A nonprofit organization has partnered with public schools in Nevada to prevent students from dropping out through building meaningful relationships and access to basic necessities.
For the past two years, Chaparral High School, 3850 Annie Oakley Drive, has been working extensively with a dropout prevention organization called Communities in Schools of Nevada. The chapter is part of a national organization that focuses on finding ways to improve high school graduation rates.
“We partner with the community and help students with risk factors, with everything from tutoring to getting eyeglasses or food,” said Velvette Williams, site coordinator at the school. “Sometimes students just need an adult that they can trust.”
The Arlington, Va.-based organization has been working with public schools for more than 30 years. The organization sends site coordinators to K-12 school campuses to work with school administrators to develop a plan and build a team.
At Chaparral High School, Williams and two other site coordinators are responsible for working with approximately 150 students who are considered at risk of not graduating or of dropping out.
She also works with local services such as food banks, family counselors, health agencies and financial aid programs to provide students with resources that will help them succeed.
Students in need are welcome to participate in the program or can be referred by teachers, administrators, site coordinators and parents.
Site coordinators work with the students primarily in the CIS room, where they provide hungry students with snacks and beverages, counseling, mentoring and a safe place to socialize.
The students who work with the organization face obstacles such as lack of credits, homelessness, pregnancy or financial struggles, according to Williams. She added that there are approximately 100 homeless students on campus.
In addition, the organization created a room called the Cowboy Community Closet, which provides food, clothes, bus passes, shoes, hygiene products and other school supplies for any student on campus.
Williams said students visit the room at least 15 to 20 times a week.
The organization receives its funding primarily from individual donors, corporate contributors, grants, special events and government sources.
Jomario Gamble, 18, was failing a class and decided to become involved with the organization in hopes of prospering academically.
“When I was a freshman, I didn’t want to go to college,” Gamble said. “But through the organization, I’ve improved my grades and found a passion for my future.”
The senior has applied to UNLV and the College of Southern Nevada and wants to pursue a career as a probation officer.
The top five risk factors for students receiving case management services are low educational expectations, low socioeconomic status, poor academic performance, not living with biological parents and a low commitment to school, according to a report by Communities in Schools of Nevada.
“Sometimes parents don’t know about the resources that can help students,” said Wendy Rubicam, marketing manager for Communities in Schools of Nevada. “Site coordinators can open new doors and offer additional support.”
The site coordinators go as far as making phone calls to family members if they notice a student is constantly absent. They will also participate in fundraising efforts to provide for students with various needs.
During the 2012-13 school year, Communities in Schools of Nevada has worked with 40 schools throughout Southern and northeastern Nevada and has plans of expanding.
“These services really make a difference. It gives students a zest for life,” said Cheri Ward, executive director of Communities in Schools of Nevada. “Every school needs something like this.”
The organization first came to Clark County in 2004. Ward said the group has increased from participating in 12 in 2004 to 20 schools this year, with 32 site coordinators throughout the county.
At Chaparral High School the graduation rate increased from 49.62 percent to 61.86 percent for the 2012-13 school year, according to information released recently by the Clark County School District. Williams attributes the increase partially to the work the organization has been doing at the school.
As part of the organization, three Communities in Schools Academy classes are offered for juniors and one for seniors at the school. The classes give students the opportunity to tour local college campuses, experience job shadowing and take a six-week financial literacy course.
“We know what it takes to see students succeed,” Williams said. “If no one would have paid attention to these students, who knows where they would end up?”
For more information, visit cissnv.org or call 702-770-7619.
Contact Sunrise/Whitney View reporter Sandy Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4686.