Muncie Community Schools is one of several districts in Indiana and Ohio taking part in City Connects in partnership with Marian University in Indianapolis. The program, established 20 years ago at Boston College, identifies students who struggle outside of the classroom and connects them with community support agencies with the ultimate goal of helping them succeed in school. Andy Klotz, chief communications officer for the MCS, says the program comes at the perfect time for the district.

“This allows us to have a site coordinator currently in four of our schools – to be five by the end of the school year – that can actually focus on needs of each student in that school and identify what their needs are beyond just academic help, beyond tutoring and where they may be having difficulties in their studies,” said Klotz. “Maybe they have a health condition that has gone undetected or there is something in their home that is keeping them from excelling in the classroom and now we have somebody dedicated to identifying those situations and doing something about it.”

Muncie is part of a major Midwest expansion of the program, which also involves schools in Gary, South Bend and Indianapolis. Klotz says the implementation of the program in Muncie is a community effort.

“The city helped fund these site coordinator positions that we have,” he said. “So, we couldn’t be more grateful for those and I know that our site coordinators have been working hard since the start of the school year to identify the services that certain students need.”

City Connects is being implemented through the new Center for Vibrant Schools at Marian. Jessica Morales Maust, executive director of K-12 at Marian, says the program has shown to cut dropout rates by 50%, according to a recent study.

“One of the greatest notes is that [the program] improves satisfaction and happiness amongst faculty, staff within your schools because they, too, feel that they’re having a greater impact on their students every single day because they see not just the academic improvement, but the social, emotional behavior improvements as well.”

Morales Maust says the university aims to bring the program to every school in Indiana and the Midwest.