Today’s blog post is by Patty Pflum, executive director of Communities In Schools of Atlanta.
Forty years. From a few dedicated volunteers working from the dirt floor of a basement office in Atlanta to a national network that impacts more than one million students each year. Forty years. From offering a few “street academy” programs to serving more than 45,000 Atlanta-area children in multiple school districts annually. Forty years. From a dream to change lives and build communities by helping more kids graduate to earning recognition as the most effective dropout prevention organization in the country.
The year 2012 marks 40 years of service for Communities In Schools of Atlanta and the evolution of a national network. While this milestone anniversary should be a time for celebration, budget shortfalls have led to the proposed elimination of our largest school system partnership and we are in the difficult position of having to lay off more than 75 percent of our dedicated, highly-trained staff members.
Communities In Schools employees stand by the belief that we should never give up. We tell our students they are never to give up on their education or themselves. No matter the challenges–teen parenting, academic credit deficiencies, homelessness, having an incarcerated parent or contending with extreme poverty—we do not give up on kids, and we push them through and beyond challenges to success. We tell our students that if they can get over the obstacles they face now, then nothing will be able to stop them. More than 4,000 kids are provided with ongoing support as a part of Communities In Schools of Atlanta’s caseloads each year. Over the past six years, we have given more than $89,000 in emergency assistance to families and 96,000 new books to children in our partner schools. We have recruited volunteers who have given more than 100,000 hours of their time. Each year, our staff members mobilize more than 600 community partners to get involved—to the tune of $2 million in in-kind donations, donated services and countless hours of service. In 2011, 26 percent of Atlanta Public Schools’ students who earned diplomas received services from Communities In Schools of Atlanta.
To put it simply, we are not giving up. We will take the lessons learned during this milestone 40th anniversary year and use them to make certain we are around until there are no more dropouts.
We are prepared to march forward, but we cannot do so alone. We will need our students, parents, donors, business and civic leaders and the Communities In Schools family with us. Will you join us? Sign our petition, get involved or donate. Forty years strong and counting.