Local non-profit works behind the scenes to help SE Texas students thrive

Published 7:54 am Saturday, October 16, 2021

Reecie L. Goodman, director of Communities in Schools of Southeast Texas, first described the organization as a drop-out prevention program.

But those that utilize it say it’s far more than that.

“Communities in Schools is the hidden jewel,” said Adrienne Lott, communications specialist for Port Arthur ISD. “If you have them on campus, you definitely want to keep them there. They are a catch-all. Anything the campus needs, they provide it.”

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Currently the non-profit serves 54 schools in Southeast Texas, 14 of which are in Port Arthur and three in Nederland. Other districts include 21 Beaumont schools, five Jasper schools, three West Orange-Cove schools, four Bob Hope schools, one West Hardin school and 3 Vidor schools.

“We don’t just focus on drop-out,” Goodman said. “There are so many at-risk criteria that our students face everyday. So when we’re talking about keeping kids in school so they stay in school, that means focusing on their attendance — making sure they’re there every day in classrooms ready to learn.”

And sometimes that means digging a little deeper into the reason for truancy.

In once instance, Goodman said, CIS discovered two brothers had been attending school on separate days — one going one day, the other going the next, and so forth.

“They never came together,” Goodman said. “And there was a simple fix — they were sharing one parent’s shoes. That’s a kid that’s missing school because he or she can’t meet the uniform standard.”

And that is one of the many other services they provide.

“They help with school supplies, uniforms, backpacks coats, shoes,” said Lott. “When I was at Travis Elementary, they had a Backpack Buddies program where they’d send home backpacks with healthy meals that didn’t have to be refrigerated to help feed the students through the weekend.”

Another focus of the organization is mental health, Goodman said, adding that it’s become increasingly more necessary since Hurricane Harvey. Elementary school kids, she said, are writing suicide notes.

“A lot of people believe the perception that we only work with students that have behavior problems, at-risk students or students that are struggling,” Goodman said. “That’s not exactly what we do on campus. We work with all students on campus. You are not at risk until that one day you become at-risk. When the storms hit, we’re all at risk. Families that are going through a divorce, their students are now at risk.”

Other services CISD provides include: one-on-one guidance, crisis intervention, counseling, anger management, self-esteem enhancement, parent education, home visits, college and career fairs, behavior intervention, enrichment programs, tutoring, book clubs and mentors.

“We believe every child deserves a one-on-one relationship with a caring adult, a safe place to learn and grow, a healthy start and a healthy future, a marketable skill to use upon graduation, and a chance to give back to peers and community,” Goodman said.

For PAISD, Lott said CIS provides invaluable services.

“They are a huge help,” she said. “They are like campus social workers — that’s the best way to describe Communities in Schools.”

For more information, visit Cisset.org.