Grantee Spotlight

ProUnitas

ProUnitas has achieved impressive results in the Kashmere community in a short period of time. The main goal of this organization is building infrastructure in under-resourced school feeder patterns to address the unmet needs and assets of students by proactively and systemically connecting them with resources and services, while empowering the community to advocate for their children. When ProUnitas' founder Adeeb Barqawi was a teacher at Kashmere High School, he observed that his students' learning was impeded by unmet needs that the school was not equipped to meet. While many programs and services existed, there was no systematic method to connect students in need with appropriate resources. ProUnitas addresses this need through an innovative and replicable model of system coordination that allows students to access care and service providers to work more efficiently, leaving teachers and school leaders to do their jobs more effectively.

Currently, ProUnitas operates in four schools in the Kashmere community. Linkage managers on each campus serve a total of approximately 1,700 students annually; this number is expected to reach 4,000 as ProUnitas serves all of the schools in this feeder pattern. ProUnitas works with 35 nonprofit partners to serve the whole child - the continuum of services includes health and wellness, education training, workforce development, shelter and social services, and parent engagement and mentorship.

ProUnitas is able to serve the whole student body by using a tiered system to provide services (see Figure 1). Through the use of an integrated data system, linkage managers can see real-time attendance and behavior data on students that allows them to predict and identify what students are in need of support, and at what level. Tier I consists of students who are on track and benefit from school-wide strategies of support. Tiers II and III consist of students who require more intensive, tailored services. Figure 1 shows how students may fluctuate between tiers as life events happen. As ProUnitas continues to work in communities, the goal is to have a decreasing percentage of students requiring intensive services as more and more have the resources they need in order to be successful.

Pro Unitas Tier System
Figure 1

Barqawi attributes his organization's success to three key elements: the community, feeder schools, and providers.

  • Community voice is a vital component of ProUnitas' work. It is important to build trust and leverage the community's strengths to solve its own problems. In Kashmere, the Community Council provides valuable input and vets the organizations that wish to work in the community.
  • Feeder schools have welcomed ProUnitas' much-needed service coordination because it allows educators to better reach their students and facilitates learning. Schools have given in-kind space to support ProUnitas' Success Centers, which are available to all students.
  • Providers benefit from ProUnitas' coordination, which allows service providers to bypass the administrative burden of figuring out on-campus logistics as well as recruitment and outreach and instead be matched with the students they are trained to serve. In this way, services are not provided on an ad hoc basis, and multiple providers' efforts can come together to create an ecosystem of support for children. Additionally, ProUnitas is in the process of setting up provider roundtables and establishing a partnership hub where partners can share best practices and learn from each other on how best to serve and/or interact with students. ProUnitas promotes a continual learning loop through the use of data and student feedback, allowing service providers to know what works and what doesn't.
     

Together, these partners no longer work in silos and instead address the comprehensive needs of students. ProUnitas' service coordination has demonstrated promising results over the past year - a 26% increase in student attendance, a 71% reduction in behavior referrals, and a 60% reduction in suspensions. In addition, 100% of 12th graders who required intensive, tailored services (Tier III) graduated. This speaks to the power of ProUnitas' model of systems work and civic collaboration and shows what can be achieved when everyone works together to help children achieve.

There are several exciting developments to look forward to this year. First, ProUnitas will be active in the entire Kashmere feeder pattern after it expands to two more schools by the end of the year. Additionally, ProUnitas is partnering with the University of Houston School of Social Work to serve as an intern placement site. Interns will be placed across the campuses and interact with students. This will make ProUnitas' model more scalable as it relies on both paid and unpaid members. The organization also recently created a growth and strategy department focused on how to scale rationally. The long-term vision is to replicate the ProUnitas model in other underserved areas.

Rockwell Fund, Inc. is proud to support this work through our focus on middle school dropout prevention. ProUnitas addresses root causes that affect at-risk student populations in a systemic and sustainable way by leveraging the community and available resources. We look forward to hearing about their future successes. 

 

 

Community Council

Community Council meeting where students, parents, and community members come to talk about community needs