Communities In Schools of Wayne County (CISWayneco) is on hand to help at-risk children, onsite, in school, on every single school day. This continuity of support is one of the main reasons our latest small grant recipient is having a real impact. But Communities In Schools was also founded in large measure to teach children how to form healthy relationships. This is accomplished by providing a consistent adult mentor to each child, to lend support to those children most in need of mentoring.
We put some questions to Communities In Schools of Wayne County Site Coordinator Supervisor/Data Specialist Katie Stephen to learn more about this work:
Kars4Kids: Tell us something about your demographic? Who are the young people you serve?
Katie Stephen: Communities In Schools is located in Rural Eastern Indiana. We focus on serving students in five different school districts. Every student in each district has the opportunity to receive services.
Kars4Kids: What are the aims of CIS as a national organization?
Katie Stephen: Our mission at CIS is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. CIS was founded not on a program to transform youth but on a foundation to build healthy relationships between adults and children.
Kars4Kids: CIS describes its model as “unique.” How so?
Katie Stephen: We are unique because we have a site coordinator that is in the school building every day. We have constant communication with our school administration teams, teachers, and counselors to identify any students that may be at risk for dropping out. Our site coordinators also receive intensive training on how to identify at-risk students and provide the services that are needed to help them stay in school and achieve in life.
Kars4Kids: What is Ready, Set, Grow?
Katie Stephen: CIS’ Ready, Set, Grow, program was created to help tackle barriers that our case-managed students face on a daily basis. Through the Ready, Set, Grow program our site coordinators help students tackle barriers such as lack of hygiene products; lack of shoes or clothing; food insecurity; social/emotional stress; and many more. We use our Ready, Set Grow funds to directly purchase and distribute items the child need including all basic-need items: shoes, clothes, food, school supplies, and etc.
Kars4Kids: In your capacity as a site coordinator, what exactly do you do?
Katie Stephen: Our site coordinators fill many roles in our students’ lives. They work closely with their case-managed students and set goals to work on for the year. The goals are chosen from one of the following areas, academics, attendance, or behavior. Along with these goals, site coordinators provide necessary supports to help them overcome barriers they have in their life to help them succeed. These areas of supports include but are not limited to:
Kars4Kids: Do you have quality assurance protocols in place to ensure you’re meeting state and operational standards?
Katie Stephen: We have monthly meetings with our state affiliate to collaborate on best practices and work together to keep our organization on the right track with our national standards. We have reaccreditation yearly that I complete with our national office.
Kars4Kids: Mentoring is a key part of your program. Why is mentoring important?
Katie Stephen: Along with the site coordinator, our mentors can be another caring and constant adult in that child’s life. Mentoring is an added support to help our students achieve. Our mentors meet with the student once a week for thirty minutes. I am a mentor for a student here in Wayne County and from experience, I know that they look so forward to meeting with their grown-up!
Kars4Kids: How many students participate in your program? Do you offer the same supports to each individual student? Is there some process of evaluation, and is it ever necessary to change course in the academic assistance offered to the students?
Katie Stephen: During the 2022-2023 school year we had 963 case managed students enrolled in our program. However, every student in each school district is eligible to receive services. CIS site coordinators provided 1,436 different types of support to students in the same time period. School wide 237,371 students were served; this included students who may have been served once and students served multiple times. 8,025 basic needs/resource items were given to students in need.
Kars4Kids: Can you tell us about the impact of CIS of Wayne County? What are some of the benchmarks that suggest you’re on the right track with the students?
Katie Stephen: For the 2022-2023 school year, CIS enjoyed the following results among the 982 case-managed students:
− 97% of Wayne County Pre-K-11 students were promoted to the next grade.
− 99% of Wayne County seniors graduated from high school.
− 100% of students showed progress towards or met academic goals.
− 90% of students showed progress towards or met attendance goals.
− 84% of students showed progress towards or met behavior goals.
In the 2021-2022 school year, CIS case managed 978 students. These students set goals in three areas of school success: attendance, behavior, and academics. Of the students who set goals in these categories:
In the 2020-2021 school year, CIS case managed 797 students. Of the students in this school year who set goals in at least one of the three categories-
In the 2018-2019 school year, four Wayne County school districts received funding that increased the number of schools and school districts served by CIS, as well as an increase in hours worked by site coordinators per week. As a result of this increase in services, CIS has seen a positive impact on the percentage of students who meet or make progress towards their goals in all three categories tracked by the Site Coordination program.
When schools were shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic at the end of the 2019-2020 school year, CIS immediately took steps to make sure that our students did not fall behind. CIS was able to distribute food, clothing, and educational tools to families directly on their doorsteps until students were back in school, and CIS worked with our community partners to provide a direct connection to local resources for any needs that could be met by our programs. In total, CIS provided 3,600 food bags to families during this time. This equates to roughly 400 students served per month.
Kars4Kids: What’s next for Communities In Schools of Wayne County?
Katie Stephen: We are thrilled to have our first annual pickleball tournament coming up on July 16th 2023. We are working diligently to prepare for the back-to-school season coming up in August. Our aim is to help more kids succeed in school and life and public support is crucial to these efforts. Please take a look at our donation page for various ways to contribute. Your generosity makes all the difference for the students of Wayne County!