Driving Community Transformation
Happy 2016!

How time does fly when you are steeped in service to others. As we approach the mid mark of school year 2015-2016, I reflect on Zone 126's growth from a backbone organization with two partners, to now having 21 partners and fully immersed in building Cradle to Career Community Schools through garnering two NYC DOE Renewal Community School awards.
The premise of the Renewal Community School build out is logical; school administration and staff have the opportunity to focus 100% on instruction and professional development while a lead CBO is focused 100% on acquiring, coordinating, and evaluating the integration and impact of program and services that address students' developmental needs. And then, together, as partners, drive parent and community engagement.
We are thrilled to be part of the NYC DOE Renewal Community School team, as we share the same belief: that students' participation in a diverse set of school supports will positively impact learning and development for students as they advance from Kindergarten to college through career. 

Building Community Schools through Partnerships
To date, 21 non profit organizations have joined the Zone 126 cross-sector effort in building Cradle to Career Community Schools, united in the vision that every child in Astoria/Long Island City graduates from high school prepared for post-secondary education and enters the workforce equipped with the skills needed to thrive in a 21st century world. Through Zone 126 co-fundraising work and partners' existing funding sources, more than $2.4 million in 2015 has been invested at our ten partner schools. More than  1,906 children and adults were served!
What Gets Measured Gets Results
Zone 126’s impact assessment paradigm, approved by the New York City Department of Education Institutional Review Board (IRB), tracks students’ progress on several predictors and indicators of success,  drawn from Zone 126’s Theory of Change. Zone 126 theorizes that  a student’s participation in a diverse set of school supports, facilitated by Zone 126, will positively impact learning and development for students as they advance from Kindergarten to college through career. 
Data collected includes:  social, emotional, and behavioral characteristics of each child and adult enrolled in Zone 126 program; school performance; and inputs, outputs, and impact of Cradle-to-Career Implementation partner programs.  Based on this data, Zone 126 is able to identity and respond to needs and service provision gaps directly and expeditiously, creating a programmatic feedback loop. 

Attendance Matters
According to advocacy group 
Attendance Works, "chronic absenteeism is defined as missing 10% or more of school for any reason, excused or unexcused. That's about 18 days a year, or two days a month." The NYC Department of Education Renewal Community Schools awards at CS 111Q and Long Island City High School have created an opportunity to establish Attendance Improvement and Dropout Prevention (AIDP).

  • For 8th grader SJ at CS 111Q, attendance has been an ongoing issue for several years. Through the consistent efforts of a Zone 126 Community School Coordinator, an AmeriCorps member, the CS 111Q Attendance Team, and CS 111Q Principal, Ms. Dionne Jaggon, SJ has increased her attendance rate significantly, and has been coming to school for 13 out of 14 consecutive days. 
  • The AIDP at Long Island City High School has launched a new initiative last week to bolster attendance: Project Anchor, targeting students who only attend school 60-80% of the time. One student in particular that Zone 126 has been working with is JG. In October/November 2015, JG's attendance rate was 40%. As of today, the efforts of Zone 126's attendance outreach team has helped JG increase his attendance to 86% through individual mentoring consisting of daily/weekly check-ins.
Current Partners at Zone 126 Cradle to Career Community Schools 

Voices from the Community
"Young people often spend much of their time playing online or mobile games. Through our game design program, youth become the creators of socially conscious games by integrating critical social and global issues into an interactive digital game they conceptualize and produce. They learn critical thinking, systems theory, game design, coding, and problem-solving as they develop their game, and then are able to educate their peers about an issue of concern once they share it." 
-- Global Kids Executive Director Evie Hantzopoulos on experiential learning at CS 111Q
"The Community School Team is an action team in which true collaboration exists.  It is a platform where all constituents are able to discuss programs, initiatives and current issues involving our school community.  We not only want collaboration to exist in our school but we are driven to make it thrive at LICHS.
---Zone 126 Community School Director on how the CST functions at LICHS
“It's not like if you don’t go to school you won’t have a future, but [it's] not as good as you want it to be. Knowing that it’s not a joke anymore makes me want to be hardworking." -- Long Island City High School freshman on pursing college

Further Reading:

  • Through Operation Warm and the Office of Community Schools, CS 111Q will be receiving coats for their students (Chalkbeat New York)
  • A first generation college student's experience being "poor and traumatized" at Harvard (Medium)
  • Map suggests that school segregation persists in gentrifying neighborhoods (The New York Times)
  • Why giving people easy access to supermarkets doesn't improve their health (Vox)