These Parents Fought for a Better Education for Their Kids — and Won

The immigrant students in Stamford, Connecticut, were thriving. In grade schools across the midsize city, where roughly 35% of residents are foreign-born, these non-native English speakers would routinely receive rows of As and Bs on their report cards. They’d come home with high marks and exclamation points scribbled in red ink.
But when those same students took the state’s standardized achievement test, the opposite was true. The immigrant students, it turned out, were far behind the national reading level. 
When parents across the school district learned that their children were lagging in reading proficiency, they decided to do something. They looked to their neighbors in nearby Norwalk, where families had been participating in a literacy initiative called Springboard Collaborative since 2018. The Stamford parents had heard about the success of the program, which invites families into the classroom for workshops on how to boost their kids’ reading skills, and decided to push for it to be brought to Stamford schools, too. 
Besides immigrant students, children from low-income families also suffer from a literacy gap. When school isn’t in session, these students fall behind even more. By the time they reach the end of fifth grade, this “summer slide” can put disadvantaged kids three years behind their peers in reading level. What’s more, if these students aren’t reading at the recommended level by fourth grade, they’re 13 times more likely to drop out of high school. 
To help bridge that divide, Springboard Collaborative brings teachers and parents together to instill better reading habits in their children. The program, which is free for families and paid for by the school district and private donors, holds sessions both in the summer and during the school year. Through teacher-led workshops, parents are trained to be effective reading coaches for their kids, who are rewarded for their progress.
“You think the school is doing right by your kid, and you think your kid is doing fine and getting good grades. But the reality is that the grades are distributed on a bell curve,” founder and CEO Alejandro Gibes de Gac, a former first-grade teacher who himself immigrated to the United States as a student told NationSwell. [Editor’s note: Gibes de Gac is a member of the NationSwell Council.] “A kid might get an A in a low-income school, and they might be doing better than others in their classroom, but it may also be true that they’re far behind their higher-income peers.”
Since launching in 2012, Springboard, currently available in over 65 schools, has seen impressive improvements in students’ reading skills — and has the data to back it up. Instead of the usual three-month regression most kids experience during a summer break, participants in Springboard’s 2018 summer program actually gained a six-month advantage in reading skills.
That data is what pushed Stamford parent Jenny Canepa to get on board. 
Last fall, Canepa and like-minded parents came together to brainstorm ways to get Springboard to come to their district. They organized assemblies to educate the community on the literacy gap, and Canepa spent weekends at grocery stores, laundromats and bus stops talking to parents. Others canvassed neighborhoods collecting signatures; in two weeks, nearly 200 people had signed a petition in favor of Springboard.
The Stamford parents, with the support of Gibes de Gac, presented the petition to the superintendent that November and, finally, to the Board of Education in May.
The board meeting dragged on for hours until members voted on the proposal. Gibes de Gac could feel the tension in the room. “We could tell from the tenor of the conversation and the nature of the debate that it was likely going to fail.” Besides, the school district had a tight budget.  
At 11 p.m. on a Tuesday, the school board approved of the $150,000 contract by a narrow 5-to-4 vote. 
The room erupted, Gibes de Gac said. District leaders and families cried, smiled and cheered. “It was a culmination of many years of sacrifice and of feeling overlooked,” Gibes de Gac said. “To be in a position where your advocacy moves a system that can so easily overlook low-income families, it meant a great deal to them.”

Stamford families celebrate after the school board passed Springboard Collaborative’s proposal.

The contract will provide literacy coaching to 240 students and families across the district, where about 9% of residents live below the poverty line. Schools will select the students most in need of reading support, and any remaining spots will be offered to the families who were most active in the campaign to bring Springboard to Stamford.
The Canepas won’t be one of them, though. While Canepa has a 13-year-old son, Springboard is targeted to younger students, from pre-K to third grade. But that didn’t matter to her.
“We’re not only fighting for our kids. We’re fighting for the kids in the community,” she told NationSwell. “So the people who are going to attend this program are the people who are in most need.”
For Canepa, supporting families who may not know what resources and services are available to them is personal. In 2001, she emigrated from Ecuador with her 14-year-old daughter. She described the challenge of learning a new language and a new education system. She had her son, Maximillian, a few years later and when he was diagnosed with a speech delay, she knew she had to speak up for herself and her children. Canepa took classes in English and joined a network of immigrant families where she learned her rights as a parent. Since then, she’s been a leader in her community.
“Now I have a voice, I have a right, and I can use it,” she said. “This is just the beginning.”
Canepa isn’t the only one speaking out on behalf of Stamford’s children, regardless of whether they qualify for Springboard. One grandparent, she said, joined the effort just so his 8-month-old granddaughter would have better opportunities when she reaches elementary school.  
The group of immigrant families spent months lobbying for the district to bring Springboard Collaborative to their schools.

