Recent headlines sadly remind us that New Mexico remains one of the most socio-economically challenged states in the country, ranking 49th for child well-being and education. With approximately 73,000 families living in poverty and more students dropping out of school each year, New Mexicans must adopt effective, proven strategies in order to reverse these devastating realities and create thriving communities.
One such approach is the now-lauded Integrated Student Supports (ISS) system developed to support educational equity and success for every child — especially those living in poverty — and featured in the newly adopted Federal Education Act: the Every Student Succeeds Act. Communities In Schools of New Mexico (CIS) is counted among a network of 26 Communities In Schools’ state affiliates delivering comprehensive Integrated Student Supports to 1.5 million students annually. While there are different forms of ISS, Communities In Schools’ uniquely effective framework integrates a range of intervention and prevention supports that meet individual student needs while simultaneously improving school culture. CIS’ independently evaluated and evidence-based approach, which specifically focuses on removing poverty-related barriers so students can show up to school ready to learn, has been identified as the most effective dropout prevention strategy in the nation. One essential ingredient is the emphasis on sustained and substantive one-on-one relationships with a caring adult CIS Site Coordinator who ensures each student’s needs are met so they can focus on the academic goals that will propel them forward to graduation and a successful life.
Here in Santa Fe, where hundreds of families live in poverty, life can be extremely challenging, and much more so during the winter months. Children living in poverty can lack heat and electricity at home, warm clothing, nourishing food and access to medical care. They may also be exposed to trauma that can severely undermine their capacity to function — all of which can lead to a student failing in school. Throughout the year, CIS’ school-based site coordinators work tirelessly to mitigate such challenges. By partnering with local businesses, social services agencies, health care providers and volunteers, we are able to provide individual students with exactly what they need — food, shelter, counseling, academic tutoring or simply a positive role model. Our efforts during the past few weeks have been successful thanks to wonderful community partners and many generous Santa Feans:
• More than 700 new winter coats were donated and distributed with support from Los Alamos National Bank and numerous exceedingly generous individuals.
• Hundreds of hand-knit hats, mittens and scarves were gifted by an amazing circle of avid knitters from across Santa Fe.
• Hundreds of pounds of food were donated by Santa Fe Preparatory School students and families.
• Since August, weekly CIS food distributions have provided 68,000 pounds of fresh, perishable food (donated by the Food Depot) to our students and their families ensuring they stay well nourished and healthy.
CIS’ Integrated Student Supports reach 5,000 pre-K through high school children and youth at 10 Santa Fe public schools. During the 2014-15 school year, 77 percent of case-managed CIS students met their attendance goals, 86 percent met their academic goals including improved grades, and 83 percent were promoted to the next grade level. CIS knows that helping young people flourish in school and go on to bright futures is a proven strategy for building thriving communities.
To learn more, to volunteer and/or donate, please be in touch.
Go to www.cisnm.org or call 954-1880.