Eliminating Barriers to Success for At-Risk Kids
ProUnitas was founded by Adeeb Barqawi, a teacher at Kashmere High School in the Houston Independent School District (HISD). He noticed how many capable students were struggling to reach their potential due to non-academic barriers such as food insecurity and mental health issues. Counselors and social workers relied on paper-based methods to receive referrals, case manage, and connect students to mental health and social services. It took a long time for a student to get connected, and these labor-intensive processes contributed to school staff burn-out; they also consumed teacher time that could have been spent focused on students and their academic progress.
The nonprofit ProUnitas was formed to provide school districts with an alternative — the PurpleSENSE platform, which runs on Salesforce — and comprehensive coaching to build and sustain the best student support teams. The accessibility and scalability of Salesforce has allowed ProUnitas’s small staff to roll out the PurpleSENSE platform to 440 schools.
2M+connections to services facilitated by PurpleSENSE
60%decrease in student support staff administrative work
30 hoursper week of ProUnitas staff time saved
Streamlining Delivery of Assistance and Social Services to Students
The ProUnitas team, as former teachers in Houston schools, understood that the students living in poverty needed more coordinated services. As a city, Houston was resource-rich but system-poor.
School counselors and social workers were overwhelmed, trying to support so many students. Too much of teachers’ time and energy was being spent trying to figure out how to help students who were having problems. With luck, a student’s struggles were noticed and addressed before the situation became severe and derailed their academic progress. But the ProUnitas team wasn’t satisfied with letting it come down to luck. They decided to build a better infrastructure.
The PurpleSENSE platform was designed to serve as a school district’s student support system. It needed to keep sensitive student data secure, in compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). And support staff needed to be able to draw useful insights and actionable steps from PurpleSENSE on how to best support their students — for example, receiving an alert when a student needed help, triggered by key indicators.
“Passion alone can’t run a business or a nonprofit. It really comes down to the systems that are in place. Salesforce is core to our work. It keeps us organized; it helps us understand what we need to do to serve our counselors, who then serve kids.” Albert Wei, Chief Innovation OfficerProUnitas
A Tech Platform for Student Support Departments, Built on Salesforce
Starting with ten donated subscriptions through the Power of Us program, ProUnitas built a version of PurpleSENSE running on Salesforce in 2017. HISD initially contracted with ProUnitas to support six underserved schools. The heart of the HISD instance of PurpleSENSE is Sales Cloud, the original Salesforce customer relationship management (CRM) system.
In this case, what’s being managed is the relationship between each student and their school and school district. PurpleSENSE allows support staff to follow up with students on their attendance, behavior, and grades in class. Added to that data is information that teachers, parents, and students themselves submit via the online Student Assistance Form (“SAF”), showing when students need mental health care, or help with food or housing insecurity, to name a few common requests.
At each school, counselors and social workers access information on their students through the school’s PurpleSENSE portal, which runs on Experience Cloud. Dashboards and visualizations help them assess students’ status quickly and prioritize those who need urgent support. When a student need is identified, support staff use PurpleSENSE to identify an appropriate resource — community organizations, nonprofits, and in-house district providers are listed as different account types. An integrated referral system streamlines the process of connecting the student to the right resources.
“Salesforce allows us to be nimble and agile in ensuring that student support teams in underserved schools have what they need to care for students in a more coordinated way,” said Adeeb Barqawi, president & CEO of ProUnitas. “It has allowed us to help schools reimagine how students and families can access mental health and social services.”
Salesforce Empowers the Small Team at ProUnitas To Do More
Meanwhile, ProUnitas runs its business operations on its own instance of Salesforce. When school and district staff need assistance using PurpleSENSE, their requests are managed using Service Cloud, with help from an Einstein Bots chatbot.
The development team uses tools built into Nonprofit Cloud and Nonprofit Success Pack (NPSP) to manage donor engagement and its grant applications. Individual donations come in through the ProUnitas website via the Give Lively app. ProUnitas estimates that using Salesforce and well-integrated applications saves its team 30 hours a week, particularly in documenting their work and sharing it with relevant stakeholders.
Harnessing the Power of Analytics and Workflows, for Growth and Impact
Some 440 schools now use PurpleSENSE, most of them in the Greater Houston region. As PurpleSENSE has expanded into new school districts, ProUnitas has found launching additional instances of the platform a relatively smooth process.
The nonprofit is using Tableau CRM (formerly Einstein Analytics) to understand user engagement — for example, do the majority of teachers at a specific school submit SAFs or only a few? A school district can aggregate its data to quantify how many interventions are happening overall or analyze where demand for specific services is highest. Tableau is also used to map student needs by geographic area.
Recently ProUnitas has partnered with VRP, an Impact Partner for Nonprofits. An outsourced team of five techs from VRP augments ProUnitas’s staff of eight full-time employees. Together they are redesigning the PurpleSENSE user interface and building out workflows for increased efficiency.
Efficiency will be key as the nonprofit’s reach continues to grow. More widespread adoption of PurpleSENSE allows more continuity of care, Wei said. For students whose families move frequently, it lowers the risk that they might fall between the cracks at a new school.
Growth isn’t ProUnitas’s only goal, though. Wei said the nonprofit hopes to raise the bar for schools nationwide. “We want to be the gold standard for what it means for a student support department to truly serve kids with clarity, with process, and with equity,” he said. “At the end of the day, we want to make sure that kids are given access to those supports.”
ProUnitas is a Houston-based nonprofit that helps school districts improve how students living in poverty access mental, health, and social resources, by harnessing the power of technology and human connection.