Helping the Environment, One Plastic Bottle at a Time

Learning how to be environmentally friendly can start at any age. In partnership with Dominion Energy and Herbert A. Wood Elementary School, we started the Woody Owls Recycling Team to teach students how to properly recycle and care for the environment.

Communities in Schools of the Midlands (CISM) Site Coordinator Amie Cooper wanted to help the school’s existing recycling partnership with Palmetto Pride increase their reach in all grade levels, engage more students and parents, and continue to encourage reducing plastic waste around school and at home. Therefore, she connected with the two teachers leading the school’s current initiative, Art Teacher Ms. Erin Erwin and STEM Teacher Ms. Laurie Williams.

In January, CISM launched the Plastic Bottle recycling challenge generously funded by the Dominion Energy Environmental Stewardship Grant. The recycling challenge encourages students across the school to recycle clean, plastic bottles. Since the two initiatives have partnered together, the school has gathered over 500 bottles just within the first two weeks! 

As a thank you from Communities in Schools of the Midlands, the recycling team of 8 students, Ms. Erwin and Ms. Williams received a recycling recognition award and a green vest, which they now get to wear while they collect from recycling bins around the school. The team is excited to continue their recycling efforts together and make a continuous impact in the school and the community.


Mark your calendars! On December 3, 2019 Communities In Schools of the Midlands will participate in Giving Tuesday!

Giving Tuesday is a global generosity movement unleashing the power of people and organizations to transform their communities and the world on December 3, 2019 and every day.

It was created in 2012 as a simple idea: a day that encourages people to do good. Over the past seven years, this idea has grown into a global movement that inspires hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity.

One of the best ways to get involved is in your own community. We’ve created a directory to help you find organizations, events, and ways to give back in your own community.

CISM is a charitable donation option on Tuesday, December 3, 2019. We encourage you to make a donation of $32 at  to be a part of the global movement. We also are supporting time, advocacy, and monetary donations for other charitable causes in the Midlands!

We have created a level system to make it easier to engage in the global giving campaign. We are looking forward to see all the amazing efforts our community will contribute on December 3, 2019.

32 Years of Connecting Communities With Student’s Needs


The history of Communities In Schools of the Midlands dates back to 1986, when a diverse partner collaboration consisting of the Junior League, the Department of Social Services, the Department of Juvenile justice, Richland One School District and the Solicitor’s Office joined together to address the dropout epidemic in Columbia.

Members involved with Cities In Schools in Atlanta suggested the concept be brought to Columbia. After hearing about the program during a meeting, the Richland One school board approved a feasibility study for the project. That following spring, the Junior League Board approved a motion to fund Rick Noble as the first Executive Director position for one year, to start building the foundation for Cities In Schools Columbia.

The Columbia Cities In Schools program was the 23rd in the nation in 1987. The following March, Five Points High School opened its doors as an alternative for at-risk students who qualified for Cities In Schools programs. Eventually, the switch from Cities In Schools changed to a community effort and rather than competing with school districts, the national model was to partner with schools in the affiliate area in 1999.

Communities In Schools of the Midlands began to actively follow the national programs for dropout prevention in the schools of Richland One School District and Lexington Two School District. Communities In Schools of the Midlands always has aimed to reduce the number of dropouts. CISM continues to surround students with a community of support, and empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life through programs like Speak Out Against Bullying, College and Career Readiness Program, and Reading Buddies.

On November 6, 2019 Communities In Schools of the Midlands celebrated their 32nd year of connecting communities with student’s needs at the All In For Kids Event. Alumni, Board Directors, and Site Coordinators gathered in the office to reflect on the lives the Midlands affiliate has connected with over the past 32 years.

“All sorts of students learn differently, the access I got through you (CISM) allowed me to flourish as a student no matter what was going on at home,” a CISM alumni from the class of 1994 said at the event.

Communities In Schools of the Midlands is constantly improving because of the support from our donors, partners, and board members, but most importantly the impact is being made through our fantastic students. Thank you for allowing us to go #allinforkids in the Midlands.

Read more in depth about out history here.


Communities In School’s Students Fight Against Plastic Use

Sustainability has been defined as, “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs,” by Brundtland Commission in 1987. Pine Ridge Middle School students are doing sustainability justice by fighting the good fight against plastic pollution. Communities In Schools of the Midlands is proud to partner with Lexington School District Two in empowering students to participate in efforts against plastic use.

“Meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

The Brundtland Commission on sustainability in 1987.

The initiative has been graceful funded by Dominion Energy. Students are actively studying plastic pollution in science and applying that knowledge to everyday tasks. Pine Ridge Middle School students are currently collecting bottle caps and plastic lids to create a mural!

Read the official announcement here.
Support initiatives like this one by clicking here.


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.

To learn more about Communities In Schools, visit

All in for Kids Day 2019

Communities In Schools of the Midlands turns 32 on November 6, 2019.

Help us celebrate by donating $32 to help us keep kids in school. At Communities In Schools, we help students see their potential so they can start to realize it in ways big and small. Always at their side when they need a coat, calming down in class, didn’t make it to school on time to eat breakfast or need school supplies on the first day of school.

We work hand-in-hand with schools, communities, and families to create access to resources and opportunities. Our dropout prevention program helps kids overcome life’s current and future barriers. Together, we can clear the way for another 32 years of success and lead kids to a brighter future.

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.