Mercyhurst University’s Education department has partnered with the United Way of Erie County and Erie’s Public Schools in the Community Schools initiative at Diehl Elementary School.
The Community Schools model is an initiative launched in 2016 by the United Way to incorporate many resources into Erie schools to support the students and their families.
Mercyhurst will be working alongside Diehl staff to address vulnerabilities while providing opportunities to make families and students flourish. Family engagement is a huge piece to community schools. During this three-year commitment, there will be activities going on during the school day, on weekends and after school.
“We aim to mobilize all the assets of the Diehl community to ensure that all children are future-ready for college, career and citizenship,” said Susan Johnson, Ph.D., professor and head of the Education department.
Johnson, Provost Leanne Roberts, Ph.D., and Amy Bauschard, Education professor and director of the Mercy Center for the Arts Preschool and Carpe Diem Academy, have been influential leaders of this collaboration.
“Think of Community Schools’ strategy and place,” Johnson said. “Strategies to get educators and communities together make the greatest impact and are a place where the community gathers to support the education of children and youth.”
The Mercyhurst Education department is not new to incorporating the Mercy Core Values in their work through Carpe Diem Academy, an award-winning after-school program for students in Diehl and Lincoln elementary schools. This initiative is separate from the Community Schools partnership, but it helps Mercyhurst to foster education in many facets.
“Learning is central to the Community School strategy. We are currently strengthening learning at Diehl with Carpe Diem Academy, an after-school program of enrichment for students (that) is staffed by graduate assistants and Education students,” Johnson said.
Mercyhurst is in the process of hiring a Community School director, who will be the liaison between Diehl and Mercyhurst, working through the Education department. Mercyhurst students will be serving as influential members in this program as well due to their support in helping serve the needs of the school.
Earlier this month, the university and the Erie School District received a PAsmart Grant of $500,000 to develop an integrated K-12 computer science curriculum that will prepare students for in-demand careers, which pushes for a more S.T.E.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) discipline for the students.
“Its integrated focus on academics, health and social services, youth and community development, and community engagement leads to improved student learning, stronger families and healthier communities,” Bauschard said.
The project is not just a Mercyhurst Education department endeavor — it involves various departments as well as a variety of corporate partners.
“We are all hands on deck,” Johnson said. “It is necessary for opportunities, supports and services to come from a variety of different departments in the Mercyhurst community.”
The partnership is a way to build community capacity, helping with community need and serving the community by helping students seize their today and all their tomorrows.