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.
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.
“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.
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