Communities in Schools making a difference

Aug. 31, 2014 @ 11:48 AM

Judy Younts is getting ready for a new school year, but that doesn’t mean that she took the summer off. The executive director of Communities In Schools of Thomasville, was busy throughout the summer.

In the central office building at 400 Turner St., Younts surveys the agency’s stock of donated school supplies.

“They’re going out the door as quickly as we’re getting them in,” she remarked.

Food is another thing that’s going out the door quickly. Over the summer CIS staff and volunteers packed backpacks of food which provide much-needed nutrition to students who receive free or reduced-price lunches during the school year.

Nearly 93 percent of Thomasville students live at or below the poverty level, and are considered food insecure.

“If a child is hungry during the school year, he's hungry in the summer,” said Younts. “[School cafeterias] are doing a grand job of feeding them during the week, we take up the slack over the weekend. CIS knows that we have to take care of basic needs.

A hungry child cannot learn.”

Born and raised in Thomasville, Younts spent 21 years as a home economics educator. She discovered what Communities In Schools could do for Thomasville during a week-long training session in May 1994.

Since Younts started CIS, the nonprofit agency has expanded its programs. School supplies and clothing closets are housed at each school in the district. Children benefit from programs such as Young Marines, pregnancy prevention programs, a Teen parent program, chorus and Project Potential which provides college scholarships for indigent middle school students.

While the CIS myriad of programs keeps Younts busy all the time, her main focus right now is recruiting community volunteers to provide needed support services to students who have been referred.

CIS has full-time site coordinators and anywhere from 100 to 150 volunteers who work with students at Thomasville Primary and Liberty Drive elementary schools, Thomasville Middle School and Thomasville High School.

“Some of our volunteers work one-on-one in the classroom, others are lunch buddies,” said Younts. “We don’t call them mentors, we call them partners. Some work with students in a reading program at Liberty Drive; others work with groups. We serve students kindergarten through seniors.”

Especially needed are male role models and volunteers who are willing to work with high school students. All mentors and volunteers must fill out an application and submit a criminal background check.

New volunteer training is set for Monday, Sept. 22. Call 336-434-4233 for information.

Parents and students are appreciative of the boost that volunteers give.

TPS site coordinator Donna Davis does a reading program over the summer.

In June Davis reported that one student’s mother said, “Thank you for working with my child. You make learning fun.”

The child told her mother, “Mrs. Davis makes me think we are learning math, but it is really fun.”

CIS programs are making a difference for other students as well.

During the 2013-2014 school year, 99 percent of CIS students had improved attendance, 89 percent had fewer incidences of discipline, 95 percent showed improved academic performance and 99 percent were promoted to the next grade.

“All of our seniors who were served in the CIS programs graduated,” said Younts proudly.

“For us to take care of our children is a win-win. Any time you can engage a child in something positive and he's with someone he knows who cares, it's a win-win situation.”

CIS is a United Way agency. All donations are tax deductible.

For more information, visit thomasville.communitiesinschools.org or call 336-474-4233.

Staff writer Debbie Hightower may be reached at dhightower@tvilletimes.com or 336-888-3576.