CISBF: Game-Changing Investment Helps Students Overcome Obstacles to Learning

Communities in Schools (CIS) announced today that philanthropist MacKenzie Scott has made a transformative $133.5 million gift to the Communities In Schools network, the largest, unrestricted gift in CIS history. This unprecedented gift includes $5.85 million given specifically to Communities In Schools of Washington and three Washington state CIS affiliates: CIS of Benton-Franklin, CIS Peninsula, and CIS Renton-Tukwila.

“We are honored and humbled to receive this generous gift that will strengthen our capacity to surround students with the support they need to succeed in school and life. Our priority will remain on amplifying the voices of those who have been disproportionately impacted by generations of educational and systemic inequities while, simultaneously, working towards a future where one’s success is not predicated on race, ethnicity, identity, or socioeconomic status. We believe this gift speaks to our proven success and creates an incredible opportunity for our local business, nonprofit, educational and community leaders to come alongside us to sustain this transformational work.” -Lupe Mares, MSW, Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Benton-Franklin

Working directly inside schools, and in partnership with teachers and parents, CIS is uniquely positioned to address the challenges standing between students and their academic success. Our evidence-based, student-centered approach is designed to support the educational and social-emotional development of youth that allows them to succeed in the classroom and beyond. We accomplish this by coordinating with schools and local service providers to address the barriers facing students and families, as well as to create access to critical resources, like food, housing, transportation, mental health support, healthcare, remote technology, and more.

“This is an amazing and generous gift that will support youth throughout our bi-county region by increasing access to the life-changing supports provided by Communities In Schools of Benton-Franklin. The work of CISBF in schools is essential and we hope this gift inspires partners in our community to join us as we empower our youth to achieve in school and life. I could not be more proud of Lupe and the incredible team of Site Coordinators serving students at CISBF.” -Elizabeth Burtner, Board Chair of Communities In Schools of Benton-Franklin

In the 2020-2021 school year, CIS of Benton-Franklin served nearly 19,000 students through whole school supports and 780 students via individualized case management. Ninety-seven percent of case managed students were economically disadvantaged, and 93 percent had been exposed to some form of trauma, yet we still saw a 100 percent improvement in Behavior, 94 percent improvement in Academics, and 75 percent improvement in Attendance. In addition, 99 percent of students in grades 9-12 stayed in school and 98 percent were promoted or graduated. While both the footprint and impact of CISBF has grown significantly over the past seven years, there remains much work to do and over 30,000 youth yet to be served.

“Today is an important day for students who are underserved, under-resourced, and in need of support to build a brighter future,” said Rey Saldaña, President and CEO of Communities In Schools nationally. “This unrestricted gift allows us to combat the inequities in public education and reimagine the way schools operate and show up for all students. Our National goal is to bring our model inside of every one of the 70,000 Title I-eligible schools in the country; currently, we operate in 3,000 schools – so we still have a long way to go, and we will need ongoing support to get there.”

Locally, CISBF currently serves 48% of our Title-I eligible schools with the generous support of our donors and partnering school districts. While this transformative gift will allow CISBF to begin closing that gap, ongoing support at the state and local level will be critical in ensuring students have access to the tools and resources they need to overcome what is certain to be a generational impact of the COVID-19 crisis.