush green space it’s widely known as “the city in the forest.”
Sometimes referred to as “gleaning,” this age-old practice gathers whatever crops remain on a farmer’s land after it was harvested. And Concrete Jungle isn’t alone in gleaning food donations. “Urban fruit foraging” organizations — a more modern term for the practice — have popped up in cities such as Seattle; Louisville, Ky.; Philadelphia; Boulder, Colo.; and Los Angeles.
For volunteers, these organizations provide a novel experience that harkens back to childhood tree-climbing or family trips to orchards. “They can now see Atlanta in a new light,” Kennedy says. “They can see fruit trees all over the place.”
That was one of the main draws for Erin Croom, who came out to the plum pick with her two sons, five-year-old Thomas and four-year-old Henry.
“I love showing them that there is magic in ordinary and familiar spaces,” says Croom. “They are so proud to gain new knowledge — like being able to identify new trees — and do something that helps others.”
Back by the parkway bridge, Pool has successfully climbed the plum tree and is diligently harvesting from halfway up its branches, although a few plums have ended up in his mouth.
“I’m only eating the bruised ones!” he calls down, laughing.

A Better Bounty

Beyond a growing volunteer base, Concrete Jungle has technology on its side. Because it’s difficult to keep an eye on the thousands of trees the group has mapped all across Atlanta, they’ve partnered with the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Public Design Workshop to better monitor their potential crops.
First, to reduce the amount of time spent driving to a picking site, the team deployed drones to take photos and videos of the trees. (The drone is currently grounded due to FAA regulations and licensing requirements.) Now they’re creating sensors that will be directly placed in trees to monitor fruit growth. Cameras take weekly pictures of tree branches, and a bend sensor measures a branch’s angle (as fruit grows bigger and heavier, it weighs the branch down). And an electronic nose, still very much in the development phase, aims to “smell” gases as they’re released from growing fruit. Once the gases reach a certain level, the fruit is ready to pick.
Last year Concrete Jungle donated 16,000 pounds of produce, a harvest record they’re hoping to double this year.
On this afternoon, eight volunteers collect 98 pounds of plums, some of which end up at Mercy Community Church, hand-delivered, like most donations, by Kennedy.
A group of predominantly homeless men is gathered for breakfast and prayer. Pastor Hyatt loads some of the plums into a bowl and passes it around. “Concrete Jungle is an example of fundamental justice,” he says, “of seeing a resource and a need and doing the right thing by rolling up your sleeves and dirtying your hands to get the resource to those who need it.”
Correction: This article originally referred to Atlanta’s BeltLine as the Beltway. NationSwell regrets the error.
MORE: Can This Ambitious Plan Both Preserve History and Revitalize a City?

Republicans and Democrats Love This Anti-Poverty Policy

Historically, Democrats and Republicans have seldom seen eye-to-eye on any tax issue — except the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a refundable tax credit at both the state and federal levels given to the working poor. Conservatives support it because it’s connected to earned income; liberals believe the government should provide financial support to needy families.
Today, an estimated 28 million low and moderate-income families could benefit from the EITC (eligibility is determined by annual household income, the number of hours worked and number of children), which is now widely regarded as the most successful way to get families above the poverty line, according to policy analysts.
As bickering across the aisle creates an impasse in our nation’s capital, lawmakers in California recently approved a bipartisan solution (introduced by a Republican, passed by a Democratic dominated legislature) that could provide a model for federal lawmakers debating tax reform and how best to help struggling Americans.


Introduced in 1975, Congress passed the federal EITC at a time many other welfare programs were being criticized for their wild inefficiencies (most were eventually scrapped). Its aim: To get people back to work and off of public assistance by returning a portion of their income tax payment.
Throughout its existence, the credit has been expanded by every president, with Ronald Reagan (who called it “the best anti-poverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure to come out of Congress”) backing one of the biggest increases.
In 2016, The American Action Forum, a conservative-leaning economic policy group, recognized the benefit of expanding the credit. And a 2014 House Budget Committee Report, headed by Republicans, said the credit was “an effective tool for encouraging and rewarding work among lower-income individuals, particularly single mothers.”
Despite this, Republican support has dwindled in recent years as far right members of the GOP advocate for significant cuts to government spending.
In 2014, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida said he would agree to an expansion of the EITC, but only if it wouldn’t result in increased spending. (Experts said that growth of the program would inevitably mean more money would be returned to workers, costing the federal government an estimated $91 billion, based upon 2015 tax code.)
Conservatives have also argued that there’s no need to expand the EITC since an increase in the minimum wage would provide the same monetary benefits to workers.
And there is concern about fraud. The Internal Revenue Service estimates close to $13 billion in credits, or 21 to 26 percent of filings, were given out that likely shouldn’t have been.


