The UFT’s community schools initiative received financial support on June 20, 2012, from the union and the City Council to launch in six schools in September of that year.
Originally called NYC Community Learning Schools, the initiative now called United Community Schools has grown to serve more than 20,000 students in 32 schools in the five boroughs and in Albany.
Community schools “address the needs of children in a holistic way,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew.
The community school concept is simple: help students overcome obstacles to success by forging partnerships with community-based organizations and local businesses to transform school buildings into community hubs. Creating one location for students and their families to access an array of services — health care, food pantries, employment counseling and more — positions students to succeed academically and engages parents in the school community.
“We’re building whole children and strengthening whole communities,” said Karen Alford, a UFT vice president and the head of United Community Schools.
Among the 24 schools that joined the initiative in its first three years, there has been a 27-point reduction in the percentage of students reading at the lowest level. And during the pandemic, United Community Schools has helped distribute food to more than 6,000 needy families through its partnerships with community-based organizations.