Growth. Evolution. Expansion.
The City Links you know and love has grown. Read on to learn more about how the program has evolved over the past 24 years and what lies ahead during our most impact chapter yet!
City Links has been growing! From 20 students in 2012, to 30 in 2013, to 60 students last year, to 80 students this year! This growth is intended to ensure that all English Language Learner high school students in Cambridge have the opportunities they need to succeed.
Drawing on two decades of program success, CCS determined that we could maximize student impact by engaging students earlier in their high school journey and tailoring the learning better to meet their needs as they grow. In our new model, new students enroll in the Mentorship Program before transitioning in their second year into the Leadership Program with its full wrap-around support.
The City Links Mentorship Program is designed to serve students with the lowest level of English-language proficiency, all newly arrived in the community. Students are matched 1-1 with a volunteer mentor, provided individualized case management, and attend monthly workshops. Mentors focus on community engagement, college access, and career exploration, while reinforcing English-language skills. Personal, professional, and academic guidance from a supportive, caring adult keeps students in school and on track for success.
Mentorship Program students then graduate into the rigorous City Links Leadership Program, which involves nearly 15 hours of programming each week and extends their learning day by 50%! Program components include: paid internships, 1-1 academic support, 1-1 mentoring, community service projects, and a weekly seminar on workforce readiness, leadership development, and life skills. Seniors in the Leadership Program also attend workshops with their mentors, designed to ensure a successful transition from high school to college.
Additionally, a select group of City Links seniors will be chosen for paid internships in the program as “Peer Leaders,” providing mentorship, guidance, and support to younger students in the Mentorship and Leadership Programs throughout the school year.
CCS has a proud 77 year history as a Cambridge community development organization. During that time, Cambridge has changed dramatically, from an economy mainly focused on manufacturing to the diverse, capable, resource-rich city it is today. Throughout this change CCS remained a community-development organization with a broad mission and diverse set of interests.
CCS’ Board of Directors recently completed a long-term strategic planning process and emerged with an inspiring new vision for the future and a more focused mission. Recognizing the historical success of City Links, the organization’s mandate is expansion: sustainable growth of a program whose alumni graduate college at double the rate of their peers, with substantially increased self-confidence, advocacy, and leadership skills. While the population of low-income and new-immigrant families in Cambridge is not growing at the pace of previous decades due to rising property values and a declining stock of affordable housing, many neighboring communities have seen their immigrant populations grow substantially. In response, CCS will expand beyond Cambridge, focusing on communities with significant low-income immigrant populations, maintaining CCS’ commitment to equalizing access to opportunity for this population.
Throughout the coming fiscal year, with support from a team of pro-bono Deloitte consultants through Inspire, CCS will undertake a landscape analysis of 20-25 surrounding communities, examining community demographics, school dynamics, student performance, current nonprofit partners, and availability of funding. From that process, 3-5 communities will be selected for further relationship building. CCS will aim to secure a commitment from the municipality and school department of its first expansion site, as well as support from private donors and funders to ensure sustainable success. A pilot group of 15-20 students will be recruited for the first City Links expansion site in FY17, with the goal of growing to 40 students in FY18. An additional expansion site of 15-20 students will be prepared during FY18 for programming in FY19.
We look forward to sharing more updates about this exciting process as we move forward and begin conversations with a select group of schools. If you have any questions, or want to be involved, please reach out. We’d love to hear from you!