Nov. 6, 2020
By Gillian Mathews
Students at Binghamton University haven’t let a pandemic stop them from working with the surrounding community.
Lily Coots, a second-year student in the Master of Social Work program, is one of the Binghamton University Community Schools (BUCS) fellows working in Windsor Central School District this semester.
The BUCS program has been implemented in eight upstate New York school districts and is the first county-wide, university-assisted community school model in the nation. The approach aims to break the intergenerational cycle of poverty by increasing access to resources and educational opportunities, which expands the prospect of success for youth. BUCS offers activities and initiatives to improve attendance and increase family engagement with programs that focus on health and social services, enrichment, recreation and the arts.
Coots works one day a week in person at Floyd Bell Elementary School and one day at Windsor Middle School. During her time there, she works to connect with the families of youth participating in remote learning, which has allowed her to build relationships within the community.
“I run a small group for third-grade girls that are ‘worriers,’” said Coots. “The group helps them build coping skills and identify triggers. I also work with two mentoring students one-on-one. Overall my experience has been very well rounded and I'm getting lots of different levels of social work experience through this field placement.” Coots helps out wherever she can, whether that means making calls to remote-learning families, attending district-wide meetings via Zoom or making study carrels. The study carrels are meant to help keep students better organized by providing a set space for them to access their school schedule, to-do lists, counting number lines, personal whiteboards and pockets to organize work and flashcards. So far, Coots has created four study carrels for a family that is fully remote.
“This family was struggling to stay organized with four children, all in different grades with a different curriculum, who are learning completely from home,” she said. “We tried to personalize the carrels to specifically match each student by including their favorite colors and items we knew they would enjoy like sticky notes or a sensory corner.”
Creating the carrels gave Coots an opportunity to use her creativity to make a fun learning tool, and the carrels have made it easier for students to participate in virtual classes anywhere in their house and have easy access to the supplies they might need.
Currently, Coots and other BUCS interns are working on collecting registration information for families that are hoping to participate in a program that will provide free holiday meal baskets, letting them enjoy the holidays without the stress of worrying about how they will afford full meals for their families. Coots expressed her enjoyment of her involvement in the community so far and is excited about the upcoming project as well.
“It's been really nice to have contact with the families,” she said, “and I'm looking forward to delivering the baskets as the holidays get closer.”