It’s 9:00 AM on a Thursday and the first graders of Ms. Almon’s class are gathering on the classroom carpet. They arrived at school moments ago, and made short work of their classroom breakfast in anticipation of a lesson known as “Math with Mr. Morgan.” When Mr. Morgan arrives, the class greets him with a resounding cheer. It’s hard not to be affected by their enthusiasm for the subject, or their love for the math man.

The math man in Room 124 is COMPASS Community School Director Damion Morgan. For the past eight years, he’s supported the students, staff, and parents of Asian Studies Academy through a model known as Community Schools. Community Schools function as a school and a hub for the extra resources (like health care and after school programming) that kids need to succeed. Since 2008, COMPASS Youth Collaborative has delivered the Community School model at three schools – Asian Studies Academy (ASA), Burns Latino Studies Academy, and Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy – thanks to the support of the Hartford Partnership for Student Success.

A Day in the Life of a Community School Director:

8:00 AM: Mr. Morgan arrives at school and checks in with Principal Anthony Davila and the administrative team. Today they’re discussing the launch of a COMPASS before school program. With so many working parents, the early drop-off time will be a huge relief, and for the students, the extra enrichment will be an added boost.

8:35 AM: As the bell rings, Damion greets students arriving at school and goes the extra mile to make them feel welcome. He offers words of encouragement, reminders about school work, jokes and high fives. It’s a quick but meaningful connection as the students collect their breakfast and make their way to class.

Damion Morgan, 2017 | Defining Studios

8:45 AM: Once morning duties wind down, he does a quick series of rounds. “Before instruction starts, I’m usually checking in with teachers to get a pulse on what’s happening,” he explains. “It gives us a sense of what’s going on with the students, and if there are ways that COMPASS can better support them, their parents, and the teachers.”

By 10:00 AM, the COMPASS after school staff arrives. Program Coordinator Lila Ocasio, Program Associate Icha Pagan, and Program Assistant Geneva Roberts share updates and plans for after school.

11:00 AM: This is the first opportunity to respond to email and input data into monthly reports. Within the school, Damion manages all of the community partnerships, supports a number of parent initiatives, and sits on the administrative team meetings. Externally, he’s a board member of the Connecticut After School Network and serves as the Co-chair for the Coalition for Community Schools Coordinators Network. Damion types out feedback to the steering committee, which will host their annual convening this May in Baltimore, before running off to the first of a series of meetings.

12:00 PM: On any given day, he’s meeting with various community partners. One of particular note is an expanding partnership with the University of Saint Joseph.

“This partnership is one of the things I’m most excited about this year,” he reflects. “It truly demonstrates what a community school looks like.”

This Fall, the university’s department of education will outfit ASA with nearly 60 undergraduate and graduate interns.

During the school day, eight undergraduates will learn their craft by observing and assisting classroom teachers. During the after school program, 51 graduate students will tutor select COMPASS students in reading and writing. After these tutoring sessions, the graduate students will then take their graduate class – taught by their professor from St. Joe’s – on site.

“The University of Saint Joseph is fully integrated into the school,” Damion explains. “They have office space here, they provide the teachers within the school with professional development, and we could not be more thankful for the programming that they extend to our students.”

The relationship with Saint Joseph’s is one of many that Damion manages.

At a glance, those relationships include a longstanding relationship with Travelers Corporation, which will provide 60 middle school students with a mentor match. “That one-to-one attention from a trained Traveler’s employee will be huge for our kids,” Damion says.

United Way will continue its reading program, providing students in kinder, first, and second grade with a trained reading buddy. On the health front, a new partnership with the Latino Enrichment Organization (LEO) and My People Clinical Services will bring in mental health support for students and families. The Village for Children and Families will continue its longstanding relationship as a mental health service provider, and the school-based health clinic – which provides health and dental screenings for any child in Hartford – relies on COMPASS to help raise awareness of its services.

Damion Morgan and Anthony Davila, 2017 | Defining Studios

With partnerships forged, Damion shifts his focus to the daily needs of the school. Every Thursday at 1:00 PM, the administrative cabinet meets to discuss the school improvement plan, parent engagement strategies, and general trends.

At 2:00 PM, the COMPASS Professional Youth Development workers arrive. “Sometimes I participate in the daily brief for after school staff, to make sure that they have everything that they need, but I’m lucky to have a great team in Lila, Icha, and Geneva.”

3:45 PM: As the bell marks the end of the school day, Damion assists with student dismissal and does a final round before the after school program begins.

4:15 PM: Depending on the week, Damion supports the Program Coordinator with after school program observations. The program serves 139 students in grades K-8, with an average daily attendance of 84% – much higher than is typical of many after school programs. In many ways, the after school program functions as a micro-version of the school day, and the demands can be just as intense. COMPASS provides academic support, an hour of enrichment, and a full dinner through Hartford Public Schools Food and Nutrition Services.