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



Clarkston High School students encouraged to "Stand Up Against Bullying"

The cast of Netherworld Haunted House visited ninth grade students at Clarkston High School on Tuesday, October 7 to deliver an anti-bullying presentation called “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 cast spoke about the effects of bullying, while encouraging the group of 700 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 from the day's event:

AT&T Mentoring Academy gives CIS of Atlanta students a lesson in success, safety

AT&T employees made a lasting impact on the lives of Communities In Schools of Atlanta students of Tri-Cities High School during the Aspire Mentoring Academy on Thursday, Oct. 2. The AT&T volunteers shared their life skills, personal stories about their career paths and advice to help students succeed in school.

Students participated in group activities to discuss and learn how to manage their digital footprint. Working with AT&T volunteers, students brainstormed strategies to raise awareness and create a positive impact around this community based problem.

Students also learned about the serious implications caused by distracted driving. Each student had the opportunity to use a driving simulation to text and drive, and sign a "It Can Wait" banner to pledge to refrain from texting while driving.

Several other CIS of Atlanta schools are scheduled to participate in AT&T Aspire fall events, including McNair Middle School, Cedar Grove High School, Clarkston High School, Westlake High School and Stone Mountain High School.

Check out photos from the school events below:

Tri-Cities High School:



McNair Middle School:



Cedar Grove High School:



Clarkston High School



Cross Keys High School and Westlake High School:



Stone Mountain High School:

Tri-Cities principal surprised to be recognized for his devotion, triumphs

Tri-Cities High School Principal Dan Sims thought he was about to have a class meeting to discuss homecoming events in the auditorium on the morning of Thursday, Sept. 25. Little did Sims know, he was about to receive a shocking, yet pleasant, surprise.

A crowd full of ecstatic students, staff, band members, school board members, Fulton County School supporters, friends and family members welcomed Sims with a loud “surprise” as band members played a celebratory number. Jocelyn Dorsey of WSB-TV and Fulton County Schools Superintendent Dr. Robert Avossa were pleased to announce Sims as the recipient of the 2014 Atlanta Families’ Awards for Excellence in Education (AFAEE).

The award recognizes Sims for his excellence, dedication and achievements at the school, including significantly increasing gains in student achievement while positively impacting student self-esteem, and collaborating within the school and greater community to provide resources for students.

Sims was awarded with a $7,500 check, of which $1,500 will be used for professional development, $2,500 for personal use, and $3,500 for his school project (a program to help students effectively transition from middle school to high school).

Katie McDowell of AFAEE officially welcomed Sims as the newest member of the AFAEE Winners’ Circle. Communities In Schools of Atlanta was proud to have played a part in Sims’ being nominated for the award.

WSB-TV will feature videos of Sims and other surprise award ceremonies on an upcoming Sunday episode of People 2 People. Please watch in support on WSB-TV.

Check out video footage of Sims' surprise reaction!



Check out photos from the award presentation below:

Stone Mountain High School is inspired to say, “My Black is Beautiful”

More than 100 Stone Mountain High School girls listened attentively as a panel of local, successful women of color spoke about their own adversities and inspirations during the My Black is Beautiful sisterhood program Thursday, Sept. 11.

Hosted by Communities In Schools of Atlanta, the event began with the panel of women and featured guest speaker DJ Traci Steele, radio personality for Hot 107.9 FM and television star, engaging the student audience by discussing the importance of education, being confident, feeling beautiful and living your best life. The panel included Juanita Davis, clinical social worker and yoga teacher; Brittany Wyatt, regional marketing manager at H&R Block; Joy Clay, educational program specialist at Georgia State University’s Upward Bound Program; and Erica James, home care specialist, physical therapist and visiting nurse. Coco Jones, singer and Disney Channel actress, was unable to attend the event as a guest speaker, but sent a personalized message to students in a prerecorded video.

Students also viewed a documentary about the challenges black women and girls deal with, including self-esteem and perspectives of beauty that are shaped by mainstream media.

MBIB is an extraordinary initiative of Procter & Gamble (P&G) 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 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.

A light reception followed with punch and cake pops, and photo opportunities with the guest speakers.

Check out photos from the MBIB event below:

Back-To-School Means Chronic Absenteeism for Many Poor Kids in Atlanta

Communities In Schools (CIS), the nation’s largest dropout prevention organization, has joined a nationwide effort to celebrate Attendance Awareness Month in September and has pledged to raise awareness about the value of regular school attendance and focus on reducing chronic absenteeism in the new school year.

CIS of Atlanta, which serves over 16,000 local families per year, recognizes that good attendance is essential to academic success.

Far too many students are at risk academically because they are chronically absent. Nationally, as many as one out of 10 students miss 10 percent of the school year in excused and unexcused absences.

