Canastota officially becomes Connected Community School

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CANASTOTA — Canastota Central School District (CCSD) is the latest area district to officially become a Connected Community school.

While Connected Community Schools (CCS) has been a part of the district since March, a ribbon cutting held at the school's auditorium on Friday officially commemorated the achievement.

"Everyday when we come to work, we want to have our students have a second to none opportunity. And we want our families to say, you know what, our kids are going to a great school," Superintendent Shawn Bissetta said at the ceremony. "Today is about taking an important step of backing up our words with productive, positive action."

Through CCS —which provides a network of support for needs such as food, hygiene items, clothing, social services, and more— students are better able to thrive after having more of their needs met.

"If a student doesn't have hope, doesn't have the idea that they can take advantage of opportunities, then it's not going to help us. Being a partner with Connected Community Schools means that we now have the opportunity, more than ever, to give our students and our families a sense of hope," Bissetta said.

"Whether the issue is access to healthcare, or not enough food in the home, or a lack of transportation to get to an important medical appointment, whatever the case may be...Connected Community Schools is now a source for us to work with, another layer that's going to allow us to address some of these challenges," Bissetta stated.

Canastota School Board President and Canastota alumni Loran Crosby remarked, "The school has a lot more things to do these days than just provide education for our young adults." CCS will help fill that role, he said.

CCS's supportive network involves the organization's staff, the community itself, along with other Connected Community schools. Collectively, CCS serves 20,000 students across 13 different school districts.

"We're just here to help" in whatever way is needed, explained Melissa Roys, CCS executive director. She said her experience has shown that when it comes to crossing the finish line at graduation, students often aren't struggling because the academics are too hard, they're struggling because everything else in life is too hard. "We make sure that you have your basic needs met. And then on top of that, we have this wonderful team who is just going to make it fun," Roys added.

CCS has hubs in each of Canastota's school buildings, each serving as a station for students to receive material and social support at no cost.

Since becoming incorporated into the CCS network over the last few months, officials are already noticing a difference. Monthly reports have also given officials an overview of which services are needed most, Bissetta said.

"We knew that it would have a big impact, but I think it's even already bigger than what we had anticipated," Bissetta shared. "[CCS] brings such a wealth, a vast network of resources, that whatever the issue, we have more support and all these new layers of intervention to help certainly the students, but I think what's lost sometimes is the importance of the impact of helping our teachers."

Often, it is teachers and staff that do their best to fill in the gaps in students' lives. "We really strive to take the lift off of the people who have been attempting for years to do everything," Roys stated.

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