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.

West End Academy celebrates seniors for accomplishments

West End Academy Performance Learning Center held a special celebration for seniors on Dec. 20 to spotlight the achievements of students and their dedication of attaining their academic goals.

The program included guest speakers Paul Bryant, 13 Content Company and the Leadership Institute; Frank Brown, Esq., executive director of CIS of Atlanta; and David Jernigan, deputy superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools (APS), whom spoke on behalf of Dr. Meria Carstarphen, superintendent of APS. Project Administrator of Project GRAD Isaac Sparks represented Timothy Gadson, associate superintendent of APS.

West End Principal Dr. Evelyn Mobley provided words of wisdom before students rejoiced after receiving their diplomas in the presence of proud family and friends.

The fall 2014 class includes 29 seniors, of which 11 were accepted into Arkansas Baptist College. Students boarded a bus on Sunday, Jan. 11 and bid farewell to their parents and families as they were prepared to pursue their career goals at Arkansas Baptist. The opportunity to enroll at Arkansas Baptist was made possible by Atlanta Public School Board Member Dr. Steven Lee (District 5).

Check out photos from the West End senior celebration below:

Westlake H.S. student, site coordinator share emotional journey on 11Alive

Leala recalls her first day of school as a six-year old.

"I experienced a feeling that I was different because of my mixed race. The stares, the insults and the way people treated me in general, gave me the sense that people did not like me."

At a young age, Leala's family was ripped apart by abandonment and divorce. After relocation and her father's eventual remarriage, Leala found herself suffering from the harsh combination of neglect and abuse.

"My hair was hardly cared for, my bathing habits were bad, and my clothing was dingy, dirty and either too big or too small," she said.

Her physical appearance led to embarrassment, constant bullying and horribly low self-esteem.

Then in the ninth grade, Westlake High School CIS Site Coordinator Dr. Demona Warren came into Leala's life, provided her with one-on-one mentoring and embraced Leala with motherly love.

"Dr. Warren was like a net catching me and breaking my downward spiral," Leala said. "She's been the mother-figure I desperately needed. She's provided security and she's helped rebuild my confidence."

Leala was a candidate for Governor's Honors, selected for National Honors Society and was featured on 11Alive's morning show ATL&Co in November to share her story.

Read what Leala says below about the impact Dr. Warren and CIS of Atlanta has made in her life:



"What does is mean to live? I never knew until after 14 years of being ALIVE. Passively going through life unaware of what actions really meant. Unaware of what normal really looked like, and most of all, what would be predestined for my future?

Caramel. Cookies n’ Cream. Domino. Half-baked. Zebra. Skunk. Mulatto - I've heard it all from my first memory to now. I didn't know what it meant to be called mulatto as a young girl. I was born in North Carolina, a baby - naive and innocent - knowing no right or wrong only that I’m seeing light for the first time. However, before I was even conceived, my life was predicted. I will go through unlikely struggles to be part of something so massive it would take said struggles to get there.

Starting school in the south, I experienced ethnic dilemmas in school and in public even when I was too young to know what they meant. I was happy though because I remained in my father’s unhealthy bubble, he made the insults good by calling me these things himself so I believed they were compliments and I smiled. It wasn't until the divorce of my parents and being in the dark that I discovered their true meanings.

My mother left my father without telling me where she was going and only taking her two boys. She left the youngest three and I with my father, which became too much for him alone so we abandoned that home to move to New York with his parents. At this time I was six going on seven. I still was ignorant under my father’s wing and knew nothing about life. I misbehaved often and I was very headstrong. At this time, I was in kindergarten - devastated and confused that my parents weren't together and even more upset of their new partners.

Upon living with my father and stepmother, I faced neglect and abuse, which only deteriorated my mindset even more. I did my best to remain a bright uplifting person, but this became a complicated task as time proceeded.

I went to school with low levels of confidence due to my physical appearance and embarrassment of still wetting the bed. My hair was hardly cared for, my bathing habits were not supervised nor enforced, and the clothing I wore was dingy, dirty and either too big or too small. If my appearance and stench wasn't enough to abate my chances of a friend, I was socially awkward. I never said the right things and when I finally thought I had a friend, I was only teased.

