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.

Summer Bridge gets Westlake H.S. rising freshmen acclimated to high school

Communities In Schools of Atlanta recognized students in the Summer Bridge program at Westlake High School Friday, July 18 during a culmination ceremony.

Of the 60 students participating in Summer Bridge, teachers identified 12 students to be awarded with certificates for displaying excellence in academics, attendance and attitude. CIS of Atlanta provided every Summer Bridge student with a backpack filled with pens, pencils, index cards, a ruler, a notebook, loose leaf paper, a dictionary and other essential school supplies, in addition to a Summer Bridge T-shirt and nonperishable food items.

Maya Lennon, valedictorian of the 2014 class, also talked to the incoming high school students about the ups and downs she experienced during her high school years. She provided tips on staying focused and choosing friends wisely, and shared the importance of school and community involvement. Lennon plans to attend Brown University on a full scholarship in the fall to pursue her dream career in plastic surgery.

Summer Bridge consists of rising ninth graders who did not pass a portion of the CRCT. The purpose of the two-week program is to give students an opportunity to successfully transition from middle school to high school in a closed, structured and supervised environment. The goal of Summer Bridge is to make students more aware of what is expected of them in high school and what will be expected of them in the real world.

This year, Westlake CIS Site Coordinator Demona Warren also helped facilitate a class surrounding character building, time management, study skills and goal setting.

Check out photos from the award ceremony below:

Walmart helps Build a Backpack for at-risk students

Communities In Schools of Atlanta is participating in a statewide partnership with Walmart to collect school supplies for economically disadvantaged students through the 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 14 through Aug. 15, designated bins located in the front of select Walmart locations throughout Georgia will allow shoppers to donate school supplies. All school supplies are needed, but recommended items include: backpacks, pencils, pens, erasures, crayons, markers, loose leaf paper, glue, binders, calculators, rulers and scissors.

Items donated at the following Walmart locations will directly support CIS of Atlanta:

* 1801 Howell Mill Road NW

* 4725 Ashford Dunwoody Road

* 4975 Jimmy Carter Boulevard

For a list of other participating Walmart locations, visit

Individuals can also participate in this drive from the comfort of home by donating online. Money collected will be used to purchase additional supplies and fill specific requests that can't be met with donated items.

You can also join Walmart's efforts by organizing a Back to School Drive at your office, church, civic activities or gatherings. Encourage friends and co-workers to donate essential school supplies.

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..

97 percent of CIS students at Tri-Cities H.S. are on track to graduate

Tri-Cities High School's site coordinator, school staff, students and others achieved remarkable results!

Based on an early review of grades and promotion status for CIS students at Tri-Cities, 97 percent of ninth graders receiving CIS integrated student services have been promoted. This percentage far surpasses the 74 percent rate achieved by all ninth graders at the school during the 2012-2013 academic year.

While a 97 percent on-track to graduate rate is impressive for any population, such a percentage for CIS students is truly remarkable considering that at the start of the school year, they were identified as the most at-risk ninth graders. Based on middle school records, the students had struggled in core classes, failed a portion of the CRCT, and/or had chronic behavior and attendance issues.

Students met in group sessions on a weekly basis with CIS of Atlanta Site Coordinator La'Vonna Taylor to discuss their academic and personal challenges. However, Taylor had lots of support from incredible faculty members, an AmeriCorps volunteer and an innovative course called Freshman Focus.

“I think Communities In Schools is good because students can talk to Mrs. Taylor about what they need and she is able to help them do a good job,” said Douglas Wilson, a student that is promoted to the 10th grade next school year.

Through the combination of CIS programs and the Freshman Focus curriculum, the students were acclimated to high school, learned the importance of education and how to make good decisions, received college and career exposure, and participated in community service.

“Both our Summer Bridge program and Freshman Focus programs are designed to help students transition into high school smoothly,” said Gina Riggins, a Freshman Focus teacher. “Considering how school budget cuts affect additional student opportunities such as field trips, CIS was able to fill in the gap for our children.”

H.E. Holmes students have fun to learn, gain tools to exceed

Nearly 20 CIS students at Hamilton E. Holmes Elementary School participated in various educational activities and field trips during the three-week Read, Write and Communicate Summer Academy. With the help of CIS staff, seven volunteers and one AmeriCorps member, students successfully avoided the "summer slide"-- the tendency for disadvantaged children to fall behind other students who have the resources to continue building skills during the summer.

