Rising Costs + Greater Student Poverty = Empty Backpacks

According to the latest “backpack index” released by Huntington Bank on July 29, the cost of equipping students to head back to school for the 2015-2016 school year will increase nearly 10 percent for high school students and could cost families with more than one child in elementary, middle or high school as much as $3,000 for school supplies and activity fees.

On average, parents can expect to pay:

  • $649 for elementary school children, a 1 percent increase compared to 2014
  • $941 for middle school children, a 2.5 percent jump compared to 2014
  • $1,402 for high school students, a more than 9 percent increase compared to 2014
The rising costs are expected to create a financial hardship for many of nation’s public school children, according to Communities In Schools of Atlanta, part of the nation’s largest and most effective dropout prevention organization. CIS cited new federal data indicating that 51 percent of the students across the nation’s public schools are low income.

“Low-income students are now the majority of kids in American public schools,” said Communities In Schools of Atlanta Executive Director Frank Brown, Esq. “We work closely with and in public schools and see that many students cannot afford a backpack or the list of supplies they need to learn. While teachers and many school districts do what they can to help students obtain supplies, we need do to more. By donating to nonprofit organizations like Communities in Schools or giving to churches and civic groups that hold supply drives each year, we can ensure all our students have the tools and support they need to succeed in school.”

This summer, many of the CIS affiliates serving 1.5 million students across the country are holding school supply drives or partnering with businesses to collect donations of supplies from customers. CIS of Atlanta is partnering with two Walmart locations to collect school supplies for economically-disadvantaged students through the annual Build a Backpack Back-to-School Supply Drive. The Walmart stores where donations will benefit CIS of Atlanta are located at 1105 Research Center, Atlanta, GA 30331 (Cascade area) and 844 Cleveland Ave, East Point, GA 30344. Donations of school supplies can be dropped off in designated bins through Aug. 31.

“Huntington Bank issues its annual Backpack Index each year to help families budget and save for the school year,” said George Mokrzan, director of economics for Huntington Bank. “With the ongoing slow growth in wages, it is difficult for many families to meet the rising costs of sending children to school.” Since Huntington Bank first introduced its Backpack Index in 2007, the cost of supplies and extracurricular activities has increased 85 percent for elementary school students, 78 percent for middle school students and 57 percent for high school students.

* For tips on how to save money this school year, click here.

Walmart's Back-to-School drive to benefit CIS students!

CIS of Atlanta is partnering with Walmart locations throughout Georgia to collect school supplies for economically-disadvantaged students through the annual Build a Backpack Back-to-School Supply Drive. The supplies will help at-risk students start the new school year off on the right track by providing materials needed to attain success in the classroom.

From July 13 through Aug. 31, designated bins located in the front of select Walmart locations will allow shoppers to donate school supplies. All school supplies are needed, including backpacks, pencils, pens, erasers, crayons, markers, loose leaf paper, glue, binders, calculators, rulers and scissors. The Walmart stores where donations will benefit CIS of Atlanta are located at 1105 Research Center, Atlanta, GA 30331 (Cascade area) and 844 Cleveland Ave, East Point, GA 30344.

Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) is also hosting a Back-to-School drive to support King Middle School students. Other organizations, including Frazier & Deeter and Infosys, have provided support in the past to CIS of Atlanta students through their own Back-to-School drives.

You can also join these efforts by organizing a Back-to-School Drive at your office, church, civic activities or gatherings, and encourage friends and co-workers to donate. CIS of Atlanta can provide collection bins if necessary. For more information about getting started or conducting a drive, please email Partnerships Manager Dionne Butler at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Finally, you can support CIS students from the comfort of your home by donating online. Include "Back to School Supplies" in the "Campaign" box under Donor Information. A donation of just $25 can help a child be prepared for success when they return to school!

CIS applauds Senate for passage of the Every Child Achieves Act

ARLINGTON, VA. — July 16, 2015 — Communities In Schools (CIS), the nation’s largest and most effective dropout prevention organization, today issued the following statement praising the United States Senate for demonstrating leadership in passing the bipartisan Every Child Achieves Act of 2015.

“Today the Senate has taken a bold step forward in recognizing that schools working with communities can address academic achievement and poverty simultaneously. By allowing educators to integrate wraparound services and provide supports that help disadvantaged kids focus on learning, we will improve student achievement. This bill is a victory for our nation’s children,” said Dan Fuller, vice president for legislative relations.

