Growing Through the Changes

Just like in nature, community groups, school systems, and school communities grow in response to the environments around them. Sometimes schools are able to forecast changing needs and intentionally create new systems, and sometimes the environment forces change. School systems and communities have grown and changed based on new research, the experience of educators, and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath, and BELONG Partners has too.

Over the years we have grown and changed to be responsive to the communities we serve. We started out in our co-founder, Dr. Jody McVittie’s living room, and now we’re serving multiple schools and thousands of educators, students, and youth workers in the Pacific Northwest and beyond. 

What began as incremental changes culminated in so much growth, that we went through a rebranding process in 2023. Our name and visual identity was updated to represent the services we offered and the roles we carry in the community. BELONG stands for Building Equitable Learning Opportunities and Nurturing Growth, and we’ve nurtured our own growth as an organization to get to this point. Fear of change is normal, especially at a systems and organizational level. Our organization has always focused on relationships, and that culture helps us navigate these new spaces together.

Similar to identity development with students, organizations expand and grow through life stages and phases that are responsive to the environments around us. We’ve done that over the years, including:

  • adjusting professional development workshops to better fit our community’s needs,
  • changing data team processes to work towards equity in school discipline,
  • joining with community partners to learn and co-design new programs,
  • and designing a district model that allows us to increase our reach and impact.

At the time of our founding, the ACES study and its impact on young people was revolutionary, and now that study and its effects are common knowledge in the education field. Conversations about discipline are shifting as we collectively learn more about ACES, social emotional learning, and restorative discipline. More and more people understand that what we call misbehaviors are fruits of the environment young folks are in, rather than individual problems that need to be pushed out of school. With this cultural shift, our work and organizational identity continue to evolve and align with the new research and knowledge.

We are excited to share The Path to School Transformation, our updated Theory of Change, co-created with our evaluation partner Education Northwest. This document describes our responsive and innovative approach that leads to transformative outcomes, as well as the vision BELONG Partners has for a world where:

  • School culture transforms how adults and students experience school so that everyone feels safe, has a sense of belonging, and knows they matter.
  • Adults experience collective efficacy and a sense of purpose as a member of the school community.
  • Students thrive academically and socially and racial disparities shrink.

We invite you to continue learning and growing with us:

As cultural contexts grow and expand, we deepen our commitment to our purpose, allowing our branches to extend further, and make a more significant impact. We find inspiration in every educator, student, and community that has pushed through the discomfort of change to grow into a more authentic version of themselves.

Much gratitude to all who have stood by our side throughout our learning phases and changes. We deeply appreciate every person, school, and community that faces their fears and embraces growth.