Sonji Branch is the CEO of Communities In Schools of Memphis (CIS of Memphis) and is All in for Kids. CIS of Memphis is part of the nation’s largest and most effective dropout prevention organization, empowering students to succeed in school and achieve in life. Operating in more than 2,300 schools in the most challenged communities of 25 states and the District of Columbia, Communities In Schools serves 1.5 million young people and their families each year. Based directly inside schools, Communities In Schools connects students and their families to basic and critical educational and community-based resources, tailored to each student’s specific needs.
When Every Child Has a Champion....
Every year, I am more inspired by the power of one-on-one relationships when it comes to making a difference in a child’s trajectory. When a child has a champion, she doesn’t fall through the cracks. A minor setback doesn’t escalate. And some well-timed life-skills or boosts in confidence can knock down a variety of other barriers to success. The more we work to measure our outcomes with the district’s most under-resourced students, the more we see this power proved in the numbers. When our student support specialists engaged with students and delivered our model of targeted supports, we improved attendance rates for almost 80 percent of them and improved academics for 88 percent. And when it came to school behavior and college readiness, we saw a 100-percent success rate for our interventions. This work works.
Another big milestone for us in the past year was the establishment of Communities In Schools of Memphis as an independent affiliate of the national organization. Our needs, our district landscape, and our community resources are decidedly different than those in the rest of the state, and this change will give us the freedom for more innovation, measurement, and scalability.
As you explore all that we are doing across Memphis and Shelby County, I hope you’ll think of ways you can join us. From dropping off school supplies to strategic financial support, there is a way for all of our neighbors to help. I am so proud of what we have done so far, but I am energized by what is in our grasp.
There is no limit to the transformation we will see when every child has a champion.