COLONIAL LIFE AND COMMUNITIES IN SCHOOLS OF THE MIDLANDS PARTNER TO LAUNCH MENTORING AND WORKFORCE READINESS INITIATIVES

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

September 2, 2020

Contact: Latasha Taste-Walker (ltwalker@cism.org), 803.414.8409

COLUMBIA, SC – Employee benefits provider Colonial Life, will partner with Communities In Schools of the Midlands (CISM) to promote workforce readiness for high school students in Richland County. Colonial Life awarded the organization with a $20,000 grant to increase employability skills in racially diverse students by way of the CISM College and Career Readiness Program for students at Columbia High School.

Columbia High is currently the only public high school site in the Communities In Schools of the Midlands Network. The organization places a full-time Site Coordinator in the school to take hold of the community and schools’ relationship, and advocate for disadvantaged, marginalized, or struggling students. Colonial Life employees will mentor to provide an opportunity for the community to reinvest in youth. This partnership aims to provide a more promising outlook for students of color in higher education, career opportunities and professional development.  

“When we started building a philanthropic relationship with Colonial Life, we realized instantly their clear vision to improve the environment of students in underrepresented communities,” said Latasha Taste-Walker, Director of Development and Community Relations. “The partnership with Colonial Life is meaningful to us and creates a pathway for Communities In Schools to go beyond the standard of satisfying the requirements of on-time graduation.”

“The Communities In Schools organization is doing great work in the Midlands to serve students from a variety of backgrounds, and Colonial Life is proud to partner with them,” said Alana Stroker, with Colonial Life’s Corporate Social Responsibility team. “We look forward to working with CISM to support our community and its educational needs.”

To learn more about Communities In Schools of the Midlands visit www.cism.org.

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About Colonial Life

Colonial Life offers critical support to America’s workers and their families when the unexpected happens. The company is a market leader in benefits education and delivery, innovative enrollment technology and customer experience. Colonial Life provides disability, life, accident, critical illness, cancer, dental and vision benefits that protect millions of customers and their families. For more information, connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Colonial Life is a registered trademark and marketing brand of Colonial Life & Accident Insurance Company.

About Communities in Schools of the Midlands

Communities In Schools of the Midlands is a part of the nation’s largest and most effective dropout prevention organization, dedicated to doing whatever it takes to help students succeed in school and achieve in life. The program provides supports seven schools within Lexington and Richland Counties and the South Carolina Juvenile Justice Department serving nearly 3,500 young people and families each year. Based directly inside of schools throughout the Midlands, Communities In Schools of the Midlands connects students and their families to basic and critical educational and community-based resources, tailored to each student’s specific needs. Learn more about Communities In Schools of the Midlands at www.cism.org

Communities In Schools of the Midlands celebrates Black Philanthropy Month on 8/28

Tanika Diane Epps is fourth to lead the national dropout prevention organization Communities In Schools of the Midlands and the second woman of color to serve as Chief Executive Officer. Epps was appointed CEO in 2019 prior to her roles as Interim CEO and Program Director.

Its no secret that Tanika faced some unprecedented events in her first year as CEO of the organization, notably strengthening partnerships with school districts, state agencies, and local municipalities during COVID-19. In uncertain times Tanika remembers the encouraging words her parents the late Pastor James, Sr. and Karen Epps told her at an early age growing up in a rural area community. In her adolescence years she experienced her own personal struggles. Her parents often reminded her that nothing was impossible to do. When someone told her no, she was determined to turn that no its a YES.

This model still follows her today.

Tanika pictured with her parents, the late Pastor Walter. Sr. and Karen Epps and older brother.

Tanika’s determination from an early age led her to accomplish major milestones to include graduating from Lake City High School, earning a Bachelor of Arts in Music from Columbia College, and Master of Business Administration from University of Phoenix.

Epps in high school posing with siblings James r, Jr. and Susan

Prior to joining as CEO, Epps spent the past 10 years building her career at Boys and Girls Club of the Midlands. The experience she gained as an AmeriCorps Member with City Year was the job that changed her career path. Her passion for educating children and youth grew even stronger. Tanika was determined to make a difference in the lives of black and brown students that looked like her growing up in Lake City, South Carolina.

