Wayfinder Blog

Wayfinder Impact at Neighborhood House Charter School

1 May

At Neighborhood House Charter School (NHCS), community comes first. This guiding principle permeates every aspect of their approach to education, with a strong emphasis on creating a supportive and inclusive environment for all students.

Watch the video from Neighborhood House Charter School!


NHCS operates around the principle, “We are greater than the sum of our parts.” They believe that everyone in the school is better able to flourish when the community is strong and supportive. 

Central to NHCS’s mission of building a community of belonging is combining rich, structured learning with extensive social-emotional programming to guide students toward post-secondary education and lifelong success. Wayfinder plays a critical role in this mission, supporting relationship-building and emotional well-being among students and staff. Wayfinder aligns seamlessly with NHCS's core values, placing a strong emphasis on ensuring students feel they belong and are supported from their very first day at school. From their mission statements to their activities, NHCS and Wayfinder demonstrate a shared commitment to whole-student learning and development. 

Create a Safe + Supportive Environment

NHCS and Wayfinder recognize just how important it is to address the emotional needs of students as they make efforts toward academic recovery in the wake of the pandemic. At NHCS, educators understand that their students require more than just academic support in order to achieve success in the classroom. To create an environment in which students can perform, they recognize that they first need to ensure that students feel safe, nurtured, and supported.

As NHCS’s Partner Success Manager Zach Baquet says, “Academic rigor requires a level of vulnerability—requires a level of relationship building—that has to be explicit.”

View of the Burden Backpack Activity from the Wayfinder Activity Library.

Burden Backpack Activity


One favorite activity among classrooms at NHCS is called Burden Backpack. This activity encourages students to identify their worries and stressors, share as they feel comfortable, and imagine the impact of removing that stressor could make in school and in their lives more broadly. Through this exercise, educators acknowledge that academic success is not solely about completing schoolwork. They demonstrate empathy for their students as individuals and help ensure that everyone has what they need to perform at their best. By engaging in activities like Burden Backpack, students are reminded that they are not alone in their struggles and that they have options and resources available to them to help them when they are struggling. 

Address Emotional Well-Being

Seventh grade student Jada says, “At NHCS, it’s not just schoolwork, schoolwork, schoolwork. Our thoughts matter. Our feelings matter.” 

Implementing Wayfinder has allowed NHCS to create this supportive environment for its students. By explicitly addressing students' emotional well-being and building strong relationships, NHCS is crafting an environment where academic rigor can thrive. Teachers have embraced Wayfinder's curriculum and activities, recognizing the positive impact they have on student engagement and well-being.

One of the key benefits of Wayfinder is its ability to facilitate meaningful connections among students. Through various activities and lessons, students have the opportunity to learn about each other's backgrounds, interests, and struggles, giving them multiple chances to connect over commonalities and build empathy for differences. The community and understanding NHCS has been able to build through Wayfinder has translated into tangible improvements in student behavior, social skills, and academic performance.

Social studies teacher Seraj Sidibe speaks to the long-term impact Wayfinder has had: “Activities from Wayfinder allowed everyone to know each other, know each other’s backgrounds, know what made each other tick. And that’s something that’s really paid dividends throughout the course of the school year.” 

Increase Confidence + Improve Academic Success

Students themselves attest to the transformative power of Wayfinder. Many have found a sense of belonging and acceptance within their school community, leading to increased confidence, improved grades, and a willingness to take academic risks. 

Sixth grade student Brielle has noticed how Wayfinder has helped her find her place at NHCS. She says, “I’ve grown since [last year]. I’ve learned how to be more social, got better grades, and I'm just a better student in general.” 

Ultimately, by prioritizing students' social and emotional needs, NHCS has succeeded in creating an environment where every student feels valued and supported. The success of Wayfinder at NHCS is a testament to the school's unwavering commitment to its students' holistic development. By prioritizing community and emotional well-being, NHCS is not only preparing students for academic success but also equipping them with the skills and resilience needed to navigate the challenges of the world beyond the classroom. Thanks in part to the transformative power of Wayfinder, NHCS is truly shaping communities of belonging from campus outward, one relationship at a time.