During the fall of 1989, Alex Holmes and Glenn Williams began laying the foundation for Communities In Schools of Wake County (CIS Wake). Both businessmen were familiar with the tremendous work of CIS in Greensboro. Seeing a similar need in Wake County, they engaged regional leaders of CIS to give testimonials at a breakfast meeting of approximately 30 prominent community leaders. As a result, a core group began working to get CIS established in Wake County.
CIS Wake was incorporated on July 1, 1990 as Cities In Schools of Wake County to serve as a catalyst to bring community organizations into the schools to serve at-risk youth and their families. Debby Bine was selected as the first executive director and remained until April 1996. During the organization’s first year, 116 students were served in four school sites: East Wake High School, Garner Senior High School, North Garner Middle School, and Zebulon Middle School.
During the 1991-1992 academic year – the second year of program implementation – CIS Wake served 300 students and added two sites: East Wake Middle School and Millbrook High School. Burger King Academies were also launched at Garner Senior High School and East Wake High School. During the 1992-1993 school year, CIS Wake piloted an elementary program site and by the following school year added five sites.
In 1995, CIS Wake launched Families And Communities Educating Students (F.A.C.E.S.) in Heritage Park as its first community program site. F.A.C.E.S. included high-quality preschool and after-school programs. (This community engagement would eventually lead to an important long-standing partnership with Raleigh Housing Authority.)
The 1996-1997 school year was a turning point in the history of CIS Wake, serving fifteen school sites and one community site. Nationwide, all affiliates adopted the name Communities In Schools and a new slogan, “Helping Kids to Help Themselves”; The national CIS office began a movement toward chartering all CIS organizations through a Quality & Standards process and a comprehensive strategic planning process was implemented. The organization earned National CIS Charter Status in January 1998, meeting all 61 quality standards.
During the 1997-1998 year, CIS Wake completed its first Annual Campaign and received funding to support program expansion. The Board approved 6 new programs. In 1998-1999, the Board successfully completed its second annual campaign and added two critical staff positions, Volunteer Coordinator and Director of Community Relations. This added staff capacity was a result of deliberate action to support the anticipated growth.
In 2000, CIS Wake merged with Community Learning Centers becoming Community Learning Partners (CLP). CLP quickly discovered that CIS Wake had strong brand recognition in Wake County and the board elected to change the newly merged organization back to CIS Wake. In total, CIS Wake delivered programs at 19 sites: 2 high schools, 7 middle schools, 7 elementary schools, and 3 community sites.
CIS Wake was selected to be a community agency beneficiary of SAS Institute’s Championships professional golf tournament in 2003. This annual designation would last for nearly a decade and was a reflection of SAS’s deep investment into the Kentwood public housing community – one of CIS Wake’s community program sites.
CIS Wake launched the Graduation Coach program in 2009 to support K-12 students along with school feeder patterns. In partnership with school administrators, Graduation Coaches worked with targeted caseloads of 50-100 students to impact ABCs (attendance, behavior, and course work). In addition, Graduation Coaches were involved in activities that positively impacted whole-school populations. This program was implemented in 8 school sites.
In 2009, CIS Wake also launched a major school supplies drive in partnership with Staples office supply stores across Wake County. This partnership provided critical resources for students beyond CIS Wake’s program walls. CIS Wake has also partnered with Walmart and the Governor’s Office (through State Employees Credit Union branches) to continue this important tradition. Over 10,000 students have been impacted by CIS Wake’s school supplies drives.
CIS Wake’s SMART Academy was launched in 2012. “SMART” is an acronym for Students Maximizing Access to Resources through Technology. The SMART Academy provides specialized and intense academic support and enrichment with the goal of preparing students for 21st-century careers. Through the SMART Academy, over two dozen students were selected as “Science Scholars”, who participated in a unique STEM-focused Summer Camp. Students have participated in academic excursions to The Smithsonian Institute, the North Carolina Aquarium, and the Greensboro Science Center. The SMART Academy also offers multi-week End-of-Grade test preparation, after-school programming, and summer camps.
In 2014, CIS Wake partnered with CIS Durham in pursuit of a $1M fundraising goal as the featured Band Together beneficiaries. Hall & Oates were the concert headliner and the proceeds supported the expansion of the Graduation Coach program.
The Graduation Coach program was renamed the Success Coach program in 2017, focusing on improved student behavior and overall school climate. This program has been implemented in six schools and continues today.
CIS Wake experienced a significant milestone when one of its co-founders, Alex Holmes, was inducted into the Wake Education Partnership/Wake County Public School System Hall of Fame. Alex remains a very active member of CIS Wake’s board of directors.
On July 1, 2020, CIS Wake will celebrate its 30th anniversary and continues to help schools remove the barriers that put students at risk of wasting potential by surrounding them with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.
PROGRAMS DON’T CHANGE KIDS…… RELATIONSHIPS DO!