Unfortunately, chronic absenteeism is most prevalent among low-income students. This indicates that one of the most effective strategies for providing pathways out of poverty is to create opportunities and interventions to get students who live in high-poverty neighborhoods to attend school every day.

“When our schools graduate more students, on time, our communities and our economy are stronger because we have more people who are prepared for the workplace and in our community’s civic life,” said Frank Brown, executive director of CIS of Atlanta.

On August 25, an op-ed was published in the New York Times by Communities In Schools President Daniel Cardinali, addressing this very topic, and proposing a solution.

“Bringing a trained social worker onto the administrative team of every school with a large number of poor kids is effective and affordable,” he says in the op-ed. “At Communities In Schools, 75 percent of our case-managed students show improved attendance and 99 percent stay in school.”

Research shows that chronic absence predicts lower 3rd grade reading proficiency, course failure and eventual dropout. The impact hits low-income students particularly hard, especially if they don’t have the resources to make up for lost time in the classroom and are more likely to face barriers to getting to school, such as unreliable transportation and chronic health issues.

During Attendance Awareness Month, we are asking school leaders, community advocates, parents and students to act upon these critical first steps to help stem chronic absenteeism in their schools:

• Build a habit and a culture of regular attendance
• Use data to monitor when chronic absence is a problem, and
• Identify and solve barriers to getting children to school.

And while chronic absenteeism is generally considered a high school problem, research shows that poor attendance is also a concern among our youngest students. In fact, one in 10 kindergarten and first grade students nationwide miss nearly a month of school each year. In some cities, the rate is as high as one in four elementary students. In some schools, chronic absence affects 50 percent of all of the students! Once large numbers of children are chronically absent, the classroom churn results in less learning for everyone, as teachers have to spend time re-teaching material.

“We can turn the tide on chronic absenteeism by making it a priority, driving with data and using positive supports to engage families and students in showing up to school every day,” said Brown.

Stay In School: Challenges and Solutions to Graduating Black Males

Georgia has one of the lowest high school graduation rates for African American males in the country. It’s 49 percent. That’s the latest from a 2012 national report.

Later this year, new data will show if the state has made any improvement. So what are the circumstances as to why black male students aren't graduating and what are the solutions? What's the problem?

“It begins with supporting children, ensuring that they stay in school and that they achieve in life. We believe that every child should have a one-on-one mentorship,” says Frank Brown, newly named executive director of Communities In Schools (CIS) of Atlanta.

Click below to listen to the audio clip.



Read the full article on the WABE website.

Donations of essential school supplies still needed

Walmart locations throughout Georgia helped Communities In Schools of Atlanta "Build a Backpack" for economically-disadvantaged students during the annual Back To School Supply Drive, which concluded Friday, Aug. 15.

CBS46 News provided media coverage at the Howell Mill Walmart location on Wednesday, Aug. 13, featuring interviews with CIS of Atlanta Director of Development & Communications Cliff Albright and CIS of Georgia Executive Director Carol Lewis. (See news clip below).



You can still provide a monetary donation for the purchase of essential school supplies to help students succeed by clicking here. Include "school supplies" in the comment box under Donor Information.

You can also host your own Back to School supply drive at your office, church, civic activities or gatherings, and encourage friends and co-workers to donate. CIS of Atlanta can provide you with a collection bin if necessary. For more information about 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..

CIS of Atlanta Announces New Executive Director


Communities In Schools of Atlanta kicks off the academic year under the guidance of a new Executive Director, Frank Brown, Esq. Beginning Monday, Aug. 18, he will lead the organization in its mission to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. Brown will succeed Patty Pflum, who in addition to serving the past 18 years as executive director, has been affiliated with CIS since its founding in 1972.

“Frank Brown’s passion for nurturing school children is infectious, and he is the right leader to take this legendary organization to the next level by bridging the gap between kids in need, their families, our schools and the community,” said Andy McDill, CIS of Atlanta’s Chairman of the Board and Cox Media Group Director of Communications. “We are also indebted to Patty Pflum for her decades of activism on behalf of children and know that she will continue to be an advocate for CIS of Atlanta.”

Most recently, Brown served as the first Executive Director of the Butler Street Community Development Corporation (formerly known as the historic Butler Street YMCA). In that position, he established year-round youth programming, launched the March on Washington Film Festival in Atlanta, reestablished the Hungry Club Forum, and secured partnerships with other nonprofits and governmental agencies that enhanced the organization’s healthy living and social awareness programming.

“On behalf of my entire family, I would like to personally thank the Communities In Schools of Atlanta Board of Directors for selecting me as the new executive director and for providing me with this amazing opportunity to lead a dynamic, well respected organization that is a known leader in the dropout prevention arena,” Brown said. “I look forward to working with the amazing staff, the members of the board, and our external partners and stakeholders to continue the legacy of programmatic excellence. CIS of Atlanta remains committed to making a substantive impact on the lives of the families we serve on a day-to-day basis.”

