Closing the Gap between Schools and Community: University/Community Collaboration Addresses Identified Barriers to Student Learning


  • Kate Roelecke, MPH, CHW, CYC-P Marion County Commission on Youth
  • Jim Grim, MA IUPUI
  • Silvia Garcia, PhD IUPUI



Collaboration, community engagement, Trauma- Responsive, Partnership, Whole Child


Two different community-engaged groups in Indianapolis, Indiana recommended trauma-responsive school communities to address barriers to student learning. Before merging their work, both groups represented collaborations of university academics; K-12 educators; dental, mental, and basic health providers; service organizations; youth development specialists; and public school parents. The conclusions from their work were clear: address the social/ emotional and mental health, trauma and violence, chronic absenteeism, and social media distractions of students or fail to impact learning and youth development success. Central to the conclusions was the collaborative nature of the community-engaged studies, input from the field, and survey respondent discussions and analysis of what the findings really meant. A culminating report, Closing the Gap between School & Community Partnerships: An assessment of schools in Indianapolis, recommends adopting whole-child approaches, strength-based family engagement, community school models, and increased public school funding to address the barriers identified from survey responses of 354 educators throughout the city of Indianapolis. This paper focuses on how the collaborative, community-engaged process led to the report findings and recommendations.

Author Biographies

Kate Roelecke, MPH, CHW, CYC-P, Marion County Commission on Youth

Director of Strategy & Operations, Marion County Commission on Youth (MCCOY)

Jim Grim, MA, IUPUI

Director of University/Community School Partnerships, Office of Community Engagement, IUPUI

Silvia Garcia, PhD, IUPUI

Director of Research and Assessment, Office of Community Engagement, IUPUI






Community-Engaged Research Articles