Greetings, and welcome to the first edition of Community Corner. My name is Adam Powell, and I’m the President and CEO of Communities in Schools of the Dallas Region. Like so many of you, I am also a parent. And like so many of you, presumably, I’ve also struggled to adapt to this new post-COVID 19 reality that we all now collectively inhabit. While we may still be reeling from the abrupt changes to our lives, CISDR continues to be committed to the children in OUR community. We’ll continue to work relentlessly to ensure that we serve students and their parents, while simultaneously supporting the schools in our community and the teachers on the front lines.

Back in mid-to-late March, my son asked me what seemed like a very simple question. He said, “Dad, why can’t I see my friends anymore?” That question, surprisingly, probably baffled me more than any question I’ve heard in the last decade, really for two reasons. First, I didn’t have an answer, so I searched for an age-appropriate way to not only explain what was going on, but to normalize it.  And more optimistically, try to minimize its impact. So all the fun that was planned, all of the birthday parties — my son turned nine during this time — all that stuff was cancelled as we all awaited the “flattening of the curve.” Secondly, and more germane to this group, it illuminated something I think we all know but rarely discuss — at least not enough for me — kids, unfortunately, will bear the brunt of the psychological costs, not to mention the potential academic losses, associated with the global pandemic, IF we ignore their needs.

And so I am incredibly proud to be part of an organization that was literally created to meet many of the enduring needs that children in our community confront, and are now experiencing tenfold in the wake of COVID-19. Since our inception 35 years ago, CIS has partnered with school districts to address the scarcity of basic resources, focusing on the social, psychological, and behavioral issues that hinder educational attainment. We also provide mentoring, counseling, and guidance designed to advance achievement and scaffold students’ success. So I’m equally as excited to announce that, for the 2020-21 school year, we’re expanding our reach. We served 65 schools last year, a number that we are increasing to 82 schools this fall. So I’m incredibly excited about that, and are poised to continue harnessing the resources of the community, drawing on the expertise of teachers and staff, the dedication of our own staff, and the generosity of donors.

Safer Students, Stronger SchoolsWhile I don’t know what school is going to look like this fall, just know that the safety of our students, our staff, teachers, etc. remains at the forefront of our minds. In fact, our newest initiative, “Safer Students, Stronger Schools,” has perhaps never been more fittingly titled. Students are already feeling the pressure of the new normal, and our Site Coordinators are hearing these stories every day. Sometimes three or four different stories a day I’m hearing from Site Coordinators, students, families that are just saying that the last six months have been really a struggle, in more ways than you can imagine. And since students are starting the school year online, it means they’re going to be physically separated from significant resources like technology, emotional support, mental health intervention, and just much of the academic assistance they routinely rely on throughout the school day. However, we will continue to reach our students, wherever they are, bringing them individual outreach and counseling, academic support, mentoring, and all of the other services that we’ve provided for 35 years. Now, the way in which we provide these services to our students may to change to adapt to our new social world, but PLEASE know, our resolve to serve our students has never been greater.

And lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t address the elephant in the room. As a nation, we have reached a tipping point, a moment in time when we are called to address racial inequity and our nation’s role in creating and perpetuating discrimination and disparity. This too is our work. We focus on serving low-income K-12 students, who are disproportionately children of color. They are Black lives and they matter. They matter to us, and we will continue to advocate on their behalf, to ensure that the world they inherit is far more just and equitable than the one they currently inhabit.

Over the last six months, we have confronted challenges that seemed insurmountable, and while those challenges will unfortunately persist into the new academic year, we are equipped to confront them head on, as your partner. So, as we all navigate this changing environment, please remember, that even if schools are closed, we are not. We will continue to meet the needs of students, and families, and ensure their success irrespective of “what school looks like.” Please join us in making our schools, physically, remotely, or somewhere in between, the “safe place” our students need and deserve. Thank you.

Please visit cisdallas.org/covid19 for a host of resources related to COVID-19, and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram for information on what we are doing for area students during these uncertain times.