AmeriCorps Member, City Year
Boys and Girls Club of the Midlands

Epps pays tribute to her predecessors, Rick Noble, Joan Hoffman, Terry Linder, and the beloved Dorian Mendez-Vaz all once profound leaders of fulfilling the mission of Communities In Schools of the Midlands: To surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. To make a donation to Communities In Schools of the Midlands in celebration of black-led nonprofits and philanthropist on August 28th, visit their profile on https://www.give828.org

Central Carolina Community Foundation is a sponsor for Give 8/28 and a foundation partner for Communities In Schools of the Midlands philanthropic initiatives.

All Summer Long, Affiliates across the US have been All In For Kids | Published by Communities In Schools® (CIS) Aug. 7, 2020

Schools are the heart of every community. When they closed, it disrupted student learning and cut kids off from basic supports like meals, clothing, housing assistance, and medical care. It also separated students from the caring adults inside schools who supported their emotional well-being.

But while schools were out of session, Communities In Schools remained hard at work. 

Throughout the summer, our CIS affiliates have been connecting our students with resources, reengaging them in learning, and helping them recover from the emotional trauma over the last several months.

Now as schools begin to reopen – whether in person or virtual – we’ll still be there, by their side, helping them realize their full potential.   

All Summer Long

We’ve Been All In For Kids

JACKSONVILLE

sample photoVirtual Camps

This summer, CIS of Jacksonville helped their GEAR UP Virtual Camp students learn about app development.They brainstormed ideas, designed, and built their creative mobile apps virtually.

CHICAGO 

sample photoArt Activities

This summer, CIS of Chicago students looked forward to getting their art supply drop off and art club packet of “Color Outside of the Lines” workshop materials.

WASHINGTON STATE

sample photoMobile Market Drive-Thru

CIS of Benton-Franklin partnered with a local business to host four Mobile Market drive-thru events for transit riders throughout the summer.

GEORGIA

sample photoBack-To-School Backpacks

CIS of Henry County partnered with Gewel Richardson and Friends to provide 168 backpacks for students in need of school supplies.

TEXAS

sample photo

Supply Drives

CIS of San Antonio is currently hosting a Stuff the Bus School Supply Drive to raise $300,000 to purchase school supplies, uniforms, and technology for students this school year.

NEVADA

Meal Deliveries
sample photo

CIS of Nevada partnered with the Deliver with Dignity program to provide 100,000 free meals to numerous CIS families in Las Vegas and Reno.

WASHINGTON
                                                                                                                            
Food Distributionsample photo

CIS of Spokane County partnered with several local businesses and the police department to distribute food to students and their families.

To learn more about the CIS network visit our affiliate page at www.cism.org.

Communities In Schools of the Midlands Recipient of Multiplying Good One in a Million Award

Communities in Schools of the Midlands are recipients of the Multiplying Good One in a Million Award in recognition of their generous, kind, and heroic services to others.

When schools closed, Communities In Schools of the Midlands jumped right in to help school sites get learning packets to students. Employees delivered work packets, called parents to assist students with getting the work done and returned packets back to the schools. Our team of Site Coordinators were on the front lines delivering school supplies, cleaning and hygiene items, and emergency food to families in need.

The team also facilitated virtual meetings with students and parents to provide social and emotional support and created a Facebook web page full of resources for parents to help them navigate during this challenging time. With the ongoing help of our community partners, CISM provides snack packages and activities for children and youth as well as created a emergency funds for parents to purchase additional items they need due to job and loss of wages. The organization also received over 1,000 diapers from a local diaper bank Power in Changing, for teen parents enrolled in their high school dropout prevention program services.

Going above and beyond, the CISM staff also volunteers to assist with meal distribution and supplies for local school districts and other charitable organizations in the Midlands that serve the same population.

From the Multiplying Good One in a Million team, “Thank you for all you do!! You are truly #oneinamillion!!”

On behalf of the team at CISM, we are truly honored and thankful to be a recipient of such an distinguished award. Our team see families and students as if they were apart of their own families. We are fortunate to have the capacity, resources and support of the community to meet the needs of vulnerable populations.

