Celebrating Halloween with our young neighbors

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Smiles and squeals of anticipation were in abundance on Friday as the hallowed halls of St. Vincent Charity Medical Center became "haunted" in order to create a safe, enjoyable Trick or Treat experience for children in the Central neighborhood.

More than 160 students, dressed as the latest superheroes, princesses and more, visited a number of departments, including administrative and patient care areas to receive their goodies.

Chief Operating Officer Joan Ross (left) and Executive Assistant Judie Days pass out candy in Administration. 

Chief Operating Officer Joan Ross (left) and Executive Assistant Judie Days pass out candy in Administration. 

In 2005, when the Cleveland Municipal School District expanded Marion-Sterling Elementary from a traditional elementary to a pre-K through 8th grade school, leaders at St. Vincent Charity and area organizations knew they needed to join together to help ease the school through its transition.

In our neighborhood, trick or treating from house to house is what kids do in the “other” neighborhoods, where gunshots aren’t heard after dark. Halloween at St. Vincent’s allows the little ones to build those precious childhood memories despite living in challenging circumstances. — Cathy Kopinsky, Mission Outreach, St. Vincent Charity Medical Center

School and community leaders were concerned about the effects of the large age range between the school’s youngest and oldest students and how they would interact. The local groups worked in partnership to write a grant to support hiring an at-risk youth coordinator –a move that proved highly successful in blending the diverse student population. Once they saw their success together, representatives at St. Vincent Charity and area organizations formalized their collaboration as the Marion-Sterling School Community Partnership to provide ongoing support to the students and faculty.

“The Marion-Sterling Partnership feels as though the entire community is giving our school a hug. They are wrapping their arms around our school, protecting us and giving us support when we need it,” said Principal Adrianna Chestnut. 

Studies show a lack of adequate food, nutrition and basic necessities, such as warm clothing, hurts a student’s ability to concentrate and behave in the classroom. In addition, students from lower-income neighborhoods are often not ready to begin kindergarten and need additional support to build confidence and adjust to a classroom setting.

The Marion-Sterling Partnership feels as though the entire community is giving our school a hug. They are wrapping their arms around our school, protecting us and giving us support when we need it. — Adrianna Chestnut, principal

St. Vincent Charity and the Marion-Sterling Partnership seek to fill these gaps for students to increase their chances of academic success. The partnership members provide students and families a twice-monthly food pantry, Thanksgiving baskets and a safe Trick or Treat event at St. Vincent Charity. 

At the start of school each year, the partnership works to ensure that all students have necessary uniform items and school supplies. As Cleveland weather turns colder, members collect gloves, hats and coats to ensure the safety of all students. 

The partnership also provides tutoring, in-school activities such as an annual school carnival, after-school activities to meet the educational and extra-curricular needs of Marion Sterling students and has renovated the library, playground and classrooms.

The partnership and collaborations with school faculty and staff have led to tremendous improvements at the school. Test scores are steadily improving, attendance rate is rising and discipline problems are declining.

Much of the partnership’s success is credited to its flexibility and willingness to align support with the school and students’ most immediate needs. Representatives from the 19-member organizations, including St. Vincent Charity and social and neighborhood groups, meet once a month with school leaders to plan activities and programs, as well as to assess current demands on students and teachers.

“Members of the partnership are so willing to listen to our needs and jump in – in a non-judgmental way – to help in any way they can. We are so appreciative of their willingness to align their support based on our true needs. The proof of our success is in the pudding – our kids are doing better,” Principal Chestnut said.