Communities in Schools: Serving Children Inside and Outside of School
By Debbie Nelson, DNA Creative Communications
Photo by Amy Randall Photography
Every mom hopes that her children will love to read. Caprice Jones is no different. From the beginning she chose to make reading a priority for her six children. “All of my kids enjoy reading today. I think it is because I read stories and played classical music for them before they were born,” explained Caprice.
Caprice understands the importance of setting a strong foundation for her kids inside and outside of school. Graduating from high school and leading successful lives is a conversation she often has with them. She is very proud of her oldest – Morriyana, who graduated from Carolina High School a few years ago. “My daughter is a great mom to my sweet grandbaby. She is a hard worker and soon she will be the first homeowner in our family,” shared Caprice.
Caprice’s other children currently attend Greenville County Schools. Madison, Triston, Kimora, Dee’asia and Douglas are students at Welcome Elementary, Tanglewood Middle and Carolina High School. Recognizing that it takes a village, Caprice has partnered with nonprofit Communities In Schools (CIS) of Greenville for the past five years to make sure her children stay on the right path to graduate from high school.
CIS’s mission is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. English MacDonald serves as one of the family’s three CIS student support specialists. She has worked with this family since the start. “I have developed a strong connection to Caprice’s family over the years. They have the heart and desire to move forward; they just need an expanded support system… and the tools to access opportunities in our community,” explained English.
Student support specialists like English are essential to CIS’ success. As a personal point of contact, they work both inside and outside the classroom for their families. These passionate professionals ensure that the schools are providing integrated student and family services. While on the home front they connect their families to community partners and resources to meet their other needs.
This year, due to Covid-19, CIS and other organizations that support children and families have had to adapt from their traditional delivery methods. This is critical since the folks they serve are not at school and have more needs than ever. To identify struggles such as food insecurity, lack of technology and Wi-Fi and stable housing, the CIS team conducts needs assessments.
CIS then uses this information to connect families to essential resources to address the inequities they face. Over the past year English has directed Caprice to many opportunities including Harvest Hope and Meals-To-Go for food assistance, United Way of Greenville County’s 2-1-1 resource line for information about internet bill assistance, and to BellXcell for summer and afterschool learning.
While CIS’ student support specialists continue to make monthly home visits wearing masks and practicing social distancing, they do much of their work virtually. English is no stranger to Caprice’s family, whether in-person or on the computer screen; they always look forward to her visits. “What I love most about Ms. MacDonald is that she makes my kids feel good - while at the same time she is always firm with them,” said Caprice.
English works one-on-one with fourth-grader Madison to address her social emotional learning (SEL) and mental health. Madison is an engaging and creative child. She loves reading and art and considers herself a bookworm. When asked what she likes about working with Ms. MacDonald she candidly explained, “I like to have someone to talk to about my feelings. Sometimes it is hard to talk about things, but if I am happy it makes it easy.”
Sixth-grader Triston never met a stranger. He is a warm and friendly kid who loves to play baseball and read, especially graphic novels. This has been a tough school year for him. “I don’t like virtual school. It is hard to get help and sometimes I am late for class and get behind,” he shared.
Fortunately for Triston, Mykeva Floyd, his CIS student support specialist, is there to help him navigate school and his virtual assignments. During Covid, CIS continues to hold students accountable for their academics, annual goals and aspirations. However, as Triston explained, it is much more difficult right now.
Seventh-grader Kimora is also a student at Tanglewood Middle. She is a budding artist who likes reading and writing. She has fond memories of participating in CIS over the past three years. “I started with Ms. MacDonald but now I work with Ms. Diamond Bolling. Before Covid I liked going to the cafeteria after school to do my homework and play with my friends. I even got to do yoga and karate,” she explained. Kimora, like the rest of Caprice’s family, is eager to get back into the classroom.
While CIS has had to pivot in 2020 to meet the needs of children and families, the program continues to take a holistic approach to its work. CIS’ student support specialists work as a team to support families like Caprice’s.
“By working together, we truly understand the challenges our families are facing. This shared knowledge then allows us to build a customized community of support for each family. I am so glad we have been able to be there every step of the way for Caprice and her entire family during this difficult time,” explained English.
For more information about how to support Communities In Schools of Greenville please visit www.cisgreenville.org.
Debbie Nelson is the President of DNA Creative Communications, an inspirational marketing and public relations firm for nonprofits. She is the founder of Shine the Light (STL) Nonprofit Forums which has offered professional development to nonprofit leaders in the Upstate since 2010. She also partners with Together SC to develop its Facing Race Together programming, online training opportunities and the organization’s annual Nonprofit Summit.
Register for STL 2021-Leading Through Uncertainty facilitated by Eric Martin. Tackle complex organizational and community challenges by applying Adaptive Leadership. Nonprofit board and staff, community partners, funders, public officials, business leaders and other community advocates are encouraged to participate. www.nonprofitforums.org.