Creating Safe and Supportive Learning Environments

If you are familiar with Communities In Schools, you may know that we believe all students are entitled to each of our Five Basics.  Specifically, we continually strive to ensure every learner we serve has access to:

1. A healthy start and healthy future
2. A one-on-one relationship with a caring adult
3. A marketable skill to use upon graduation
4. A chance to give back to their community, and
5. A safe place to learn and grow.

One of the basics we feel too often overlooked happens to be a safe learning environment.  As years progress, our youth are gaining increasing access to information, paraphernalia, and negative role models that threaten the safety of themselves and others.  Incidents of violence and drug use continue to increase, and – more disturbingly – become problems at younger and younger ages.

Today’s students face a world of challenges unfamiliar to generations prior.  In association with high risk behaviors, incidents of bullying continue to skyrocket, and the advent of social media has brought this troubling behavior out of the school and in to the homes of both victims and predators.  Many victims of bullying report missing school in order to avoid confrontation.

East Alexander Middle School (EAMS) has taken action to eradicate these behaviors.  On Friday, October 31, 2014, all members of the student body participated in a Bullying Survey.  Results of the survey were delivered directly to the principal.

Through this questionnaire, EAMS hopes to identify areas of need around the school campus: locations that need more reinforcement or supervision, appropriate preventative measures, and positive behavior award measures to foster kindness and discourage bullying.  Action will take place, and the survey will be repeated at the end of the year to document changes we are sure to be seeing.

If you would like to know more about Communities In Schools in Alexander County, or would be interested in donating your time, talents, or treasures to our great efforts, please contact Angie Yates at 828-409-0231.

Out and About at the Apple Festival

As Communities In Schools (CIS) continues to expand and develop our presence in Alexander, we thrive on opportunities to interact with and get to know our community. We enjoyed one such occasion on October 18, 2014 – with our second year manning a booth at the Taylorsville Apple Festival.

The Apple Festival and events like it offer our staff and volunteers excellent opportunities to promote current Communities In Schools programing and services. Programs include Reading Partners, wherein carefully screened and trained tutors are matched with third graders to practice reading and comprehension skills.   For older area learners, we also offer Community of Friends Mentoring: which matches screened and trained mentors with students in sixth through eighth grade.  These mentoring pairs spend two to four hours each week together outside of school.

Public turnout was incredible during the festival this year, giving CIS a great chance to recruit willing and able volunteers for the above programs.  In total, 420 booths participated in the Apple Festival this year, with exponentially more community members stopping by to learn about out cause.  Those who stopped by had the chance to contribute monetarily this time as well:  our local Craftmaster donated a luxurious leather recliner to be sold via raffle.  Tickets sold for $1.00 a piece, or seven for $5.00.

We would like to extend a huge thank you to all the volunteers and staff who helped work the booth and make the day a huge success: Janeen Jones, Macy Jones, Susan Gantt, Mary Brown, Jason Evans, and the Alexander County CIS Team of Brittany Loudermilt, Jordyn Setzer and Angie Yates, all led by CIS Executive Director Glendora Yarbrough.

As always, we are in continual need for mentors and tutors as our offerings and waiting lists continue to grow.  If you or someone you know would be interested in volunteering, please contact Angie Yates at 828-409-0231.

Cougar Seminar at Alexander Central High

The 2014 school year is bringing many exciting changes when it comes to Communities In Schools’ work in Alexander County.  One of our new programs comes in the form of Cougar Seminar, which is offered to students in 9th through 12th grade at Alexander Central High.

Cougar Seminar is an advisory program that began on Wednesday, September 3, 2014.  Between September 3 and October 29th, students will meet in small groups with an assigned advisor (trained school faculty member) each Wednesday for 25 minutes. For the remainder of the school year, these meetings will take place every other week.  Students will remain with the same advisor until graduation.

Seminar Advisors serve not only as instructors, but as caring adults in the lives of our students: there to be a confidant and support through triumphs and trials. They also are a liaison to the students’ families: Advisors are required to make four parent/guardian contacts for each participant throughout the year.

While making invaluable connections with their Advisors and peers, participants also work through character- and resilience-building activities as a group.  Topics covered so far this year have included study skills, dating violence, cyber-bullying, digital footprints, internet safety, and more. ‘

Reception of the program has been both amazing and encouraging.  Youth report that Seminar has become their favorite class, noting that “The pressure is off and you can get to the meat of things.” Moreover, life-changing relationships continue to grow and blossom: learners have already felt comfortable approaching their advisors with difficult issues. In one instance, a student was able to open up about their advisor about another youth’s struggle with self harm. The teacher was able to intervene accordingly and help put an end to the destructive behavior.