Fuller added, “Research has demonstrated that these services play a significant role in raising student achievement and blunting the impact of poverty. For educators and school leaders, wraparound services (integrated student supports) strategically deliver needed resources that enable students to focus on learning and teachers to focus on teaching. There is no question that this an important resource for educators. In a recent national poll of 700 teachers conducted by CIS and Public Opinion Strategies, 88% of respondents reported that poverty is a barrier to effective learning in public schools.

Perhaps most importantly, wraparound services are critical to changing the picture of education in our country for millions of students. Research has proven that these evidence-based programs and activities work. For example, among those students receiving our targeted interventions in 2014-2015, 97% were promoted to the next grade, 99% stayed in school and 96% of eligible seniors graduated. In addition to yielding substantial academic improvement, the requirement for wraparound services/integrated student supports ensures taxpayer resources are being used to deliver programs and approaches proven to work. On behalf of the nearly 1.5 million young people we serve, we call on the Congress to include provisions for wraparound services in the final compromise version, and move swiftly to ensure it is enacted into law.”

Why Most Students are Getting the Least Out of School

Did you know that the majority of our nation's K-12 students are living in poverty and are systematically lacking the external supports they need to succeed in school? In his well-informed, compelling talk, Dan Cardinali, President of Communities in Schools, makes a very passionate plea for weaving Integrated Student Supports into the very design of public education in order to drive students' holistic development while negating poverty's predictive effect on lower academic performance.

Dan Cardinali is president of Communities In Schools (CIS), the nation’s largest and most effective dropout prevention organization serving nearly 1.5 million students in 26 states and the District of Columbia. Under his leadership, the organization has been recognized for developing a highly effective model for decreasing dropouts and increasing graduation rates.

As a thought leader in the field of public education, Cardinali has positioned CIS as the leading, evidence-based provider in a burgeoning field of Integrated Student Supports. Credited with fostering the growing national trend toward community involvement in schools through partnerships with parents, businesses, policymakers and local nonprofit groups, CIS is uniquely focused on two things: 1) the integration of existing community resources to meet student needs on both an individual and community level and 2) ongoing evaluation and incorporating what works into the network-wide model.

Communities In Schools is acutely aware of the 11 million students that remain in need of this effective model. This awareness has fueled CIS’ innovative notions of non-linear scale, a challenging strategy for the financially constrained nonprofit sector. Cardinali’s singular focus on providing opportunity to all students has been fueled by his experience working with impoverished communities in the South Bronx, Appalachia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and Mexico. He is a respected voice in the national debate over education reform, frequently informs the news media, and routinely partners with think tanks, strategic funders, universities and policy forums.

Cardinali is a 2007 Annie E. Casey Children and Families Fellow and leads the K-12 subcommittee of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Education Excellence for Hispanics. He also serves on the boards of America’s Promise, Independent Sector, Peace First and Child Trends. He holds a bachelor’s degree in international relations from Georgetown University School of Foreign Service and a master’s degree in philosophy from Fordham University.

This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. To learn more, click here

Dollar General Literacy Foundation awards CIS of Atlanta $2K grant to support summer literacy

In late May, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation awarded Communities In Schools (CIS) of Atlanta a $2,000 grant to support summer literacy.

“Students who are unable to read on grade level by the third grade are significantly more likely to drop out before completing high school,” said Frank Brown, executive director of CIS of Atlanta. “Communities In Schools is working to help parents keep their children engaged in learning over the summer break to prevent the loss of academic skills when kids aren’t regularly involved in learning experiences. We’re so excited for the support of the Dollar General Literacy Foundation to help keep our students off the summer slide.”

CIS of Atlanta will serve students at Hamilton E. Holmes Elementary School during the three-week summer program by providing reading kits for both classroom and home use as part of the Read, Write and Communicate Camp. The summer reading program complements the Reading Is Fundamental (RIF) program that CIS sponsors during the school year, through which the organization provides three FREE books to EVERY student at partner elementary schools!

“It is exciting to see the impact grants from the Dollar General Literacy Foundation make throughout the country, especially as we cross the $100 million threshold in overall donations and the difference it has made to nearly six million people,” said Rick Dreiling, Dollar General’s chairman and CEO. “The Dollar General Literacy Foundation truly embodies the company’s mission of Serving Others throughout the communities we serve.”

The Dollar General Literacy Foundation is proud to support initiatives that help others improve their lives through literacy and education. Since its inception in 1993, the Dollar General Literacy Foundation has awarded more than $100 million in grants to nonprofit organizations, helping nearly six million individuals take their first steps toward literacy or continued education.

CIS executive director praises education pioneer

CIS of Atlanta Executive Director Frank Brown, Esq., spoke to those present at a Atlanta City Council June meeting to praise Dr. Dorothy Yancy for the impact she made in his life and her accomplishments in education.

