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.