CHARLESTON, WV – Gov. Jim Justice and First Lady Cathy Justice were recognized with a national award today during a ceremony at the Communities In Schools Leadership Town Hall Conference in Chicago, in honor of their efforts to empower at-risk students to stay in school and on a path to a brighter future through their support of the Communities In Schools program in West Virginia.
Leaders with Communities In Schools (CIS), an organization that works inside schools across the entire country, awarded the Governor and First Lady with their national CIS Policy Champion Award for their endorsement of the largest licensed expansion of CIS in the country.
First Lady Justice was on hand at the ceremony to accept the award.
“I am absolutely honored to have played a role in helping our state be recognized with such an incredible award, but our effort in West Virginia is more important than any one person,” First Lady Justice said. “So many fantastic people have helped grow the Communities In Schools program across our state. What really matters, more than anything, is making sure we give our children the love and care they need, so they are inspired to stay in the classroom and succeed.”
Gov. Justice was also recognized by CIS leaders during the ceremony for his longtime support of the program. The very first thing the Governor did while in office was donate his state salary to Communities In Schools.
“The incredible work that we've done with Communities In Schools is helping our kids so much, it's unbelievable,” Gov. Justice said. “I'm so happy about the work we're doing with this program because I truly believe we are providing a lifeline to kids who need one and we're helping keep them in the classroom, where they can reach their full potential.
“To have West Virginia recognized as the top leader in this effort, across the entire country, is an absolute honor,” Gov. Justice said. “We can still do more every day to help our students, but I'm very proud of what we've accomplished so far and the direction we're headed.”
Last year, the West Virginia Legislature allocated $3 million to expand Communities In Schools from a one-year pilot in Berkeley, McDowell, and Wyoming counties for the 2018-19 school year, to a program that will be serving a total of 59 schools in 11 counties across the state starting in the 2019-20 year, adding Cabell, Calhoun, Clay, Fayette, Hardy, Lincoln, Pendleton, and Raleigh counties.
In total, more than 26,000 students will be served through this expansion.
“Bringing the support system that Communities In Schools provides to thousands of students across West Virginia is a great opportunity for us, as a state, to provide hope to so many children and their families,” First Lady Justice said. “Unfortunately, West Virginia has the highest poverty rate in the country and our students and teachers feel that impact every day. So being able to reach out and lend a hand where we can is more valuable than ever.
“This program is giving those students the support they need. We’re truly changing lives in West Virginia.”
This represents the largest single-state rollout of the program in the national organization's 42-year history. West Virginia is also the first state to carry a statewide certificate to expand into all counties at once in the future, rather than district-by-district as CIS normally connects into schools.
Communities In Schools aims to forge community partnerships and bring resources into schools to help remove barriers to student learning with a goal of keeping all students in school and ultimately graduating.
“Governor Justice and the First Lady have lived their entire lives working to meet the needs of our state’s most vulnerable students through their coaching, mentoring, advocacy, and love of children,” West Virginia Superintendent of Schools Dr. Steven Paine said. “This award is so very deserved because it recognizes the depth at which the Justices will go to make sure the academic and social-emotional needs of our children are met. They have grown the Communities In Schools initiative to benefit thousands of students and West Virginia families.”
The national CIS model recognizes that traditional education reform strategies fail to address what children are dealing with every day: poverty, lack of adult role models, and the absence of such basic needs as food, shelter, and health care. Communities In Schools is designed to reduce dropout rates by connecting at-risk students to community resources such as food and clothing, counseling, family engagement, life skills, and physical health needs – all with the goal of keeping them in school.