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I had a student who had no housing. He had no transportation, little food or clothing. Different agencies that we found through community schools helped with emergency housing, clothing and food. Community schools even found him transportation home after school until 5 o'clock. With this help, we were able to continue this student’s education and find him a program that worked.



Massena High School

AFT Programs that Help Educators and Students Thrive

AFT Innovation Fund


The AFT Innovation Fund is a signature grant program that celebrates our members’ amazing talent and creativity, and understands that their day-to-day experiences in the classroom and with their communities make them ideally suited to plan and implement new strategies and projects designed to strengthen public education and improve outcomes for all. This is another way the AFT champions the principle that educators’ voices and experiences must inform strategy and decision-making processes at the school and district levels.


  • $14.5 million in investments since 2009.

  • 35 mini-grants awarded between March 2020 and March 2021 to support pandemic-related needs 

Community Schools Strategy

The Community Schools Strategy
is a collaborative and effective vehicle for increasing educational equity, using the public schools to weave together community partners to provide the services and supports that students and their families need. Community schools purposefully partner with food banks, social service agencies, businesses, higher education institutions, health clinics and youth organizations, typically under the guidance of a site coordinator. By meeting those needs, community schools make it possible for educators to do what they do best, which is to teach, and for students to learn and reach their full potential.


AFT has consistently advocated for the community school strategy and, in collaboration with other national partners, has supported our local affiliates in designing and implementing them. We have supported dozens of locals in working with their school districts and communities in creating nearly 900 schools.


Over the years, community school Wolfe Street has developed strong partnerships with families and community partners. So when a few undocumented parents who worked in Baltimore restaurants were let go from their jobs due to the pandemic, they turned to their Wolfe Street’s community schools coordinator, Leah Beachley, for assistance. She helped them fill out applications for food benefits and look for other sources of economic relief to help pay bills.


The school's local community group, the Upper Fells Point Improvement Association, also collected donations to ensure families could continue getting the weekly fresh produce they were receiving before the pandemic. What had been a school pickup for 25 families became a delivery to 100 families in the neighborhood, organized with the help of volunteers. None of this would have been possible without the community school.


Teacher Leaders


One of AFT’s signature efforts is the Teacher Leaders Program, which is designed to provide a collaborative structure to elevate teachers' leadership skills beyond the walls of their classroom into something that can have a transformative effect on students and schools.


The yearlong program identifies and brings together a group of AFT teacher members to learn how to take active leadership roles in their schools, unions and communities. Participants examine policy, conduct research, talk to policymakers, and engage in public speaking and advocacy efforts. At the end of the year, they participate in a showcase to share the research they’ve done and develop recommendations for local policymakers based on the data they’ve collected.


Mona Al-Hayani, a teacher from Toledo, Ohio, and vice-president of the Toledo Federation of Teachers, used the action research and advocacy skills she developed in the program to address the problem of human trafficking. She recognized a need and became a school leader, developing a districtwide practitioner training focused on awareness and mitigation of human trafficking. This training will have long-lasting effects for her school and community.

  • 1,500+ members have participated in the Teacher Leaders Program since its inception.

  • 37 locals have participated in the Teacher Leaders Program over the last 10 years, representing all five of the AFT’s regions.

I felt reinvigorated by my research topic. I felt so grateful that this was an opportunity to spend time on what makes me excited about teaching....It also felt great to be surrounded by colleagues who were as equally motivated to learn from each other and together about topics that affect our work.


Edith Corrales

ABC Federation of Teachers

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