If you or someone you know would like to know more about Cougar Seminar, please contact Angie Yates today!

Homerun Derby by Kinetic Fitness

Be sure to join Communities In Schools this Saturday, October 11 at Memorial Park to participate in Kinetic Fitness’ Homerun Derby!  If you are unfamiliar with this type of event — Homerun Derbys enable friends and neighbors the chance to test their batting skills, with the added bonus of a prize for the most proficient.  Better still, all proceeds will benefit programs and services for area
youth through CIS!

Registration for the event will cost $20 for the “Super Competitive Group” (300ft field), and $5 for the “Just for Fun” (285ft). Early registration will be open until October 10th, and check-in/late registration will begin October 11 at 9:00 am.

We hope to see you out for some fun and fellowship — as well as contribution to ever-growing cause.  It is through events and contributions like these that Communities In Schools is daily able to make the difference in the lives of area learners!
If you or someone you know may be interested in participating, or you would like to know more about the event, view the flyer on Facebook by clicking here or call 336-990-0075 today!

 

FOR Clubs Begin at Local Middle Schools

Students at East and West Alexander Middle joined a nationwide movement on Thursday, October 3, 2014 by hosting this year’s first “Friends of Rachel” meeting.  These clubs form in light of “Rachel’s Challenge,” a nonprofit campaign geared at decreasing school violence, bullying, and suicide.

 

If you are unfamiliar with Rachel’s Challenge, the campaign was formed in honor of Rachel Scott: the first teen whose life was tragically ended during the Columbine High School shootings.  Rachel was known for her kindness and compassion, to a level that her family has sought to carry her example onward and throughout the nation.
During Rachel’s Challenge, student and community members engage in a series strategies to improve the learning environment.  These strategies seek to equip participants with the tools necessary to create and continue school systems in which enrollees are able to feel safe and supported. Each strategy is based on writings found in Rachel’s diaries and journals.
During FOR clubs, students meet to brainstorm and implement these positive changes in their school system: They actively work to increase kindness and decrease bullying.  During the first meeting, members accepted “Rachel’s Challenge” and got to know one another.
If you are interested in learning more about FOR clubs, please contact Brittany Loudermilt (EWMS) or Jordyn Setzer (WAMS) today!

East Alexander Middle School Canned Food Drive

At Communities In Schools, we are continuously working to provide students with “The Five Basics.” These Basics are:

  1. A safe place to learn and grow.
  2. A one-on-one relationship with a caring adult.
  3. A healthy start, and a healthy future.
  4. A marketable skill to use upon graduation, and
  5. A chance to give back to the community.

Site coordinator Brittany Loudermilt is making efforts to provide this chance to give back, as she is orchestrating a Canned Food Drive.  The drive will run from September 29, 2014 until October 3, 2014, and will benefit several food banks in the area.  These valuable community resources around Alexander are finding themselves in short supply, and Communities In Schools seeks to encourage students to help make a difference in their county!

Ms. Loudermilt is providing some special incentives for East Alexander learners and faculty this time, too.  Every teacher and youth among the grade level that collects the most cans will receive a prize! Similarly, the individual student who brings in the most goods will receive a special reward all his or her own.

Parents and Teachers: Please encourage your teens to bring in canned goods and nonperishable items to help this great cause!  If you have any questions regarding acceptable donations, please feel free to email Brittany Loudermilt, or contact her at 828-632-7565 ext. 333.

Volunteer Training at Hiddenite Elementary School

On Monday, September 22, 2014, Communities In Schools host our first “Reading Partners” volunteer training.  During the event, six new volunteer tutors were instructed in the usage and aspect of the Reading A to Z curriculum that will be utilized throughout the program.

Reading Partners is a direct result of a partnership between the Alexander Missional Network and Communities In Schools.  While CIS wrote a grant to NC Literacy Corps to have a volunteer join our team, Alexander Missional Network provided funding to support the initiative.

The program will take place at both Hiddenite and Taylorsville Elementary schools, and will focus on students in the third grade.  Sessions will be held  on Mondays at Hiddenite and Wednesdays at Taylorsville.  Each volunteer tutor will work directly with small groups of two to three students.

