Community School Coordinators work tirelessly to help students and families access resources that improve health, well-being, and learning outcomes. Charles Reyes is the Community School Coordinator at Murrell Dobbins CTE High School (where he went to high school himself!) in North Philadelphia. This is a day in his life.
Wake up, get ready, and check emails from the Mayor’s Office of Education and Dobbins’ Principal, Dr. Toni Damon.
Breakfast with the family, then get the kids ready for school. Charles is a father of five. One of his children (age 23) is a college graduate, one (age 19) is attending college, and his other three (ages 10, 7, and 6) need to get ready for their day. For the Reyes’, school and community engagement are family affairs.
“We’ve taught all of them, from when they were little, that they need to be a part of the community. What you learn at school becomes things you can put back into the community. It’s all about raising each other up.”
Arrive at Dobbins, drop bag and jacket off in the office, then right back out into the hallway. Charles knows that having a presence in the hallway as students arrive is important. It encourages students to attend school when they see a positive role model like Charles first thing each morning.
“It lets the kids see that I’m there and that they have someone to talk to. I greet them and make them feel welcome and feel like this place is a safe place for them,” he explains.” If there’s an issue they’re struggling with, I want them to feel safe to come to me. I try to help de-escalate it quickly before they get to the office.”
Back to the office. As classes begin, Charles is busy responding to partner inquiries, following up on information requests from internal staff at the Mayor’s Office of Education and sending email updates to Assistant Principal Huie Douglas on partners that will be in the building that day.
Check in with partners that will be running programs that day, including Philabundance, who will host a “Fresh for All” produce distribution that afternoon.
Check in with the Principal, Dr.Toni Damon. Charles and Dr. Damon work closely on bringing new partners and programs to Dobbins. Charles gives the rundown of who he is reaching out to and the status of any new partners he may be onboarding. Dr. Damon suggests resource gaps that Charles can work on filling, along with key initiatives that the School District of Philadelphia is focusing on, such as increasing attendance. These prioritizes are vital for Charles’s role.
School walk-through with the school’s Assistant Principal, Mr. Douglas.
“I use these walkthroughs so the kids see me and see the leadership team. They have to know that we are there for them and that we’re interested what they’re doing at school. When they see that, their trust in us grows.”
Working closely with Mr. Douglas and Dr. Damon is an important piece of Charles’s work. Their relationship is key to integrating new partners and resources at the school. Together the team ensures that Dobbins students’ needs are being met.
Set up tables for the Fresh For All food distribution. Since September, Dobbins has been a Philabundance Fresh For All site. The program offers free fruits and vegetables for all members of the community, every Wednesday, from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.
Staff and students from the school’s Culinary Arts Career and Technical Education (CTE) program staff the event, and Charles assigns a student point person as the event kicks off. “We’re giving them a chance to take initiative, learn to be leaders of the work they are doing, and teach them that giving back to the community is important.”
Community members have already started to line up, bringing multiple bags in order to take home enough produce to last the week.
Philabundance arrives with food. This week’s produce includes apples, corn, potatoes, and butternut squash. Yum!
Food distribution begins. On average, the Dobbins Fresh For All site gives away roughly 4,000 pounds of produce each week.
“When the kids are giving away the food, I’m making sure everyone knows this is happening. I’m on Facebook Live telling the community, I’m telling people walking by that this is happening, because this type of food is hard to get around here. And some of these families have no idea when their next meal is coming, so I need to make sure they all know this is here for them.”
The food distribution is done for the week, and Charles and the students help Philabundance with the cleanup, which is minimal. There isn’t a single bit of produce left.
“It shows that the Community likes what we’re doing here. We looked at what the families needed, and tailored our approach to suit that. That’s how Dobbins steps up as a Community School. We do things that the people need and want.”
Meeting with Dobbins’ Climate Manager and a second walkthrough after lunch.
Dr. Damon is interested in finding new partners to include in Dobbins’ weekly Get Fit Saturday health event, and Charles, as Community School Coordinator, is heading the process. He’s back to his office (“finally”) to research healthy lifestyle organizations. Charles has support from other Community School Coordinators, the School District’s Office of Strategic Partnerships, and central office staff from the Mayor’s Office of Education to help with this research.
Vetting new partners and seeing just how they will fit into the school is crucial to ensuring that the community is getting the right resources they need to succeed.
Time for student dismissal! Stand at the door with school leadership. For Charles, it is important that he is out there alongside the leadership team. It sends a message that this team cares about them outside of the school, and that Dobbins as a whole is a safe, welcoming environment for the students.
Phone calls to Deliverance Church and the Cecil B. Moore Recreation Center, both located down the street from Dobbins. They host community members and Dobbins students for after school and evening programs including food drives, health classes, and financial security seminars. Charles remains in contact to find out about upcoming program and make sure needs are being met. He also updates the neighborhood partners on Dobbins events, like Fresh For All and adult education classes.
Charles has office hours, sometimes at the school or at the nearby recreation center, to help connect community members to resources they need. This can range anywhere from LIHEAP, permanent housing for students and families, or employment opportunities for students looking to figure out their next steps after graduation this year.
Time to head home.
Dinner with the family and help with homework. Tonight his three youngest are home waiting for dad to play with them and help them with some particularly tough math problems.
Put the kids to bed, respond to emails and texts. “Me and Dr. Damon talk every night around 10 or 10:30, especially if we didn’t have a meeting that day. It’s important to recap the day, and make sure we’re on the same page for the next day.”
Try to go bed!