The National Centre for City Connects Ireland will be located within the Mary Immaculate College's Curriculum Development Unit

City Connects expands into Ireland

The school-based intervention program, developed at ϱ's Lynch School, addresses the out-of-school challenges that directly impact students’ capacity to thrive and achieve

Boston College’s long tradition of engagement with Ireland will soon experience a growth spurt.

City Connects, the ϱ-developed school-based intervention system, will officially launch the National Centre for City Connects Ireland (NCCCI) on May 30 at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, the initiative’s first foreign expansion.

Irish Minister for Education Norma Foley is anticipated to attend and inaugurate the evidence-based program that effectively addresses the out-of-school challenges that directly impact students’ capacity to thrive and achieve within the educational system.

ϱ Lynch School Professor Emerita Mary Walsh, founder of City Connects. (Photo by Caitlin Cunningham)

Founded over 20 years ago by Mary E. Walsh, the Lynch School of Education and Human Development-based City Connects has operated domestically in 90 schools across nine states. The program integrates education with existing social services, youth development, health, and mental health resources. Numerous studies published in top-tier journals have demonstrated that City Connects schools produce dramatic improvement in their students’ grades, standardized test scores and long-term academic success.

Since 2019, ϱ and Mary Immaculate College (MIC) have been collaborating on the acculturation and implementation of City Connects within the Irish context. City Connects has been piloted since the 2020-2021 academic year in 10 of Dublin’s North-East Inner City primary schools. These schools are part of the national Delivering Equality of Opportunity in Schools (DEIS) program, which serves students who are designated as being at risk of educational disadvantage and social exclusion.

“NCCCI’s launch is the culmination of five years of piloting, testing, and refining the City Connects model,” said Walsh, the City Connects executive director. “The Irish educational community widely acknowledges the program’s success in providing every student a tailored plan of services and enrichments to address the student’s needs, strengths, and interests.  We are delighted to share this approach to ‘whole child education,’ and to bring it to bear on poverty’s impact within Ireland’s high performing school system.  

“Doing this work in partnership with MIC and the government of Ireland has been a source of deep learning for ϱ,” said Walsh, a Lynch School professor emerita and the daughter of Irish immigrants. She also serves as a senior fellow and founding director of the Mary E. Walsh Center for Thriving Children at the Lynch School.

NCCCI will be located within MIC’s Curriculum Development Unit, and the program’s rollout has already begun in Dublin’s North-East Inner City schools. The overall goal, subject to government funding, is to expand to other high-poverty sites in Ireland.

"City Connects offers an evidence-based strategic, systematic, and systemic response to the need to support children to flourish, learn, and live happy lives."
EUCHARIA MCCARTHY, Mary Immaculate College

“We believe that City Connects holds the potential to enhance the DEIS’s scheme through building on existing successes and supports and increasing their effectiveness through collaboration and partnership,” said Eucharia McCarthy, Curriculum Development Unit director. “City Connects offers an evidence-based strategic, systematic, and systemic response to the need to support children to flourish, learn, and live happy lives. These outcomes for children strongly echo the aspirations of the 2022 European Union Child Guarantee: Ireland’s National Action Plan.”

MIC, founded in 1898, is a coeducational Catholic college that serves nearly 5,000 undergraduate and postgraduate students on two campuses.  MIC consistently educates 40 percent of Ireland’s elementary school teachers. Like ϱ, the college seeks to foster in its students a spirit of justice and compassion in the service of others, grounded in the vision of the Catholic Sisters of Mercy who believe that all individuals, and particularly the most marginalized, are entitled to an education.  

According to MIC President Eugene Wall, City Connects offers a structured way to support an integrated model, enabling services to respond appropriately, efficiently, and cost effectively, thereby enhancing the life chances of every child.

“The strong alignment of vision and shared commitment of ϱ and MIC—together with the support of the Irish government—to make a positive difference in children’s lives has culminated in this vibrant, transatlantic partnership.”

“We are thrilled about the launch of the new City Connects center at Mary Immaculate College,” said Stanton E.F. Wortham, the Charles F. Donovan, S.J., dean of the Lynch School. “Our partnership with MIC colleagues, and with Irish educators and policymakers, has been very productive. The program has proven itself to be both cost-effective and highly successful at achieving academic and whole person outcomes for students in challenging circumstances. It’s wonderful to see this excellent intervention make a difference for young people in Ireland as well as in the United States.”