A program out of Boston College takes social work to another level. City Connects has social workers planted in urban schools across the state. They meet basic needs so students can focus on learning.

9-year old Edgardo Garcia is a shy 4th grader at the Holmes elementary school in Dorchester who likes reading and gym class and his 8 month old brother.

But last year his principal Yeshi Gaskin Lamour noticed something was wrong….

“I noticed that he would come to school and look concerned, nervous with anxiety or even crying…so the first sign was his physical affect.”

Edguardo’s mom Teresa says she noticed something too, but didn’t know what to do.

“Normally Edgardo is a really active and funny,” she says. “He tries to be funny, he’s a good dancer and all these things were changing.”

So Theresa and principal Lamour pulled City Connects social worker Ann Young into the discussion.

“First we wanted to know where is the anxiety coming from and how can we best address it.”

“I got to know mom first,” says Young. “Mom came to me with some needs and we were able to meet those needs.”

Young is stationed at the school as part of an organization called City Connects that works out of Boston College. Its social workers focus on outside factors that can effect learning.

City Connects was founded in 1998 and serves abut 16,000 students. They’re in 3 school districts across the state including Brockton, Springfield and here in Boston.

The program is funded partly by the school systems that they are in. But a major part of the funding is paid by donations from companies like New Balance and the Barr Foundation.

Ann young says that she starts her day checking in with kids right off the bus. “The bus can be a big time of transition; Im at the door.”

There are social workers in most schools but this is different.

Young says that even though she is a licensed social worker, school social workers are typically doing counseling with kids. “Which is incredibly important, she says, “But they also don’t have the time then to do the things I’m talking about. It might be getting a kid a bag of clothes or food so its social work plus.”

“I need my kids to learn to be ready to learn,” says Prinicipal Lamour. “If they are not able to do that due to outside factors, how are they going to get to that point? So looking at the whole child is really important for me.”

So far City Connects seems to be getting the job done. They say students do better in class, score higher on tests and have a lower drop out rate.

It’s definitely worked for Edgardo and his family. He’s loving his teachers and school.

“When I need help on work they help me” he says.

And social worker Ann Young says from last year to this one, there’s a huge difference in Edgardo.

“He’s very mature— he’s a great kid— he’s very fun loving.”

City connects hopes all students get there.