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CIS Alumnus Cyril Jefferson: Making History and Leading a Community

By Communities In Schools | Feb. 26, 2024 Alumni Where Are They Now

Communities In Schools® (CIS®) proudly celebrates Black History Month by shining a spotlight on the remarkable achievements of students, alumni and others in our national network who are shaping history in the present. 

Communities In Schools recently sat down with CIS of High Point Alumnus Cyril Jefferson. In 2023, Cyril achieved a historic milestone, becoming the first man of color and youngest to ever be elected as the Mayor of High Point. Get to know Cyril and learn about his significant role as a leader and changemaker.  

Achieving College Dreams with CIS 

In high school, Cyril was a student who possessed academic potential and ability. Communities In Schools of High Point, along with his CIS Site Coordinator Tamekia Stevens, supported Cyril with the college application process, encouraging him to maximize his potential through scholarships, extracurricular activities, and SAT prep. With hard work and the support of CIS, Cyril was accepted and received a full ride scholarship to the historically Black university Howard University.  

I was able to get the most out of my college application process because I needed someone to guide me. It was a surreal feeling to achieve the goal of getting into Howard. 

Cyril transitioned back to North Carolina to finish his college experience after his sophomore year. His connections to his CIS affiliate in High Point opened the door to community mentors in his adulthood and scholarships to both North Carolina A&T University and High Point University. While attending college, Cyril cultivated a skillset as a public speaker through opportunities provided by CIS, which led to keynote opportunities, internships, and continued support.  

Cyril spoke as an advocate for maintaining student supports for CIS alumni at national events such as the annual Achieve In Life Conference. He understood the importance of continued resources and mentoring for alumni as they adjust to college or the workforce, making sure they continue to succeed beyond high school. The mentors that CIS connected Cyril to helped guide his success after college and in his career.  

“CIS wrapped their arms around me so I could achieve in life.”  

Evolving Into a Community Leader  

While settling down to start a family – with his wife, a fellow CIS of High Point alumnus – Cyril served as a youth development consultant and student support specialist at CIS of High Point, which laid the foundation for him to start his own organization.   

During his tenure, Cyril designed a program working with young people, including direct mentoring, and intervention for kids who were having difficulty in school. As a result of the program, students were doing well and making improvements.  

As the program began to grow rapidly, Cyril knew it was important to increase capacity to support more students. This led him to create Change Often, a social innovation firm that helps nonprofits, and companies with comprehensive capacity-building services. 

“CIS placed me in the position to do the work I did as an alumnus, as an entrepreneur, and in government.”  

With Change Often up and running, Cyril wanted to do even more, and he started by asking a central question: “How can we build a better city for our children and communities?” He started to learn more about High Point’s city council. Building a public service strategy, he went on to win a Ward 1 city council seat in November 2019.  

Making History in High Point  

Jefferson’s work on the city council led to significant impact and improvements in High Point. Initially, when starting out in the role, the residents of High Point were unsure Cyril and the council could tackle big challenges. But Cyril quickly proved that he was the right person to address important issues. He was able to find leverage points to create initiatives such as community revitalization projects to revitalize High Point’s historic Black Wall Street and attracted a professional soccer team to the town.  

All the initiatives we have accomplished have been an example that you can make big change happen, but you cannot do it by yourself.

Jefferson’s success on the city council led to his next phase of leadership. In November 2023, High Point voters elected 31-year-old Cyril as the first Black man (and the youngest) to ever serve as mayor in High Point’s history.  

As mayor, Cyril is ready to advance several initiatives that will increase access to resources and equity in High Point such as affordable housing and investing in small and minority-owned businesses.  

“I’m looking forward to continuing to cultivate the spirit of optimism in our community.”   

Cyril is an example of emerging Black leadership. Because of the consistent support CIS offered him during and after high school, Cyril had the necessary resources to achieve in life. When reflecting on his own experience, he offers advice for the current CIS generation:  

What I tell any young person is to never ever, ever give up; just at the breaking point, often the biggest opportunities manifest. If you stick with it, you can do things you never imagined.

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Join Our Community of changemakers and stay connected with us!

Data submitted in this form is provided to a third-party data processor. By submitting this form, you agree to FormAssembly’s and Causeview’s privacy policies (linked) and the use of your personal data as described therein.