An exciting school year is in full swing at George Washington High School, which has already hosted events for students and families, and has plans to bring even more resources into the community in the months ahead. George Washington High School is part of the second and most recent cohort of City of Philadelphia designated Community Schools.
“Bringing the community together around the school was something I was really excited to do from the start,” said Caitlyn Boyle, the Community Schools Coordinator at George Washington High School, who was placed in the school in September.
Boyle said that one of her main tasks right now is to complete a needs assessment for the school, which helps her determine what strengths the school already has and what its priorities will be moving forward. She has already received 1,193 surveys with feedback from students, school staff, parents, local partners, and community members.
“One of the things that very clearly rose to the top was the need for employment supports for both youth and adults, and there’s a whole world of resources we can align to help with that,” Boyle said. “It’s one of the things that won’t happen overnight and will require a lot of really intentional planning, but I’m really looking forward to moving that ahead.”
George Washington High School has already hosted a few Community School events this year. In November, the school held a Community School Fair where over 700 people participated in activities such as face painting, bubble sports, and bounce houses. Attendees also received health screenings provided by Penn State, and were gifted books from Scholastic.
Later in the month, the school hosted a Feast with the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) where over 300 students, staff, and families — as well as Alshon Jeffery from the Eagles and Hajj Shabaz from the Ravens — came together to eat a free Thanksgiving dinner that students from the school’s culinary program had prepared.
Boyle said that she’s also excited about the school’s partnership with SPEAK (Supporting, Preparing, Empowering Aspiring Kids), which will match immigrant or first generation girls with mentors.
“We have a massive international population at GW, so even before the needs assessment, it was pretty clear that this particular group would benefit from supports,” Boyle said. “SPEAK is so impactful because of the culturally similar pairings – great care is taken to ensure that the girls are matched with women who can genuinely relate to their experiences. On top of that, careers of interest are a part of the matching process, so girls are connected with culturally similar women who work in fields they’re interested in. I can’t imagine a better model!”
For Boyle, going into George Washington High School is something to look forward to.
“I really love creating events that bring people together. It gives me so much energy,” she said. “And of course – working with students. Before working for the Mayor’s Office of Education I was a teacher, and I’ve really missed kids! I love being back in a school.”
The second cohort of Community Schools are finalizing their needs assessments now and will release their school plans in March 2018. These plans will lay the foundation for the work coordinators will focus on moving forward to best meet the identified needs of the students, families, and communities.