Students visited the Washington Park Branch Library and the Stewart Lakewood Branch Library to take part in the library's summer program, enhance their reading comprehension and receive extra tools and tips about writing to help them exceed academically next school year.

The students also were given the opportunity to take a behind-the-scenes tour of CNN's studios to learn about communications and technology. Rising fifth-grader Faith Battle was selected to participate as a news anchor and read from a teleprompter during the tour.

The summer academy concluded with a trip to a Braves game and an awards ceremony during which students received a certificate of achievement and a backpack full of supplies, including a dictionary, crossword puzzle, folders, books and a journal. Volunteers were also awarded with a certificate of appreciation.

Check out photos from the summer academy below:

WSB-TV features CIS of Atlanta in organizational profile

With the help of WSB-TV, CIS of Atlanta is pleased to provide the video below which presents an overview of CIS programs and services. The video features interviews with a diverse group of stakeholders including the Fulton County Superintendent (Dr. Robert Avossa), the principal from DeKalb County's McNair High School (Loukisha Walker), a parent, students, CIS Site Coordinators, CIS Executive Director Patty Pflum and CIS Board Chair Andy McDill.

The video was produced by Jocelyn Dorsey, Executive Producer and Host of People 2 People. CIS of Atlanta is truly thankful for supporters like Jocelyn and WSB-TV!

CIS of Atlanta partners with RIF to support children's literacy

Communities In Schools (CIS) of Atlanta is partnering with RIF (Reading Is Fundamental) for the 2014 Macy's Be Book Smart campaign to support children's literacy. The campaign kicked off Wednesday, June 18 and concludes Sunday, July 13.

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 within local communities and across the country!

CIS staff, Hamilton E. Holmes Elementary School students and Macy's associates at Greenbriar held a grand ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday to kick off the campaign. The Cat in the Hat and Thing 2 also made special appearances.

Last year, more than 1 million Macy's customers participated in the campaign and helped raise nearly $4 million for RIF! Help RIF bring the joy of reading to more children this summer.

For more information about Be Book Smart or to donate, visit your local Macy's store, or go to

Below are photos of CIS of Atlanta representatives with Macy's store associates around metro-Atlanta.

Two-Time Super Bowl Champion visits Clarkston for All Pro Dad kickoff

Clarkston High School kicked off its inaugural All Pro Dad program on Wednesday, May 21 before a crowd of more than 30 parents, students, faculty and staff.

The event was headlined by former NFL player Tyrone Poole, a two-time Super Bowl Champion, who served as the motivational speaker for the event. Clarkston High School Counselor Ricki Hawkins and Communities In Schools of Atlanta Site Coordinator Calleb Obumba organized the event.

Setting the foundation for the upcoming 2014-2015 school year, the kickoff provided attendees with resources to help fathers become more engaged in school activities and provide best practices on improving their relationships with their children.

As a proud father of three, Poole spoke on the value of fatherhood and the importance of providing the proper example as a role model for children.

All Pro Dad is Family First innovative and unique program geared for every father. The program strives to help fathers become passionate about their role in their family’s life. Striving daily to provide various resources, All Pro Dad’s aim is to interlock the hearts of the fathers with their children and as a byproduct the hearts of the children with their dads.

Check out photos from the program below:

My Black Is Beautiful influences Clarkston High students to be their best selves

Young black female students at Clarkston High School were embraced and inspired to be their best selves during the My Black Is Beautiful (MBIB) “Imagine a Future” sisterhood program last week.

Hosted by Communities In Schools of Atlanta, the event kicked off with a viewing of a groundbreaking documentary that follows a Delaware teen as she wrestles with her own insecurities and travels to South Africa to examine the historical and present beauty and self-esteem issues that challenge black women and girls.

Rashan Ali, an established formidable and revered multimedia personality within the sports and entertainment industries, was the featured guest for MBIB. Ali connected with the teens and spoke about having motivation and self-pride, being persistent, abstaining from sex and drugs, and the importance of education.

Students also engaged with a panel of local, successful black women in an open discussion about their own insecurities as young black teens. The panel included Alexis Lee and LaToya Dixon, co-owners of iHeart Hair; Tia Lance, attorney, fitness instructor and MBIB ambassador; Mia Johnson, celebrity make-up artist; Keianna Williams, life and fitness coach; and Anique Harvey and Ciara Shaw, Spelman College students.

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.

