Community Schools serve low-income students with wrap-around social, academic and career services. The goal is to increase high school graduation rates.
At a July 2017 press conference, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild announced that the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) had awarded a second grant to his Community Schools initiative. Totaling $2.1 million, the grant extends the program for another three years.
Previous grant showed increase in FAFSA completion and graduation rates
In April 2015, Mayor Rothschild announced that his office had applied for and won a two-year, $1.4 million grant from CNCS to create Community Schools at six comprehensive high schools (Catalina, Desert View, Flowing Wells, Palo Verde, Pueblo and Santa Rita) and two alternative high schools (Sentinel Peak and STAR Academic Center).
AmeriCorps VISTA members were placed at the schools and at partner agencies to coordinate student services. 2,800 students were helped in the program’s first year; 4,500 in the second.
“This effort came out of a recommendation by my Poverty Commission to make services more accessible to students and their families. I’m very pleased with the results so far and look forward to the program continuing to have a positive impact on students’ lives and futures.”—Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild
Resource nights at the schools connected students and their families with services, including food assistance, healthcare enrollment, tutoring, college and career planning and FAFSA prep—the Free Application for Federal Student Aid—an important step in the college application process.
Research shows that students who complete the FAFSA are much more likely to attend college. On average, the six comprehensive high schools increased their FAFSA completion rate by 9.5% in the 2016-2017 school year, while Pueblo High School saw an increase of 14%!
This does more than just check off a bureaucratic hurdle in the college application process. This gets students planning for their future. In 2017, 84% of Pueblo graduates reported they would be attending college—up 11% over the previous year.
And, while official graduation rates are not available until October, preliminary data shows a 3% average increase in graduation rates for participating schools in the 2016-2017 school year.
While the first grant applied only to high schools, the second grant includes middle schools.
Community Schools, 2017-2020
|Tucson Unified School District
||Sunnyside Unified School District
||Chicanos Por La Causa
Examples of the Community Schools approach
- All schools host regular resource nights, where social service providers come to the schools, rather than families having to make time during the workday to come to them.
- At Palo Verde High School, VISTA member Megan Brown implemented Career Café, a weekly event where professionals from the community visit with students during lunch to talk about their professions.
- At Palo Verde High School, VISTA member Brandon DiGregorio started an After School Meals Program, feeding students between 4 and 6 pm. After a successful pilot period, the program expanded to two other high schools in the district.
- AmeriCorps VISTA members established biweekly on-campus visits from the University of Arizona College of Medicine’s Mobile Health Program at Flowing Wells High School and at Pueblo Magnet High School.
AmeriCorps and the Corporation for National and Community Service
AmeriCorps engages more than 75,000 members in intensive service annually to serve through nonprofit, faith-based, and community organizations at 21,000 locations across the country. These members help communities tackle pressing problems while mobilizing millions of volunteers for the organizations they serve. Since 1994, more than 980,000 Americans have provided more than 1.3 billion hours of service to their communities and country through AmeriCorps.
AmeriCorps is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that engages millions of Americans in service through its AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Social Innovation Fund, and Volunteer Generation Fund programs, and leads the President’s national call to service initiative, United We Serve. For more information, visit NationalService.gov.