In its first major effort, CONNECT (Connecting Student Needs with Community Resources) – a new community partnership in the Grapevine-Colleyville area – sent more than 1,000 Grapevine-Colleyville ISD students back to school Monday equipped with an assortment of school supplies they might not have otherwise or easily afforded.
On August 11, more than 150 community volunteers came together in CONNECT’s first annual Back-to-School Fair. The group partnered with GCISD, GRACE (Grapevine Relief And Community Exchange) and the Women's Division of the Grapevine Chamber of Commerce to distribute back-to-school kits that included backpacks, school supplies, and school, health, safety and social services information.
“This was the very first time that school and community members and organizations convened in one place at one time to provide products and services to the families needing them most,” says Carolyn Ann Walgren, a GCISD parent and a founder of CONNECT.
More than 500 families and 1,056 students were identified and pre-registered to receive the kits, which included backpacks donated by the Dallas Stars Foundation and 121 Community Church. GRACE continued to serve families after the fair who didn’t register or weren’t able to attend. The families also completed needs assessments that will be used to better identify, understand and serve these students and families.
Walgren says CONNECT was formed to “bridge the gap” between what GCISD can realistically do and what the community can do to help disadvantaged families. Through designated administrative and campus staff, CONNECT works to effectively and adequately identify the needs of GCISD students and then coordinate the acquisition and distribution of available community resources. CONNECT then partners with churches, non-profit organizations, civic organizations, city leaders, locally based business and philanthropic individuals who donate resources that help meet basic needs of students and put their focus back on learning.
During the fair, participating families received donated gift cards or supplies from area churches, including First Methodist Grapevine, 121 Community Church, Compass Christian Church, First Presbyterian Grapevine, Colleyville Presbyterian, and Beth-Israel. GRACE assisted almost every family with clothing and additional services.
The fair also included about 20 tables offering resources to student families. The tables were staffed by GCISD departments, community groups, area churches, businesses and organizations. Among them: GCISD Nutrition Services, GCISD Registration, GCISD Health/SHAC, GRACE, Women's Division of the Grapevine Chamber of Commerce, Grapevine Lion's Club, United Way, Tarrant County Health Department, JPS, Big Brothers Big Sisters, First Methodist Church Grapevine, 121 Community Church, City of Grapevine Fire and Police departments, Exito Hispanico, and Dr. Sandra Armstrong/Dr. Amy Watts pediatric dentistry.
To ensure a healthy start to school this year, the Lion’s Club provided vision screening for more than 100 children, immunizations were provided by the Tarrant County Health Department, fire safety information was dispersed, dental hygiene kits were handed out by Dr. Armstrong, and JPS provided valuable information for all family members.
“The community showed up in a huge way with resources that were connected to identified student needs,” Walgren added. “That was our intention and our dream. Without this wonderful school district and community, especially those who donated to or made their resources available at the fair, our students wouldn't have such a complete way in which to start this new school year.”
While Walgren was thrilled with the first outpouring of support, she says there’s much more to do. She noted that GCISD had identified approximately 2,700 students in the district who qualified under the state definition of economically disadvantaged for the 2011-2012 school year.
CONNECT will continue year-round to provide a variety of resources to students and their families including clothing for students; food such as snacks for elementary students and holiday food help for families; a variety of financial assistance; mentoring for students through a partnership with GCISD and Big Brothers Big Sisters; and school supplies.
The organization continues to seek partners and resources to accomplish those goals. CONNECT hopes to raise funds for its efforts on Monday, September 10, as the beneficiary of the GrapeFest Golf Classic 2012. For entry details, call or 817-410-3377. Deadline for registration is September 4 at 5 p.m.
For additional information regarding CONNECT or the Back-to-School Fair, please contact Carolyn Ann Walgren at 817-300-4435 or email@example.com.
CONNECT is a non-profit association formed to identify, understand and meet the needs of Grapevine-Colleyville Independent School District (GCISD) students through school and community resources. As the total number of economically disadvantaged students identified in GCISD stands at approximately 2,700 in 2011-2012 and continues to rise each year, coupled with tightened budgets due to the state school finance crisis, the staff at both the campus and administrative levels has had the increasingly difficult task of identifying and meeting their needs. The downturn in the economy has contributed to the students facing greater and more basic needs including food, appropriate clothing and supplies, adequate medical and financial resources, emotional support, and transportation. Without basic needs, students can’t feel or be successful.
CONNECT strives to “bridge the gap” between what GCISD can realistically do in this area and what the community can do to help disadvantaged families. Through designated administrative and campus staff, CONNECT works to effectively and adequately identify the needs of GCISD students and then coordinate the acquisition and distribution of community resources. CONNECT will partner with other churches, non-profit organizations, civic organizations, city leaders, locally based business and philanthropic individuals to help meet basic needs of students and put their focus back on learning. By connecting GCISD and the community, we join hands in the mission of GCISD to be the B.E.S.T. by "Building Excellent Schools Together.”
CONNECT’s leadership team includes Carolyn Ann Walgren, a GCISD parent and volunteer; Dr. Cindy Ryan, Associate Pastor at First United Methodist Church, Grapevine; and Marina E. Flores, GCISD Director for Student Engagement.
CONNECT partners include the Grapevine Colleyville Independent School District; First United Methodist Church, Grapevine; GRACE; The Women's Division of the Grapevine Chamber of Commerce; City of Grapevine; 121 Community Church; Compass Christian Church; First Presbyterian Church, Grapevine; The Parenting Center; Big Brothers Big Sisters; United Way; Colleyville Presbyterian Church; Exito Hispanico; Dr. Sandra Armstrong and Dr. Amy Watts, pediatric dentristry; JPS; Baylor Grapevine; and Bank of the West.