Community – our students, our classrooms, our families, our schools – community is at the heart of everything we do at Distinctive Schools. In the spirit of our core values of culture, equity, innovation, wellness, and exemplary student performance, this year we’re investing in the development of our campuses as Community Hubs.
What is a Community Hub? The Community Hub model is based on the commitment to educating the whole child. A Community Hub seeks to provide wraparound support for students and their families.
Our goal for the Community Hub model at Distinctive Schools is to remove barriers to education by deeply listening to what our students and families need, and delivering the necessary resources. During the pandemic, the needs of our communities stretched far beyond our classroom walls. We recognized that our communities needed more from us, and when students have their core needs met, they are able to fully focus on school and engage in their learning.
This program serves to offer students and families the wraparound support they need. Distinctive families can come to us for whatever they need. Services include meals, before and after school activities for students and families, physical and mental health resources and many more! Our leadership teams work with partners and families to support each child’s needs – ultimately, in service of student learning.
Through strong family-community-school partnerships, we strive to offer quality care and engaging activities. Our programming ranges from tangible support such as free breakfast and lunch, dental exams, hygiene products, vaccination clinics, and winter coat drives, to community building events like ice cream socials, international nights, sporting events, and all kinds of family fun to bring people together.
"I was raised in this community, I actually went to grammar school in this exact building so I feel like I've gone full circle," says Dolores Ruiz-Villalvazo, CICS Prairie Community Schools Coordinator. "I have been able to forge relationships with nearly 20 local organizations, creating new opportunities for our scholars, their families and the surrounding community. Our community partners invest funding, time, and other resources to ensure youths, families, and seniors have a better quality of life. The most satisfying part of my job is connecting Prairie families to this network of opportunities. I look forward to doing more of the same in the future."
How do you implement the Community Hub model? This year, in partnership with our leadership teams, we launched a new role for each campus: The Community School Coordinator. These incredible team members have been working to understand the unique needs of each of our communities, designing and implementing community connected initiatives at each campus.
We work in close partnership with our families, relationships are a critical element of our model. As schools of choice, we recognize the power and have seen the benefits when families are involved in their students’ educational experience. Part of our mission is to build engaged and curious learners both inside and outside of our campus walls – it doesn’t stop in the classroom. “When schools provide support to families, it increases family engagement more so than any other strategy,” shares Dr. Derrick Harrison, Principal of Plymouth Educational Center. “There is so much the Detroit community has to offer, we are looking forward to building strong partnerships with local organizations to bring additional opportunities to our learners!”
In less than a year of implementation, we are already seeing great success. Community School Coordinators are engaging with families every single day – through community newsletters, conversations, and family events, coordinators continue to partner with organizations local to their campus. Several coordinators have even created a Family Business Database where families can add their business, shop local, and support one another! Check out small businesses owned by families at CICS Irving Park and CICS West Belden!
“Our community hubs are really tailored to each campus, just like with learning, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to community advocacy,” says Monique Langston, Chief of Strategy for Distinctive Schools. “We are working every day with our campuses to identify the needs and interests of their students and families and find ways to meet them. We are so excited to watch this program grow and evolve!”