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Minister for Education Launches National Centre for City Connects Ireland at MIC Limerick

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Minister for Education, Norma Foley TD, has today (30 May) launched the National Centre for City Connects Ireland (NCCCI), which aims to establish a ground-breaking school-based system of intervention from its base at Mary Immaculate College, Limerick. 

City Connects is designed, developed and delivered in partnership with schools and services and was originally established at the Mary E. Walsh Center for Thriving Children in Boston College, USA. In collaboration with Boston College, MIC has been the lead implementation partner for City Connects in Ireland and following a successful pilot scheme, running since 2020, in 10 DEIS Band 1 primary schools in the North East Inner City (NEIC) in Dublin almost €600,000 in Department of Education funding will be allocated to the NCCCI to further develop and expand the programme. 

Announcing the news at the MIC Limerick campus, Minister Foley said: “As Minister for Education, I am committed to supporting a quality and inclusive school system that provides an equal opportunity at success for all children, including those at risk of educational disadvantage. The North East Inner City’s City Connects pilot project organises student support, and leverages existing school and community-based resources in order to improve students’ academic and social-emotional outcomes, and is one of its big success stories. City Connects does not target specific students or groups of students within a school. City Connects is for all students. 

That is why I am pleased to be here today to launch the National Centre for City Connects in Ireland. The additional funding provided by my Department for this Centre brings to €1.8m the total investment in City Connects in Ireland. The work of this Centre will examine how City Connects could be extended to other comparative areas experiencing disadvantage to support children and young people.”

The aim of its evidence-based approach is meeting the needs of children living with challenges like poverty and marginalisation, and addressing the out-of-school factors impacting children's ability to succeed in school. During the pilot, MIC and Boston College has been working closely with the Department of Education, TUSLA – Child and Family Agency, National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS), the NEIC Programme Implementation Board, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY), and other relevant stakeholders. By leveraging existing community-based and in-school resources, it offers a systematic way for schools to connect every pupil to the right supports at the right time. 

President of MIC, Professor Eugene Wall, said Mary Immaculate College is “privileged to be involved as the national lead implementation partner on City Connects Ireland”.

“Social justice is deeply ingrained in our mission and underpins many projects that MIC is engaging in. City Connects has been hugely successful for Boston College—in operation for over 20 years—and it is very gratifying to see how it can translate to the Irish context with the 10 pilot schools. We are grateful to Prof. Walsh and the entire team for sharing their knowledge and time in partnership with us. Now it is time to explore how it can make a difference in more schools and with the support of the Department of Education, the NCCCI will drive this expansion. At the core of this project is the infinite potential of all children and nurturing this can have a hugely positive impact on society as a whole.”

Founder of City Connects, Prof. Emerita Mary Walsh
Founder of City Connects, Prof. Emerita Mary Walsh
City Connects is an approach to ‘whole child education' & Ireland is the first international partner

The original founder of City Connects, Professor Emerita Mary E. Walsh of Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development, said:

“NCCCI’s launch is the culmination of five years of piloting, testing, and refining the City Connects model. This marks the first international expansion of the programme and we are heartened to see that the Irish educational community widely acknowledges the programme’s success in providing every student a tailored plan of services and enrichments to address the student’s needs, strengths, and interests. We are delighted to share this approach to ‘whole child education', and to bring it to bear on poverty’s impact within Ireland’s high- performing school system. Doing this work in partnership with MIC and the Government of Ireland has been a source of deep learning for Boston College. We look forward to its further development in the years to come.”

The educational initiative developed by Boston College has been in operation for over 20 years in that city and its environs. City Connects recognises the talents, skills and potential of all children. It offers a strategic, systemic and systematic mechanism to enable children meet their potential through having their strengths, needs, and interests recognised and addressed. 

Its mission is to promote children’s engagement and learning by connecting them to the tailored set of prevention, intervention, and enrichment services they need to achieve and thrive in school and in life.

Watch the video below to learn more about City Connects in Ireland.

City Connects logo
City Connects in Ireland
Hear about CCI and its pilot programme in the North East Inner City (NEIC) in Dublin.

Pictured at the launch of the National Centre for City Connects Ireland (NCCCI) below were (L-R): NCCCI Programme Manager, Gerry Cullen; Director of the NCCCI, Eucharia McCarthy, MIC; Gráinne Egan, Principal Officer of the Social Inclusion Unit, Department of Education; President of MIC, Prof. Eugene Wall; Executive Director of City Connects, Boston College, Prof. Mary Walsh; Minister for Education, Norma Foley, TD; Dean of Education at MIC, Prof. Emer Ring; Dr Ann Higgins, Voluntary Educational Consultant, MIC; Dr Claire Foley, Boston College, and Tina Chen-Xu, Boston College.

National Centre for City Connects Ireland
National Centre for City Connects Ireland