CHARLESTON, WV – Thursday, First Lady Cathy Justice championed further expansion of an education program, designed to connect at-risk students with resources to help them succeed, during remarks made at a meeting of West Virginia’s State Board of Education.
The program, called Communities In Schools (CIS), works to reduce dropout rates by connecting those at-risk students to community resources such as food and clothing, counseling, family engagement, and other life skills and physical health needs.
During her remarks, First Lady Justice urged the Board to consider approving a proposed $5 million investment in the program to expand to even more locations. The First Lady said that she hopes to see the program in 15-20 more schools by the end of the year.
“Our goals, in expansion, is to reduce the absenteeism in schools, to improve the family engagement with children, and to improve their college readiness,” First Lady Justice said.
“We’re going to make a difference in these children’s lives,” First Lady Justice said. “We just want a good graduation rate and for everyone to feel good about themselves.”
The investment would fund expansion of the program for three years, in which time the First Lady said the goal is to secure grants and to forge sponsorships and other support from local businesses and individuals so the program can become self-sustaining.
This school year, the CIS program has expanded in West Virginia into Berkeley County, McDowell County, and Wyoming County, also as a three-year pilot program. Last week, First Lady Justice attended an event with students in Berkeley County, supporting the expansion of the program.
Launched in Greenbrier County as the first West Virginia site to participate in the national program, Communities In Schools has served students in that area since 2004. The county reports that students participating in the program have increased their academic performance by 80 percent and have experienced a 67 percent increase in attendance.