Prior to working with Butler Street, Brown served as Director of Civic Engagement and Activation at Points of Light, the biggest volunteer organizer in the world. Before that, he served four years as Executive Director of Oasis Community Corporation, a nonprofit that provides after-school services to children and families in New York City public schools. In that role, Brown led a staff of 200 employees and executed a strategic plan which grew the organization’s annual budget from $1.5 million to approximately $2.8 million.

Brown first came to New York to serve as the Deputy Director for External Affairs at Boys and Girls Harbor, a major youth development nonprofit that provides educational and social services to more than 3,500 children. Prior to that, he served as a Legislative Counsel for Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) for five years. Brown received his J.D. from the University of South Carolina’s School of Law and his B.A. in history with honors from Johnson C. Smith University.

He is married with three sons and is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.

Office Depot Foundation donates new sackpacks to help children prepare for school

Most children look forward to the beginning of the new school year. But for kids in families where money is tight, this can be a challenging time.

To help deserving children like these start school on the right foot, the Office Depot Foundation donated 5,000 colorful new sackpacks containing essential school supplies to nonprofit organizations, schools and agencies in the Atlanta area during a special back-to-school celebration on Wednesday, July 23. Communities In Schools of Atlanta received a donation of 245 sackpacks which included a pouch containing a pen, pencil, pencil sharpener, eraser, ruler and four crayons.

A number of donations to local school districts were made in collaboration with the Office Depot Business Solutions Division.

In 2014, the Foundation will donate 350,000 sackpacks to children in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and a number of other countries through its National Backpack Program, which is now in its 14th year. During the past seven years alone, this award-winning initiative has made a difference to more than 32,000 Atlanta-area kids.

By the end of this year, Office Depot and the Office Depot Foundation will have given away more than 3.3 million backpacks and sackpacks since the National Backpack Program began in 2001.

"Each and every year, the smiles on the faces of the children who receive our sackpacks and school supplies warm our hearts," Office Depot Foundation President Mary Wong said. "We are so proud to know that we have made a difference to 3.3 million kids-- and grateful to Office Depot and our many supporters for giving us the opportunity to continue this program for its 14th year."

The nonprofit organizations, schools and agencies scheduled to receive sackpacks included:

* Atlanta Public Schools

* CHRIS Kids

* DeKalb County School District

* Fulton County Schools

* CaringWorks (with children)

* City of Refuge (with children)

* Cobb County Schools

* Easter Seals North Georgia

* Georgia Alliance to End Homelessness

* Gwinnett County Schools

* Safehouse Outreach

* She Will Inc.

* Spirit and Truth Worship Center (with children)

* Summerhill Community Ministries

* Women's Resource Center to End Domestic Violence

New studies shed light on Back-to-School challenges for low-income families

Communities In Schools of Atlanta is hosting its annual Backpack Back-to-School Supply Drive in partnership with Walmart to collect school supplies for local students whose families struggle to afford them.

This event is one of several Communities In Schools back-to-school supply drives taking place around the country to help low-income families prepare for the new academic year.

School supplies cost more than ever, according to the latest “backpack index,” recently released by Huntington Bank. The cost of equipping K-12 public school students for the 2014-2015 school year has jumped as much as 20 percent, says the Huntington study. And according to the National Retail Federation, total spending on back-to-school items is expected to reach $74.9 billion this year—up about 3 percent from $72.5 billion in 2013.

According to the Huntington Backpack Index, parents can expect to pay:

• $642 for elementary school children, an 11 percent increase compared to 2013

• $918 for middle school children, a 20 percent jump compared to 2013

• $1,284 for high school students, a 5 percent increase compared to 2013

“It has become irrefutably clear that poor students lag well behind their more affluent counterparts, even when the educational basics appear to be the same,” said Dan Cardinali, President of Communities In Schools, the nation’s leading dropout prevention organization. “We need to level the playing field and make sure that students get what they need to succeed, including school supplies, food, clothing, health and dental care, and other services such as counseling and academic assistance.”

Communities In Schools also offers the following tips to parents to offset the cost of school supplies:

• Reuse folders, backpacks and other items from previous school years

• Organize a swap with neighbors of new or gently used school supplies

• See if donations are available from your school or local community organizations

• Take advantage of your state’s tax-free weekend to buy school supplies

• Shop around and compare prices on goods at different retailers

Every 26 seconds, a young person in America drops out of school, resulting in a staggering 1.2 million student dropouts each year. Individuals who do not finish high school earn nearly $1 million less over a lifetime than college graduates. Each year’s dropouts will cost the nation billions in lost wages, taxes and productivity over their lifetimes. Much of this can be avoided through proven dropout prevention programs like CIS.

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