A $75,000 Urban Agenda grant has been awarded to Springfield WORKS, the primary applicant in partnership with Springfield Public Schools to expand the Two-Generation/Whole Family Approach to Career Pathways (2Gen) model to the Springfield Public School system. This funding, provided by the MA Executive Office of Economic Development, will assist in outreach and recruitment of participants, training of family liaisons, coaching, wraparound supports, evaluation of results, and communication of results.

The Two-Generation/Whole Family Approach to Career Pathways (2Gen)collaborative program builds family well-being by intentionally and simultaneously working with children and the adults in their lives together. This program will align resources and strategies to parents whose children attend Springfield Public Schools (SPS) and recent SPS high school graduates to career directed skills training and wraparound supports for employment at Springfield Public Schools. Participants will obtain skills for SPS positions with a priority focus on para-educators, identified as a top labor supply challenge in the region.

This program aims to directly impact families in the community by supporting their pathway to gainful employment. Research shows that a relatively small increase in household income can have a lasting positive impact on the life of a child—A $3,000 difference in parents’ income when their child is young is associated with a 17% increase in the child’s future earnings.

This project will serve students and parents in the district that reflect the racial and ethnic diversity of the city itself. SPS currently enrolls 23,781 students, with over 80% identifying as Black or Hispanic and 86% identifying as economically disadvantaged.

In Massachusetts, only 8% of teachers identify as people of color, while 42% of students do. According to SPS data, the curve is slightly greater here in Springfield; only 20% of our teachers identify as people of color, compared to nearly 90% of students. Latino students comprise 69% of enrollment, yet less than 10% of current educators in Massachusetts identify as Latino. Paraprofessionals often represent our diverse communities and have valuable classroom experience, but a critical shortage nationwide was only made worse by the pandemic.

Research shows that educational success for students of color is significantly improved by working with educators who share their backgrounds. This project will provide career and training opportunities for parents while providing families with the holistic support they need to succeed. Grounded in research on best practices in diverse teacher recruitment and retention, this para program seeks to reduce the racial diversity gap by preparing more individuals of color for classroom teaching roles. By working with employers, trainers, parents and children together, families will gain the necessary skills to enable academic achievement and access a job that leads to career pathways, higher education, and economic stability. When parents become economically stable, children do better in school, neighborhoods become safer, and communities thrive.

About Springfield WORKS: Springfield WORKS, a community-wide initiative with the Western Mass Economic Development Council, is a catalyst for meaningful change in our regional economy. We work with residents, employers, educators, and social service providers to bridge the gaps that are leaving workers and families behind. We have built a network of anchor institutions and partner organizations, all committed to addressing the decline in workforce participation and economic mobility and building a resilient and inclusive economy for everyone in the region.