Communities in Schools

Ally Christianson, clinical support specialist for Communities in Schools, talks with a local student.

Communities in Schools, a dropout prevention program that serves students in Glynn County Schools, continues to make a positive impact on hundreds of local students who face significant challenges in and outside of school.

Leaders of the nonprofit gave an annual report Tuesday to the Glynn County Board of Education.

Communities in Schools staff serve students in many ways. They work to ensure students can make it to school every day, offer academic support, engage with their families, aid teachers and school administrators and more.

This past school year, CIS served more than 460 students at Glynn Academy, Brunswick High School, Glynn Middle School, Risley Middle School, Burroughs-Molette Elementary School, Goodyear Elementary School and the Glynn Learning Center, an alternative school program.

It was a year of many successes, said Lynn Love, executive director of Glynn County’s Communities in Schools.

“For the second year in a row, we graduated 100 percent of our seniors that were on our case load at Brunswick High and Glynn Academy,” Love said. “So we are very excited about that.”

CIS also saw a record high for college enrollment this year, said Tonya Barbee, clinical program manager at CIS.

Of the 18 seniors who received CIS services at Glynn Academy, 13 enrolled or are now enrolling in postsecondary education, three entered the workforce and two enlisted in the military.

Of the 18 seniors who received services at Brunswick High, eight enrolled or are enrolling in postsecondary, one entered the workforce, six enlisted in the military, one will enter the Savannah Police Academy and two enrolled at Coastal Pines Technical College.

Glynn Learning Center has also become a fully functioning CIS site that implements the program’s model, which includes family engagement and student and teacher incentives.

Tara Williford took over as lead site coordinator at GLC this past school year and made significant improvements to the program’s operation there, Barbee said.

“Tara also really worked to created some incentives in the school,” Barbee said.

Initiatives include a school store, a library, student job opportunities, weekly motivational speaking events and more.

“This is a school that we all need to invest in,” Barbee said. “We want these kids to do well. It’s important for us as an organization, as a county, as a community to invest in these kids.”

CIS also added a new position this year. Ally Christianson came onboard to provide clinical support to students in need of mental health services.

“It’s been an absolute privilege to serve in this role this year, to serve our students who are most in need, those who have survived and are currently surviving chronic and compound trauma,” Christianson said. “And to know that there are barriers that existed in their life for them to get the services that they truly needed, we knew that we needed to step up and fill that gap for them.”

Providing this kind of intervention directly affects children’s academic performance, Christianson said.

She provided services to 43 CIS students this school year. More than 80 percent of those students reported significant growth in their social and emotional health.

Next school year, CIS plans to expand to Altama Elementary School and Needwood Middle School.

Spotlight on Schools appears Thursdays. Contact Lauren McDonald at lmcdonald@thebrunswicknews.com or at 912-265-8320, ext. 322 to suggest a topic for a column.

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