Bus rides home in elementary school dismayed me. The kids would throw papers at me, pull my nappy hair, call me out of my name, and dump out my book bag. Tearfully, I would pick my things up and carry on as though this were a permanent part of my agenda.

In middle school, things began to improve. I made my first real friend and I started taking some control of my health. By eighth grade I had taken control of as much of my life as I could, but I couldn't get past the scars of the past, so I also held myself back. Then I meet Dr. Warren.

Immediately when we met we connected. The moment she took my hand in hers then pulled me in for a hug- it changed me. Dr. Warren provided the abyss of love that I had missed out on all those years - the proper attention and care I sought through my life.

Dear Dr. Warren has been the net to catch me in my downward spiral, the steady ground to keep me up right and most of all, the mother-figure I desperately needed. She’s provided security and tools necessary for me to succeed in school and in life."
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H.E. Holmes students receive free books through RIF

Hamilton E. Holmes Elementary School students received free books through a RIF (Reading Is Fundamental) event sponsored by Communities In Schools of Atlanta on Monday, Dec. 15.

Every student within the school was provided the opportunity to select their own reading book to add to their personal home library, and strengthen their enjoyment of learning.Howard University alumni partnered as CIS of Atlanta volunteers to help distribute books throughout the school and aid students in decorating bookmarks.

Students also received snacks and watched the movie "Frozen."

Check out photos from the event below:

Breakfast Chat & Chew highlights effective CIS strategies to support Clayton County students

Communities In Schools of Atlanta hosted a Breakfast Chat & Chew event Wednesday, Dec. 17 to allow Clayton County school leaders, teachers, students, parents and partners to discuss successful strategies that may benefit the county schools and communities.

Held at Elite Scholars Academy, the breakfast was co-hosted by State Rep. Mike Glanton (D-75), State Rep. Valencia Stovall (D-74), and Clayton County School Board Member Jessie Goree (D-3).

Elite Scholars Academy Principal Dr. Shonda Shaw and State Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan (D-39) welcomed the group of more than 30 Clayton County stakeholders and CIS of Atlanta staff. CIS of Atlanta Executive Director Frank Brown, Esq., explained the resources and community partnerships needed in order to aid students toward high school graduation.

A video was also shown, in which students share their personal stories of triumph made possible through the support of CIS of Atlanta.

As the group enjoyed a hot breakfast catered by Beverly’s Catering Services, a panel of CIS of Atlanta site coordinators and school personnel expressed the importance of the organization’s role within the lives of students and families. The panel included Towers High School CIS Site Coordinator Derec Oby, DeKalb County Area Superintendent Dr. Ralph Simpson, Clarkson High School Ninth Grade Assistant Principal Eric Robinson, Clarkson Counselor Ricki Hawkins, Clarkston CIS Site Coordinator Calleb Obumba, Hamilton E. Holmes Elementary School RTI Specialist Princess Pelzer and Hamilton E. Holmes Elementary CIS Site Coordinator Dedra Cochran.

Among the several elected officials, educators and community leaders in attendance were Jonesboro Mayor Joy Day, Clayton County Chairman Jeffrey Turner, Clayton County Chamber of Commerce President & CEO Yulonda Beauford, Clayton State University President Dr. Tim Hynes, Atlanta Technical College President Dr. Alvetta Thomas and United Christian Fellowship Senior Pastor Ernest Childs.

Check out the article featured in Clayton News Daily.

See photos from the event below:

Donation of athletic wear allows students to stand tall, focus on learning

Communities In Schools of Atlanta is able to provide students in need with new athletic wear due to the support of an anonymous donor.

CIS of Atlanta students face a wide range of struggles every day, including poverty, neglect, homelessness and violence. How can students remain optimistic about their futures when they feel like their personal hardships are impossible to overcome?

Coming to school with tattered sneakers and T-shirts in the winter adds to the physical and emotional obstacles our students face. Thanks to the donations of CIS advocates, support of school staff and the CIS model, students are able to learn in the classroom, and teachers are free to teach.

