Partnership Aims to Cut Down on Chronic Absences

Friday, May 1, 2020 - 2:00pm

Mile High United Way Offers Resources to Two Elementary Schools

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When students aren’t in school, they can fall behind, particularly in the critical years of elementary school. A new partnership betwen Mile High United Way (MHUW) and Coronado Hills and McElwain elementary schools is tackling that challenge and more to help students and their families succeed.

The partnership began last year when MHUW approached the district, offering to bring its United for Schools program within its United Neighborhoods initiative to Coronado Hills and McElwain.

“It’s definitely brought attendance to the forefront,” said Coronado Hills Principal Donald Beuke. “If our kids aren’t here, they’re not learning.”

United for Schools was first implemented in the Denver neighborhoods of Globeville and Elyria-Swansea with the goal of ensuring children enter kindergarten ready to learn, are reading at grade level and families are economically stable.

“We were able to take what we learned … and bring that to Adams 12 and really discuss what a partnership looks like,” said Liane Morrison, Director of United for Schools.

How does the program work? MHUW tailors United for Schools with each school to fit the needs of its students and families, but broadly, the focus is on getting parents more engaged in their children’s schools and connecting them to the resources they need with 2-1-1, a service of MHUW that connects people to resources including food, shelter, rental assistance, child care and more.

“We know it’s important to establish relationships with parents in order for students to achieve,” said Margarita Ruiz, Senior Manager of Community Engagement for MHUW. “Everybody wins in this collaboration. The families, the students, the schools.”

Both schools have worked to engage parents with Parent-Teacher Leadership Teams – groups of a dozen or more parents who focus on ways to support the school, ranging from student attendance to wellness.

“It’s really to empower parents to advocate for themselves, regardless of language or education … that their opinion matters,” said McElwain Principal Justina Carney.

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From there, each school works with MHUW on other programs that would benefit parents and students. For example, at Coronado Hills, MHUW provided Chromebooks that students can take home to practice and develop with speech. McElwain has been able to expand an English-language learning class for parents.

“It’s overall benefitting the entire family … they’re learning alongside each other,” Carney said. “Right off the bat, getting parents here in the building for classes and learning alongside their children … those children are really learning the concepts of language quicker than in the past.”

Though it’s just the beginning of this partnership, both principals agree they are seeing an impact at their schools.

“(MHUW) is giving us tools and resources that we would never have without this partnership,” Carney said.

Morrison said they are already discussing the possibility to expand the program into other schools in the district.

“We’re very pleased with the progress that has been made and we also believe there is so much opportunity to grow and to continue this and really incorporate the voice of the parents more deeply into the schools,” she said.