To view the featured story visit www.oneinamillion.multiplyinggood.org

#Allinforkids #multiplyinggood #celebrategood

CEO of Communities In Schools of the Midlands Responds to School Reopening Plans

For 32 years Communities In Schools of the Midlands (CISM) has supported students and families through hardships and uncertainty. During the unprecedented time we are experiencing with the COVID-19 pandemic, CISM is even more committed to ensuring that the needs of our most vulnerable population is met.

We understand that this is a difficult time for our communities and stand in support of our school district leaders as they work tirelessly to create a plan to safely integrate our students back into the classrooms. Our staff will continue to participate in community discussions and serve on district committees to advocate and ensure that the voices of our students and families are heard. 

With Hope,
Tanika D. Epps 

Communities In Schools ® National President Rey Saldaña Responds to National Learning Loss in USA Today Article

Coronavirus Has Changed School Forever, Let’s Make It An Improvement

As an unprecedented academic year grinds to an end, with schools shuttered and millions of children learning remotely in every state, education leaders face the daunting task of preparing for a fall reopening with no end to the pandemic in sight. Back to school will not be back to normal. But neither should it be a return to business as usual. Arne Duncan and Rey Saldaña shared this story in their opinion article in a recent USA Today article.

photo credits: Communities In Schools ®

As Rey and Arne write, as we embark on our nationwide effort to reenter school buildings, we must determine not just how far apart desks need to be, whether attendance should be staggered, and how often to sanitize facilities. We must also ask how we can build an education system that gives every child in every U.S. community the opportunity to learn and succeed. A system better than the one we left behind in the time before COVID-19 and before George Floyd’s horrific death at the hands of Minneapolis police catalyzed waves of protest across the nation against injustice and structural inequality. 

Unprecedented times need unprecedented change

A moment when we are experiencing a national health emergency and nationwide discontent may seem like exactly the wrong time to propose a bold new direction in American public education. But the coronavirus has changed everything, and the Floyd protests have shone a light on inequity inherent to all our systems, including education. 

The only way to adequately respond to both moments is to transform K–12 learning for good. Doing so will require a significant federal investment in education. The costs will certainly be high, but the long-term price of inaction will be even higher. 

An utter lack of leadership and guidance from Washington on how states and school districts should move forward with the virus continuing to circulate is a hurdle. But local leaders across America have shown boundless creativity in the months since schools started closing their doors. They’ve done their best to find new ways to educate, feed, and support students and stay connected to families. 
Read more about how we can create a better education system for our children and the generations to come, click here

Article Credits: Communities In Schools ® National Communications, July 25, 2020

NEPHRON DONATES TO COMMUNITIES IN SCHOOLS OF THE MIDLANDS COVID19 EMERGENCY FUND

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 1, 2020

Contact: Latasha Taste-Walker (ltwalker@cism.org), 803.414.8409

COLUMBIA, SC – Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation, one of the fastest-growing pharmaceuticals companies in the nation, has donated $5,000 to the COVID-19 emergency fund established by Communities In Schools of the Midlands.

Since schools closed on March 16th, Communities In Schools of the Midlands has transitioned its in-school service model to operate outside of the school walls to meet the needs of 300 students with critical needs in Richland and Lexington Counties.

The economic impact of the nonprofit sector represents 5.4% of the workforce and over 90,000+ employees in South Carolina. Therefore, it’s critical that nonprofit organizations like Communities In Schools of the Midlands build lasting relationships across the community with businesses, volunteers, agencies, healthcare providers, and educators – to help students stay focused today, so they can go further tomorrow.

“By delivering wraparound services to students and families with immediate needs, we support students in ways beyond the classroom,” said CEO Tanika Epps. “With the support of Nephron Pharmaceuticals Corporation, we are afforded with the financial resources to meet the rising needs of those most vulnerable in rural area schools and communities.” 

“We want to make sure vulnerable children in the Midlands feel safe and loved,” said Nephron CEO Lou Kennedy. “Communities In Schools of the Midlands is caring for our children in need, just as they have for more than three decades, and we are particularly grateful for the work they continue to do during this unprecedented time.”

