INDIANAPOLIS – A new program designed to help eliminate barriers for students has had quite an impact on local families and students since its launch.

Back in June, the city announced it would put $7.5 million toward a new in-school program called City Connects. The program aims to provide students with resources and eliminate any barriers they may face.

In a CBS4 exclusive, program leaders, parents, and Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett talked about the difference the program is making.

City Connects helps students and their families with mental health care needs, food, transportation, and housing. It is organized through Marian University’s Center for Vibrant schools and Boston College, where the program first began.

Now, trained specialists are working with hundreds of local students to help them get the individual care they need.

The program launched in 12 far east side schools this fall. It helps hundreds of families – like Chezney Cleaver and her fifth grade daughter Jayme Morris.

“We didn’t have internet for a period of time,” described Cleaver. “So I had no idea that
there was a program where you can get a little Wi-Fi spot to create a hotspot so the kids can do their work because they couldn’t do their homework.”

Needs may vary from family to family, ranging from help with clothes, food, or counseling. Regardless, it makes an impact no matter how big or small.

“It’s a relief,” Cleaver sighed. “It’s a relief.”

All 12 schools have program coordinators. Chatarra Moreland is the specialist at Avondale Meadows Middle School.

“I just try to figure out where the needs are,” she said. “I put resources in place for the family to try to eliminate needs or barriers they may have to receiving a great education at Avondale.”

City Connects also engages students in new activities like robotics, which is quite the passion for Jayme Morris.

“I like to learn how to put things together and talk with different people I don’t usually talk with,” Morris said. “So that kind of got me out of my comfort zone.”

For her mom, it is a clear chance for a brighter future.

“It’s definitely an investment in her interests and it can definitely turn into something bigger,” Cleaver said.  

The city’s funding the program until 2024. then they’ll decide if they want to extend the program. So far it has been encouraging for Mayor Hogsett. 

“The types of investments we’re making are making a difference in the lives of our kids and their educational opportunities,” he said. “It’s actually making a difference in the lives of families.”

Some parents can’t envision an education without it. 

“Not even just for my family, but for the entire community it’s very much needed,” Cleaver said. 

The Polis Center at IUPUI will help the city understand the outcomes of this program through its data collection. Lain said it will take at least three years to collect measurable information.

According to Boston College’s website, students involved in the City Connects program are less likely to drop out of school, achieved higher standardized testing scores, and higher report card grades.