The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving has approved grants totaling nearly $3 million in strategic investments to support education programming in the City of Hartford. This investment includes more than $2 million for six Hartford community schools and $650,000 for five neighborhood-based Brighter Futures Family Centers.
“These substantial investments to support efforts to ensure the holistic development of children with an emphasis on community partnerships is at the heart of the Hartford Foundation’s educational strategy as we and our partners work to make sure that every child in Greater Hartford comes to the school door ready to learn, and graduates from high school prepared to succeed,” said Cyrus Driver, the Hartford Foundation’s vice president for strategy. “Our work in community schools and family centers in Hartford have produced positive results for children and families by providing access to a variety of programs and services including pre-K programs, health services, nutrition programs and adult education programs. It is our hope that we can build on this work in Hartford, provide models for other communities in the region and bring our experiences and lessons learned to inform broader efforts across the state.”
First developed in 2008, Hartford Community Schools seek to respond to a variety of opportunity gaps that students and families experience as a result of economic and educational disadvantages. Three Hartford nonprofit agencies currently coordinate services in seven Hartford neighborhood schools working in partnership with the schools’ principals and district leaders.
The Hartford Foundation presently funds six of Hartford’s seven community schools, which serve more than 4,000 students, engaging more than 60 school-community partnerships with area universities, health care providers, cultural organizations and others. The six community schools receiving funding from the Foundation include the Asian Studies Academy at Bellizzi, Alfred E. Burr Elementary School, John C. Clark Elementary and Middle School, Thirman L. Milner School, Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy, and Burns Latino Studies Academy.
While several of these schools continue to face challenges and are in various stages of transition, the community school model has been cited by the State Department of Education, Hartford Public Schools and others as a stabilizing force amid these changes, due in large part to community schools’ focus on school culture and climate alongside academics and developmental gains. Community schools provide a broad range of wraparound services in response to issues related to poor health and nutrition, social and economic disadvantage, trauma, and other barriers to healthy development. Community schools also offer comprehensive, high-quality educational supports and opportunities so all children can flourish.
Since 1990, the Hartford Foundation has supported Brighter Futures Family Centers in six Hartford communities. Family centers are designed to meet neighborhood families’ specific needs and interests, and foster young children’s success in school and beyond. Each family center provides programs and services that support parents in their role as a child’s first nurturer, teacher and advocate. Centers are located in the Asylum Hill, Behind the Rocks, Blue Hills, Frog Hollow, Clay Arsenal and Parkville neighborhoods. The Foundation’s board has approved $130,000 for five Brighter Futures Family Centers over one year for a total of $650,000 (the sixth family center is on a different funding schedule and will be considered for funding in 2015).
All of the centers provide early childhood education programs and parenting classes to improve parents’ knowledge of child development and nurturing skills, helping them cope with the stresses of parenting. Numerous community organizations provide special programs in partnership with the family center, increasing the range of services.
This past year, staff representing each facility have created the Family Center Network to work more collaboratively, identify efficiencies for service delivery and share resources in ways that help families access the supports they need wherever they may live in the city. This network is now developing shared measures, and better linking their various services and referral systems in order to serve more families. Their efforts represent an important step in strengthening an effective and coordinated system for serving children and families in the city.
At the same time, local and state agencies and organizations including Hartford’s Office for Young Children, the Hartford Health Department, Connecticut Children’s Medical Center are and the new Connecticut Office of Early Childhood have recognized the unique role Family Centers play in their communities and have expressed interest in using them as a means to develop and incubate new programming.
“At the end of the day, Accelerate Success is about having greater impact and we are focusing our efforts on assuring that the components of our Family Centers and Community Schools remain strong while also seeking greater coordination between the fine projects that the Foundation has supported with other outstanding efforts taking place in the city of Hartford,” Driver said. “The objective, at the end of the day, is to bring comprehensive, high-quality services to every child in need in Hartford so they develop to their fullest capacities and are ready to succeed when they leave our public schools.”
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, established in 1925, is the community foundation for 29 communities in the Hartford region. It is dedicated to putting philanthropy into action to create lasting solutions that result in vibrant communities within the Greater Hartford region. It receives gifts from generous individuals, families and organizations, and in 2013 awarded grants of more than $29 million to a broad range of area nonprofits. For more information, visit www.hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.