Lalena Price Published

Communities In Schools Documentary Airs Nov. 26

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For many children in West Virginia staying focused on academics is challenging because outside influences such as poverty, broken families, substance abuse, and mental health issues can contribute to a child falling behind in school. Sometimes these realities can lead a child to drop out of school.

West Virginia Public Broadcasting presents Communities in Schools: Extending a Helping Hand, a half-hour documentary about a national education program that helps connect public schools with community resources to ensure every child is nurtured, supported, and helped to flourish in school with the goal of graduating.

Communities In Schools: Extending A Helping Hand which shares the stories of young West Virginians that have been helped by the program. It airs Friday, Nov. 26, at 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. and will be available on WVPB’s streaming service, Passport, thereafter.

First Lady Cathy Justice has been a champion of the Communities in Schools program and was successful in getting the West Virginia Legislature to fund an initial pilot program in three counties in 2018. “When you go into schools, you see this need, and it doesn’t matter if you’re in the southern part, northern part, no matter where you are in the state, children are the same, their needs are the same,” Justice said. “They want to be loved, they want to be cared for.”

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Janet Kunicki
At right, Cathy Justice, First Lady of West Virginia, reads to students at Oakvale Elementary School in Princeton, West Virginia. Justice was integral to securing state funding for an initial pilot program of Communities in Schools. WVPB-TV presents Commu nities In Schools: Extending A Helping Hand Friday, Nov. 26, at 6:30 p.m. and 8:30 p.m.

West Virginia is a licensed Communities in Schools, or CIS partner, following the national organization’s evidence-based model, and receiving the latest data, research and professional development training. Under the national model, a county board of education hires a site coordinator who is assigned to a specific school to identify and meet student needs. Assistance for a child may come in the form of a tutor to help with a class subject, a uniform or instrument to enable participation in band, or in some cases, desperately needed health care services.

Communities in Schools is now in 31 counties in West Virginia. With its current appropriation of $4.9 million from the legislature, additional existing county school funds, and corporate sponsors, it serves 70,000 students in more than 170 schools across the state.

Justice said she’ll continue to advocate for its expansion into all 55 counties. “I want them to have pride — pride in themselves, pride in what they do, and not be ashamed of anything — because I want them to know that they can get all the help that they need to achieve anything they want to do,” Justice added. “And that’s hard for a lot of children to accept because they may have been defeated a lot of their lives, so we just want them to feel great about themselves, encourage them, and just know that they can be the very best they can be.”

The local corporate support component is vital to the program’s success. Community partners make ongoing donations of goods, services, time and money. They include department stores, grocery stores, art supply shops, medical providers, banks, and other private, for-profit and non-profit businesses and organizations.

Bobby Blakley is Regional President for Truist Bank, a corporate sponsor of the local CIS effort. Blakley is featured in the WVPB broadcast. “We are not a nonprofit organization, but our mission to serve our shareholders can coexist with helping the world be a better place,” Blakley said. “When our communities succeed, we succeed as an organization. I think my vision would be that we could expand Communities in Schools and get other companies, other corporations to support it, to continue to get behind it, because it absolutely does make a difference, and it takes money to do that, to put a coordinator in every school.”