Brown says 92 percent of students the program has supported stay in school, get promoted and graduate. His goal for 2021 is to boost that percentage to 95. At the West End Academy, CIS site coordinator Lisa Wilson is working to make that happen by offering tutorials, job placement assistance, internships and help to teen parents.
“I work with girls on life and leadership skills and meet with them twice a month in school to talk about real-life issues,” said Wilson. “We have a partnership with Ebeneezer Church to do a life-skills session and some community service once a month. We get students experiences that will place them in jobs. And I am constantly going into the community looking for resources.”
One of those resources is the Hank Aaron Foundation that provides scholarships to students who need clothes for job interviews or a place to stay. West End Principal Evelyn Mobley calls CIS “merchants of hope.”
“They have resources I don’t,” she said. “They have helped students who tell me they don’t know where they’re going to sleep that night, they’ve paid utility bills, they’ve gotten students shelter during holidays. Removing barriers so our children can learn is a big deal and they do an awesome job.”
CIS’s impact has been measurable, Mobley adds. “We’ve seen a 4 to 5 percent increase in our graduation rate, so we’re moving the needle with students who would have been dropouts. It’s the coolest thing I’ve ever seen. “
Brown said the secret to CIS’s success works in every school situation. “We love on children to help them see that achieving educationally is the way to a better life.”
Information about the Communities in Schools program: communitiesinschools.org.