Back-to-school will look very different for all students this fall, but for those at risk of leaving school for good, finding creative ways to keep them connected is more important than ever.
“We’re trying to rethink the way we work with and support our kids,” says Tracy Oster, executive director of Communities in Schools Federal Way, dedicated to empowering students to stay in school and on a path to a brighter future.
“We know kids drop out for many reasons, which have nothing to do with their academic ability. And we know dropping out is not an event, it’s a process,” Oster says.
During a usual year, the CIS team works in schools, connecting with students, building relationships and providing supports, whether it’s access to nutritious food, hygiene items, clothing and school supplies, or linking students with community mentors. Referrals from parents and others are also welcome.
“From texts and Zoom meetings to drive-by porch hellos, we’re letting kids know we’re still here for them.”
Through the student-led group SOAR, Students Organized Against Racism, CIS also supports students working to raise awareness of challenges for students of color.
Supporting local students
Working directly with 15 Federal Way and Highline schools, CIS Federal Way supports students who are historically underserved. Among last year’s participants: 88 percent are low-income; 84 percent are students of color; 72 percent have been exposed to trauma; and 20 percent have a disability.
It’s clear those connections have meaningful, long-lasting impact. Of CIS Federal Way’s 465 case-managed students:
- 98 percent – seniors graduated or obtained GED
- 69 percent – improved attendance
- 88 percent – improved coursework
- 95 percent – improved behavior
As Connor, a CIS Federal Way grad, reflects, “Finding your place in the world is something everyone struggles with, but CIS not only helped me live a life any human deserves to live, they also helped me find that place where I truly fit.”
How you can help:
Donate: While the school year may start virtually, the need for school supplies and other supports is very real. While COVID-19 has stalled the usual in-person supply drive, CIS partnered with Red Canoe Credit Union for its Fill the Canoe Back to School Drive. Direct donations are also encouraged through CIS and you can support students every time you shop by linking your Fred Meyer Rewards Card or making CIS your preferred Amazon Smile charity.
And for every dollar donated, $11.60 is returned to the community!
Volunteer: The single most important factor in whether a child makes it or not is the involvement of a caring adult, and as a mentor, you can be that person. Volunteers are also welcome for the board of directors and various committees.