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Communities in Schools prepares for new school year

SALISBURY — Communities in Schools of Rowan County is ready for a new school year — and ready to reach more kids.

This year, the United Way agency is branching out into two more schools: Hurley Elementary and Henderson Independent High School.

At its kickoff breakfast Thursday morning, Executive Director Ron Turbyfill spoke to get administrators, community members and CIS employees pumped up about the mission.

Communities in Schools is a nonprofit dropout prevention organization that works with students to improve graduation rates, grades and behavior through tutoring, volunteers and community involvement.

Last year, CIS worked with 3,415 students in seven area schools: Hanford Dole Elementary, Isenberg Elementary, Koontz Elementary, North Rowan Elementary, Overton Elementary, Knox Middle and North Rowan Middle. About 97 percent of students coached by CIS volunteers and student support specialists were promoted to the next grade level.

For students, however, success sometimes isn’t about the lessons, Turbyfill said — it’s about the relationships.

“That’s what it’s about,” he said Thursday.

This year, CIS staff members are approaching the year with the movie “Hidden Figures” in mind. The 2016 film tells the stories of Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson, three African-American women who worked for NASA in the 1950s.

Because of their gender and race, the three struggled to have their work recognized and appreciated. Turbyfill said CIS is looking for students who also might be “hidden figures.”

“What we do is we help find those hidden talents. We find those hidden figures in our schools every, every day,” he said.

Turbyfill also spoke about the importance of volunteers, who he said are the “community” in Communities in Schools.

“You are who we are surrounding our students with,” he said.

This year, the CIS student support staff is taking a slightly different approach to its mission. Turbyfill said a student support specialist at each school will build a team of teachers to accurately identify the needs of each school and build a targeted support plan.

“Our mission is like putting someone into space,” Turbyfill said.

Students shared their experiences with CIS Rowan, describing how the organization had given them a backpack in need, granted a scholarship to attend college or helped them attend summer camp.

“What could he be?” Turbyfill asked about a student. “Anything.”

Communities in Schools is a national dropout prevention program. It provides school supplies, backpacks and academic services to identified students. Volunteers cover a range of roles, from being a student’s lunch buddy to tutoring.

Volunteers are needed for Communities in Schools of Rowan County. Visit www.cisrowan.org or call 704-797-0210 for more information.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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