Here are a few comments the young teens provided after the program:

* "I really enjoyed myself, the program made me feel like someone understands me. I also learned a lot about myself throughout the day. I want to personally thank all of the ladies, in particular, the college students." (9th grader)

* "The program was very powerful because you learn to love yourself. Rashan Ali really helped me believe I can become anything you want to be." (9th grader)

* "Rashan Ali and the panel of ladies were very powerful. I learned how to make better decisions." (9th grader)

* "I loved the program; it was very inspiring because it helps me relate to all women. I really learned that you are beautiful in every way." (9th grader)

* "I understood my importance and it help me learn to love myself." (11th grader)

For more information about the MBIB initiative, visit

Check out photos from the MBIB event below:

McNair High students attend Aspire Mentoring Academy event

Communities In Schools of Atlanta students from McNair High School networked with AT&T professionals to learn the importance of education and interview skills during the Aspire Mentoring Academy event Wednesday, May 14.

Douglas County Performance Learning Center students were also in attendance. Students worked in groups to conduct activities related to mock interviews and texting and driving with AT&T representatives. The event concluded with a tour of the AT&T phone store and lunch catered by Chik-fil-A.

Check out photos from the event below.

Career Empowerment Day motivates Clarkston High students

More than 40 working professionals, coupled with five college students, attended Career Empowerment Day on Thursday, May 15 at Clarkston High School.

Organized by Communities In Schools (CIS) of Atlanta Site Coordinator Calleb Obumba, in conjunction with "The Men of Clarkston" male mentoring program, working professionals spoke to various classes around the school during morning and afternoon sessions of the program.

The group consisted of individuals from various fields, including aviation, investment banking, financial planning, counseling, journalism and entrepreneurship. They connected with students through engaging stories of their respective journey to professional success.

Each speaker also provided students with advice on achieving excellence in the classroom, the importance of having good behavior and character, as well as the value of obtaining a high school diploma and college degree.

Check out photos from the day's event:

CIS sponsors Atlanta Press Club Luncheon featuring new APS superintendent

CIS was proud to sponsor the Atlanta Press Club Newsmaker Luncheon on Tuesday, May 13, which featured Dr. Meria Carstarphen in her first public speaking appearance since being selected as the new superintendent of Atlanta Public Schools (APS).

During her remarks, Dr. Carstarphen shared some of the strategies which resulted in impressive graduation rate increases in the Austin school district. Among those strategies were programs to provide "wrap-around services" to the district's students who were at risk of not succeeding.

Several board members of the APS Board of Education attended the event, including four members who joined CIS Board Chair Andy McDill at the table sponsored by CIS of Atlanta.

The luncheon was covered by several media outlets, including those listed below.
NOTE: The links below are external links. If they are no longer functioning, please This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

GPB: Great story which includes quotes from Patty Pflum, executive director of CIS of Atlanta.

WABE: Includes an audio version of the story.

Fox 5 News: Includes shots of the CIS banner and footage of Ashley Haynes, a graduating CIS student who attended West End Academy PLC, talking with Dr. Carstarphen and APS board member Dr. Steven Lee.

The following are a few photos from the luncheon:

CIS of Atlanta students win SAM contest

Two Communities In Schools (CIS) of Atlanta students were recognized as winners of their categories in the 2014 Student Achievement Month (SAM) contest.

All state winners of the competition were honored at a celebratory luncheon at the Georgian Terrace on Tuesday, May 6. Westlake High School students Kylan Patterson and Jessieka Reaves received the grand prize of a new laptop computer and printer from Walmart.

Hosted by CIS of Georgia, SAM provides an opportunity for CIS students to gain the confidence and hope needed to succeed in school through an environment of competition and cooperation. Students participate at the local, regional and state level in four categories: written expression, public speaking, computer technology and creative expression. SAM entries depict positive stories regarding how students excelled and assumed responsibility for self-improvement and self-discipline through CIS programs.

Patterson won in the category of written expression and Reaves won in the category of computer technology.

For more information about SAM, please visit

Check out photos of our local winners below.

H.E. Holmes celebrates Cinco de Mayo with family literacy event

Communities In Schools of Atlanta celebrated Cinco de Mayo at Hamilton E. Holmes Elementary School last week with a family literacy event filled with various activities.

The celebration featured Afri-Salsa dance classes,a holistic stress station, story-tellers, a disc jockey, bounce houses, a bookmark station, free food and raffle prizes.

Check out photos from the event below:

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