Four local organizations are teaming up with the goal of providing better resources for children and families.
The Bigelow Corners Partnership is a coalition of the Schenectady City School District, the Parsons Child & Family Center, the Schenectady County Action Program (SCAP) Head Start and the Capital District Child Care Council. All of these organizations are located on or off Albany Street near Bigelow Avenue and will collaborate to help improve children’s well-being.
“There would be services in place that would support a child basically from birth right through when they go to college so they would be successful in school as well as in life in general,” said Keith Houghton, director of early child education for SCAP.
The initiative has received a $60,000 grant from the Schenectady Foundation to develop a comprehensive plan to integrate agency and school services. The four organizations held a kickoff carnival last Friday to launch the partnership.
Houghton said the idea is to put children who may come from low-income or disadvantaged backgrounds on more of a level playing field with other children from more affluent backgrounds. They hope the results will be better student grades, fewer issues with discipline and a higher graduation rate.
Ray Schimmer, chief executive officer for the Parsons Child & Family Center, said the geographic proximity of all of the organizations made a collaboration logical. When his organization moved into its building with its Early Head Start program, the old Time Warner building on Bigelow Avenue was vacant and St. Luke’s School had just closed. However, since that time, SCAP moved into the Time Warner location and the school district leased the St. Luke’s facility on Albany Street and created Keane Elementary School.
Schimmer said his organization reached out to the Capital District Child Care Council and the Schenectady Foundation and decided that it would try to coordinate the efforts of these organizations around the shared mission of helping families succeed and children grow in school.
Schimmer said a lot of families are living in poverty and do not have the financial or material resources to support children. The goal would be to have a variety of support services for parents including housing, vocational development and higher education. Schimmer said the organizations are already sharing curriculum. They pooled funding and shared staff time to get the carnival off the ground. This is just the first of what is hoped will be many collaborations.
“Different nonprofit organizations can work together and be united in a common goal as opposed to simply working on their own in isolation,” Schimmer said.
Superintendent of Schools Eric Ely said he envisions a continuous spectrum in which a child would start at the Parsons Early Head Start program, then transition to SCAP and then proceed to the Schenectady school district’s pre-kindergarten program. The family will become familiar with each organization and the service agencies will be familiar with the children.
“There will be communication so nothing gets lost,” he said.
SCAP’s Houghton said the first step is to develop a plan for strengthening families. A request for proposals has been sent out to various universities to see if there is interest in undertaking this study project.
Robert Carreau, administrator for the Schenectady Foundation, said the proposals are due at the end of September and they hope to get a candidate selected by mid-October. This person will be charged with developing a plan to measure student success — academically, emotionally and socially.
“We’re going to have to have a systemized way of maintaining that data and looking at it periodically to know how we’re progressing,” he said.
It will also come up with short- and long-term goals of how to make families stronger. Besides this project, the foundation has committed to investing $5.5 million during the next six to seven years as part of this overall goal.
Carreau said a number of the ideas for the Bigelow Corners partnership were already percolating at the time when the foundation was planning for its strengthening families initiative.
“We have a lot of resources in place in the Bigelow Avenue area; let’s find a better way to use what we have and then slowly begin to build on that,” he said.
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