Communities In Schools Awarded $1 Million To Help Keep Kids In School | Texas Public Radio

Communities In Schools Awarded $1 Million To Help Keep Kids In School

Sep 25, 2018

Southwest High School senior Joe Olivares talks about how Communities In Schools helped give him direction during a news conference Tuesday. The nonprofit had been awarded a $1 million grant from AT&T.
Credit Camille Phillips / Texas Public Radio

Thanks to a two-year, $1 million grant from AT&T, local nonprofit Communities In Schools is giving five San Antonio high schools additional support to help keep kids in school.

The $1 million award was announced Tuesday at San Antonio City Council chambers. Previous grants from AT&T have supported Communities in Schools programs at Lanier, Roosevelt, LEE, McCollum and Southwest high schools for the past four years, but this new larger grant lets CIS hire additional staff.

Each high school now has at least two full-time site coordinators that act as social workers and case managers, said CIS officials. Additionally, CIS is providing the schools with a shared licensed professional counselor and a college and career navigator employed by Goodwill.

The counselor and career navigator will spend one day a week at each school.

“We really believe that the whole child — integrated student supports — is really needed at every campus at every school. We can’t just look at one dimension of a child any longer,” said Jessica Weaver, CEO of Communities In Schools San Antonio.

Weaver said her organization is still focused on keeping kids in school and helping them graduate, but providing mental health care and career planning supports that wider goal.

Students are encouraged to participate in the CIS program if they are deemed “at risk,” but Weaver said it’s not just the students who benefit..

“It’s not our kids that are at risk, (it’s the community). We just need to give them the opportunities. And this gives us the opportunity to open those doors for our students,” said Weaver, referring to the grant from AT&T.

J.D. Salinas, an assistant vice president at AT&T, said investing in education is a way to make the region stronger.

“The biggest economic development corporations are in the classrooms,” Salinas said. “You want to reduce how many people are in jail? Invest in education. If you want to try to attract the Fortune 500 companies, education is where it’s at.”

Council member Rey Saldaña said he participated in Communities in Schools when he was a student at South San High School.

Current Southwest High School senior Joe Olivares credits the nonprofit with giving him a direction in life. At the news conference, Olivares said he was connected with CIS after returning from a disciplinary school for marijuana possession.

He said he was able to speak to the site coordinators at his school whenever he encountered trouble, and they helped him work through his emotions and decide what to do.

“It’s really nice talking to them because they don’t just tell you what you want to hear. They’ll tell you what you need to hear,” Olivares said.

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@tpr.org or on Twitter @cmpcamille