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The Warner Exchange

Updated: Apr 25, 2022

Bring your child to school and receive the basic items you need in exchange

Working directly inside the school as a site coordinator for Communities In Schools (CIS) of Tennessee puts Ali Jenkins in a unique position to identify barriers to student success and provide real-time interventions to help alleviate them. At CIS, we believe in the power of building strong relationships with families and students where dignity and respect are at the forefront.


"Our families work really, really hard and truly want their children in school each day so we asked ourselves, how can we connect families with the items they need AND encourage consistent attendance?" - Ali Jenkins

A variety of factors can make it difficult for a child to attend school daily. A major barrier to attendance for families with children attending Warner Arts Magnet Elementary School was identified as a lack of access to basic needs–such as laundry detergent and hygiene products. Ali thought up an innovative solution and met with her principal, Dr. Ricki Gibbs, to work out the details. Because Dr. Gibbs encourages his team to dream BIG, Ali's idea would eventually become the Warner Exchange.

So, how exactly does it work?

Families receive five Warner Bucks for each day their child attends school. The Warner Exchange is open once a month for families to shop for basic need items with their Warner Bucks. To keep the store stocked, community partners and individuals purchase items from the Warner Exchange wish list.

Families were shocked and excited to see the shelves fully stocked with items that would meet their basic needs at the grand opening of the store in January.

"I've been working so hard to get my kids to school so I could shop today." - CIS parent on opening day of the Warner Exchange

The impact

Warner ended last year with a chronic absence rate of 46.4%. As of today, that rate is at 27.5%. To date, the Warner Exchange has provided basic need necessities to 60 families in total. What makes this program so unique is there is no intake form, no questions to ask, no eligibility criteria, and no handouts. You send your child to school, earn Warner Bucks, and go shopping. That's the only thing there is to it. The best part is that it was built for the community by the community, thanks to generous neighbors, strong school leadership, and Warner's collaboration with CIS.

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