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Community Schools Awards for Excellence Wrap-Up

Six community school and initiative awardees, plus release of new brief demonstrates that providing students the services they
deserve helps achieve academic goals

Evidence and inspiring stories of opportunity and support were highlighted in the bi-annual Community Schools Awards for Excellence Symposium on June 5, 2017 at the National Press Club.Dr. Linda Darling Hammond, President and CEO of the Learning Policy Institute, kicked off the awards with the launch of a new research brief prepared in conjunction with the National Education Policy Center entitled Community Schools: An Evidence-Based Strategy for Equitable School ImprovementThe brief finds that community schools can be a successful strategy for improving schools under the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

The new brief affirms the common sense work of the Community Schools Awards for Excellence winners. The winning schools and communities exemplify what can happen when schools become the hub of their neighborhood, and educators, families, and community agencies work in partnerships to create the opportunities students deserve. This year's Community School Initiative winners are Community Achieves (Nashville, TN), NYC Community Schools Initiative (New York, NY). For the first time the Coalition also awarded a Neighborhood Community School Initiative award to Enlace Chicago (Chicago, IL).  The Community School awardees are Oakland International High School (Oakland, CA)Pearl-Cohn Entertainment Magnet High School (Nashville, TN), and P.S./M.S. 188 The Island School (New York, NY).

Symposium speakers-comprised of parents, principals, business leaders, school district leaders, and heads of community based organizations-emphasized the importance of partnerships that unify the community by providing students with top-quality academics, enrichment, health, and wellness opportunities that support students in school and in life.
According to Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ralph Schulz, education has been a part of its goals for the last 20 years. "We know the services provided through community schools are helping to build prosperity for the community, one student at a time but also collectively for the community. We view schools as integral hubs in their community; places where students and their families trust." The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce was involved in helping Community Achieves connect schools with businesses by providing students with hands-on-learning and real-world career experiences.

Chris Caruso, Executive Director of Community Schools at the NYC Department of Education, talked about NYC's dedication to the community schools model. "NYC has been the cornerstone of the community schools movement. Now the community has a seat at the table." Natasha Capers, Coordinator and Parent Leader of the New York City Coalition of Educational Justice, talked about how community schools are making parents feel welcomed by not just caring about test scores, but creating a place where parents can speak in their first language without being ashamed and where their voices are heard in decisions that affect the school. 
Katya Nuques, Executive Director of Enlace Chicago, discussed the importance of working with the community. "We have seen real success with embracing the community schools model by bringing the partners in the community together to create the model. We need the entire neighborhood to embrace the model of working very closely with schools...they have been doing this for over a decade, and we have definitely seen transformation."

Pedro Rivera, Pennsylvania Secretary of Education ended the event by stressing the importance of working to align behind shared values in a non-partisan way to meet the educational needs of our children and ensure that "students complete elementary school, middle school, and high school and are adequately prepared to enter the college setting."

The Community Schools Awards for Excellence Symposium "confirms the core principles driving public education - that schools are vital institutions in our communities and that educators, families, and communities must work together to help students and their families learn and thrive" states Martin Blank, Director of the Coalition for Community Schools.

For more information about the Coalition for Community Schools or to schedule an interview please contact LJ Wilson, Communications Coordinator, at

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