It Truly is the Season of Giving:

 

This year I am in charge of a Park Road Book tree for our students here at Communities In Schools. Each year this small, locally run, book store in Charlotte puts up a tree the day after Thanksgiving  for their patrons to sponsor our students. Students create ornaments, request books, and turn them in for the tree. This year Park Road Books took 350 ornaments, and every single student was chosen off the tree. I was blown away! How does a small bookstore motivate their patrons to buy SO MANY books for our students in those four weeks?It Truly is the Season of Giving:

Our main contact at the store greets me with a smile each time I show up at the store to pick up the next full box of boxes. She constantly tells me stories about patrons who were moved by our students’ stories, journeys and requests. Many of our teen mothers picked books not for themselves, but for their young children. One of our students spent his request on his little brother. Many of our high school students have chosen SAT or AP test prep books to better prepare themselves for college.

Simply by purchasing an extra book at the store the patrons of Park Road Books are changing a holiday season for our students. Some of these students have never owned a book of their own before. I am constantly moved by the generosity and support of the community. Strangers really can make a difference in the life of others if they are given the right opportunity.

A Day at the Jail to Learn More About What we do.

My time here at Communities In Schools has been full of new opportunities. I have learned so much sense my start in mid-July. Communities In Schools is the nation’s leading drop-out prevention program, and here in Charlotte-Mecklenburg we have had great success. The mission of Communities In Schools is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. We have site coordinators in 43 of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg public schools and they work with students who have been identified as at the highest risk of dropping out. Our site coordinators monitor their attendance, behavior, grades etc. They set them up with mentors, tutors, and role models. They provide them access to resources for health, wellness and cultural enrichment. And that is just the basics.

We also have a program that works with first generation college students, one that works with teen moms, and another that works with youthful offenders in Jail North here in Charlotte. Today there was an open house at the jail and I was able to attend and really learn about our specialty program there. North Carolina is one of the few states left that prosecutes 16 and 17 year olds as adults. These youthful offenders are not put in a juvenile facility, they are put in jail. Until the age 18 years old the state of North Carolina requires they be educated, that is where our program comes in. The Sheriff’s Office, CMS public schools, and CIS Charlotte-Mecklenburg have come together to help support these students. CMS certified teachers are in the jail working with students on their academics. Then there is a CIS site coordinator placed in the facility as well. He works with those boys the same way our other site coordinators work with their students. He supports them, gets to know them, and he cares about them.

Today I was given a tour of the jail facility and then given the opportunity to hear from the teachers and officers who work with our students. What an amazing story they had to tell. They spoke of students who were brilliant; college bound even, but simply were not surrounded by a healthy atmosphere outside of the prison. They spoke about boys who come in, do their time, get out, and then come right back because there is no community for them outside the walls of the facility. The program created by the Sherriff’s Office, CMS, and CIS was created to change this narrative. It works to connect these boys with a caring, structured community while they are in jail, and then, through CIS, works to connect them with a community of support once they get out. 91% of the youthful offenders in the program in the 12-13 school year either graduated or were re-enrolled back into CMS for the 13-14 school year.

I work on the development team for CIS so I am not able to spend much time on site with our site coordinators and students but it is days like today that I remember that we are not only helping people be more successful, our programs are changing lives.

 

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