With a mixture of public and private funding, Communities in Schools (CIS) works closely with schools, social services, businesses and volunteers to get young people the things they need to learn and grow: mentors and tutors, after-school help, family services to stabilize the home. They use prominent members of the community to help students achieve these basic supports; increasing their ability to succeed and grow into productive adults.
The program will expand into Milford next fall, beginning at the Central Academy with the eighth and ninth grade students. “This is really the age where kids start to think about dropping out,” commented Jim Purcell, President of CIS. “This is the time when we really need to reach out to them.” Communities In Schools offers an individualized approach to help children overcome roadblocks – opening doors that would otherwise be unachievable or unimaginable
In 1992 Delaware began implementing the national program at William Penn High School and has now expanded into 5 districts and 10 schools across the state. Under Jim Purcell, the non-profit program went from a $300,000 organization to a $800,000 organization from 2005 to 2008 as it continues to grow in Kent and Sussex Counties.
The program received funding from the federal Race to the Top Program to aid with the expansion into the Milford School District. Mr. Purcell is grateful for the federal funds to expand the work of the non-profit but acknowledges that it is only seed money. “The Race to the Top money for education needs will only be around for three years and that is exactly why Communities In Schools is such a great tool for the Milford School District,” stated Mr. Purcell. “After the federal money is gone Communities In Schools will be able to sustain its mission by the partnerships it builds with small businesses and community organizations.”
Communities In Schools helps develop a plan for local schools and individual children based on assessments and communications with local school. They act as a point of contact for the schools to direct the most needed services for students. CIS focuses on dealing with issues in the community and among families so that the schools and children can focus on their school work. . “Different kids have different needs. Some need academic help; some need a stable home and food on the table, or someone who will listen and help guide the way. Others just need a pair of eyeglasses,” commented Mr. Purcell.
Mr. Purcell hopes that the program that is implemented in Milford will enjoy the same success that its upstate models have in the past. Communities In Schools’ goal is to eventually expand into all of the schools within the Milford School District. In April Mr. Purcell will be holding community orientations to introduce the program to the Milford community.