“Growing up with little money but lots of ambition taught me that parents’ love for their children is the single greatest and most underutilized resource we have in education,” said Gibes de Gac.
Currently his nonprofit works with over 10,000 students in 13 cities. But what makes the situation in Stamford unusual is that the families pitched the school board, not Gibes de Gac. To help them prepare, he taught the parents Springboard’s sales playbook.
“It was maybe the proudest that I’ve felt in the last seven years of building Springboard,” he said. “It reminded me that the implications of our work go far beyond even just literacy outcomes.”
More:  Kids Are Learning to Read In a Place You’d Never Expect: The Laundromat

A Bus Full of Microscopes Is Bringing Science to Underserved Schools

On a humid, overcast Tuesday afternoon, a bus pulled up to P.S. 230 in the Kensington neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York. The BioBus — which is actually a sleek silver science lab on wheels — had already hosted several classes that morning, all in the name of getting students excited about science. On a typical weekday, BioBus hosts six 45-minute classes for up to 30 children. That day at P.S. 230, they were scheduled to teach 23 students.
Community scientists Mollie Thurman and Rosemary Puckett, instructors on the BioBus team, moseyed their way around the bus as the kids examined daphnia, a water flea too small to be visible to the naked eye, through their collection of microscopes. Thurman and Puckett broke down the different parts of the tiny organism during the class. “I love being able to share the clarity of understanding [with the students]. It’s very exciting,” Puckett said.
The microscope is not just a tool to the BioBus team: It’s central to what they do. “[Microscopes teach] that inherent lesson that how you look with your eyes is not all the ways you can see,” Puckett added. And she meant this quite literally: Some of the kids got to see what their own eyes looked like under a microscope, by peering through a microscope on a rolling camera attached to a monitor.
According to the BioBus staff, more than 250,000 K-12 students have boarded their bus since it was founded in 2008, and have experienced hands-on learning with the kind of microscopes you’d normally find in a high-caliber lab. Part of its appeal is helping students understand what science is, outside of the dry material you’d normally find in a textbook. “It’s so engaging,” Thurman said. “Kids sometimes say it’s not like their regular classes.”

A community scientist teaches a group of Brooklyn students about invertebrates.

BioBus’s goal is to make science interesting and accessible to students at an early age, with a focus on students in low-income and underserved communities. According to a 2018 study by The Pew Research Center, only 9 percent of African-Americans and 7 percent of Hispanic workers have careers in STEM fields. While the study also found that 45 percent of STEM workers surveyed felt that this was because those groups weren’t encouraged at an early age to pursue that career path, they also attribute these rates to a lack of educational opportunities.  
Puckett says their mobile lab exists to bridge that gap, bringing hands-on science education to communities that otherwise would not have access to it. After each class, the instructors provide surveys to each school, which teachers are invited to complete anonymously. The consensus: Most schools have found that BioBus is a great opportunity for students to interact with real scientists and have the “wow” experience of using research-grade technology that many schools can’t afford.
While BioBus currently works with underserved schools in New York City, the problem isn’t unique to schools in that area: According to a 2016 report from the nonprofit EdBuild, school districts nationwide serving students of color received a shocking $23 billion less than mostly white school districts with the same number of students.
For now, the BioBus model seems to be working: According to Tessa Hirschfeld-Stoler, one of BioBus’s community scientists, members of their high school internship program have been accepted and enrolled in top research universities such as NYU, Harvard, Cornell and Columbia to pursue careers in science.
If other cities are able to follow their lead, BioBus could potentially set a national model for mobile education by offering students the opportunity for lessons beyond what’s offered in their school’s curricula. To Puckett, the desire to learn isn’t dependent on your geography: “The same thirst for these kind of activities are everywhere,” she said. “It gives us a reason to want to grow.”
More: Science Education Isn’t Working. Heres What Will.