To learn more about Communities In Schools COVID-19 response efforts visit www.cism.org.

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About Nephron Pharmaceuticals 

A West Columbia, S.C.-based company, Nephron develops and produces safe, affordable generic inhalation solutions and suspension products, including those used to treat severe respiratory distress symptoms associated with COVID-19. The company also operates an industry-leading 503B Outsourcing Facility division which produces pre-filled sterile syringes and IV bags for hospitals across America, in an effort to alleviate their drug shortage needs. Nephron fills the needs of patients and health care professionals as they arise nationwide, and recently opened a CLIA-certified diagnostics lab.

About Communities in Schools of the Midlands

Communities In Schools of the Midlands is a part of the nation’s largest and most effective dropout prevention organization, dedicated to doing whatever it takes to help students succeed in school and achieve in life. The program provides supports to seven schools within Lexington and Richland Counties and the South Carolina Juvenile Justice Department serving nearly 3,000 young people and families each year. Based directly inside of schools throughout the Midlands, Communities In Schools of the Midlands connects students and their families to basic and critical educational and community-based resources, tailored to each student’s specific needs. Learn more about Communities In Schools of the Midlands at www.cism.org

AFLAC FUNDS COMMUNITIES IN SCHOOLS OF THE MIDLANDS LIFE SKILLS EDUCATION PROGRAM

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

July 21, 2020

Contact: Latasha Taste-Walker (ltwalker@cism.org), 803.414.8409

COLUMBIA, SC – TheAflac Charitable Fund awarded Communities In Schools of the Midlands (CISM) with a $5,000 grant in support of the Overcoming Obstacles Program. The organization was awarded through the Spring competitive grant cycle managed through the Central Carolina Community Foundation.

The Overcoming Obstacles Program aims to increase life skills in underserved children and youth in rural area elementary, middle, and high schools located in Richland and Lexington counties. Communities In Schools of the Midlands provides students with decision-making counseling, academic learning plans, college and career guidance to improve educational outcomes via their Integrated Student Support services.

“Life Skills are an essential part of the development of today’s youth,” said Program Director Dr. Claudia Aldamuy. “We have found that students who are not good test takers or simply do not perform well in class do not always have a learning disability or deficiency. With the ongoing support of a CIS Site Coordinator, students with critical needs have achieved short-term goals like improving a letter grade and gained non-academic skills (life skills) like effective communication and decision making.”

“Aflac is committed to supporting education in the communities where we work and live,” said Virgil Miller, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Aflac U.S., and President of Aflac Group. “We are particularly proud to support such an important program for underserved children as Overcoming Obstacles.”

To learn more about Communities In Schools COVID-19 response efforts visit www.cism.org.

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About the Aflac Charitable Foundation

The Aflac Charitable Fund is managed by the Central Carolina Community Foundation.

About Communities in Schools of the Midlands

Communities In Schools of the Midlands is a part of the nation’s largest and most effective dropout prevention organization, dedicated to doing whatever it takes to help students succeed in school and achieve in life. The program provides supports to seven schools within Lexington and Richland Counties and the South Carolina Juvenile Justice Department serving nearly 3,000 young people and families each year. Based directly inside of schools throughout the Midlands, Communities In Schools of the Midlands connects students and their families to basic and critical educational and community-based resources, tailored to each student’s specific needs. Learn more about Communities In Schools of the Midlands at www.cism.org

CIS Affiliates in South Carolina share the impact of COVID-19 on rural schools and vulnerable populations

We are excited to share the 2020 Community Matters report released by Communities In Schools® (CIS™). This year’s report highlights the need for more urgent focus on the challenges in rural schools; perhaps even more so now in response to the devastating consequences of COVID-19.

The report also includes policy recommendations and features examples of how CIS has responded to the unique challenges faced by rural communities with innovative approaches to ensuring student success. At Communities In Schools® (CIS™), the majority of students we serve are children of color and children living in poverty. Our mission is to surround them with a community of support to empower them to succeed in school and in life, despite immediate and systemic barriers.

