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It Takes a Village: Being Community Focused in Innovageous Schools

Innovageous Schools see the community as an extension of themselves. Acknowledging that it’s not possible to be experts in everything, and that we have limited resources on our own, we rely on others to enhance educational opportunities for our young people. Ultimately, we are better together. The networks that we are connected to through our families, faculty, staff, vendors and community organizations are often underutilized. These stakeholders already have a vested interest in the success of your school. Success should be defined beyond academic performance and include other important aspects like cultivating positive mental health and wellbeing, creating productive citizens, building the future workforce and strengthening families. A community focused school can yield numerous benefits for students, families, educators, and the broader community, including:

  • Enhanced Family Engagement: Community focused schools actively involve families in their children's education, creating a strong partnership between home and school. This involvement can lead to better attendance, higher student motivation, and increased parental satisfaction with the school.

  • Increased Support Services: Focusing on community allows schools to collaborate with local organizations and agencies to provide comprehensive support services to students and families, including health care, mental health services, counseling, and social services. This holistic approach addresses the diverse needs of students and promotes their overall wellbeing.

  • Enriched Learning Experiences: Expanding out into the community provides access to a wide range of community resources, such as museums, libraries, parks, businesses, local experts, and specialized academic services. These resources can be integrated into the curriculum to provide students with real-world learning experiences and opportunities for hands-on exploration. They also help prevent teacher burnout, by providing services like additional tutoring and academic support. 

  • Culturally Relevant & Responsive Education: By engaging with the local community, schools can incorporate diverse perspectives, cultures, and traditions into their curriculum, making education more relevant and meaningful for all students. This promotes cultural understanding, empathy, and respect among students from different backgrounds.

  • Preparation for Civic Engagement: By actively engaging with their communities, students learn the importance of civic responsibility, advocacy, and leadership. They develop the skills and knowledge needed to become active participants in their communities and effect positive change.

  • Professional Development Opportunities & Wellness Support: Community focused schools often provide teachers and staff with opportunities for professional development through partnerships with local organizations, universities, and businesses. This continuous learning enhances educator effectiveness and promotes innovation in teaching and learning. Many community businesses are happy to build partnerships that can support educators by providing healthy meals, fitness plans, discounts and access to other wellness services.

  • Stronger Sense of Belonging, Pride & Investment: When schools are deeply connected to their communities, students and families feel a greater sense of belonging and ownership in the school's success and community members take pride in their success and are more likely to invest time, resources, and support into their improvement. This fosters a positive school climate where everyone feels valued, respected and included.

  • Long-Term Sustainability: Community focused schools are more likely to be sustainable over the long term because they have strong community support, involvement, and investment. This ensures that the school can adapt to changing needs and challenges while continuing to serve its students and families effectively.

When schools and communities work together, students, teachers and families have access to a wider range of programs tailored to their needs, and community organizations lean in and contribute to stakeholder outcomes. Below are some examples of ways that schools and organizations we partner with are focused on engaging the community:

  • At Mastery Charter School’s Simon Gratz High School, they leveraged community businesses and organizations to build Occupational and Local Advisory Committees of professionals to support their Career Technical Education (CTE) programs. These practitioners shared their experience and perspective on the current landscape in their field to help the CTE programs better prepare their participants for jobs post graduation. 

  • Our partners at Middle Years Alternative (MYA) are engaging over 35 community partners to share their professional and educational experiences with their 5th-8th grade students during their Career Day. Exposure to careers through people who are actually in the field gives students a clearer picture of what that type of work looks like. It also expands the student’s network and opens the door to potential postsecondary opportunities. 

  • Pan American Academy Charter School partners with Congresso de Latinos Unidos to  provide after school programs, funding, and strategic partnership to support students and families. This partnership is mutually beneficial to the school and organization because they lean on each other to contribute to one another’s individual goals and have mutually agreed upon goals to build the capacity of the place-based partnership of providing cradle to career programming and services. 

  • John Marshall School engaged families by turning their quarterly Parent Advisory Council meeting into a family service night. Parents and students worked together with staff to create cards and snack bags for local community members in need. This opportunity for fellowship built relationships between families that may have not engaged with each other before and made them aware of new community organizations.

  • The Belmont Charter Network offers targeted development to their educators that focuses on both personal and professional development by leveraging the talents of staff and external organizations to offer comprehensive day-long experiences that focus educators’ professional and personal needs. Activities like art, dancing, games, meditation, and self-care provide a solid start to the day and highlight the various skills of community members. 

  • For Girard College’s Out of School Time Programs, they partner with many external organizations, including Build a Bridge International, HavaRose, and Junior Achievement. Within their internal GECE-PI Work Program, they coordinate with professionals all over campus working in different departments to provide opportunities for students to have real world learning opportunities and experiences. Further, being the campus of the city, Girard College is always opening their campus when school is not in session for community activities, special events in the historical chapel, and tours of Founder’s Hall.

  • In our Innovageous Pathways for Career Success Program, in partnership with Philadelphia Works, high school teachers are facilitating projects with their student leaders to build partnerships with local middle schools. These relationships help middle school students become more aware of the opportunities and postsecondary programs that are available to them. We even leaned on some of our own partnerships, like the one we have with PhillyCAM, to lead engaging workshops for students to build their digital media skills before engaging in their projects. 

  • Grounded in the understanding that caregivers have a profound impact on the early development of young children, Baltimore City Schools has partnered with Innovageous to provide monthly workshops, support, and office hours for caregivers of Infants & Toddlers. Through this partnership, parents have free access to resources, practical tools, and professionals in their community related to topics such as potty training, language development, behavior support, and adult self care and wellness. 

Register for our free session on Building Community Focused Reciprocal Partnerships to learn more about this Innovageous School Design Principle. This session is facilitated by Innovageous Lead Partner of Community Engagement, Tiffany Searles, in collaboration with Morgyn Yates, Director of Programs at Sunrise of Philadelphia. This is a great place to start thinking about practical strategies becoming more Community Focused in your school or organization. 

Want to be a part of this acceleration and growth? Here are some ways that you can join our ecosystem of partners: 

  1. Funding - Support the development of free resources and tools to broaden our reach and access to anyone who wants to make their school community more innovageous! 

  2. Focus Groups & Committees - We are seeking industry partners in education and/or professional workspaces who want to provide input to the development of resources and tools. 

  3. Partnership - Work in partnership with us to help increase equitable access to Innovageous tools and resources. Your support through ongoing collaboration and partnership helps sustain our work, and expand our reach.

To learn even more about Innovageous School Design or to get involved, schedule a time to chat with us at


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