By Trishna Buch
Communities In Schools-Bay Area is a dropout prevention program, providing case management services to students in the Clear Creek and Dickinson Independent School Districts. The program, which is tailored towards at-risk students in kindergarten-12th grade, seeks to connect “students and families to critical services and community resources, enabling students to focus on their academic goals so they can achieve their potential.” The program consists of services such as counseling, college and career awareness and educational enhancement.
In the 2015-2016 school year, Dickinson ISD had 10,418 students, of which 6,443 were economically disadvantaged and 5,179 were at risk. Communities In Schools-Bay Area successfully assisted the district by serving five campuses and providing school-wide support to 6,668 students. In that year, 99 per cent of students stayed in school, 96 per cent of seniors graduated, 80 per cent of students showed academic improvement and 87 per cent of students showed behavior improvement. The program also helped families, with 90 per cent of people being promoted in their workplace.
In addition to helping receive promotions, Communities In Schools-Bay Area provided basic needs assistance to people that required these services. Examples of the assistance included: providing 9,559 school supplies and 2,907 books to students; providing 4,034 meals, 6,284 snack packs and 6,085 grocery items to families and providing 365 tutors and mentors to students, to help them with their academic concerns.
Communities In Schools-Bay Area attempts to provide solutions for long-term success. It plants the seeds of trust, kindness and academic importance in at-risk students, to ensure that they know they have the ability and power to change the course of the lives. The program wants to ensure these students know their lives are not subject to their circumstances.
The program collaborates with teachers, counselors and administrators to determine which students, in the district, can be identified as “at-risk”. Dickinson ISD currently has 50 per cent at-risk students and factors such as being homeless, dealing with teenage pregnancy, being in the juvenile justice system, failing standardized tests, being English Language Learners, being foster children and failing a grade, all contribute to being at-risk—according to the Texas Education Agency.
Communities In Schools-Bay Area understands that the possibility of having to deal with a crisis will come up at any time, towards any person. Therefore, the program works with these at-risk students, to create plans that will ensure their educational success. Along with maintaining positive relationships with the children and showing them friendly faces that are always available for support, the program also provides food, clothing, dental, vision, medical, mentors, tutors, housing referrals, parental assistance and grade and behavior check-ins.
28 years strong, Communities In Schools-Bay Area started operating out of Clear Creek Independent School District in 1989. In 1994, it began serving the students of two Dickinson schools—Dunbar Middle School and McAdams Jr High School. Eight years later, in 2002, the program began serving the students of Dickinson High School. In 2005, with the help of philanthropist Shamarion Barber, the program began to operate at the John and Shamarion Barber Middle School and, in 2007, started operating at K.E. Little Elementary School. While most schools have one coordinator at their campuses, the amount of at-risk students at Dickinson High School saw the need for an additional coordinator, who joined the campus in 2013. Three years later, in 2016, students at Lobit Middle School were included in the program.
Communities in Schools-Bay Area is such a well-known and respected program in the community, that it has received support from several programs. The program has partnerships with several organizations and businesses, such as MI Lewis, Lighthouse Christian Ministries, the Galveston County Food Bank, Dickinson First United Methodist Church and United Way Galveston County Mainland.
Along with executive director Peter Wuenschel and director of resource development, Hilary Gramm, Communities In Schools-Bay Area has the support of several board members. Board officers included president Carol Latimer, vice president Robert Davee, secretary Kevin Lardie, treasurer Jamieson Mackay, at-large member Joy Kelly and past president Darryl Smith. Board directors include Duane Bolpa of Merrill Lynch, Robert Cobb of DISD, mayor Julie Masters of Dickinson, Mike Cornett of Texas Citizens Bank and Jeanne deVezin of CCISD.
The program has a 99 per cent success rate and provides several opportunities to support it on its path to educating the future workforce. People are invited to donate school supplies, food, clothes, books and gifts—along with making financial contributions and providing academic incentives—to their location 17225 El Camino Real in Houston. The program also invites people to volunteer to become tutors or mentors to students, and invites businesses to adopt-a-school—which consists of these businesses supporting campuses with activities such as clothing drives, school supply drives, guest speaking and assisting with campus projects.
For more information on the program, visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/CISBayArea, go online to their website at cisba.org, visit their location or call them at 281-486-6698.