What do you get when you combine limited funding for full-time staff, college students searching for meaningful learning opportunities, and public schools facing increasing demands and budget constraints? A recipe for success to build a foundation on which to build a county-wide, university-assisted community school model! That is exactly the ingredients we used to build our model of service through Broome County Promise Zone where we take the privilege of connecting Binghamton University students to the important work we are doing with public schools in Broome County to meet the needs of children and their families.
I recently heard a speaker say that education is “like climbing a hill”. A quality education pushes students to achieve their academic and personal goals even when it feels like an uphill climb. Unfortunately, for many of students this hill can feel more like a mountain that seems impossible to climb. Although the aspiration may be the same, the mountain seems daunting and the hope of success a far off dream. Motivation soon dwindles and academic achievement seems like something for everyone else.
A community school brings the necessary tools for all students and their families together in the school to provide support and access that help to balance the challenges poverty and life barriers can bring. Optimizing access allows children to plan their life “around choice rather than circumstance” and gives families the support needed to help them become engaged and active in making choices rather than succumbing to defeat allowing circumstances to take the lead. Rather than perpetuating the intergenerational cycle of poverty, community schools help to align resources in the community and make the school a hub where educational, physical, emotional, and social needs are met. This shift can provide more options for success in work, school, and life. As the saying goes, “it take a village to raise a child”, we know it takes a community school to bring true equity and access to all students.
At Broome County Promise Zone we feel that the use of enthusiastic college students to infuse resources into schools and our agency makes perfect sense. Not only do our college interns bring new ideas and needed support to our public schools, they also provide a view on the work that helps a hard job stay fresh and new. The college students report a learning experience that could not happen in the classroom and a new appreciation for understanding cultural competency, intergenerational trauma, and systems change that has a lasting effect to be carried into their future life and careers. College interns not only serve to meet needed adult support for professional staff, they also serve as role models and mentors to our young participants as well as educators and advisers to their families.
What started as a logical placement for master level social work students as part of a required field placement has expanded to include undergraduate students across disciplines using passion and expertise in the prescribed field to further the work under Broome County Promise Zone. In addition to providing academic support and serving as mentors and role models, you might find a computer engineer helping us to build and implement a website design or one nursing student educating urban young people about asthma and ways to control symptoms while another educates parents about diabetes in a rural setting. Perhaps you might witness a student studying business and management working on a plan for marketing and branding our name so that our community knows and understands the work we are doing. Regardless of the area of interest, we work to fit future life goals to the assigned internship. With 40 – 60 interns a semester, there is plenty of opportunity to serve and even more opportunities to learn and grow together as we work to expand limited resources to maximum capacity while embedding the aspiration of educational experiences with the exciting opportunity to make a difference.
Luann Kida MA, LMSW, Community Schools Director
Broome County Promise Zone, Binghamton University, College of Community & Public Affairs