Manchester schools get big assist from City Year ‘Student Success Coaches’ in this challenging time

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City Year member, Sophie Lemerise, participates in a virtual learning session with students at Parkside. Photo/Elaine Lunsford, City Year

MANCHESTER, NH – Learning has changed for everyone in Manchester schools this year – including the new City Year corps members serving as Student Success Coaches. They are still coaching and supporting students on academic, social, emotional, and peer interaction skills. But most did it virtually to start the year and have moved into the classroom spaces as students have transitioned to hybrid learning.

As Student Success Coaches, City Year is focusing on student engagement in virtual and in-person learning. Members are checking with students regularly through the online learning space, live in the classroom setting, and through outreach home, and are working with students in full classroom, small groups and in one-on-one settings. They are answering academic questions, running group activities, and even helping students and teachers overcome their technology fears.

“This is a challenging time for all who are involved in education and City Year tried to be as responsive as possible to the needs of schools as they navigated the implications of COVID-19. We’re committed more than ever to our partnership with teachers and families, to thoughtfully and effectively provide much-needed support to our students,” said Pawn Nitichan, Executive Director of City Year, as 60 AmeriCorps members began their term of service virtually in August in preparation for the school year.

The City Year McDonough team can’t hide their school pride and excitement to support student in-person and virtually. Photo/Elaine Lunsford, City Year

City Year New Hampshire is one of many city non-profits that began meeting weekly with the school district after learning shifted online in March. By identifying resources and gaps in support, the group is working to ensure students and families have basic necessities: food, mental health care, technology, and support during the pandemic crisis. Manchester Proud included school-community partnerships like these as a key element of its strategic plan and is in the process of hiring a director to lead and expand this collaboration.

As we know from last spring when students were learning remotely, there were significant gaps. That was especially true for students of color and other vulnerable students who are already at a disadvantage due to disparities in education,” said Amy Allen, Assistant Superintendent of the Manchester School District. “Supporting these students is a priority for us and City Year adds additional human capacity as they coach students toward positive & productive attitudes and behaviors, and help students stay safe, healthy, engaged and connected to their learning and growth.”

Tyra Edwards-Krause, Managing Director of Impact for City Year adds, “City Year is focused on closing the gap that has widened during this pandemic and we’re uniquely positioned to provide needed support. We’re doing all we can to be a positive presence for our partner teachers, to support students and families around technology needs, and to keep students engaged in the learning process.”

City Year New Hampshire, which has worked with Manchester schools for a decade, is working in partnership with teachers in grades 3 to 7, serving at Bakersville, Gossler Park, Henry Wilson, McDonough, and Northwest Elementary Schools, and the Middle School at Parkside. City Year had to reduce service capacity because of financial impact though hopes to still engage with students districtwide who need extra support and connection.

They have been intentional in recruiting a diverse group of coaches to meet the needs of a diverse community. Of the 60 coaches, 21 are individuals of color; 41 are from outside New Hampshire; and 26 speak a language other than English, including Chinese, Spanish, French, American Sign Language, Laos, Swahili, and Vietnamese, helping to diversify school staff which is 99.2 percent white and primarily monolingual English speakers. Many of the multi-lingual coaches work with Manchester English Language Learners, and City Year is exploring more ways to connect to that community, including partnering with Southern New Hampshire University at its Center for New Americans and hosting a weekly read-along in a foreign language for all district students.

Photos/Elaine Lunsford, City Year

Sophie Brown, who serves with City Year to ignite the love of learning in every child, recently graduated from Manchester Central High School, and benefitted herself from the support of City Year in elementary school.

“Having City Year in the classroom meant so much to me, and the AmeriCorps member I had in my classroom still inspires me to this day. I joined City Year to be that same inspiration to another child. I’m so excited to have the opportunity to give back to the community that gave so much to me,” Brown said.

Micah Tatebe, from Warren, Ohio, who graduated with a degree in business management in 2018, serves to help kids discover that they are seen, known and loved.

“When I was growing up, there weren’t a lot of other students who looked like me, which made it difficult to find my identity and sense of belonging. I feel as though it is a responsibility of mine to go back and step into those places where I felt most alone, to be a friend, mentor, and coach to students who may feel like I did,” Tatebe said.

Suzanne Provost, a fifth-grade teacher at The Middle School at Parkside, is happy to have the support of City Year this year.

“City Year has added immeasurable value to my classroom throughout the years, but especially during this pandemic by connecting with students in both the physical and virtual environments.  Having City Year in the classroom allows for increased student engagement through small group work, and one-on-one interactions,” said Provost. “My City Year comes prepared to assist the students with both their academics and social-emotional growth and has been instrumental in assisting me manage both groups [virtual and in-person] to ensure high student engagement and achievement.”

To learn more about City Year, and meet the 60 members, like Sophie and Micah, serving with City Year this year, please check out the Voices of City Year bio book  below:

You can also watch a video of them introducing themselves below:

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