By helping our most vulnerable students stay in school and succeed in life, we are building stronger, healthier and more economically stable communities where every person is capable of reaching his or her greatest potential. The three affiliates in South Carolina have come together to share their positioning on supporting rural schools and the unique ways they are helping students overcome roadblocks during COVID-19. Its clear that children and families in the CIS Networks located in Greenville, Charleston, and Columbia all share the overwhelming impact of the pandemic. Each affiliate is committed and ensures that all kids regardless of the challenges they may face have the relationships, support, and resources to thrive #InSchoolsandBeyond.

CIS Midlands

Schools are closed, but Communities In Schools of the Midlands (CISM) is still open amid the highs and lows of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said CISM CEO Tanika Epps. Like many other non-profits across Columbia, SC, CISM made swift transitions to continue charitable efforts and meet the ongoing needs of rural area schools. During school closures our Site Coordinators worked behind the scenes to connect with students at home to include virtual meetings and conference calls, participate in school meetings, volunteer with the district lunch program to deliver meals to families, and retrieve homework assignments from the doorsteps of students homes. CISM has been going #Allinforkids to increase their relationships with community organizations to reach more vulnerable populations of children and youth in Richland and Lexington Counties.

CIS Charleston

“Access to food is a significant issue for some of our rural schools with only two grocery stores located on Johns Island,” said Jamie Cooper, CEO.  This was especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic after the school closures.  He shared that many of the families in the CIS Charleston Network are multi-generational and have an older family member living in the household in the high risk category.  To help alleviate some of the stress of exposure while shopping, the CIS Site Coordinators from the High School and Middle School shopped and delivered groceries to several CIS students and their families.  Also, they delivered grocery gift cards from BiLo and Food Lion to families.  CIS Charleston also applied for a small grant with the Trident United Way and the Charleston Basket Brigade for basic needs support during the pandemic.  With the assistance of those funds, the affiliate was able to provide one-time stipends for gas and grocery gift cards to assist case managed families in need. 

CIS Greenville

President & CEO Susi Smith said ,” Because our integrated student support services are grounded in individuality and flexibility, the transition from “in schools” to “and beyond” as a result of COVID-19 came quite naturally for our student support specialists.” The CIS Greenville affiliate relied heavily on their solid relationships with students and families to keep connected, to ensure that basic needs were first being met, and to broker additional support services with little delay or interruption wherever possible.  Susi shared that though they look forward to returning to a place-based work in the near future, CIS of Greenville is poised to continue focusing on the specific and unique supports most beneficial to each student while still operating outside of school walls.

To read the full 2020 Community Matters Report visit www.communitiesinschools.org

See the South Carolina state profile on page 24, click here

In Schools and Beyond amid school closures

Schools are closed, but Communities In Schools of the Midlands (CISM) is still open amid the highs and lows of the COVID-19 pandemic. Like many other non-profits across Columbia, SC, CISM has made swift transitions to continue their charitable efforts to meet the ongoing needs of the community. From virtual meetings and conference calls, to dropping off care packages and retrieving homework assignments from doorsteps, CISM has been going #InSchoolsandBeyond since school closings in March and increasing their relationships with community organizations to reach more vulnerable populations of children in Richland and Lexington Counties.

Site Coordinator and Social Worker
Tabitha Jones with parent of CIS student at Watkins- Nance Elementary School

The organization’s national office, Communities In Schools, National, has gone full speed to ensure that 131 affiliate sites across the US have the tools they need to advocate for families and empower all students to stay in school and on a path to graduation. Communities In Schools of the Midlands is 1 of 3 affiliate sites in South Carolina working directly in schools to build relationships that empower students to stay in school and succeed in life. CIS National President and CEO Rey Saldaña quoted in a recent article asking local nonprofits, faith-based organizations and business leaders to partner with CIS affiliates in their communities to prevent the disruption of essential supports and services and add additional capacity to meet the growing needs of students. 

Site Coordinator Susan Key with CIS students and family of Pine Ridge Middle School

CEO Tanika Epps has been in communications with school districts and the largest education investor of the organization, United Way of the Midlands to share the pure heart and soul of Site Coordinators and the significant effects on hundreds of students whose families already confront economic and social inequities. Ms. Epps shared a testimony in an article pushed by Education Drive on the affiliate’s response to COVID-19 and a family displayed due to loss wages. To see full article click here.