They’re Finding Hope for Their Future in Comic Books and Journal Entries

When Kevin Vaughn Jr., a 15-year-old from North Philadelphia, wrote a letter to victims of police brutality, he did so from a perspective that many in his community say they share. Namely, that being young and black in America is a raw deal.
“I am sorry you were treated as something less than human,” he wrote. “No matter who or what you are, you should be respected as a human, a citizen, and an American. … Use your experience to make a difference.”
The letter wasn’t intended to be read by anyone other than him and his classmates, a group of about a dozen teens from some of Philadelphia’s poorest neighborhoods. Vaughn Jr. wrote it for a writing workshop that encourages young people like him to record their thoughts and feelings in a journal — punctuation, spelling and grammar be damned. The point wasn’t to get a good grade; it was simply recording his experience that mattered.
Vaughn Jr. is taking part in Mighty Writers, a program that teaches writing skills to students between the ages of 7 and 17. The nonprofit works with about 2,500 kids annually, exposing them to everything from playwriting to comic book creation through after-school classes, night and weekend workshops, and summer sessions. Boosting literacy skills is crucial in a city like Philadelphia, where nearly half of the population lacks even the basic reading skills to hold down a job. The idea behind Mighty Writers is that kids who master writing also make better decisions, have higher self-esteem and achieve greater success as they enter adulthood.
The first step is getting them to think creatively, says Amy Banegas, program administrator for the North Philadelphia chapter of Mighty Writers. This summer, Banegas, a 14-year teaching veteran of North Philadelphia schools, is holding weeklong summer sessions at the Mighty Writers location just north of the city’s burgeoning Center City neighborhood. It’s the fourth writing center the nonprofit has opened since its founding in 2009.
Despite downtown Philadelphia’s booming economy, the local school system is flailing. The cash-strapped district, which educates about 130,000 students, has had a hard time retaining permanent teachers, resulting in dramatically low test scores across the city. To save money, the education department will reportedly begin closing three schools a year starting in 2019.
All of this is bad news in a city where nearly a quarter of the population can’t read or write beyond an eighth-grade level, according to a report by the National Center for Education Statistics in 2003, the most recent year information is available. 
“Literacy is horrible in North Philly, from kids to adults. And as parents, you can’t help your child read or write if you can’t do it yourself,” says Banegas, who sees many sophomores enter her program at a fourth-grade reading level. “It’s sad that it’s not shocking.”

Kevin Vaughn Jr., 15, puts his thoughts on paper during a Mighty Writers workshop.

Mighty Writers’ network of 400 volunteers, made up largely of filmmakers, musicians and journalists, attempts to combat that by providing structure through consistent writing exercises based on the issues that affect the kids who attend. In one recent session, for example, students learned how to channel their voices to become advocates for justice and equality.
Mighty Writers measures the impact of their program by assessing participants’ writing development using a tech platform. Additionally, the organization tracks students’ self-reporting on writing motivation and writing stamina over time. Education director Rachel Loeper says that she’s seen improvement among the students who attend.
There have been other city-based organizations that are similar to Mighty Writers. One is Writers Matter  at La Salle University, which focuses on middle schools students. Professor Robert Vogel created the program in 2005 and says writing classes like it are imperative in urban areas with large populations of low-income and special-needs students.
“The writing programs in most large cities are pretty minimal and don’t really address the adolescent issues these students experience. Schools there just aren’t as well-funded as they are in suburban and rural areas,” Vogel says. “It’s a whole different social-economic dynamic in inner cities. As a result, the resources aren’t that good, and the challenges are much greater.”
At the Mighty Writers summer workshop that NationSwell attended, the topic at hand was the state of “being unapologetically black.” Students discussed police violence against African-Americans — specifically the deaths that have dominated headlines over the past five years — and then wrote in their journals. That these kids would have strong feelings about cops isn’t a surprise. In 2015, a federal study found that 81 percent of police shootings in the city targeted black residents in North Philadelphia. Just last month, a policeman in North Philadelphia’s 15th precinct shot and killed an armed black man after he was stopped for recklessly riding a dirt bike.
“It’s not just a workshop,” says Banegas. “It’s about self-growth and connecting to community.”
Those are qualities that Vogel, who conducted a three-year study on the effectiveness of his Writers Matter program, says are necessary for future success.
“There’s an emotional and social impact, and a building of confidence among the children that is hard to measure, but we’ve been able to see [those positive results] through interviews with [participants],” he says. “These kinds of programs have an impact that goes beyond the academic.”
Vaughn Jr., the 15-year-old who penned a letter to victims of excessive police force, says he’s learned to appreciate the practice of keeping a journal since enrolling in Mighty Writers.
“I find value in it because it’s a great way to let you know what you’re thinking and feeling,” he says. “It’s just keeping note as to where you are as a person.”
Homepage photo by Joseph Darius Jaafari
Continue reading “They’re Finding Hope for Their Future in Comic Books and Journal Entries”

