Communities In Schools’ Students Continue the Fight Against Plastic Use

Pine Ridge Middle students and volunteers from the UofSC Sierra Club building garden

Last Fall, Communities In Schools of the Midlands partnered with Dominion Energy by challenging students in grades 4 K – 12th to limit their use of plastics at school and at home. Students learned about the harmful effects of plastic use and how to recycle plastics through the Communities In Schools Recycling Challenge.

At Pine Ridge Middle School students collected 200 lbs. of bottle caps and plastic lids. The recycled bottle caps were used to create a mural inspired by ocean animals showing the harmful effects of the plastics. The recycling challenge taught students friendly competition and the long term effects of large consumptions of plastic plaguing our environment.

CISM Site Coordinator Susan Key, Ashley Barnhill Dominion Energy, and Dr. David Basile Pine Ridge Middle Principal at the Bottlecap Mural Dedication , October 28, 2020

Communities In Schools Site Coordinator Susan Key has continued the Dominion Energy environmental awareness initiative at Pine Ridge by using plastics in a new gardening project. The overall goal of the project is to create a community garden where students use recycled plastic materials collected from the sustainability projects to compost. The project is scheduled to run for one year and includes composting, gardening, and harvesting. The gardening project introduces ways to eliminate waste and repurpose recycled materials through environmental sustainability skills. Each grade level has its own compost bin and right before winter break students started collecting compostable food waste.

UofSC Sierra Club Volunteers assisting with compost and greenhouse

The most exciting part of starting this garden project is the new volunteer partnership with the Sierra Club Student Organization at UofSC. The volunteers are currently working on building raised beds for each grade level and a greenhouse on the school grounds. Once it’s completed, Sierra Club volunteers will dedicate hours each week to help students maintain the garden. The outcome of the gardening project will not only teach students about the plant ecosystem but also show the importance of sustainable growing practices, benefits of local farming, and the impact they are making on the environment through the use of plastics. Our students hope to grow some fruits and vegetables and are excited about continuing sustainability programs through community partnership with Dominion Energy and local civic organizations.

UofSC Sierra Club Volunteers and Pine Ridge Middle student

Ms. Key plans to reach out to the UofSC student council members to begin open discussions about the importance of improving school culture and climate by doing hands-on learning through whole school activities and food sustainability. In the upcoming year, Communities In Schools plans to secure additional funding to expand environmental awareness projects to include energy efficiency initiatives.

The Midlands Group of the South Carolina Sierra Club discusses environmental justice and holds local events in Richland and Lexington counties. Regular group programs are held via Zoom on the 4th Monday of every month from 7:00 to 8:00 PM. A link to participate in these conversations, click here:

At UofSC, sustainability opportunities are available year-round for community members, students, alumni, faculty and staff to get involved on campus. Involvement opportunities include sustainability events with partner organizations, the sustainable Carolina garden and green office certification. To find out more about university opportunities, click on the link here

CIS frontline workers go where the need is, in school and at home.

Site Coordinator Susan Key delivering meals and snack bags to students at Pine Ridge Middle School

An open letter from Susan Key,

CIS Site Coordinator at Pine Ridge Middle School

My heart is heavy these days.
I worry about my students academic gains and especially their mental and emotional drive. For the past few months, I’ve noticed families who already are marginalized and or live below the poverty level feel less empowered or motivated to push through daily life struggles.

Unfortunately, this directly impacts the students I serve who are enrolled in Communities In Schools. 

We often worry about students during the after school hours, but now students are left alone at home 10 or more hours which can cause other issues to occur. I feel it is critical now more than ever to keep our eyes on these students and be more nurturing and patient with them and their families.

With peace and love,
Susan Key

To learn more about the impact and work of CIS Site coordinators visit

MidlandsBiz Feature CEO, Tanika Epps

Tanika sits down with Allen Cooper of MidlandsBiz to give an update on where Communities In Schools of the Midlands during the pandemic.

To listen to full interview visit

To learn more about Communities In Schools of the Midlands, visit

SC Humanities Awards Grant for Literacy Writing Project


December 14, 2020

Contact: Latasha Taste (, 803.414.8409


COLUMBIA, SC – SC Humanities a state program of the National Endowment of the Humanities Awards Communities In Schools of the Midlands (CISM) grant entitled “Social Emotional Learning Initiative: The Literacy Writing Project” in the outright Fast Track Grant amount of $2,500.

The Social Emotional Learning Initiative is a new program aimed to improve behavior, academic performance, and emotional well-being of students with critical needs enrolled in Communities In Schools of the Midlands intervention services. The Literacy Writing Project is a creative writing activity focused on increasing children and youth’s access to positive social and racial justice practices. Communities In Schools Site Coordinators, also known as student advocates for high risk students will collaborate with local published authors, poets, and artists to further engage students by increasing their knowledge of racial equality, social, and economic justice reforms within their communities.

