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 whosonthemove.org

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

VERZUZ: Health Careers Edition students exploring future careers despite the pandemic

In collaboration with Columbia High School, today Communities In Schools of the Midlands will host VERZUZ: The Health Careers Edition. The event serves as a virtual gateway for students in grades 9 – 12th at Columbia High School to engage with healthcare professionals to include a Q&A session.

Motivational Speaker Tim Bowers joins as the host of the session and we are excited how this is kicking off! Site Coordinator Jamila Green collaborated with the Columbia High School AVID Team to ensure all students had an opportunity to hear from healthcare experts on their journey to their career to include do’s and don’ts, success stories, and challenges they faced breaking way in the healthcare industry.

Career topics:

Nurse Practitioner, Psychology, Orthopedic Care, Pharmacology, Therapist and more.

Panelists include:

Dr. Jaelyn Jones, Pharmacology & Clinical Lab Research

Dr. Carolyn Bell, Executive Director of Community Health Resources, Inc., (CHRI)

Dr. Tyrone Wallace, Owner of Prime Care of the Lower Pee Dee in Lake City

Esther and James Gallieshaw, Spectrum Family Solutions

Colonial Life is a proud sponsor of the Communities In School of the Midlands College and Career Readiness Program to increase workforce and career readiness supports at Columbia High School.

A first look into CIS Midlands during the pandemic

Students learning from behind the screen at home, outdoors, and in classrooms

Lexington County School District Two has been a school district partner since its inception in 2016. Herbert A. Wood Elementary and Pine Ridge Middle School are two school sites that benefit from dropout prevention services and whole child supports from Communities In Schools of the Midlands (CISM).

From August 2019 – June 2020, Site Coordinators provided one-on-one case management services to a total of 98 students in grades 4K – 8th grade with a total of 4,250 service hours to keep students on track.  They also located community resources for basic needs to include weekend meals, clothes, and school supplies.

Herbert A. Wood Elementary: total enrollment = 1000 students, CISM case-managed 47 students (4.7 % of the schools population)

Pine Ridge Middle: total enrollment = 435 students, CISM case-managed 51 students (10% of the schools population)

Tier services are temporary and long-term levels of services provided to support students success. Each level is scaled to decrease Early Warning Indicators of dropout and keep students on a pathway to grade promotion and graduation.

Since schools in Lexington School District Two reopened on September 8th, CISM Site Coordinators Amie Cooper and Susan Key have been in classrooms and behind the screen supporting school sites with resources for Hispanic families that lack childcare, assisted with food, clothing, delivering and setting up school hot spot at households, social emotional support for students attending hybrid and virtual learning, and virtual wellness check-ins.

First grade case managed student using music and movement for regulation during hybrid learning at Herbert A. Wood Elementary School.

Extended Day Coordinator Beth Strickland and social work interns meet students outside for tutoring and mentoring sessions at Pine Ridge Middle School.

Community partners stepped in to expand the capacity of Communities In Schools of the Midlands COVID-19 Emergency Response efforts since school closings in March 2020.

Harvest Hope Food Bank

The Scooter Scott Project

Crossroads World Outreach

Lexington United Methodist Church

Thank you Message from Dr. William B. James, Lexington School District Two Superintendent:

“Communities in Schools is an invaluable partner to Lexington Two.  At Wood Elementary, CIS administers a resource closet with clothing, school supplies and hygiene products; works in partnership with several community organizations to provide 200 food packages weekly to students in need; and supports Sanford Harmony, an initiative for social/emotional learning that offers trauma informed care training for staff and parents. At Pine Ridge Middle, CIS has helped launch a girls chess club initiative to improve math and social skills; partnered on a program to boost student attendance (which saw a 1.3 percent increase in 2019-20); and partnered with Dominion Energy to launch a student-led environmental program to promote recycling and other such practices.  These programs make a big difference in the lives of our students and families, and we are grateful for CIS’ support of Lexington Two.

Lexington Two Superintendent Dr. William B. James Jr. announced his plans to retire at the end of the 2020-21 school year. Superintendent-Elect Nicolas Wade will become Superintendent on July 1, 2021 and we look forward to welcoming him to the CISM Family.

Source: Lexington School District Two

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 www.cism.org.

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

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

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

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 http://www.cism.org/donate/  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.