California has been a progressive leader in sustainability practices and social programs, but until recently, its EITC efforts lagged behind states like Maryland, Minnesota and Rhode Island, all which expanded their credit programs in 2014. (Rhode Island legislators backed further expansion last year.)
“California has the nation’s highest poverty rate, counting the cost of living, and families still need to make several times the federal poverty level income to afford basic necessities,” states an opinion piece in the Orange County Register, adding that families would need a minimum wage of $31 per hour to survive in the state.
By these standards, an expansion was necessary.
In June, the state expanded its EITC to meet the minimums needed for a family to get by in one of the nation’s most expensive states, where the average rent is 50 percent higher than the rest of the country.
The expansion enables independent contractors and freelancers working in California’s gig economy to qualify for the credit, now mirroring federal and other states’ rules. It also increased the minimum income requirements from $13,870 to $22,300 so that families earning the state’s new minimum wage could qualify.


The Anti-Poverty Program That Transcends Divides, CityLab

Fighting Food Waste, One Sector at a Time

America is one of the largest offenders of food waste in the world, according to a recent survey. Every year, roughly 1.3 billion tons of food is thrown out worldwide, a considerable problem given that agriculture contributes about 22 percent of the planet’s greenhouse gas emissions and 12.7 million people go hungry in America alone. Entrepreneurs across several sectors have created ways to repurpose food. Their efforts are admirable and economical, but the biggest difference will be if you make food waste reduction a daily habit.

Recovered food from the University of Denver Food Recovery Network chapter.

On College Campuses

On average, a student who lives in university housing throws out 141 pounds of food per year. Multiply that by the number of residential colleges around the country, and it becomes a huge problem, says Regina Northouse, executive director for the Food Recovery Network, the only nonprofit dealing specifically with campus food waste.
WATCH: How Much Food Could Be Rescued If College Dining Halls Saved Their Leftovers?
Northouse’s group reduces waste by enlisting the help of student volunteers at 226 universities. This manpower shuttles still-edible food from dining halls that would otherwise be thrown out to local nonprofits fighting hunger. Northouse estimates that since 2011, Food Recovery Network has fed 150,000 food-insecure people.

Through the box-subscription company Hungry Harvest, farmers sell “ugly food” to consumers instead of tossing the unsightly produce out.

On Farms

If a carrot isn’t quite orange enough, odds are it’ll be tossed. Blemishes and unattractive produce make up nearly 40 percent of discarded food, according to a 2012 study by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Though some unused fruits and veggies can be sent to food manufacturers, farmers lose profits from about a quarter of their crops because of cosmetic imperfections. To put money back into their pockets, box subscriptions services, such as Hungry Harvest, have found their way into the ugly food market.
“We started out with 10 customers at a stand,” says Stacy Carroll, director of partnerships for Hungry Harvest. “We now have thousands of customers every week buying thousands of pounds of food that would, in the past, have been thrown away.”
Roughly 10,000 subscribers along the East Coast receive weekly boxes of recovered produce from the Baltimore-based company (which was started by the founders of Food Recovery Network). In addition, food insecure families who use SNAP benefits can purchase boxes at 10 Hungry Harvest sites. All in all, the organization redistributes between 60,000 and 80,000 pounds of food through its subscription service each week.

MealConnect provides a platform for retailers to redistribute unsold produce to those in need.

At Food Retailers

For merchants, food wasted is also money wasted. Across the U.S., the cost of tossing food runs upward of $165 billion annually.
MealConnect, a tech platform launched in April by Feeding America (a nationwide network of food banks), allows retailers to post surplus meals and unused produce on its app, which then notifies local food banks workers to pick it up and redistribute it to those in need. The company has recovered 333 million pounds of food by working with large retailers like Walmart and Starbucks. MealConnect also allows merchants to recoup some of their outlays (via tax deductions).

Chef Dan Barber’s wastED pop-ups challenged chefs to create innovate dishes using produce that otherwise would have been thrown out.

In Restaurants

In 2015, the aptly named food popup wastED found itself in the heart of a media frenzy because of what was on the menu: trashed food. 
Since then, a handful of other restaurants in urban areas across the world have used recovered produce in their meals.
“We’re offering our cooks the opportunity to be creative and come up with menus instead,” says Brooklyn, N.Y., chef Przemek Adolf, owner of Saucy By Nature, which uses leftovers from previous catering events to create daily lunch and dinner specials.

The USDA’s FoodKeeper app educates consumers on how to extend the shelf life of stored foods.

In Your Own Kitchen

Individual families throw away nearly $1,600 worth of food per year, according to the EPA, which has spurred the federal government to step in and help.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture created the app FoodKeeper, which informs consumers on how long an apple can last in the fridge, for example, and proper food storage techniques to extend shelf life. It also sends out reminder alerts to use up food that’s in danger of spoiling. The desired outcome? People changing their behaviors, ultimately buying less and consuming what they do purchase.

How President Trump’s Federal Budget Hits 3 Model Programs Gradually

At NationSwell, our mission is to highlight solutions driving America forward. From rural Appalachia to South Central Los Angeles, we’ve covered the work of dedicated individuals fighting to improve people’s lives. Here are a few updates on how President Trump’s proposed federal budget cuts to social programs could gradually rollback the positive impact made by these initiatives.

