Archives for November 2013

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.


Getting Out from Behind the Desk

It’s tough to believe that I have already been working as a Davidson Impact Fellow at Foundation For The Carolinas for nearly 4 months now, the time has really flown by.

It has been really interesting to get my foot in the door and learn about how a Foundation, and more specifically, a Community Foundation operates.  While foundations are so closely linked to many non-profit organizations doing amazing work in a variety of fields, I’ve noticed that at times it can be difficult to remember how organizations are so much more than the short snippets of information they commonly provide in grant applications and other correspondences with a foundation.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of getting out of the offices to remind myself about some of the amazing work non-profits do on a daily basis, which can often be overlooked when researching their progress online, and sifting through applications for funding.  In addition to going on a few site visits to see some very dynamic organizations, I was also happy to participate in FFTC’s Staff Volunteer Day with TreesCharlotte, an amazing organization with aims to plant 15,000 trees annually around Charlotte until we ae able to once again achieve a 50% tree canopy by 2050.  Even though the staff was only able to barely scratch the surface of the 15,000 annual goal by planting a limited number of trees, it was an awesome opportunity to get my hands dirty and reconnect with direct service work that I often enjoyed as a Bonner Scholar during my time at Davidson.

Moreover, these opportunities helped remind me that while non-profit organizations cannot accomplish many of their goals without funding support from Foundations and generous individuals, it also helped remind me that funders and foundations can’t accomplish their goals of improving the world without the tireless work of non-profit organizations who leverage funding to improve their communities (as obvious as it may sound.) All of this gave me the  opportunity to see coworkers come together outside of the office and plant a ring of trees around Betty Rae Thomas Center, although it came at the price of a sore back for a couple of days.