MGH Institute, Harvard Kent Agree to Strengthen their Partnership

One is in the Navy Yard and one is in Hayes Square, but Chelsea Street has been no barrier to the close partnership between the Harvard Kent Elementary School and the Mass. General Institute for Health Professions (IHP).

Now, Harvard Kent and the IHP have doubled down on their collaboration this week, strengthening volunteer efforts, committing a part-time position to the school and making great efforts to learn from one another.

The announcement came in the library of the Harvard Kent on Monday morning, March 26, and leaders from the two schools signed documents affirming their stronger commitment.

“While we are excited about the ways we have collaborated to date, we know there is so much more these two great educational organizations can achieve together because we have similar missions,” said MGH Institute President Paula Milone-Nuzzo. “This is just the beginning.”

Principal Jason Gallagher said the partnership recognizes the important of the children at the Harvard Kent and the importance of the school to Charlestown.

“As we had this existing relationship, Paula and I began looking at how we could make it a really solid partnership,” he said. “Now we’re really growing into something that is really tight and more supportive of both of our communities. This will not only help our students in mindfulness and social-emotional education, but also it will give the IHP students the chance to get firsthand experience on the things we do that are important to success here.”

The collaboration will strengthen the existing relationship between the Charlestown health sciences graduate school and the K-5 public school. For the past several years, students from the MGH Institute’s speech-language pathology program have done clinical rotations at the Harvard-Kent, assisting pupils with reading skills.

Other anticipated benefits of the partnership include impacting the health and well-being of the Harvard-Kent community, and building an educational bridge that serves the Charlestown and Greater Boston community. To assist in this effort, the Institute announced it will hire a part-time coordinator to oversee the various activities and look for new opportunities in which the schools can collaborate.

“Partnerships like these are the glue that holds our schools together,” said Robert Consalvo, chief of staff for Boston Public Schools Superintendent Tommy Chang. “It’s crucial that the Institute is willing to invest in Harvard-Kent to bring it to new heights. It’s what makes our schools and the City of Boston so strong.”

Dr. Emily Zeman, an instructor of occupational therapy at the MGH Institute, during the past year has taught mindfulness techniques to many Harvard-Kent teachers and pupils. Dr. Joanna Christodoulou, an assistant professor of communication sciences and disorders, led a summer literacy program in 2017 that she will continue this summer using a grant from the school department. Also, for the past several years, Harvard-Kent has hosted students during the IHP’s annual Community IMPACT Day of service, while the graduate school has made several donations of books, games, and other supplies.

Gallagher said it even came down to a winter drive the IHP did for the students, collecting board games and books for the students to use on recess in inclement weather.

“Our indoor recesses this year were 10 times better because of those games,” he joked. “Indoor recess is usually torture, but we had a great time with it this year using the games.”

State Rep. Dan Ryan said the significant part is breaking down walls, such as the wall often created by Chelsea Street between Navy Yard institutions and the rest of the Town. In a time when walls are being touted around the country, he said this partnership is breaking down such things.

“This Institute has been a great neighbor to Charlestown,” he said. “As good as things have been in Charlestown, we have 46 percent of the kids here living at 100 percent of the poverty line. That’s the two Americas, and it’s right here. We have a wall and a barrier between the neighborhood and the Navy Yard. Folk like the IHP have been breaking down that wall for years. We’re not building walls. We’re breaking them down here.”

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