It’s Possible to Close the Achievement Gap and Have Fun at the Same Time

If it looks like summer camp, and kids are having fun like they do at summer camp, it must be summer camp, right?
Not if you’re talking about Horizons National’s intensive, six-week-long summer session. Watch the video above to see how the program utilizes project-based learning, extracurriculars like swimming and gardening and a low 5:1 student-to-teacher ratio (compared to 16.1 nationally) to instill a love of learning in students.
At a time when all eyes are on the latest proposed cuts to education and numerous states have already slashed school spending, Horizons has found an innovative, fun way to help close the achievement gap between kids living in poverty and their more affluent peers. Its low-income students are succeeding — both in school and beyond.
MORE: What Does Swimming Have to Do With Stopping the Summer Slide?

Notes From the Field: Miriam Altman on School Absenteeism

One hot afternoon in late August, I spotted a familiar face as I exited the Prospect Avenue subway station in New York City’s South Bronx. It was Tonya, one of my former students. She was holding the hand of a young girl dressed in an orange school uniform.
Bright and focused on earning her high school diploma, Tonya’s plans to go to college changed when she became pregnant during her senior year with Destiny, the girl whose hand she held. After a three month hiatus from school, Tonya graduated, and went on to have two more children — all by the age of 22. As a single mother, she worked odd jobs and collected food stamps to make ends meet.
I know first hand that Tonya’s story is not uncommon where she lives in Community District 3.  I am the cofounder of Kinvolved, a company that is working in her community to increase graduation rates by fighting school absenteeism.
Tonya lives in the poorest congressional district in the country, where about 37 percent of residents live in poverty and nearly 50 percent of residents earn less than a high school degree. By targeting the specific challenges facing the area’s youth, there’s hope to dramatically alter their futures.
South Bronx Rising Together is a group of neighborhood stakeholders working to improve the quality of life of neighborhood residents, in part, by ensuring that kids are college and career ready. Focused on elevating literacy rates, the organization discovered that student absenteeism is the main cause of lower-than-average scores. SBRT uses Collective Action Networks (CANs) made up of families, educators, business leaders, service providers and others to combat absenteeism.
Research proves chronic absence patterns can predict students’ graduation as early as sixth grade. New York City schools have one of the highest chronic absence rates in the country; public schools in Community District 3 have some of the highest rates of chronic absenteeism in the city: 36.6 percent of preK-12 students miss a month or more of school each year.
As SBRT analyzed absentee data, my colleagues and I at Kinvolved were working to help schools address absenteeism. We developed an app — KiNVO — that schools use to track attendance and to send text messages to families so they know whether or not their children are in class in real time. More than 100,000 stakeholders at 90 preK-12 schools in New York City benefit from KiNVO. At schools using the app, attendance rates improved 13 times that of an average NYC school.
As a CAN participant, my efforts focus on supporting the 60 schools in Community District 3. My CAN colleagues and I recruit schools in the neighborhood to be “All-In” schools, meaning they have committed to joining the fight against chronic absenteeism. By the end of the school year, there will be 30 “All-In” schools that participate in SBRT-sponsored events, webinars and meetings to exchange best practices to elevate attendance.
In part, as a result of these efforts, “All-In” schools that had regular attendance meetings and staff dedicated to attendance, experienced a drop in absenteeism between 5.7 percent and 10.3 percent from the 2014-2015 school year to the 2015-2016 school year.
According to SBRT co-directors Elizabeth Clay-Roy and Abe Fernandez, the organization wants its model and learnings to be open sourced. That way, improvement in school attendance will extend beyond Community District 3 in the South Bronx to the entire country.
Looking back, I have realized that I learned about SBRT and its focus on chronic absenteeism just before my reunion with Tonya and her daughter Destiny.  That day, as we parted ways, I hugged Tonya goodbye and felt Destiny’s small arms hugging my knees. I looked down at her eager smile and bright eyes and wished her a wonderful school year.
I believe that through the work of South Bronx Rising Together and also Kinvolved’s progress in fighting chronic absenteeism, we’re going to help Destiny and her peers achieve a future that hasn’t been as easily attained for her mother.
Miriam Altman is the chief executive officer and cofounder of Kinvolved.
Correction: The original version of this post misidentified Miriam Altman in the second photo. NationSwell apologizes for the error.

This Private Real Estate Developer Uncovers the Beauty of Aged Buildings

The late 2000s was a dark period for homeownership in America. Viewing the real estate bust as an opportunity to rethink affordable housing, childhood friends Jason Bordainick and Andrew Cavaluzzi pooled their entrepreneurial backgrounds and real estate experience to create the Hudson Valley Property Group.
The New York-based business works with property owners to rehabilitate blighted developments to improve the lives of existing residents and the surrounding community. Avoiding the types of projects that other real estate developers rush towards, HVPG builds upon existing infrastructure, utilizing investors with long-term financial goals.
See this unique public-private funding model in action by watching the video above.