The Giving Girls

Thalia Taylor, a 17-year-old Bronx teen has a lot of opinions, specifically when it comes to problems affecting her peers. After all, young women from the South Bronx, Southeast Queens or East New York areas experience higher rates of HIV infection, are more likely to be victims of violent crime and have less access to reproductive services than white women within the same age.
New York City government has attempted to address these issues by funding nonprofits that work with young women of color in those neighborhoods, but there’s one glaring issue: The organizations often don’t have representation on their staff or boards of the very groups they aim to help. The result? Here’s what Taylor thinks: “By leaving us out of the conversation and not consulting us is really useless, in a sense,” she says.
But now Taylor has become part of a program called Girls IGNITE Grantmaking (GIG). This group of 15 young women from the outer reaches of New York City’s boroughs are deciding how to divvy up $30,000 amongst a handful of nonprofits providing assistance to young women.
“We have a 30 year history of participatory grantmaking and we really think that community members should make decisions on where funding goes,” says Neha Raval, senior program officer at the New York Women’s Foundation (NYWF), who runs GIG in alliance with the YWCA of the City of New York. “But there was a problem. We didn’t see young girls of color at the table helping to make important decisions that would impact them.”
(In exchange for their work, Taylor and the other young women in the program also received a $1,000 stipend, 10 percent of which was earmarked for donation to other philanthropic causes of their choosing.)
In advance of their grantmaking, the girls learned the ins and outs of how nonprofits are funded and participated in lectures about popular social issues. More importantly, they made site visits and listened to pitches from directors of nonprofits about how they’d solve various issues impacting young girls of color.
“We were so pleased to see young people in these leadership roles, and I think this is something companies often strive for,” says Tracy Hobson, executive director of the Center for Anti-Violence, one of GIG’s beneficiaries. “It made us really step back and ask ourselves, ‘How do we speak the language of the people that we work with all the time?’”

Without input from community members themselves, Thalia Taylor, third from right, believes that philanthropic assistance is useless.

Research into the demographics of philanthropy released in 2014 by the diversity coalition D5 showed that boardrooms are overwhelmingly filled with men and close to 90 percent of nonprofit CEOs and presidents are white.
The lack of diversity is problematic for philanthropic organizations hoping to address cultural issues such as socioeconomic status in poor areas or women’s reproductive rights.
“Philanthropy likes to think that it’s the investment capital for social change,” says Stephanie Chrispin, a public policy fellow at Philanthropy New York, a nonprofit organization. “But if its leaders are limited in their vision because they are overwhelmingly straight, white males who live in rarefied bubbles, the sector’s ability to see the possibilities and strengths in marginalized communities will remain obscured.”
Diversity within the nonprofit sector becomes even more problematic when looking at organizations that support youth. Leaders of nonprofits that work to help young women of color say there is a definitive lack of young female voices in deciding where money is needed most.
“If the point of diversifying is to make sure voices are heard for those who we’re helping, then philanthropy groups are failing,” says Jennifer Agmi, director of programs at NYWF. “With [the fellows], what we’re saying is we don’t know, and they know more than we do.”
Other philanthropic groups, including the Disability Rights Fund and The Social Justice Fund Northwest, also use participatory grantmaking. The New York Women’s Foundation plans to offer Girls IGNITE Grantmaking again next year.
By giving community members a seat at the table, more impact is achieved, says Dr. Amir Pasic, dean of philanthropic studies at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.
“I think there’s been a realization, globally, that investing in young women helps elevate a community,” says Pasic.
And there’s another benefit for fellows, including Taylor: The empowerment gained by knowing that through voicing their opinions, they’ve had a part in making their community a better place.
Homepage photo courtesy of Vivienne Peng at The New York Women’s Foundation.

Internet for All

Between 1979 and 2013, wages of middle-income workers rose just 6 percent. The wallets of low-income workers have been hit even harder: Their incomes fell 5 percent during the same time period.  
As stagnant wages and flat mobility continue to deepen inequality in America, politicians, social entrepreneurs and other leaders are looking to technology for a solution. The number of jobs in computers and information technology is projected to increase 12 percent by 2024 — faster than any other sector. According to industry experts, nearly 60 million of Americans can’t even access the internet in their own homes because of cost.
To spur much-needed job growth, the digital divide must be eliminated. Watch the video above to see how EveryoneOn‘s pioneering model is leading the way by making high-speed, low-cost internet plans, refurbished computers and digital literacy courses available to low-income communities nationwide.