“Racial inequity has a persistent effect on the social and emotional well-being of students,” said Program Director Dr. Claudia Aldamuy. “It is a priority for students in today’s society to be equipped with the appropriate support to address the multiple barriers they may face.” “From the contributions of SC Humanities, we are able to further develop interventions that help students build resilience, social-emotional skills, and self-regulate their behavior through literary writing and expression.”

“Communities In Schools of the Midlands is a new partner organization for SC Humanities, and we are pleased to be supporting their new ‘Literacy Writing Project’ that will serve at-risk youth through literacy and cultural mentorship”, said TJ Wallace, SC Humanities Assistant Director.

“It will be a meaningful effort to bring the inspiring, engaging, and enriching power of the humanities to Midlands students, their school communities, and their families.”

This program is sponsored by SC Humanities a state program of the National Endowment of the Humanities; Inspiring, engaging and enriching South Carolinians with programs on literature, history, culture and heritage. Visit the website at For more information, contact T.J. Wallace at (803) 771-2477 or email


About SC Humanities

The mission of SC Humanities is to enrich the cultural and intellectual lives of all South Carolinians. Established in 1973, this 501(c) 3 organization is governed by a volunteer 20-member Board of Directors comprised of community leaders from throughout the state. It presents and/or supports literary initiatives, lectures, exhibits, festivals, publications, oral history projects, videos and other humanities-based experiences that directly or indirectly reach more than 250,000 citizens annually.

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

Communities In Schools of the Midlands CEO, Tanika D. Epps awarded with the Outstanding Fundraising Professional in the 2020

Today, Communities In Schools of the Midlands CEO, Tanika D. Epps was presented with the Outstanding Fundraising Professional in the 2020 AFP Central Carolina Chapter SC National Philanthropy Day (NPD) Awards.

Epps oversees a budget of over half a million dollars, strategically aligning state and government partnerships, and manages a team of 11 employees at the organization. She has been recognized for her exemplary and creative leadership and expertise in the nonprofit landscape across the Midlands.

The award was presented by 2016 – 2018 Communities In Schools of the Midlands Board of Directors Member Becky Morrison who also serves as the NPD Chair. The committee selected the nomination for Ms. Epps in recognition for her philanthropic contributions to our community, especially during these unprecedented times.

Tanika D. Epps, CEO pictured with Becky Morrison, Director of Community Engagement ,United Way of the Midlands and NPD 2020 Chair

Communities In Schools of the Midlands Launch $180 Giving Campaign | 180 days of school is still in sight

Join the 180 Pledge Today!

Like many other states, children that attend a public or private school in South Carolina goes to school 180 days a year. Young people are most likely to develop skills like problem-solving, collaboration, empathy, and adaptability when they are engaged with complex, real-world challenges every day.

Right now students are reentering school buildings closed since March of this year. Others will open a laptop in their home and log on to their first class and classrooms under even less certain circumstances. This school year, students won’t have the opportunity to spend 180 days in school but you can help Communities In Schools deliver 180 days of critical services to students who need it the most.

Communities In the Midlands program serves over 3,800* youth ages 5-17 who are 200% of poverty. The work we do every day in schools allows us to serve the needs of students that often go overlooked like clean clothes, late arrivals to school, and risky behaviors in school due to lack of sleep at home. Youth who are food insecure and have limited basic resources are at risk for dropping out of school. To identify signs of dropout, Communities In Schools identify, target, and locate resources students need to thrive and learn every day in school and at home.  

*2019-2020 Impact Report 3,841 total students served

Many of the students we serve:

  • Come from a family living below the state poverty rate.
  • Have a parent who is unable to read and is unable to help with homework.
  • Are eligible for free and reduced lunch.
  • Are hungry and cannot concentrate in class.
  • Have special needs that have not been addressed.
  • Have trouble in school and need tutoring.
  • Need an adult role model.
  • Need additional support services to encourage positive behavior.

How your pledge can change the outcome of a student for 180 days

  • $5,000 provides 5 students with one year of all services and supports
  • $3,000 assist with funding weekend backpack programs for students with hunger
  • $1,000 helps to fund tutoring services for students performing below grade level
  • $500 provides funding for one (1) school site clothing closet with clothes, shoes, hygiene products, and school supplies
  • $300 provides funding for mentor programs to help improve student study habits and test-taking skills
  • $180 funds one month of virtual check-ins for a case-managed student 

Conveniently make your donation online at

For more information, contact Latasha Taste, Director of Development at



September 2, 2020

Contact: Latasha Taste-Walker (, 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


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

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

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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

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

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

#Allinforkids #multiplyinggood #celebrategood