Dr. Yancy received a proclamation from the Atlanta City Council to distinguish her as a pioneer in education and for being such a positive force in the southeast.

A native of Alabama, Yancy is the 14th and 16th president of Shaw University. She was the 12th president of Johnson C. Smith University (JCSU), and the first female to hold each of these prestigious titles.

As senior class president of Brown's fourth year at JCSU, Yancy was instrumental in helping Brown obtain his first internship with Congress Mel Watt. Also due to financial hardships during Brown's senior year, Yancy provided financial support for his law school applications, which ended up sparking his interest and career in politics.

Yancy currently sits on CIS of Atlanta's Board of Directors.

Click here to see a news clip from the ceremony on WSB-TV.

Check out photos from the city council meeting:

Tri-Cities High School students bridge the gap over the summer

Officer Miles Nicholson of the Atlanta Police Department spoke to more than 40 Tri-Cities High School ninth-grade students about dealing with figures of authority, how to talk to police and consequences of negative behavior.

Officer Nicholson was last week's featured guest speaker as part of the Summer Bridge program. With the theme of "Hunger Games," the program encourages students to support and motivate their peers.

Using a variety of differentiated instruction, students participated in academic competitions, scavenger hunts, social skills games and team-building activities while reading the novel "Hunger Games." Guest speakers were invited each week to provide students with a motivational experience. The Summer Bridge program concluded with a field trip to Pin Strikes Entertainment Center for team-building activities and a recognition ceremony.

CIS of Atlanta hosted the Summer Bridge program at Tri-Cities, along with other partner schools within DeKalb and Fulton county public school systems. The Summer Bridge program allows incoming ninth-graders to engage in learning activities focused around the subjects of math and reading to help them retain knowledge over the summer. CIS staff integrate a variety of creative activities to promote and enhance the team building experience.

Students are provided with a free, nutritious breakfast and lunch each day of the program.

Check out the video of Tri-Cities students during the Summer Bridge program:

Spark a child's imagination by shopping at Macy's

CIS of Atlanta is partnering with RIF (Reading Is Fundamental) for the 2015 Macy's Be Book Smart campaign to support children's literacy. The campaign kicked off Sunday, June 21 and concludes Sunday, July 12.

Macy's customers can give $3 at their local store and receive $10 off a purchase of $30 or more. Macy's will donate 100 percent of every $3 donation to RIF to go towards providing free books to children in need across the country, including CIS partner schools in metro Atlanta!

Now in its 12th year, the Be Book Smart campaign has raised more than $30 million and provided over 10 million books to kids! Help RIF bring the joy of reading to more children this summer.

There are two ways to donate: You can visit one of the following Macy's stores:

  • Gallery At South Dekalb
  • Greenbriar Mall
  • Lenox Square
  • Perimeter Mall
  • North Dekalb Mall
  • Northlake Mall
  • Cumberland Mall

  • Or, if you can't make it to a store, you can donate online, and we'll visit Macy's and Be Book Smart on your behalf!

    To learn more about CIS of Atlanta's RIF programs, and to see a video clip of some of our activities, click here.

    For more information about Be Book Smart, click here.

    Check out CBS46 News featuring CIS of Atlanta Partnerships Manager Dionne Butler discussing the organization's partnership with RIF:

    CBS46 News

    Cedar Grove students give back to homeless women, children

    CIS of Atlanta students at Cedar Grove High School collected items to create "love baskets" for the homeless women and children of My Sister's House Atlanta and Beloved Atlanta as part of this year's Choose Success service learning project.

    The baskets were filled with handwritten cards, handmade quilts, books, food and personal items and were delivered to the shelters.

    The Choose Success experience allows CIS students who face various social and economic challenges to serve others in need.

    The 11th annual Choose Success Awards Dinner will be held on Thursday, April 30 at The Commerce Club, located at 190 Peachtree Street. The ceremony will honor students for their achievements and BlackRock Chief Investment Officer Rick Rieder with the Anne Cox Chambers Champion for Kids Award. Fred Blankenship of WSB-TV will emcee the program.

    Check out what CIS students had to say about their selfless giving in The DeKalb Champion!

    CIS students at Westlake High School dress to impress potential employers

    Communities In Schools of Atlanta and Work-Based Learning collaborated to host a job and career fair at Westlake High School in early March.

    CIS of Atlanta students dressed professionally to hand out their resumes to potential employers.

