GUEST BLOGGER: Dan Cardinali, President, Communities in Schools, Inc.
Education is supposed to be the great equalizer in American society, a sort of escape valve for kids born into the “poverty pipeline.” Public schools have always offered an implicit social contract: If you work hard, stay out of trouble, and earn a diploma, you can rise above the circumstances of your birth.
But the truth is that the circumstances of your birth play a huge role in your ability to live up to the terms of that contract. Poor kids come to school every day with tremendous burdens that hinder their ability to learn. It’s hard to focus on math or reading when you’re hungry or sick or worried about where you’re going to sleep tonight. In those conditions, it can seem like the “escape valve” has been welded shut from the outside.
That’s why the work of Communities in Schools is so vital. In low-performing schools across the country, we identify the most at-risk students, find out their needs, and then match them up with resources available in the local community – food, clothing, transportation, housing, medical care, mentoring, and much more.
It’s a simple, cost-effective model with astounding results: Among the 1.25 million students that we help each year, 92.6 percent of our seniors will graduate despite grinding poverty, difficult family situations and low expectations.
Caring adults are the linchpin to our successful model. Site Coordinators like Steven Weeks at Greer Middle School in South Carolina form close, lasting relationships with dozens of students in order to identify their needs and remove the barriers to academic success. It’s a rare mix of passion and professionalism. “Knowing that he’s there makes me feel confident,” said 12th grader Kayla. “I know I have a stable foundation under my feet and I know that when I fall I have someone to catch me.”
“After my dad died, I kind of lost it all. I didn’t care, I just kind of gave up on myself. Mr. Weeks, he gave me a lot of help, lifted me back up, put me back on track in my life,” commented 9th grader Raphael. “He was really the first friend I made in middle school. He was the closest thing to a father I could ever have. It’s just like someone you could never forget about, almost like a precious someone who belongs in your heart.”
We recently featured Steven in our “Unsung Heroes” video series. You can learn more about his work, along with a half dozen other Site Coordinators who are making a major difference every day.
Site Coordinators are full-time professionals, but there are plenty of other opportunities to show a kid that you care. We have 70,000 volunteers nationwide who are doing their part to create real educational opportunities for disadvantaged kids, and we would love for you to join them.
Please take the pledge to get involved and make a difference today.