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Connections Grow For Local Schools

When Melissa Roys started a program to help families find all they need to support their child in school, she worked with an elementary school in Rome.

The idea of helping kids with non-educational challenges to do better in the classroom caught on. Roys expanded it to all Rome City schools.

This year, Roys, a native of Oriskany Falls and graduate of Waterville Central School, directs what is now called Connected Community Schools.

The program works in eight counties to help 63 school buildings, including those in Waterville, Madison and Mount Markham districts.

In its five years, Connected Community Schools, with headquarters in Rome, has expanded to help 25,000 students in those schools. While it’s grown, Executive Director Roys said the fundamental reason for starting it hasn’t changed.

“It works because it’s simple,’’ she said. “Kids and families need help but don’t know where to go.

Teachers can’t do it all.

“We connect students and families to places that can help,’’ Roys said. “And we find ways to add in fun and it’s the perfect mix.’’

In each district, a site coordinator works as a partner with the staff, getting to know kids and families and how they can be helped.

The coordinator learns what families and students need and works with outside agencies to get that assistance.

Sometimes it’s food. Sometimes it’s physical or mental health care. Sometimes it’s finding a way to afford a school prom.

“In the five years,’’ Roys said, “I’ve never had a person or organization or business say no to collaborating with us to help. They come to the table when asked.’’

Last year A. Vitullo in New Hartford provided 200 tuxedoes for boys in the schools to borrow for their proms. Gowns were provided for the girls to borrow through the community.

Roys said CCS provides assistance to any student and family. Sometimes a situation can cause a temporary need.

Recently, she’s seen where families in the working middle class struggle to do it all.

“The cost of living is through the roof,’’ Roys said. “So while a family can get groceries and pay the bills, it’s all they can do.

“Something unexpected happens and they find they need help. We don’t ask a lot of questions. If you need help, we’ll help,’’ she said.

The Hub Club in the schools has become one of the more popular elements of CCS.

Set up like a store, students can pop by for a snack, hygiene supplies, clothing and school supplies.

It’s all free for the students to take what they need.

“Those Hubs are their place to go,’’ Roys said. “They build a sense of belonging.’’

A student in one district began coming to school every day so he could visit the Hub in his building. He asked to be president of the Hub Club ...


The full story is in this week's edition of the newspaper. 

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