“Some of these kids have never had a pair of brand new shoes,” said Dr. Demona Warren, CIS site coordinator at Westlake High School. “Donations are greatly needed because the kids we serve aren't the ones who live in million-dollar homes. During the holidays we receive referrals from families who simply want one clothing item so that they can give something to their child on Christmas.”

CIS site coordinators are also providing the donation of athletic shoes, socks and clothes as an incentive for caseload students who make improvements in their behavior, attendance and/or academics.

“The donation of shoes means a lot to our students because they don’t have a lot of things,” Warren said. “[Students] are working hard toward getting great grades because they know they have a chance to receive these premier incentives.”

It takes a whole community to help kids achieve in school. YOU can also help change the picture of education for students in metro Atlanta by donating your time, money and resources.

Local barbers provide in-kind services to aid CIS students

Communities In Schools of Atlanta partnered with Future Cuts Barbershop to provide students at Banneker High School free grooming services on Tuesday, Dec. 2.

More than 30 students were selected to receive the incentive due to their improvements in behavior and academics.

Future Cuts plans to continue the partnership to also provide grooming services as an in-kind donation to needy children in the South Fulton community. CIS students may not have access, funds or the opportunity to take advantage of grooming services, which causes them to become less self-confident and not be able to focus on learning.

Check out photos below from the event:

Breakfast Chat & Chew highlights impact of CIS

CIS of Atlanta hosted a breakfast at Ronald E. McNair Middle School (DeKalb County) on Thursday, Oct. 30 for local officials to learn first hand the impact CIS of Atlanta is making in the lives of students, families and staff.

McNair Middle School Principal Ronald Mitchell welcomed the group and spoke about the vital role CIS plays in bringing needed resources to the school's students and families. State Rep. Alisha Thomas Morgan, District 39, facilitated the program, and DeKalb County Interim CEO Lee May was one of several elected officials in attendance.

As the group enjoyed a catered breakfast, a panel shared their emotional testimonials, including CIS Site Coordinator Pam Hurst, CIS students Jennifer Gaspar and Alexia Springer, a parent and two school support team members.

Check out the article published in the DeKalb Champion newspaper.

See photos from the event below:

CIS executives honored for their dedication to students

Former Executive Director of CIS of Atlanta, Patty Pflum, and CIS Co-Founder and former President of CIS of Georgia, Neil Shorthouse, were recently honored and celebrated for their dedication to the success of students since the national organization was founded in 1972.

Honorary chairs were Bill Milliken, co-founder and vice chair of CIS National, and Brad Currey, George Johnson, and John and Susan Wieland.

Hundreds of friends, family members, partners, donors, alumni and current and former staff showed their support and love to Patty and Neil during the celebration reception held on Tuesday, Nov. 18. We would like to extend a special "thank you" to the staff of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, who hosted the event.

Check out photos from the special event below:

West End student defeats the odds to begin a college career

Dealing with the death of both parents, Tyrelle Smith couldn't take his academics seriously at Carver High School. He had more than 40 absences because he truly believed he didn't need an education to graduate.

“My counselor told me that if I didn't start going to class then I wouldn't graduate,” the 18 year-old said. “When the summer came, they told me I needed to go to summer school since I never went to class. I just felt like I didn't need it.”

Smith’s grandmother, Sharon Chainey, never gave up on him and continued pushing him to do better.

“He didn't want to go to Carver so we brought him to [West End Academy Performance Learning Center], and he still didn't want to go to school. I told him if he dropped out of school, then don’t come back home,” Chainey said. “I kept pushing him and kept praying. Before West End, Tyrelle was going nowhere and was floating the opposite way. West End was the place for him where everybody showed him love and support. This school changed his life.”

West End Academy Site Coordinator Lisa Wilson swept Smith under her wing to encourage him, provide mentorship and show him his true potential. By the end of summer 2014, Tyrelle completed four classes and had a 100 percent attendance rate.

