“To have a student express appreciation for your time and attention leaves you speechless,” one CIS site coordinator explained after a recent experience with a student.
The Berkeley County Schools' Communities In Schools program currently serves seven schools and touches the lives of not only students with need, but supports their families as well. Since CIS came to Berkeley County Schools, over 1260 students and families have received case management services. At this time, CIS school site coordinators are providing case management services to 356 students and families (and growing).
Our CIS team provides a variety of services to our students. Some students may receive basic needs such as clothing and food assistance. Students may receive behavior interventions, support with anger management, conflict resolution, supportive counseling or crisis intervention. Interactions with our students may occur individually, in a group setting, or in a home visit. CIS site coordinators are student advocates working with their teachers, counselor, and principal. Through daily contact, CIS staff monitor student progress and attendances, provide academic assistance, mentoring, motivation, and coaching to navigate daily social interactions and the mastery of basic life skills. The relationship between student and CIS site coordinator often extends beyond the traditional day. You will find our mentors attending after school clubs and activities and hosting evening events that always include the family.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, CIS site coordinators moved their visits to a virtual format. They also provided several engaging activities hosted by CIS and school staff to be shared between student and family. Virtual family paint night provided a time for students to express their creativity in a "no worry" zone. Every painting was truly a piece of art, and unique to its creator. School staff such as the counselor and art teacher often supported our CIS staff in these events.
Family Pizza Night was a second virtual activity to involve CIS students, their families and school staff. Designed with several goals in mind, students engaged and worked collaboratively with family members, followed directions and learned to make a meal that could be prepared with a few ingredients and some creativity.
While a primary focus for a CIS site coordinator is to support the students, our team often works side by side with administration, school counseling, and of course, the classroom teacher. While discipline, attendance, and academics are a focus, so too is preparation for life beyond the current school year. Recently, teaching basic life skills such as meal preparation was instrumental to the success of a family unit. One CIS student helped support his family member who had been hospitalized, and upon their return home from the hospital was able to provide basic care and nutrition to help the family get back on their feet.
Parent feedback to the above situation posted to Facebook : "Wanna give a huge shout out to North Middle for being there for my son during my recent hospital stay. Mr. Sarina and the staff at North ROCK! I can't thank you enough."
"Communities In Schools has made an immense impact on my school and, more personally, for my classroom. My school is home to a very special and specific population of students. Many are considered high risk and on the verge of failing. Some students have behavior issues, and many students do not have their most basic needs being met at home. Some are subject to deep trauma causing them to struggle and function in a traditional school environment.
"The Communities In Schools coordinator works tirelessly to keep our students in school, helping them to cope and function at a level that will ensure their success after leaving our school. Attendance issues are met with compassion. Our CIS coordinator makes home visits and communicates regularly with parents/caregivers through phone calls, emails, and text messages. I have students, both current and former, who work daily with our wonderful CIS staff to develop coping strategies and behavior plans. These strategies and plans enable student success and create bonds that last beyond the years these students attend our school.
"These meetings serve our students as they are, where they are, and how they are."
"Our CIS coordinators provide with one-on-one and group meetings to boost self esteem, monitor social issues, attendance, and manage anger control. These meetings serve our students as they are, where they are, and how they are. I have seen incredible improvements in the classroom and in the personal lives of these students who embrace the tools provided through these sessions. The relationships forged between student and coordinator extend beyond the school day and often the school year. It is commonplace for CIS staffers to attend students' after-school athletic events and clubs and to provide student and family support emotionally, nutritionally and academically regardless of the time of the year. I believe that the success achieved by our CIS students and families should be attributed to the supports of this program and the dedication and resourcefulness of the CIS staff."