An anonymous donor has donated $10 million to Boston College’s Center for Optimized Student Support, renaming it the Mary E. Walsh Center for Thriving Children after its founder and executive director, according to a university. Release.
“I was deeply honored, but also very much aware that the center is the result of the work of a great team of people,” Mary Walsh said of the center’s new name. “And so even though my name is on it, it’s really the job of everyone on the center team.”
The center began in 1996 as the Center for Child, Family, and Community Partnerships and was re-established as the Center for Optimized Student Support in 2011.
According to Walsh, who is also the Daniel E. Kearns Professor at the Lynch School of Education and Human Development.
Walsh was first inspired to start the center after interviewing children for a book about the impact of homelessness on children, she said.
“It made such a deep impression on me, the challenges these young children were facing and living in such extreme poverty, that I started to think about what society could do to support them…and it It occurred to me that schools had so much to offer to support these kids,” Walsh said.
She wanted to know how schools could adapt and modify their existing structures to care for the whole child – helping children with more than just their studies – and to connect children to enrichment opportunities in their communities.
“We needed a way for schools and community organizations to connect with each other and, in doing so, support families and children,” Walsh said.
Lynch School dean Stanton Wortham said naming the center after Walsh is a fitting tribute to her and her work to start and grow the center.
“Naming it for her is a wonderful thing,” Wortham said. “It’s a beautiful tribute, but it’s also very fitting because she’s the person – she imagined it, she built it, she made it work and she still runs it.”
Walsh said the donation will change the center in a big way and ensure its work supporting children continues.
Wortham said the center currently focuses on three main areas: intervention, research and outreach.
“The center manages the intervention, it manages the research, and then it does outreach to … contribute to the conversation among policymakers about this integrated model of student support,” Wortham said.
One of the ways the center does this is by The city connects—its flagship program which works with school counselors or social workers to develop tailored plans to support children.
Foley, who is associate director of City Connects, said there are countless stories illustrating the impact the program has had on children’s lives at school.
“Several years ago, one of our coordinators noticed that a child was coming to school in slippers and it was winter, and… thanks to the City Connects database and our contacts with community partners, before the end of the school day, the coordinator was able to secure not only winter boots, but other winter clothing that allowed this child to better face the Boston conditions by coming to school,” she said.
BC’s City Connects program has expanded from Massachusetts to five states and now to Dublin, Ireland. According to Walsh, the work done by this program is both efficient and cost-effective.
“We had a study done by Columbia University showing the cost-effectiveness of City Connects – that the company receives $3 for every dollar the program costs, and that includes the cost of the service,” she said.
Wash said the donation will allow programs like City Connects to thrive at the center.
“On the one hand, it ensures the sustainability of all the work, and that for me is the most important thing,” she said. “With the center endowed, it ensures that the work of the center will continue.”
Ultimately, Walsh said this will allow the center to expand and establish programs that speak to the whole child – helping children through emotional and physical development in addition to academics – but in the immediate, it will help them to make the program more accessible to children and even do more at the political level at the national level.
Wortham said the City Connects center and program serve as an example of Lynch School’s mission to educate the whole person.
“City Connects is a paradigmatic example of that, so it’s a whole-person approach…it’s part of our mission – part of Boston College’s mission and part of Lynch School’s mission – is d ‘trying to help develop whole people who lead more purposeful lives,’ Wortham said.
According to Foley, City Connects benefits from being part of the BC community and partnering with BC students.
“These students are our collaborators and have contributed enormously to what we have been able to do both in the implementation of interventions like City Connects, in the wider sharing of learnings, and also in the results of the evaluation which were able to demonstrate our effectiveness,” she said. noted.
Featured Image by Madison Sarka / Heights Archive