Achievement Plus Finds New Ways to Support School Communities during COVID-19 Closures
Students and families at Dayton’s Bluff Achievement Plus Elementary School can get food and basic medical, mental health and dental care alongside classroom learning and academic instruction. Through Achievement Plus, a partnership with Wilder and Saint Paul Public Schools, Dayton’s Bluff builds on the trust and relationships families have with their school to provide resources that help kids fully engage in learning.
When Minnesota schools closed to slow the spread of COVID-19, families could no longer come to the building for services, but they need resources more than ever. Cindy Torguson, a Wilder employee who serves as the Achievement Plus coordinator for Dayton’s Bluff, has been working with the school, community partners and families to continue meeting the community’s needs.
“What has been really amazing to me is the outreach from all our partners,” Cindy says. “I have someone I haven’t talked to in a long time sending me lists of food shelves. Community partners know there’s someone to help get information to families. That definitely is what it means to be a community school.”
Helping community partners provide food for families
Cindy, pictured here, leveraged the relationships she has built as the school’s Achievement Plus coordinator to help secure a $10,000 grant to provide food for families on the East Side of Saint Paul. Food shelves at Dayton’s Bluff and two other Achievement Plus schools were depleted as families prepared to stay at home during the pandemic.
Because of Cindy’s connections in the East Side, the Fairview Foundation invited her to apply for the grant to support families during the pandemic, says Richard Gibson, Achievement Plus director. Cindy has been involved in the East Side Community Health and Wellbeing Collaborative, involving more than two dozen community groups on the East Side of Saint Paul, since it began in 2016.
With the grant money, Cindy is now working closely with community partners in Dayton’s Bluff to find ways to support local food shelves, free meals and low-cost groceries. The grant will also help stock food shelves at the three Achievement Plus schools so that they are ready when they are open again.
Achievement Plus coordinators continue to build connections and community
In addition to Dayton’s Bluff, Saint Paul Music Academy and John A. Johnson Achievement Plus Elementary are also community schools with Achievement Plus coordinators. Coordinators at all three schools continue to form community connections, share resources and help make sure families’ needs are met even when schools are closed.
“Our goals will be adaptive to whatever is coming up with the community,” says Craig Sweet, Achievement Plus coordinator at Saint Paul Music Academy. “That’s the way community schools are built.”