For many at-risk students across the country right now, high school graduation is a milestone. Their walk across the graduation stage symbolizes their journey to overcome the adult-sized obstacles in their paths.
Many of these students face challenges in their lives that create barriers in school – the lack of food at home, the need for a safe place to sleep at night, or trauma in their lives. Those barriers made it difficult for them to stay in school and make it to graduation.
But millions of students were determined to finish school and are part of a new graduation generation.
Take Steffan for example: Steffan is a first-generation student born to immigrant parents. With limited guidance on how to navigate the college preparatory process, Steffan’s support from his CIS site coordinator, Ms. Gallardo, helped him gain knowledge through his last year of high school. Steffan graduates in June and has been accepted by five universities, with one offering him a full-ride scholarship.
Or consider Shonya, who endured the loss of her house during a fire and attended school the very next day. Through overwhelming frustration and hectic schedules, Shonya leaned in to the care of her CIS site coordinator, Mrs. Berry, for support. Shonya also graduates this month and has acceptance letters to three universities, one of which has offered her a $60,000 scholarship.
Building a community of support for students like Steffan and Shonya is necessary. This is exactly what Communities In School does. CIS’ brings community resources into schools through a school-based coordinator. These caring adults are present in the lives of at-risk students and play a key role in students getting to the finish line of graduation.
Our data shows that when our site coordinators help meet our students’ basic needs - like food and clothing, and more complex ones like counseling and mentoring - students can focus on learning and go on to brighter futures.
How do we know?
For 40 years, we have worked inside schools and been a positive force in the lives of students. In fact, during the 2015-2016 school year, 91 percent of eligible seniors served by CIS graduated or received a GED.
But there is no better evidence than the stories of the students themselves.
Watch this video in which we reunited our successful graduates with the site coordinators who empowered their success.
But we must create more graduation generations.
More than 2.2 million students still drop out of high school every year when the barriers they face seem insurmountable. Newly proposed budget cuts to essential programs and resources threaten our ability to help vulnerable youth who need our help the most.