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CISMBC board chair Terry Kennedy addresses those in attendance at Tuesday’s breakfast. She spoke on some of the organization’s successes from the past school year and also touched on its future.

Communities in Schools of Milledgeville/Baldwin County (CISMBC) looked back on the year that was Tuesday morning while also turning its eyes toward the future. 

The nonprofit organization held its annual breakfast where it hosted local school and community partners who have helped drive CISMBC’s mission to help out those students that need it most by providing tutoring services, mentorship, and even clothing. Board-governed CISMBC has operated locally for more than 10 years now and is under the leadership of Executive Director Sandy Baxter. She and others stressed Tuesday that CISMBC would not be able to make near the impact it does without the cooperation of local partners and especially the Baldwin County School District whose students benefit from those services.

CISMBC board chair Terry Kennedy began Tuesday’s event by welcoming everyone in attendance. 

“This event allows us to say thank you to all the people involved and who influence the children of our school system each day,” Kennedy said.

Partners were treated to breakfast inside Baldwin High School’s fine arts atrium and a quick look at CISMBC statistics from the 2018-19 school year. The organization provided its own “report card" chock-full of numbers touting the impact it had last academic year. CISMBC serves eight sites around the Baldwin County School District (BCSD) and last year generated more than 10,000 volunteer hours. Also, 528 students (about 10 percent of BCSD’s student population) received individualized case management services based on their needs. 

Other statistics included:

  • 88.5 percent of elementary CIS students who were failing academically improved their grades;
  • 75.5 percent of middle school CIS students improved their grades; 
  • 83.8 percent of students missing 10 or more days of school before participating in CIS improved their attendance and on average gained 11.6 days; and
  • all nine of last year’s CIS case-managed seniors graduated from high school.

That’s a look at the macro picture. To give the more micro view, CISMBC had a couple of site coordinators — the ones with their boots on the ground, so to speak, that are inside the school buildings each day — to share what they’ve seen. Early Learning Center site coordinator Mindee Adamson was approached by building director Lori Smith a few years ago to create a library for the school’s preschool-aged children. Although the 3- and 4-year-olds can’t read yet, a love of reading is being fostered. 

“The ownership of them being able to come choose a book off the shelf to take back for their teachers to read is so exciting,” Adamson said. “Getting them excited about reading, I think, is on the stairway to success for our earliest learners all the way up to the high school students.”

CISMBC Baldwin High site coordinator Andie Herrington told the more than 50 in attendance that not all students who come need help with their academics. What they do need, however, is a personal relationship with someone who cares about them and their future.

“They might not struggle with their academics, but they just need somebody to encourage them,” said Herrington. “They need a smiling face and somebody who understands what they’re going through. I’m able to do that. Our tutors and mentors are able to do that. We’re able to give them the support they need that they otherwise might not be given.”

CIS of Georgia CEO Carol Lewis was on hand Tuesday and said its people like Adamson, Herrington, and volunteers who make Communities in Schools successful.

“The magic happens at the school-site level,” Lewis said. “It happens with that student in the hallway. It happens when people reach across and touch the lives of children.”

The theme of Tuesday’s breakfast was “Focus Forward.” The future looks bright for CISMBC as last year the organization was awarded a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. The funds will be spread out over five years and be used to expand CISMBC’s reach to more students in need. One major part of the nonprofit’s mission is to remove barriers to student success. Those barriers may come in a variety of ways such as not having the necessary supplies or school uniforms or even access to health care and medical insurance. The Wraparound Baldwin grant as it has been dubbed will create a school-based clinic housed inside the Early Learning Center. Students who are not covered by health insurance may visit the clinic when ill and receive the treatment they need to get them back into the classroom. 

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