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Ohio State collaborates with Linden schools

College of Social Work wins grant to support school-family-community partnership initiative

Dawn Anderson-Butcher, professor in the College of Social Work at The Ohio State University, has worked closely with the leaders of Hamilton STEM Academy for the last six years. The ties she developed there made the announcement of a Full-Service Community Schools grant to Hamilton STEM, as well as its sister school Windsor STEM Academy, that much sweeter.

“Our team is ecstatic,” she said. “And our [school] principal partners were just over the moon.”

Anderson-Butcher – along with co-principal investigator Samantha Bates, assistant professor in the College of Social Work, and Javier Negrete and Olivia Rozsits, staff in the College of Social Work – applied for the grant as part of their work at Ohio State’s Community and Youth Collaborative Institute (CAYCI).

Over the next five years, the U.S. Department of Education will provide $500,000 annually to the One Linden Schools Initiative, a coalition that includes Ohio State, Columbus City Schools, United Way of Central Ohio, and the City of Columbus Department of Neighborhoods. These partnerships are the key to the success Anderson-Butcher has seen at Hamilton and Windsor.

Former Columbus City Schools superintendent Dan Good, a friend, asked her to work with the team at Hamilton, which at one time had the third highest discipline referral rate in the district. Anderson-Butcher and CAYCI staff began working with Columbus principals Chris Brady and Lee DuMond to bring her Community Collaboration Model to the Linden-area schools. Results came almost immediately, due in large part to collaboration around the project.

“It ended up being the College of Social Work giving some resources. … United Way gave some resources. The city gave resources. The schools gave some resources,” she said of the effort. “In the first year, we decreased behavioral incidences by 60%.”

This initial partnership work set the stage for the new U.S. Department of Education award that starts Jan. 1, 2024. 

The Community Collaboration Model works to make a school a neighborhood core. Students are, of course, welcome, but so are their families. Along with the grant, partnerships with local organizations like the YMCA of Central Ohio, LiFEsports, and St. Stephen’s Community House further bolster the schools.

“There’s parent and family programming. There’s after-school and summer programming. There are connections to behavioral and mental health [support], to the food bank, to housing,” Anderson-Butcher said. “Families in the community will see the schools as hubs. So they will go to the schools, not just for their kids’ education in the classroom but to have a sense of community, to help other parents, to access resources, to have new opportunities for learning.”

The grant money builds from these early partnerships, and will be used to build more strategic connections, strengthen infrastructure, provide more youth development and academic programming, and solidify the One Linden efforts as part of broader city-wide planning, Anderson-Butcher said.

“We [help] by building out these partnerships so they can meet the needs of the kids,” she said. “If we can help the school become the hub where people can access resources and programs, then the barriers to learning and development can be nullified.”

Some of the obstacles can be quashed simply by bringing services to the schools.

“A lot of times, what you need is resource coordination,” Anderson-Butcher said. “[Parents] often have barriers that get in the way of accessing [what they need]. It could be working four jobs. It could be little siblings that need care. So [we] alleviate the barriers to access by co-locating programs and services at the school.”

In addition to social services, students will have increased access to limited medical and dental treatment.

“We want to be sure that every kid in school has well checks,” she said. “If they need, say, glasses, they have referrals and opportunities to get glasses that are affordable or free.”

Anderson-Butcher said that the community that comes from the schools is just as important.

“Last week we had a holiday event, a Mingle Jingle,” she said. “When we started, there were no holiday events. … Last week there were over 350 kids and their families in the gym. They walked away with a present, a new coat, fresh food and more. The new grant will further bring together parents, families and kids, to celebrate, connect with other parents and teachers/staff, and feel a sense of community.”

Community work like this is the backbone of Ohio State, Anderson-Butcher said.

“We are a land-grant institution. The whole foundation is taking the knowledge generated by a university and putting it into practice on behalf of Ohio residents. What is better than the university being in the community, with our students doing real-life application of what they’re learning in the classroom, to benefit kids and schools?” she said.  “It’s the reason why I came to Ohio State. We can’t wait to continue building upon this work and make more of a difference in the lives of kids and families in Linden.”

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