CISM increase capacity to meet growing needs of students

March

  • Site Coordinators transition in-schools intervention services to virtual check-ins
  • Assist parents with locating temporary housing
  • Deploy Resilient Richland care packages to 65 families at Watkins-Nance Elementary
  • Lexington United Methodist Church & Crossroads World Outreach provide non-perishable food items to Lexington Two Schools (Herbert A. Wood & Pine Ridge Elementary)
  • Motivational enrichment and social emotional learning virtual sessions
  • Deliver lesson plans to families with transportation challenges

April

  • Power In Changing Diaper Bank donates over 800 diapers
  • Joined Richland School District One weekly student meal deliveries to serve 29 families
  • Enter into partnership with T-Mobile and United Way of the Midlands to provide students with tablets and mobile broadband services
  • United Way of the Midlands COVID-19 Relief funds to purchase basic needs, weekend meals, connectivity services and materials for remote learning and virtual intervention services.  
  • First Choice by Select Health of South Carolina donated nonperishable food items
  • LRADAC donated alcohol and drug intervention resources

May

  • Prepare high school readiness resources for middle school students
  • Purchase masks and gloves for CISM families funded by First Presbyterian Church emergency donations
  • Power in Changing Diaper Bank donated 1,000 diapers
  • Delta Dental donated 500 dental hygienic items(tooth brushes, tooth paste, floss)
  • Midlands Fatherhood Coalition donated 150 Parent-Child Learning Activities
  • Address social emotional challenges by hosting Virtual Talent Shows and continue Dominion Energy Recycling Challenge to encourage healthy habits and creativity

Thank you community partners and donors for supporting the CISM COVID-19 Emergency Relief Efforts.

March 27th is International

In partnership with the SEL4SC, Communities In Schools of the Midlands will join thousands all over the world to advocate for International Social Emotional Learning Day on Friday, March 27th.

Join us LIVE! on our Instagram page, cis_midlands Friday at 10 am to learn how we implement #SEL at Communities In Schools of the Midlands. Site Coordinator Amie Cooper will share how she works to advance SEL and give a testimony on how implementing SEL helped her decrease student suspensions. Amie serves as the CISM Site Coordinator at Herbert A. Wood Elementary School in Lexington School District Two.

Amie graduated from Liberty University with a degree in Family and Child Development and is also a Trust Based Relational Intervention® Practitioner trained by the Karyn Purvis Institute for Child Development at Texas Christian University. Additionally, Amie is the Executive Director of Flourishing Families of South Carolina which provides hope and healing to foster, adoptive, and kinship caregivers raising children from hard places.  Amie has several years of family case management experience specializing in early childhood trauma, foster care, and adoption. She also has personal experience as a therapeutic foster and adoptive mother caring for many children with various needs.

But wait, what is #SELday?

The Urban Assembly and SEL4US invite communities across the globe to celebrate the importance of social emotional learning (SEL) on the first annual International SEL Day on March 27, 2020.

We know that SEL changes lives.

Studies show that SEL provides many benefits to students—from improved social-emotional skills, well-being and behavior to improved academic outcomes—and these results are long-term and global, with proven positive impact up to 18 years later on academics, conduct problems, emotional distress, and drug use. 

SEL competencies are also critically important for long-term success in today’s economy. Organizations like At Communities In Schools is well-positioned to address many of the social and emotional needs and challenges facing students.

Our research on SEL

In recent years, the importance of social and emotional learning has received considerable attention among education stakeholders, policymakers, and the general public. Our headquarters, CIS National, published a research brief on key concepts of SEL, the impact that SEL has on student success, components of effective SEL programming and how the CIS Model can leverage SEL.

This research brief shows how CIS affiliate sites are well-positioned to address many of the social and emotional needs and challenges facing students in today’s schools.  It also provides an overview of SEL, describes the impact of SEL on student outcomes, and shares how Communities In Schools across the United States are leveraging SEL to help students graduate and live more fulfilling and healthy lives. To see the full brief article, download here.

Written By: Latasha Taste-Walker, Director of Development, Communities In Schools of the Midlands