    The following organizations were just a few that were in attendance:

    Six Flags
    Benchmark Physical Therapists
    Pain 2 Wellness Center
    Union City Fire Department
    Southwest Veterinary Clinic
    South Fulton Pet Care & Grooming
    U.S. Marine Corps
    Country Financial Insurance

    Check out photos from the event below:

    CIS co-hosts community health fair for area families

    Communities In Schools of Atlanta and AMERIGROUP collaborated to present a community health fair for families at Cross Keys High School on Thursday, Feb. 9, 2015.

    Students and families from the community stopped by to learn important health care information, receive health screenings and enjoy refreshments.

    The following organizations participated in the health fair:

    Catholic Charities Atlanta
    Pregnancy Resources of Doraville
    Latin American Association
    St. Joseph Northeast Plaza
    Consultorio Medico Hispano
    Feminist Women Health Center
    Lifting Latina Voices Initative
    International Maternity Center-Cima Clinics
    Cominar Latino
    Diabetes Association
    UGA-Cooperative Extension DeKalb County
    Northside Hospital Cancer Institute
    Ventanillas de Salud
    Amerigroup Community Care
    Georgia State University Memory Lab
    Sam's Club
    AV Dental
    Centro Hispano de Excelencia Finaciera

    See the article published in The DeKalb Champion newspaper.

    Check out photos from the event below:

    Clarkston High School students uplifted, empowered to say "My Black is Beautiful"

    CIS of Atlanta female students at Clarkston High School were inspired during the My Black Is Beautiful (MBIB) "Sisterhood Symposium" on Friday, Feb. 7.

    This year's program featured a dynamic panel highlighted by Rashan Ali, radio and television personality, and sports reporter. She was joined by Janelle Baranco, COO of Baranco Motor Company; Monique Johnson, community relations specialist and philanthropist; and Aiyisha Obafemi, COO of Disturbing the Peace Records.

    Two students from Project Connect volunteered to host, facilitate and moderate the discussion around confidence, self-esteem, image, beauty, worth and value.

    Students also watched the "Imagine A Future" documentary, which examines beauty and self-esteem issues that challenge black women and girls. The documentary deputed first nationally on BET.

    MBIB is an extraordinary initiative of Procter & Gamble that celebrates the diverse collective beauty of African-American women and encourages black women to define and promote their own beauty standard. MBIB is designed to ignite and support a sustained national conversation by, for and about black women.

    Students who attended MBIB were provided with P&G health and beauty products created for women of color, including shampoo, conditioner, hair color, hair mask, lip gloss, tissue and a MBIB cosmetic bag.

    The event concluded with a special seated lunch for the panel served by students in the Culinary Arts Department.

    Check out photos from the event below:

    King Middle School students honor Martin Luther King, Jr. with day of service

    CIS of Atlanta students at King Middle School highlighted the impact of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s vision at the Budd Terrace Nursing Home on Jan. 15 in honor of MLK Day.

    Students held up signs as part of their commemorative performance of "Modern Day, I Have A Dream" skit for the residents as a way to celebrate the life and achievements of the American civil rights leader.

    The spirits of the residents were uplifted as they sang along with students to influential songs about hope and faith.

    Check out photos from the event below:

    Catching Students Before They Fall

    Communities In Schools of Atlanta announced on Friday, Jan. 23 that Dr. Demona Warren has been named a 2015 Unsung Heroes Awards winner. Warren was recognized for outstanding work in helping students overcome obstacles to succeed in school and achieve in life.

    “I am truly honored, humbled and grateful to be receiving this award,” said Warren. “This award is shared by all of us at CIS of Atlanta for the hard work and dedication to meeting students’ needs.”

    Warren is one of five site coordinators honored by the national Communities In Schools’ network as best in class for their dedication to doing whatever it takes to keep kids in school. Read about how she was "created to do this!"

    “At Communities In Schools, Unsung Hero is synonymous with dedication and commitment to serving students,” said Gary Chapman, executive vice president, Communities In Schools. “All of our site coordinators are inspiring and are true examples of going the extra mile and being the difference to a student’s success and in their lives. We’re thrilled to recognize their exceptional work.”

    The Unsung Heroes Awards were created in 2007 to give national recognition to local schools, communities and Communities In Schools’ site coordinators for changing the picture of education in America. Communities In Schools’ Unsung Heroes are keeping kids in school, doing whatever it takes to eliminate barriers and never giving up, on anyone.

    The 2015 honorees were recognized at the Communities In Schools’ Leadership Town Hall, held in New Orleans, La., on Thursday, Jan. 22.

    The complete list of 2015 honorees, with links to videos and full profiles of each, can be found here.

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