Communities in Schools of the Midlands History 

In the 1960’s, in an effort to help young people have a chance at success in life, Bill Milliken, founder of Communities In Schools, started the Young Life Street Ministry in New York City. The street ministry that initially took place on basketball courts was soon after moved to storefronts where GED and other supports for kids to succeed were provided.   In 1977 “Cities in Schools” was created and Milliken began work inside school systems.  A year later the Department of Education provides federal funding for Cities in Schools on a national level.   The success of Cities in Schools prompted the organization to include rural areas, and in 1996 Cities in Schools became “Communities In Schools”.  The expansion included bringing community resources inside public schools where they could be accessible, coordinated and accountable.  

Milliken who once said, “It’s relationships, not programs that change children” is still actively involved with Communities In Schools National.  He still contends that, “A great program simply creates the environment for healthy relationships to form between adults and children. Young people thrive when adults care about them on a one-to-one level, and when they also have a sense of belonging to a caring community”. 

By 2015 there were 1,482,792 students being served across the country.  2017 marked the 40th year anniversary of the organization.  During the celebration Milliken noted that “Since the founding of Communities In Schools 40 years ago, we have had one foundational commandment: Keep our eyes focused on the kids.  From that commandment a stream of accomplishments and milestones continues to grow.” 

Today, Communities In Schools network operates in 25 states and the District of Columbia, and serves 1.56 million students through a federation of 137 organizations including state offices and licensed partners. 

Communities In Schools of the Midlands is an affiliate of Communities In Schools National.  The start of CIS of the Midlands dates back to 1986 when a collaboration consisting of the Junior League, the SC Department of Social Services, the Department of Juvenile Justice, Richland School District One and the Solicitor’s Office joined together to address the dropout epidemic in the Midlands.  During this time, several members of the group who were familiar with Cities in Schools of Atlanta suggested the concept be brought to Columbia. In January of 1987, the Richland One School Board approved a feasibility study for the project. That spring, the Junior League Board approved a motion to fund a Project Director position to start building the foundation for Cities in Schools-Columbia. 

In May of 1987, Richland County School District One approved its first partnership with “Cities in Schools” that lead to the first Cities in Schools-Columbia sites.  To expand its reach to schools the organization partnered with Epworth Children’s Home and the Department of Juvenile Justice in 1991, serving students in grades k-8 and 6-12 respectively.  Those partnerships were the foundation of what developed into a succession of partnerships with schools to help improve the graduation rate of students in the Midlands.

Anti-Bullying Campaign

We know that middle school can be a tough time for adolescents. During these years, bullying is a major concern for school officials and a source of anxiety for many school children. 

The “Speak Out! Against Bullying” Writing and presentation program is a Tier-1 initiatives that focuses on creating a climate of goodwill within the building while effectively aligning with the school’s emphasis on literacy. 

In one middle school, Dr. Claudia Aldamuy, CIS Site Coordinator at St. Andrews Middle School, developed a school-wide initiative to address the bullying issue in schools.   

Early in the school year students were challenged to write a one-page literary piece about bullying. They have the option to write an essay, poem, or rap expressing their feelings about the bullying issue and may write from the victim, bystander, or even bully’s perspective. 

Each student entry is read and approximately thirty finalists (10 in each category) are selected to present their written work to a panel of judges at the “Speak Out!” competition on December 5, 2019. 

For approximately 6-weeks , the finalists meet with Mr.s Aldamuy to discuss the bullying problem, view PSAs about bullying, improve their writing, and develop their presentation style. 

To stay in the competition, the students must take a pledge to not bully and to become ambassadors of goodwill in the building. Getting them to the finish line is not an easy task as many students have never presented in front of an audience and for some, resisting the urge to respond to bullying can be difficult. Nevertheless, they ultimately overcome their stage fright and successfully complete the program only to impress the judges, their parents, and mostly themselves. All students are rewarded for their efforts regardless of where they place in the competition. 

In addition to the Speak Out! Ribbon, each student receives a framed certificate and a participation medallion is hung around each contestant’s neck. Trophies are awarded for first, second and third place and the top winner in each category receives a special grand prize. In past years, the first-place winner received a laptop computer donated by a dedicated community partner. This year will mark the sixth annual Speak Out! Against Bullying showcase.

Arkell Moves In To College

Arkell Johnson recently moved into his first college dorm at the University of South Carolina-Salkehatchie with help from his mother, Aretha Green, and site coordinators, Claudia Aldamuy and Jamila Green. 

Arkell is attending University of South Carolina-Salkehatchie to receive a bachelor’s degree and play soccer for the school. He is a recipient of the Bobby J. Jacobs Jr., “Turn Your Life Around” Fund managed by the Central Carolina Community Foundation, the Rhitte Gettone “Leading By Example” Scholarship and the Dorian Mendez-Vaz Leadership Scholarship. His hard work in the classroom is not unnoticed and it is exciting to see his ambition to further his education.

Arkell has been a participant in the Communities In Schools dropout prevention program for six years. Site coordinators, Susan Key and Claudia Aldamuy, have known Arkell blossom into the hardworking, disciplined, and creative student he truly is.

“Arkell opened up socially and emotionally throughout his high school experience, which makes me excited about his career in college.” Jamila Green, Columbia High School (CHS) site coordinator said. Chess Club was an opportunity to open new doors to  Arkell, where he played along with CISM peer Chris Shells.

Arkell is not only receiving a normal college experience, but is excelling in all areas as a student. His mother noticed the additional resources provided for students like Arkell, where he now has a wallet to put his USC student ID in. 

Arkell is one of 20 Columbia High School graduates who are going to seek future education through college, technical school, military, or immediate career paths. This is just the beginning of Arkell’s career and a great moment of achievement.

Site Coordinators Prepare for 2019-2020 School Year

Communities In Schools of the Midland’s Site Coordinators have been in the office these past couple of weeks working hard to prepare for the upcoming school year. The back to school season is an exciting yet challenging time in a young student’s life. Our Site Coordinators do a fantastic job at ensuring CISM students are connected to the resources and tools they need to succeed and stay in school. 

Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @cis_midlands to stay up to date on our community involvement

March Madness of the Midlands

On March 8th, Communities In Schools  of the Midlands hosted the Saints VS. Heroes basketball game, at St. Andrews Middle School in Columbia, SC. 

The purpose of this in-school event is to have our young men spend time with the local police officers who protect our communities. Our goal is to build community relations with the local police department.  After the game, the bonding continued over lunch. 

Claudia Aldamuy, CIS Site Coordinated states, “CIS of the Midlands creates pathways to help the youth referred to our program see the value in relationships with caring adults. In turn, we meet the non-academic needs our children crave to be more confident in their ability to perform academically and make wise choices in life.”  

At Communities In Schools, we amplify the power of each student’s potential by connecting them to caring adults and community resources designed to help them succeed. By being in school every day, we support them in ways that go beyond the classroom. Across communities, we build lasting relationships—businesses, volunteers, agencies, healthcare providers and educators—to help students stay focused today, so they can go further tomorrow.

To learn more about our Site Schools and partnerships contact Latasha Taste-Walker, Director of Development ltwalker@cism.org.