Guest column: The community responds at North Rowan Middle

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 9, 2016

By Tracy Harris

Special to the Post 

When I first took the student support specialist position at North Rowan Middle School, I had no clue as to what I would encounter. Coming into the position the second half of the school year had its challenges, but I was excited to be back in the field of social work after being away for almost six years. The old saying goes “it’s like riding a bike — once you learn how to do it you never forget.” This was very true concerning this new opportunity that had presented itself through Communities In Schools. Though I felt like I was in my element again, I still had plenty to learn about this awesome organization and what it does to help students.

Communities In Schools (CIS) is the national leading dropout-prevention organization. Our mission is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. CIS of Rowan County began in 1998 and is currently working in 10 Rowan-Salisbury Schools.

Communities In Schools positions a dedicated student support specialist in the local school system. In this pivotal role, the coordinator works with school staff to identify students at risk of not graduating. He or she also addresses school and student needs and establishes relationships with local business partners, social service agencies, and parent and volunteer organizations to provide necessary resources. What sets Communities In Schools apart is its integrated student service model, which provides a comprehensive range of community-based interventions that can help each student reach his or her potential.

For over 30 years, Communities In Schools has worked to ensure that every child needs and deserves these five basics:

  • A personal one-on-one relationship with a caring adult
  • A safe place to learn and grow
  • A healthy start and a healthy future
  • A marketable skill to use upon graduation
  • A chance to give back to peers and community

Other services that CIS offers are individual student needs including: medical (eyeglasses, doctor appointments, medication, screening, etc.), mental health or counseling, academics, socio-economic issues, school supplies, uniform clothing, after school activities, tutoring and mentoring, discussion groups, behavior modification, parent involvement, encouragement, problem solving, transportation when applicable and referral to other programs.

One of the major responsibilities of the student support specialist is to recruit volunteers and mentors from the community that will give of their time to come in and tutor or mentor students. I am eternally grateful for the faithful few that gave of their time this year to assist students. But there is one particular group of volunteers that I was truly blessed to have as colleagues this year. They are none other than Pastor Timothy Bates and the “Man Up Monday” team. These gentlemen did not hesitate to roll up their sleeves and engage the students at North Rowan Middle. When entering this position, there was a particular group of students who grabbed my attention immediately. Though I was excited to meet and work with every grade level, it was the eighth grade students who I quickly focused on.

From speaking with a lot of them I was surprised to learn that many didn’t have goals set for themselves for the future. It was then I set out to start a group for eighth-grade students to assist them in preparing for their future. For four weeks, these gentlemen came in and discussed everything from goal preparation to interview techniques and how to speak publicly. The name of the group was uniquely called I.M.P.A.C.T. They wanted the students to learn the importance of their own influence and how they could one day make an impact in the lives of others.

I can honestly say in just those four weeks I watched students who didn’t have a plan in place become more optimistic about their future and what they wanted to achieve out of life. I am in great expectation as to what will take place in these student’s lives from this point forward. In a matter of days they can officially call themselves high school students. The I.M.P.A.C.T. group will be a permanent part of the CIS program at North Rowan Middle. I am looking forward to this new relationship and what it will accomplish for the sake of the students. Thank you Pastor Timothy Bates, Pastor Patrick Jones, Nicolas Means, Jermaine Miller and Jarvis Miller for what you have done this school year to impact and provoke change in the minds of not only students at North Rowan Middle but students all across this county.

Tracy Harris works as a student support specialist for Communities In Schools.