America’s Youngest Mayor

During the 20th century, Stockton was a commercial hub between Sacramento and San Francisco. It had military installations and was regularly used as a Hollywood set. But when Michael Tubbs grew up there in the 1990s, gunshots whizzed in the streets and more than half of the city’s high schoolers dropped out before graduation.  
Tubbs was raised by his mother, who had him at 16. In a high-school essay, Tubbs describes meeting his father for the first time at the age of 12. He was in chains and dressed in an orange jumpsuit at the Kern County Prison. “Why are you here,” Tubbs recalls asking.
His dad responded: “Prison is your destiny. From birth you are set up to fail. …You’re a black man in America, and it’s either prison or death.”
His father’s words have never left him. They settled in his core and drive his ambition.
In less than two decades he’s graduated from Stanford, captured Oprah Winfrey’s attention and worked at Google. Once a White House intern, he’s also famously set his sights on the presidency. In 2008, during Barack Obama’s first presidential bid, Tubbs met the then Illinois senator and recalls: “I looked at him, shook his hand and told him, ‘I’m next.’” Obama reportedly said, “Okay.”
But for now, Tubbs is focused on his Californian city. The goals he’s set for himself as mayor are lofty: Lowering unemployment (8.3 percent in February 2017), raising graduation rates (82.6 percent in 2015), lowering violent crime (25 instances of murder between January and June 2016) and attracting a major philanthropic investment, like the $816 million Detroit received from the Ford Foundation and other donors to save its art museum.
“I’m tired of talking about where we’ve been. I’m more interested in talking about where we’re going,” Tubbs said at his victory party, “We have to mature as a community and start demanding solutions.”
But finding them will require deft political skill. The average Stockton resident earns $19,900 annually, yet the city has little ability to provide revitalizing social services, considering it’s still recovering after declaring bankruptcy in 2012.
Tubbs’s approach to government taps an innovation-based strategy much like the tech campuses in nearby Silicon Valley. He pilots small projects and relentlessly studies the data to determine what’s most effective for the lowest cost. He’s also investing in long-term fixes — rather than short-term patches that drained city coffers — so that the kids born today will have more opportunity than he did.
“I would say I’m solution-oriented. I don’t want to know how this can’t happen. Tell me how it can,” Tubbs says.
Some of his earliest efforts — ones he helped initiate as a Stockton city council member — have established Tubbs reputation as so-called “doer.” He closed liquor stores in South Stockton, opened a health clinic and worked with young people on community cleanup projects.
As mayor, however, he faces inherent challenges that come with the implementation of his early projects. For example, as a council member, Tubbs was a key advocate for distributing body cameras to Stockton’s police officers as a way of raising accountability. In August 2016 (prior to Tubbs’s mayoral election), a 30-year-old man named Colby Friday was killed in an officer-involved shooting. An officer’s body camera failed to capture the incident because it was not activated. A nearby security camera did record the event, and the district attorney has agreed to share that footage with Friday’s family.
In another incident, when Black Lives Matter protesters interrupted a city council meeting in February, Tubbs announced a five-minute break and abruptly left the podium, angering his one-time supporters. A month later, he tells NationSwell his number-one rule about politics: “It takes thick skin.”

Mayor Michael Tubbs with Stockton school students. He wants the city’s young people to have more opportunity than he did growing up there.

During his 2016 run for mayor, Tubbs built his campaign around the idea of creating opportunities and stability for the people of Stockton. And it worked. He beat his opponent, Republican Anthony Silva, by almost 40 points.
Tubbs credits the young interns who canvassed and phoned banked for him with drumming up civic engagement in the city. In contrast to many of Tubbs’s childhood peers, these teens are some of the loudest voices in the ears of Stockton’s elected officials.
“My phone does not stop ringing, because the young people we’ve trained expect more from their elected officials,” says Lange Luntao, a Stockton school board member.
Michael Tubbs and his friends grew up believing they needed to leave Stockton to find opportunity and a better life. Once gone, few ever felt the need to return. Already, Tubbs is inspiring more of his young constituents to stay. With time, perhaps others from his own generation will return.
Editors’ note: A previous version of this article stated that the Colby Friday incident was reportedly captured on a police officer body camera. NationSwell apologizes for the error.

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.