To ensure the success of its students, a community needs to be involved in its schools.
That’s the driving force behind Communities in Schools of Coweta County, which provides support and services to students, families and schools in the Coweta County School System.
The organization is gearing up for the 2018-19 school year, which begins Friday. Communities in Schools has three focused Coweta sites – East Coweta High School, Newnan High School and Ruth Hill Elementary School – but also provides services such as mentoring throughout the school system.
Executive Director Gina Weathersby said staff members are looking forward to the first day of school.
“We’re excited to start the school year with site coordinators helping students succeed,” Weathersby said. “We’re also excited to be able to serve even more students throughout the county with the mentoring program.”
CIS of Coweta is part of a network of service providers working directly in more than 2,300 schools in 26 states and territories to improve student success and increase graduation rates.
Approximately one in five U.S. children younger than 18 lives in poverty and struggles with issues of access and equity in education. Communities in Schools targets the needs of students who are highly vulnerable to truancy and dropping out before earning their high school diplomas.
Site coordinators are school-based CIS staff members who partner with teachers to identify challenges students face in class or at home. They coordinate with community partners to bring outside resources into schools, filling immediate needs like food or clothing as well as addressing complex needs such as counseling.
Providing direct support better prepares students to pursue careers and postsecondary education, Weathersby said. Students work with site coordinators to set goals and make a plan for reaching those goals. The newest part of the CIS Coweta program is a partnership that began last year with the Coweta County School System to head up its mentoring program.
The mentoring program pairs adults with local students to be a consistent, positive influence, particularly for those who may not have as many positive influences in other parts of their lives, according to Weathersby. Denise Buchanan serves as manager of the mentoring program.
“Denise has done a terrific job with this program,” Weathersby said. “She took the good work that the school system started and expanded it, pairing even more students with caring adults. We are excited to continue this trend. It is so important for these students to have adults who are consistently there for them, so the most important part of Denise’s work is finding people who are committed to being with their students on a very regular basis.”
To help fund its work, CIS Coweta recently held its annual Hats and Hooves Derby Affair fundraiser. More than 400 guests attended the event – which is in its fifth year – and helped raise more than $150,000 in support of the nonprofit.
“We could not be more pleased by the turnout at this year’s event,” Weathersby said. “Not only did we dodge the potential for rain, but we had one of the most successful outcomes from this event to date.”
Donna Brooks, a past chair of CIS Coweta, agreed.
“I’m consistently impressed by our community’s generosity,” Brooks said. “Our guests bought tickets and bid over and over for auction items. Our sponsors contributed generously and helped us put on a unique and fantastic event.”
The organization began operating in the Coweta County School System in 2014 with one site coordinator. Since then, CIS Coweta has expanded to five site coordinators in three schools, providing services to more than 5,000 local students each year and increasing graduation rates by 10 percent.