Imagine wanting to go to school, but having no shoes to wear. Wanting to learn, but being too hungry to think. Wanting to graduate, but having to drop out to get a job to support your family.
This is the harsh reality for many of the students Communities In Schools (CIS) serves. There may be ample resources in their community, but rarely is there someone on the ground who is dedicated full-time to connecting these resources with the students and families who need them most.
The CIS Solution
The CIS program uses integrated student supports to connect students to caring adults, known as site coordinators, and community resources to help them overcome the barriers that often coincide with living in an under-resourced community.
The 5 Basics
Our work is guided by a set of 5 basic principles that we believe every child needs and deserves to be successful in school and in life. Helping all students succeed builds stronger, healthier and more economically stable communities where every person is capable of reaching their greatest potential.
A one-on-one relationship with a caring adult
A safe place to learn and grow
A healthy start and a healthy future
A marketable skill to use upon graduation
A chance to give back to peers and the community
CIS Model of Integrated Student Supports
Working to meet the needs of the whole child
CIS’ Integrated Student Supports Model is a school-based approach to developing academic success by tackling academic and non-academic barriers. Support is provided by our site coordinators who assess a student’s needs and then provide direct services and/or make referrals to community partners to ensure a student has everything they need to succeed in and out of the classroom.
We provide these supports in three different tiers.
Services available to all students.
Small peer groups
Targeted services which can be provided in a group setting to students with a common need.
Providing case management to targeted students.
Within each of these tiers, we meet the basic needs of students and families through a combination of providing direct support and connecting them with existing service providers in their community.
The services and support a CIS of Tennessee site coordinator provides is unique to the community in which they serve and can include the following:
Our site coordinators work hard to ensure that students have the resources they need to progress academically. From providing students with virtual learning support, credit recovery assistance, to finding tutors and creating quiet spaces where students can study, we do whatever it takes to create an optimal learning environment for our students.
What can seem like small obstacles can easily lead students off track. That’s why ensuring students have access to basic needs is so important. A student cannot focus in the classroom if they are hungry, cold or tired, or cannot see the board. Most important, we ensure that home is a healthy nurturing environment where students always feel safe.
College & Career Readiness
Both higher education and the modern workplace are evolving rapidly, and with this shift come new opportunities, greater competition, more complex skill sets, and job titles that didn’t exist a few years ago. It’s a lot to process, especially for students already dealing with their own unique challenges. For students pursuing college, we help decipher the application process, explore scholarship opportunities, tour campuses and conduct mock interviews. For those planning to enter the work force, we help students discover enjoyable, sustainable career paths and connect them to internships and job shadowing opportunities. For those undecided, our site coordinators provide a safe sounding board to articulate goals and fears, and explore options. Many of our kids have a limited frame of reference of what their careers can be, so an important part of our job is making them aware of the possibilities and encouraging them to “dream big”. From there, we help them understand and meet the requirements to ultimately achieve their goals.
We know that greater parental involvement in a student’s life promotes greater student success. But parents and guardians often face their own obstacles. Language barriers, busy work schedules, and other family obligations can keep caregivers from getting involved in their child’s student life. CIS sees family engagement as a crucial element to our success, and work to remove barriers that prevent caregivers from staying central in their child’s education. CIS helps support a healthy school environment where students and families feel safe and welcome. Our site coordinators are advocates for all families and check in with families often to keep them updated on their students' progress. They’ve worked with teachers to offer community-based parent teacher nights so more parents could attend and have sponsored family nights and parent support groups to help parents stay involved.
Life/social skills cover a broad range of topics – including personal health and hygiene, money management, digital footprint best practices, character development, and other essential skills such as how to study, how to manage time, and even how to set and achieve goals. Site coordinators teach students how to work together with others, interact with authority figures and manage anger and other emotions. Mastering life skills helps students engage more effectively with others, resolve issues diplomatically and understand the importance of compromise, patience, and other social values.
Mental & Physical Health
Despite the advancements in modern medicine, many kids in America continue to face a number of serious, chronic, health-related issues. Asthma, obesity and poor dental health are just a few. Add to this poor nutrition, plus lack of regular exercise, and it becomes clear how physical health can be a barrier to success. Communities In Schools is committed to promoting good nutrition, physical activity, access to health services and a healthy school environment. We offer a variety of after school and summer programs to encourage physical activity, healthy eating and time outdoors. We believe healthy minds and bodies are the vehicles for our students’ success.
Professional Mental Health
Some students face emotional, behavioral and mental health challenges, either directly themselves or in their immediate family. Our site coordinators are trained to help identify and reach out to kids and families who may need support services. We work with our partner schools, as well as community organizations, to provide the best resources and referrals available to our students and families. Our commitment is to treat every child with dignity and respect, and ensure they receive the services and support they need to be their best.
Social Emotional Growth
We provide or connect students to individual counseling and facilitate small support groups to help them manage their emotions and interactions with peers; addressing issues such as grief and loss, depression, low self-esteem, anger management, and anxiety.