A key feature of the West Dallas STEM School is a strategic collaboration with the nonprofit sector to provide embedded or nearby social services that will directly support PreK-8 students, families, school staff, and the broader community.
A portion of the $2 million planning grant made to SMU by Toyota has been sub-granted to convene three cohorts of nonprofits to increase their learning and readiness capacity for possible participation in the school. A pilot cohort of six nonprofits – AVANCE North Texas, Brother Bill’s Helping Hand, Dallas Afterschool, Mercy Street, The Concilio, and Wesley-Rankin Community Center – met for five months during the 2019 spring semester to engage in planning and capacity building work.
The topics they tackled included learning the history of West Dallas for current context, understanding community cultural wealth, identifying opportunities for continuous improvement, building a collaborative culture, and exploring to school-community partnerships.
Cohort II begins in March 2020 and will include nine sessions with up to 12 participating nonprofit organizations. “The first cohort served as a pilot, providing learning opportunities for nonprofit participants and those of us planning the sessions,” said Erin O. Crosby, a co-lead for the Community Development Design Team representing SMU, DISD, and Toyota. “Having three years to plan a school is a gift, especially when co-designing features like wraparound services to benefit everyone in the school as well as the broader community. We want the nonprofits to feel ready and be ready to succeed in this new and innovative space on day one.”