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Systemic racial inequities exposed by COVID-19 heighten the need for systems transformation

By Communities In Schools March 23, 2021

CINCINNATI, OH — StoryCorps, the notable nonprofit working to preserve and share humanity’s stories, recently worked with a coalition of national and local organizations to capture conversations about race, education and opportunity. Recorded at the height of the pandemic, these conversations shed light on values that bring people together. The collection of stories, dubbed “Community Conversations,” is being released today.

The work was rooted in the belief that every child should have every opportunity to succeed. COVID-19 exposed systemic weaknesses that interrupted learning for many children of color and children living in poverty. This led to a desire to hear directly from community members, to amplify their voices and raise the invisible to the visible. These stories help inform and shape the work being done to break down barriers for children and families across the country.

Thrive Chicago, Learn to Earn Dayton, United Way of Greater Lehigh Valley and Seeding Success have been working alongside Together For Students, a national collaboration that leverages the strengths of Communities In Schools, the Institute for Educational Leadership’s Coalition for Community Schools and StriveTogether, funded by Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. In total, four metro areas — Chicago, Ill.; Dayton, Ohio; Lehigh Valley, Penn.; and Memphis, Tenn. — participated.

“These local organizations are helping their communities change the systems that fail so many families of color and families experiencing poverty. There is tremendous need and opportunity to redefine what’s possible,” says Jennifer Blatz, president and CEO of StriveTogether. “But this all begins by listening to the needs of the community and holding their stories at the center of all work being done.”

The stories include a wide diversity of ages, economic and racial backgrounds, and relationships to highlight common values and experiences across the country. The conversations are heartwarming, honest and insightful. For example, when Alyssa Payton speaks with her 7-year-old son Dylan about adjusting to changes during the COVID-19 pandemic, he pauses to ask, “How does it feel having kids?” In Dayton, Ohio, sisters Gloria and Isabel Pappaterra discuss encountering discrimination while in school and what needs to be done today. “Now is the time to be bold. Stand up and don’t be afraid,” says Isabel. “Or be afraid, but do it anyways because it’s got to get done.”

The entire collection of stories is available to listen to at   


About Together For Students
Together for Students is a collaboration between the Coalition for Community Schools, Community in Schools, and StriveTogether, working together to invest in young people with a vision of children being in the center of the education experience. It is supported by the Ford Foundation and the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.

About Coalition for Community Schools
Supported by the Institute for Educational Leadership, the Coalition for Community Schools evolved since 1998 as an ecosystem of national, state, and local cross-sector leaders that promote community schools as an equity-driven, researched-based strategy, and fights for justice and investments for young people’s access to resources, supports, and opportunities they deserve to advance their hopes and fulfill their social responsibility.  

The strengths of the Coalition are the close relationships we have with thousands of grassroots to grasstops leaders, organized in networks to expand their knowledge, skills, beliefs, and practices; and our ability to prepare, support, and mobilize leaders, to create transformative and innovative solutions to disrupt the status quo, and eliminate systemic and structural barriers to equitable outcomes in education. 

About Communities In Schools
Communities In Schools® (CIS™) is a national organization that ensures every student, regardless of race, zip code, or socioeconomic background has what they need to realize their potential in school and beyond. Working directly inside more than 2,900 schools across the country, we connect students to caring adults and community resources that help them see, confront, and overcome the barriers that stand between them and a brighter future. Together, we build a powerful change movement made up of peers, students, and alumni committed to building an equitable path to education for future generations.

About StriveTogether
StriveTogether partners with nearly 70 communities across the country to advance equity so local success stories can become the reality for every child, everywhere. They work to transform failing systems using collaborative improvement and a proven framework for change. The StriveTogether Cradle to Career Network is closing disparity gaps in education, housing and so much more. Together, they impacted the lives of more than 12 million youth — more than half are children of color — across 30 states and Washington, D.C. Learn more at

About Communities In Schools

Communities In Schools (CIS) is the nation’s largest organization dedicated to empowering at-risk students to stay in school and on a path to a brighter future. Working directly inside more than 2,500 schools across the country, we connect kids to caring adults and community resources designed to help them succeed. We do whatever it takes to ensure that all kids—regardless of the challenges they may face—have what they need to realize their potential.

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