Marian University Launches City Connects, Providing K-12 Students with Community Supports Outside of School to Help Them Thrive

by News Release | Sep 21, 2021

Research-based student support program launches in 34 schools throughout Indiana and Ohio with Marian  University serving as the Midwest’s Technical Assistance Center

More than 16,000 students in 34 schools in Indiana and six in Ohio will soon receive free, personalized community-based programs and supports to help them succeed through the new City Connects, being implemented by Marian University.

Marian University’s implementation is the largest City Connects expansion to date and the first in the Midwest.

Up to two-thirds of disparities in academic achievement can be explained by out-of-school factors tied to inequities such as housing instability, food insecurity, and unequal access to healthcare and enrichment programs. Every student at a City Connects school receives a personalized plan. That plan includes recommended community programs, resources and school supports that help improve the time the student spends outside of school which, in turn, enables them to achieve full potential when they are in school. Marian University is implementing City Connects through an Indiana Department of Education Student Learning Recovery Grant, which pays for all foundational and technical fees to launch City Connects pilots at schools in Indiana. Because of the tremendous growth potential, Marian University will leverage opportunities to expand City Connects to more schools throughout Indiana and eventually, the Midwest.

“It is time we refresh and recalibrate the way in which schools deliver student support, and City Connects is the way to do that,” said Jessica Morales Maust, assistant director of the Center for Vibrant Schools and executive director of K-12 at Marian University. “The key difference is that City Connects delivers personalized, wrap-around services for every student no matter their background. It’s the level of individualization, community partnership, and data collection that sets this practice apart from the rest. Schools can’t afford not to adopt this practice, and we are excited to bring this to every school possible so every student can thrive.”

How does City Connects work in the schools?

Each school participating in City Connects is assigned a site coordinator who is a full-time school employee with master’s degree-level expertise in school guidance, social work, or mental health. The site coordinator meets individually with teachers to identify ways to address out-of-school factors that impact student success in school. Then, the site coordinator creates individualized student plans that are securely housed in the MyConnects online platform. Student plans are regularly reviewed and updated by the site coordinator, the student and his family, and teachers. Community supports that could be recommended for students include assistance with housing, healthcare and food insecurity, as well as academic tutoring, after-school enrichment programs, and more.

“City Connects has proven to work in other districts like ours, and we expect it will have the same impact of higher achievement and fewer dropouts in our schools,” Muncie Community Schools Director of Public Education and CEO Lee Ann Kwiatkowski said. “The real beauty of this program is that it’s for all students, not just the ‘at risk’ ones, and we’re grateful to the City of Muncie and Marian University for partnering with us to make it possible here at Muncie Community Schools.”

City Connects is backed by 20 years of research- and evidence-based support

Established at Boston College in 2001, City Connects has been implemented in more than 100 public, charter, and private schools in seven U.S. states—including Indiana—and in Dublin, Ireland. City Connects has been recommended by the U.S. Department of Education in the 2021 ED COVID-19 handbook for schools on how to wisely invest federal funds for integrated student support programs. Extensive research conducted by City Connects has revealed its proven success:

  • Statewide standardized testing shows that eighth grade students who participated in City Connects while in elementary school closed two-thirds of the achievement gap in math and half of the achievement gap in English/language arts, compared to their peers who did not participate in City Connects.
  • Students who received City Connects in elementary school were half as likely to drop out of high school as their peers.



"City Connects is delighted to bring our evidence-based student support practice to students in Indiana," said Dr. Mary Walsh, executive director of City Connects and the Boston College Center for Optimized Student Support. "This expansion, along with our center's partnership with the Marian University Center on Vibrant Schools, will help ensure that students across Indiana are connected to the right services at the right time to meet their unique sets of strengths and needs. We hope this partnership can serve as a model for states and districts that are interested in bringing City Connects to their students"

City Connects housed within Marian University’s new Center for Vibrant Schools

Marian University’s new Center for Vibrant Schools will house the City Connects Technical Assistance Center for the entire Midwestern region. The Center for Vibrant Schools was founded by Marian earlier this year as a center for education innovation to support and improve K-12 academic performance in Indiana and throughout the Midwest. The Center focuses on three distinct areas:

  1. Comprehensive student support, featuring City Connects.
  2. School improvement and elevation, including the Orton Gillingham reading approach and a comprehensive system of supports and intervention to help learning loss recovery.
  3. Exploration of educational alternatives.

News Media Contact

Brad R. Wucher
Vice President of Enrollment, Marketing Communications
(317) 955-6307
Stokley Mansion, Room #1

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