At YES Prep, 87% of students qualify for free and reduced price lunch. Like many school systems in high-needs communities, YES Prep must consider how it can continue to focus on instructional resources while also meeting students’ basic needs, including nutrition, mental health, physical health, and more. YES Prep has partnered with ProUnitas, a framework for student support that aims to streamline the way basic needs are met for students and to nurture the whole child by eliminating non-academic barriers. ProUnitas uses data to coordinate services available in the community– from mentorships to health services to art enrichment programs– and embeds these services into the backdrop of the school so students have the resources they need.
ProUnitas was created by former teacher and current ProUnitas CEO, Adeeb Barqawi, after he realized that there was no centralized system to coordinate and link services available to students. When an individual teacher or principal left the school, the connection to those services would often disappear. “There was a need for someone to ask the questions: what kids does this program work with? Does this duplicate something already provided? Does this program complement another? Does it have strong results?” said Albert Wei, Director of Partnerships and Special Projects at ProUnitas. “We couldn’t rely on a haphazard collection of programs to serve students’ needs,” he added. “There needed to be coordination and someone analyzing feedback to see if and how students were impacted.”
This collaboration with ProUnitas empowers YES Prep’s Student Support Counselors (SSCs) with easily-digestible data and connects, evaluates, and analyzes students’ progress with the services they receive. “Partnering with ProUnitas is a way for us to ensure that our campus student support services are receiving additional aid, while they work throughout the year to help meet students’ and family’s basic needs. This additional support will allow other campus leaders to focus more time on increasing student achievement. In addition, having someone help us keep track of results, while ensuring that our partner organizations are providing the support they promised will relieve a large burden from the campuses,” said YES Prep Head of Schools, Jeremy Beard.
This year, YES Prep will pilot the partnership at its Southside campus. Currently, ProUnitas is helping to coordinate the services of 14 organizations for YES Prep, including Change Happens, Childbuilders, Lone Star Legal, Girls Inc., and Teen and Family Services. To develop the list of service providers, ProUnitas and YES Prep met to discuss the basic needs of the students. After considering the basic needs, they discussed what enrichment opportunities, such as the Houston Ballet’s school programming, would be beneficial for the students.
“Our hope is that this partnership with ProUnitas will help us implement data in ways that we haven’t in the past and design a model that will work across the system to provide wraparound services for kids and families,” said Beard.
After Harvey struck Houston and resulted in widespread flooding, there is an even greater need for students to have access to mental health services that work with students who have experienced trauma. “ProUnitas is directing our funds toward ramping up mental health and trauma services,” said Wei. “We want our partners to have the capacity to stay longer on the campus and be able to take bigger caseloads, so that students are supported during this difficult time and can focus on school.”