After months of outreach, beta tests and coordination, Central Michigan University alumna Sue Li launched the online platform she designed for Boston Public Schools districtwide in June.
The platform — PartnerBPS — is a website and database that connects underresourced schools to community and nonprofit partnerships. It is designed to help public schools in the city have access to programs for children — ranging from academic support and college readiness to social, emotional and behavioral health.
"One of the biggest issues we are tackling is equity," Li said. "There are 2,200 school partnerships in the city. The ultimate goal is to assess partners and ensure equitable access for schools."
By the end of June, Li said more than 60 percent of partners had completed the registration process. She hopes to have all of the partners within the system by the time school begins in the fall.
Li began building and testing the online platform utilized by the Boston Public Schools system in 2015 as an AmeriCorp VISTA volunteer. She then was hired by the Boston Public Schools' Office of School-Community Partnerships.
"This online platform will allow Boston Public Schools' partner organizations to share important information regarding the programs, initiatives and support they provide," Li said. "In turn, BPS schools will have improved and more equitable access to a database of partner information that can benefit their students and families."
The Boston Public Schools system, the oldest public school system in the U.S., has more than 125 schools. Li said connecting school-community partnerships to underresourced schools through PartnerBPS can help provide programs and initiatives that support impoverished students, families and communities.
Li said this access will help close the opportunity gap affecting students and families living in poverty in Boston and give parents the information they need to make more informed decisions regarding their child's education.
A Chippewa who gives back
Li said she discovered her passion for helping people during her time at CMU.
"Reflecting on all of my extracurricular involvements at CMU, I realized that I had spent more and more time volunteering and developing my fellow students and residents than anything else," Li recently wrote in a blog post for AmeriCorps' alums. "My dream to be a pharmacist faded away. I did not want to spend all my time in the lab or doing research. I wanted to make a difference."
In addition to serving as a Wheeler Hall resident assistant and a campus ambassador, Li also was active in the Leadership Institute, First Year Experience, Circle K International and the Mary Ellen Brandell Volunteer Center. She also completed a semester of the Disney College Program at both Walt Disney World and Disneyland California.
"I was really involved at CMU, and it empowered me to see students change through service and mentoring," Li, who graduated with a bachelor's degree in biochemistry, said. "What I gained the most at CMU were the connections."
Li discovered her desire to be a role model to children after her experience in guest relations at Walt Disney World.
"If I really wanted to change lives, I wanted to start with kids," Li said.
In Boston, Li has continued to give back by working with school leaders and partner organizations to support green initiatives, tutoring and mentoring throughout the district. Through partnerships with more than 10 volunteer mobilizers, Boston Public Schools leveraged 4,500 volunteers who completed 23,000 volunteer hours last last school year, Li said.