Featured Community Sep 19

Belonging, affirming identities, and building connections: Transcend partner spotlight

Transcend’s Ali Picucci, a Senior Fellow focused on understanding the student experience.

The Partner Spotlight blog series highlights an organization that has been instrumental in the research, development, and content creation of Along. This month, we are focusing on Transcend, an organization that supports school communities to create and spread extraordinary, equitable learning environments. Along spoke to Transcend’s Ali Picucci, a Senior Fellow focused on understanding the student experience. 

Can you share a bit about your background and what brought you to Transcend?

I started my research career trying to determine how successful community-based organizations (CBOs) attracted, retained, and helped youth whom society marginalized to thrive. This experience, while inspiring, also made me realize youth participate in these CBOs a fraction of their time and most of their time is spent in schools. I then pivoted my focus to thinking about how communities can improve schools to work for all students.

Transcend’s mission was a bold and optimistic departure from experiences I had across national non-profits focused on supporting all students by making incremental changes to schools and schooling. Their focus on transforming education resonated with me as what our country needs to see all students thrive socially and academically.   

What are you most proud about in your work at Transcend?

I think our collective efforts to create a tool to help educators better understand how students experience school has been a game changer for our partners and the field. Our Leaps Student Voice Survey is flexible, valid, open-source, and provides an entry point for critical conversations and building relationships. Being a part of the team that created and supports this public good is satisfying because I get to consistently see and hear the value it brings to students. 

What would schools look like if classrooms were equitable?

What I want for my kids, and all kids, is for them to feel valued, safe, and capable. For every student to have the confidence to tackle anything requires schools, classrooms, and educators to center the needs of students, affirm who they are, expect the most from them, and differentiate the support each student requires to meet expectations. And, all of this should take place in an environment that builds respect and fosters connections with others. 

Tell me about how Transcend worked with Along. 

We were able to collaborate on what content could be added from our Leaps Student Voice Survey that could address areas of belonging, affirming identities, and building connections. Additionally, we thought about what it might look like to pilot different options and more choices for how educators could meet their students’ needs through better understanding them. For example, in some instances, Along provides educators with open-ended questions they can pose with students to start a conversation and learn more. By adding the option of multiple choice questions, it might provide educators additional options to collect information from a large number of students quickly as a diagnostic to help educators focus on where to start conversations. Additionally, we’re partnering with Along to think about what tools would help students and educators know if practices and strategies they’re testing, like a specific pedagogical approach, are working and improving experiences and learning for all students. 

How do you look at Along as a benefit to educators and students?

A consistent body of research confirms that a single positive adult relationship can be a protective factor and mitigate the impact of adverse life experiences for youth. The goal of Along is to accelerate building authentic relationships between teachers and students so students feel valued and safe. Schools have many data points about academics, attendance, and behavior—and very few, if any, about on-going well-being. Along provides educators access to the data they need to build connections with their students. 


For more information about Along’s partners, please read this blog. And visit the Transcend website to learn more about the amazing work they are doing to enable learners to realize their infinite potential.


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