Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

The Boston Connects Program: Promoting Learning and Healthy Development

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

The Boston Connects Program: Promoting Learning and Healthy Development

Article excerpt

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In contrast to the problem-focused approach that has traditionally characterized the profession of school counseling, the field has moved in recent years toward a strengths-based approach. The ASCA National Model[R] (American School Counselor Association, 2005) articulated a framework that supports the academic, career, and personal/social development of every child. Galassi and Akos (2007) have elaborated principles of Strengths-Based School Counseling (SBSC) that enrich the ASCA National Model by focusing on the promotion of culturally relevant strengths and competencies at the individual and environmental levels. Contemporary models in developmental psychology (Bronfenbrenner, 1979; Lerner, 2001) provide theoretical support for a strengths-based contextual approach to school counseling by calling attention to the role of strengths in the interplay of individual and contextual factors throughout the developmental process (e.g., Walsh, Galassi, Murphy, & Park-Taylor, 2002).

The Boston Connects Program, a school-community-university partnership designed to promote learning and healthy development, provides an example of a strengths-based approach to student support. The program is grounded in a developmental-contextual framework (Walsh et al., 2002), is aligned with the ASCA National Model (Walsh, Barrett, & DePaul, 2007), and incorporates principles of SBSC. This article describes the Boston Connects program and the pivotal role of the school counselor.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PROGRAM

Located in 14 Boston public elementary schools representing two diverse and low-income neighborhoods, Boston Connects relies on a systemic, school-based approach to promote the academic, social-emotional, and physical well-being of students and to alleviate barriers to learning. With the support of its university partner, Boston College, this collaborative has developed a data-driven approach to the delivery of comprehensive, coordinated student support services. School counselors from the Boston Connects program (a) assist teachers and school staff to identify all students' individual strengths and needs, (b) collaborate with teachers and school staff to develop a tailored student support plan, (c) engage with parents and families, (d) establish partnerships with community agencies, and (e) refer the student and family to the appropriate school- and community-based supports. Boston Connects does not merely tack on supplementary supports for students, but rather it modifies schools' structures so that effective student support becomes an essential component of the educational mission of the schools. Consistent with an SBSC approach, these modified school structures are designed to promote a strengths-enhancing environment (Galassi & Akos, 2007).

Boston Connects makes available a continuum of appropriate resources and services that range from prevention to intensive intervention. Boston Connects seeks to promote healthy development across the whole school, while providing early and intensive intervention for a smaller number of students (Adelman & Taylor, 2006). An overview of the program is illustrated in Figure 1. At the school level, healthy development is promoted through a schoolwide social competence and health promotion curriculum that builds on the strengths of all students and assesses the patterns of strengths and risks for each student (base of inverted triangle). For the smaller number of students who display developmental challenges, the program seeks to deliver early intervention by both promoting strengths and addressing risks (middle of triangle). For the few children who evidence serious challenges, the program offers intensive intervention (tip of inverted triangle). Each of these levels will be explored in detail in order to provide examples of ways that this model can be implemented. Consistent with an SBSC approach, Boston Connects seeks to enhance student strengths rather than focus on deficits, even when designing early and intensive intervention services. …

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