During the training, which took place at Hiddenite Elementary School, instructional coaches Brenda Siniard (HES) and Kelly This (TES) guided our six volunteers through the ins-and-outs of the work they will be doing with students.  Communities In Schools executive director Glendora Yarbrough also spoke with participants on best practices to implement as a volunteer.

There is always a need for more willing and able tutors for our Reading Partners program.  If you, or someone you know would be interested in volunteering, please contact Angie Yates by email or at 828-409-0231 today!

West Alexander Middle: Accomplishing Greatness!

Communities In Schools would like to extend a heartfelt congratulations to West Alexander Middle School, as it was recently announced they exceeded expected growth during the 2013-2014 school year!

Similar in concept to height and weight charts found in your child’s doctors office, expected growth of a school compares changes in academic performance of the student body on a longitudinal level.  Simply put, scholastic fortitude and understanding are expected to increase a given amount between grade levels.  These levels vary year to year, with great inclines in knowledge during early years transition to more gradual growths during a learner’s later school years.

By exceeding expected growth, West Alexander Middle students’ test scores reflect greater performance and understanding than would have been projected when compared to those of 2012-2013.  What a great achievement for WAMS pupils and faculty!

Higher testing scores are, accordingly, linked with higher levels of proficiency in subject areas.  Currently, all Alexander students have a 60.2 % overall proficiency in Reading, 49.3% in Math, and 73.1% in Science.  With site coordinators now located at East Alexander Middle, West Alexander Middle, Alexander Central High, and a reading program at Taylorsville and Hiddenite Elementaries, it is our goal to see these numbers continue to rise in the coming years.  Stay tuned to see what we accomplish together!

Reading Partners: A New Program for Elementary Students

Since coming under the Communities In Schools of Wilkes’ umbrella in 2012, we’ve been able to bring many exciting and innovative opportunities to our students here in Alexander County.  The 2014-15 academic year holds no exception to this continued growth and development, as support from donors, volunteers, and partnering agencies bring more and more programs into our school system.

We are especially excited to have expanded our demographic this year through the implementation of “Reading Partners.”  Made possible through the NC Literacy Corps, this program brings Communities In Schools into Alexander County elementary schools, enabling us to impact the lives of our students during a pivotal point of their academic careers.
“Reading Partners” will take place at Taylorsville and Hiddenite Elementary schools, and will match carefully screened, trained adult volunteers with elementary learners at each respective site.   These volunteers will spend time reading with students, guiding them through reading comprehension activities proven to improve their performance in school.

Studies have shown that a student is set on the path to either graduate or drop out by the time he or she reaches the third grade.  Similarly troubling, youth retained in grade become increasingly more likely to drop out than their peers performing at grade level.  

CIS is sure to see a decrease in retention, a decrease in dropping out, and an increase in on-time graduation by intervening at this earlier age. To reach this goal, however, we will need your help!  If you or someone you know would be interested in volunteering with “Reading Partners,” please contact Angie Yates by email or at 828-409-0231 today!

CIS at the Alexander County Agricultural Fair

If you happened to visit the “Taylorsville Lions Club 69th Alexander County Agricultural Fair” this year, you may have seen Communities In Schools’ staff and volunteers out in force!  Our Alexander crew set up an information booth for the duration of the event, and we were able to spread a little knowledge about our cause because of it!  

Though we have recently passed our two year anniversary as an official Communities In Schools program, there are many individuals throughout our county who are still unfamiliar with our organization and cause.  These five days gave us ample opportunity to introduce ourselves – as well as encourage others to consider donating their time, talent, or treasure to our area’s learners.

As part of the nation’s leading dropout prevention network, our mission is to surround students with a community of support, enabling them to succeed in school and achieve in life.  Specifically, we work through in-school site coordinators to bring in valuable community resources, volunteers, and more, to meet needs and bridge gaps between our students and graduation.

CIS is proud to say that every program we offer is entirely free of charge, though this would not be possible without the aid of partnerships with businesses and civic organizations, donors, funders, and volunteers like you.  We make careful strides to encourage these partnerships come full circle as well by giving our students opportunities to give back to their friends and neighbors.  Our students have even collected large amounts of aluminum tabs for the aforementioned Lions Club, the proceeds from which help acquire service dogs for the visually impaired!

If you or someone you know may be interested in volunteering for or donating to Communities In Schools, please contact Angie Yates at 828-409-0231 or by email today!