02/24/13 — Communities in Schools: For the children

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Communities in Schools: For the children

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on February 24, 2013 1:50 AM

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Vennie Jordan buys a pack of greeting cards designed by local students that were being sold as part of a fundraiser for Communities In Schools of Wayne County during the "Have A Heart for Kids Coffee" program at Bethel Church on Friday.

Communities in Schools has had a "fantastic year," its executive director said Friday. But, Selena Bennett added, despite all the volunteer and staff efforts to keep its programs going, funding is still needed and she's hoping the community will chip in to help.

And on Friday at the "Have a Heart for Kids Coffee," at Bethel Church, CIS unveiled the results of a countywide contest held in local schools -- greeting cards and bookmarks featuring student artwork.

The packages of six greeting cards are being sold for $10 and bookmarks are $1 each. They are available at the CIS office, 308 N. William St.

The agency is currently undergoing the arduous process of accreditation, Mrs. Bennett told the gathering -- which included representatives from Partnership for Children, Wayne County Public Library, the city and county, and law enforcement.

The reception was an opportunity to raise awareness about what CIS does.

The mission of CIS, she said, is to provide students with a community of support empowering them to stay in school and to achieve in life.

She added that despite operating on a "shoestring budget," she has a very hard-working board and strong partnerships.

"If it wasn't for the relationships we have built with Wayne County Public Schools, there are so many programs that we would not have been able to get done," said Bill Keel, board chairman.

Dr. Steven Taylor, superintendent of schools, said the district has worked with CIS for nearly 20 years, supporting such programs as Teen Court, mentoring and tutoring, the recent addition of a firefighting academy at Goldsboro High School, as well as graduation coaches in high schools and now success coaches at the middle school level.

"The programs that we have had in place have been very important because they impacted children in a positive way," he said. "This is a quality program. It's been in place for some time."

Another reason for Friday's event was to celebrate the success of CIS, Mrs. Bennett said, as well as to generate support for the next phase of efforts.

An "at-risk child," she told the audience, is not limited to those at the extreme of the spectrum.

"An at-risk child can be any child that's not working up to their potential," she said.

As such, the "dropout crisis" continues to demand attention.

She shared several statistics -- that one-third of American high school students do not graduate on time, one-half of Hispanic, black and American Indian students do not graduate on time, and that every day, 7,000 students drop out of high school.

By contrast, CIS boasted some wonderful statistics of its own for the year 2011-12, Mrs. Bennett said -- 99 percent of student served in the district stayed in school, 95 percent of them were promoted and 99 percent of the seniors they worked with graduated.

"Unfortunately," she added, "toward the end of the school year we had a couple kids that were just gone -- they moved, they dropped out. We did everything we could to get them back."

For more information on the fundraiser or to make a donation to CIS, call 919-735-1432.