At Hudson HS, a United Community School in Chelsea in Manhattan, Anthony Rosario helps the school community address unmet needs through wraparound services.
How does a United Community School work?
The community school model aims to turn the school into a hub for the community. We identify unmet needs — for example, if students don’t get regular vision checks and can’t see the board — and work to meet those needs. We also identify assets in the school or its surrounding community.
The UFT-DOE United Community Schools (UCS) initiative assigns a community school director like me who meets every month with an advisory board that consists of the UFT chapter leader, administration, educators, parents and sometimes students. The board works collaboratively to identify what assets exist and where there are gaps. Then it builds partnerships with local organizations, businesses and volunteers to bring programs into the school to fill those gaps.
What is your role?
I keep things flowing. I manage projects, programs and services brought to the school through UCS. I open all the different channels of communication by leading the advisory board and by meeting with stakeholders such as the parent-teacher association and the school leadership team. I’m also responsible for data collection, fundraising and logistics.
How did you become a community school director?
I have worked in community organizing and helped high school students develop workplace skills. When a friend showed me the posting for community school director at PS 192 in Hamilton Heights, I thought the job was made for me. I worked there for four years until Hudson HS joined the initiative in May 2022 and I became its first community school director.
Describe a typical project.
My first big project at Hudson was the free food program. First, I put together a grant proposal. I looked at data from the school on things like free and reduced lunch, and I worked with the school counselors, the liaison for students in temporary housing and the administration to understand the data. After we won the $10,000 grant, I found a vendor that would provide food. The school team and I located a room to hold all the food, recruited volunteers from among students and staff to pack and distribute it, and identified families to receive the food.
What are some of the challenges you face?
Two of the biggest challenges are getting parents involved in the advisory board and building trust with families. At PS 192, it was hard to find a meeting time for the advisory board that worked for both parents and staff — and if the community didn’t understand what a community school was, why would they make the time?
How do you build relationships with parents?
At PS 192, I’d greet parents every day at arrival and dismissal. I remember one parent who struggled during the pandemic. She didn’t have the technology literacy to help her child access schoolwork on the iPad, and because she didn’t speak English, she struggled to ask for help. I spoke to her in Spanish, guided her through those iPad functions and eventually referred her to the after-school program for more help.
How do you build trust with families?
Part of my approach is to be super clear from the get-go. Instead of asking for too much of their personal information at first, I give the families information about me and why I’m contacting them. I make it clear that I’m not here to judge them, but to get them what they need.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
Just being helpful. At Hudson, we have a partnership with the Church of the Heavenly Rest, and it provided us with hygiene bags and gift cards for Thanksgiving meals for the students. I recently called one student into my office and presented him with his goodies, and his face lit up. Just knowing I can help someone with whatever they need — I feel good about that.
— As told to reporter Hannah Brown