“When I first got here, I didn't want to be here. I just kept going and got to know Mrs. Wilson, and I realized I liked school enough to do my work,” Smith said. “If Mrs. Wilson didn't stop me from leaving school, I don’t know where I’d be.”

In mid-September, Smith enrolled in classes at Arkansas Baptist College with plans to pursue a degree in psychology. He even landed a job in the college’s admissions department with the help of Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education Member Steven Lee (District 5).

“I’m excited and happy that I’m making my grandmother proud, my principal proud and I’m proud of myself,” Smith said. “I never thought I had the option of going to college because I failed so many classes in my 11th and 12th grade year, but I did it. I thank my grandparents, [Principal Dr. Evelyn Mobley], Mrs. Wilson and Communities In Schools for helping me with my second chance.”

Wilson surprised Smith with $8,000 from the West End Academy Scholarship Fund to help cover his expenses on tuition, books, transportation and housing. Smith is the first student to graduate this semester out of a roster of 110 students at West End.

“Tyrelle is an awesome young man. He had a stellar summer and he did exceptionally well academically,” Dr. Mobley said. “He redirected himself to be the best he can be and became a model student. He is an ambassador of hope.”

The West End Academy Scholarship is made possible through generous support from the Robert & Polly Dunn Foundation. To contribute to the scholarship fund, please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

H.E. Holmes students pledge to not be monsters

Hamilton E. Holmes Elementary School fourth and fifth grade students were frightened, excited and shocked to meet Frank Shelly on Tuesday, Oct. 28 during the anti-bullying presentation "Don't Be A Monster."

In partnership with Communities In Schools of Atlanta, the Don’t Be A Monster campaign is a program delivered in the month of October, which is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. The program's cast is from Netherworld Haunted House.

The cast spoke about the effects of bullying, while encouraging the group of students to take a stand and speak out against bullying.

The star of the presentation was Frank Shelly, a Frankenstein-inspired character, who played the role as a student being bullied in school. Students watched a video about Frank experiencing mental, physical and cyber bullying by various students at the school. Although Frank appeared to be a real monster; on the contrary, the students learned that the real “monsters” were the students bullying Frank in the video.

At the conclusion of the presentation, students, in unison, took a vow to “to stand up against bullying.” Moments later, a surprise guest, Frank, appeared in person to meet and greet the students.

Don’t Be A Monster presentations are energetic and inspiring. Attendees are challenged to evaluate their understanding of the community and how to be more inclusive of those around them. By teaching students concepts like diversity, expanding their social circles, being a leader, and evaluating how they treat themselves and their peers – bullying will start occurring less in schools. Additionally, students leave the presentation equipped with the tools they need to have an educated and empathetic discussion around bullying.

Check out photos of the presentation below:

CIS of Atlanta is "Running with the Story"

Communities In Schools of Atlanta is "Running with the Story" and needs you to take part in the fun during the upcoming 5K Run/Walk for Literacy on Saturday, Nov. 15!

All interested runners and walkers of all ages are welcome to register online to participate.

One hundred percent of the proceeds support literacy programs throughout Metro Atlanta. When you register, you can select Communities In Schools of Atlanta to directly support our literacy initiatives.

This event is organized by the Literacy Alliance of Metro Atlanta (LAMA). LAMA is a coalition of more than 30 member organizations and exists to provide visibility on the issue of low literacy and its impact on our community.

Check out the flyer below for more details!

U.S. Congressman visits DeKalb schools to learn about CIS of Atlanta's impact

U.S. Congressman Hank Johnson traveled from the nation’s capital to learn first-hand about the impact of Communities In Schools of Atlanta within three DeKalb County schools and how the organization is making a difference in the lives of students, parents and educators alike.

Over the course of the two-day visit on Oct. 15 and 16, CIS of Atlanta Executive Director Frank Brown, CIS of Atlanta staff, Rep. Johnson and White House staff met with school site coordinators at Towers High School, Stone Mountain High School and Clarkston High School, and inspired students through their own personal stories of challenges and triumphs.

Check out photos below from the school visits:

Towers High School



Stone Mountain High School



Clarkston High School



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