A five-year New York State Education Department (NYSED) contract, along with $2.7 million dollars, has been awarded to Binghamton University Community Schools to improve on and operate the Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers (CCLC) Technical Assistance Resource Centers (TARC).

BU Community Schools is the “first county-wide, university-assisted community schools [(UACS)] model in the nation,” according to their official Facebook account. Their goal is to bridge resources within the community and create an equitable school environment beyond the classroom that can improve youth academic success, as explained on the BU website.

CCLC are places where students, usually in low-performing schools, are offered help in core academic subjects through tutors and additional services such as health education and violence prevention, according to BingUNews. TARC is tasked to work with CCLC, providing 21st-century technical resources, assistance and professional development activities for students.

The program initiative came about after BU Community Schools submitted a NYSED Request for Proposal to become the CCLC TARC for the non-New York City region of New York state, according to Casey Pulz, director of CCLC.

The contract allows BU Community Schools to make use of the initiative and expand on the many youth development programs, including tutoring, counseling, health and violence-prevention services which already offered by the CCLC on a state level through the running of TARC, according to Pulz.

“This award is designed to improve the quality of 21st CCLC programs in the rest of state, non-New York City (NYC) region, and in turn improve academic, social and emotional outcomes of students and the literacy of their families,” Pulz wrote in an email. “The TARC will provide a variety of technical assistance, resources and professional development activities for the subgrantees to help them attain the 10 essential indicators of high-quality after-school programs as identified in the [New York State] Network for Youth Success Program Quality Self-Assessment Tool.”

Paula Jankowski, a senior majoring in integrative neuroscience, acknowledged how impactful and important she felt the work being done by BU Community Schools is.

“I’m really proud to attend a university that recognizes the educational disparities present within its community and is actively doing [its] part to help,” Jankowski said. “There are so many benefits to be reaped from the time and resources that [BU] invests in these kids. Being from [New York City], I recognize the prominence and urgency of this issue and I believe any initiative to narrow the inequality gap is worthwhile.”

Pulz said the TARC are not exclusive to just one BU Community Schools initiative, but will be collaborating with other BU Community Schools’ technical assistance initiatives that benefit other services, with one being the NYSED Central/Western Regional Community Schools Technical Assistance Center, which builds capacity for community schools.

The New York State Cares for Communities (NYSCFC) initiative will also be part of the project, according to Pulz. NYSCFC supports community- and faith-based organizations working with school districts to address barriers faced by students and families during the COVID-19 pandemic. The University-Assisted Community Schools (UACS) Regional Training Center through the Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania and The Regional Network are also extending their help.

“[UACS] Regional Training Center through the Netter Center for Community Partnerships at [the University of Pennsylvania] supports colleges and universities across [New York state] and New Jersey in developing their [UACS] models in partnership with regional districts,” Pulz stated. “The Regional Network [is] partnering with districts across the Southern Tier to build capacity for and implement their community school models.”

Melissa Longo, a junior majoring in sociology, is hopeful that BU Community Schools’ involvement in the initiative will have a positive effect on New York state youths’ success in the future.

“I think it’s really amazing how [BU] is taking steps in the right direction to better the community it’s a part of,” Longo said. “Bettering the resources of the youth of [New York state], especially those who are in low-performing schools, is so important in ensuring that the needs of a child in such a developmental time will be met, so that they are encouraged and ready to seek higher education and attend schools like [BU].”