The 2019 State Coalition Meeting took place in Grand Rapids, Michigan, bringing an array of Community School Coalitions representing each region of the US. Coalition for Community Schools Director José Muñoz mentioned during our sessions the Coalition’s goal to establish 25,000 Community Schools in the United States by 2025. There were, Muñoz explained, currently 5,000 to 7,000 Community Schools nationwide—Michigan had roughly 146.
In terms of expanding Community School efforts, an idea emerged in the form of leveraging the expertise of graduate students on research projects to further showcase the significance of community schools to the education process. One of the key takeaways from the sessions was the necessity to work with Civil Rights organizations (e.g., National Urban League and NAACP) to ensure we have a collective voice on the advancement of education quality and equity among students, particularly in rural communities.
One of the key mechanisms discussed among all state coalitions was the necessity of communication through social media. Understanding the impact social media plays in the 21st Century in terms of getting one’s message broadcast to either a targeted or inclusive audience for base-building is essential. Arkansas Coalition for Community Schools began these efforts in 2018 with the creation of our website and Facebook page. Social media algorithms provide opportunities for entities to boost their presence to reach individuals. It also gives statistics on which posts receive the most interaction, the time of day most people view your page, and so forth.
Another highlight was the need to have specific action steps to shift legislation. Having concrete policy recommendations aids in narrowing the focus of Coalition members as they prepare to advocate on the importance of Community Schools and the impact they provide to communities. The essential items to consider are to cultivate educational quality, celebrate victories, and catalyze stronger community. The corresponding questions for each item were: What can you do? And what do you need? This is a profound opportunity to positively impact 21st Century students with tools to create empowered, analytical, and innovative communities for growth.