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Amelia Islander

A Community Supporting Our Schools

Aug 20, 2018 09:54AM
“Jessica was continually absent from school,” shares Amy Pipkin, executive director of Communities in Schools (CIS) Nassau County. “As we got to know her in our after-school tutoring program, we learned that she was responsible for caring for her elderly grandmother, and this was causing her to miss her school bus regularly. So we picked up the phone and contacted Nassau County Council on Aging and secured support for this middle school student with so much on her plate.”

This story is a prime example of the extraordinary work CIS has provided to local students since 1993. “Our mission is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life,” says Amy.

The CIS programs are available to all middle school students in Nassau County. Participants are identified by guidance counselors, teachers, staff, and sometimes, by the students themselves. Following a permission slip, an onsite lead teacher learns the student’s story. “Usually it is academic challenges, but we’ve learned this is typically a symptom of a separate obstacle the student is facing.” Once CIS has the details, the team swings into action to help.

“Collaboration with community resources and other agencies offering services in our county is key to our success,” says Amy. “We are in one community, fighting for the same non-profit dollars, so the last thing we want to do is duplicate services.” Barnabas Center is a key partner with CIS, providing meals for many of its participants.

The CIS partners are thrilled about the relationships and the work that they accomplish together. “Nassau Alcohol Crime Drug Abatement Coalition (NACDAC) is proud to collaborate and partner with CIS. We both provide much-needed services in our schools. NACDAC is looking forward to future endeavors with CIS,” says Executive Director Karrin Clark.

In addition to identifying and meeting the needs of the students, CIS is committed to dropout prevention through relationship and academic support. At the core of this effort are the before- and after-school programs, which offer extra academic assistance.

“Because the program is facilitated through the school’s lead certified teacher, who is often the student’s teacher during the day, the classroom experience is built upon at an individual level,” notes Amy. “A primary objective of the program is to have the student complete her/his homework, giving the student a positive feeling of readiness for the next day of regular class. We are highly successful in keeping these kids in school and on the path to graduation.”

Removing obstacles and providing academic support are essential to CIS’s work, but equally important are the opportunities CIS offers its participants. Last year, Ingersoll Rand’s global team was meeting at The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, and they partnered with CIS as an outreach for their conference. “The attendees were working in teams building solar cars to race,” says Amy. “Seven eighth-grade girls, most of whom had never stepped foot into somewhere like The Ritz-Carlton before, received an invitation to join the teams to race the cars. The CIS girls had a chance to meet with over 300 business men and women to learn about solar cars and have fun with a STEM project – and wave checkered flags at the finish line!”

Amy then had a chance to share with the company about the work that CIS is engaged in. Ingersoll Rand left behind not just a monetary gift for CIS, but also 160 solar car kits, which will be used in Nassau County middle schools in the upcoming year.

CIS is excited about the 2018-19 academic year and the chance to continue to collaborate with community partners. If you’re interested in getting involved, learning more, or making a much-needed financial donation, visit