By Candace Hill, CIS of NOVA Outreach Coordinator

As the Communities In Schools (CIS) of NOVA Outreach Coordinator for Alexandria, I feel fortunate to be a part of a team that’s out there helping to educate our city residents and businesses on the needs of Alexandria City Public School’s students, and to find the resources needed to enable their success in school.

The journey that led me to CIS of NOVA is one that has consistently involved working with youth, as I’ve always been fascinated with child development. My career began in research, managing the Temple University site for the NICHD Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development. There, I spent over a decade observing the same group of kids grow from elementary school to high school. I watched them develop socially, emotionally, cognitively, physically, and every other way imaginable. Not an intervention study, this project’s purpose was to observe and collect data on early childhood experiences to learn more about their later impact on outcomes, including their achievement in school.

One of my biggest takeaways from my experience on the NICHD project was that although barriers to learning and health exist for youth, there are ways to mitigate, if not remove, them. A child’s fate is not determined at birth, but while some underserved kids are lucky enough to find the supports they need on their own to achieve in school and in life, many aren’t so fortunate.

As I moved on from the NICHD project in Philadelphia and landed here in Alexandria, I was eager to provide support to the local schools, and to the greater community, by increasing opportunities for children and their families to eat healthy and be more active. The ultimate goal, of course, was to remove a barrier to learning by increasing children’s health. It was through this pursuit that I connected with CIS of NOVA via their Healthy Hammond Initiative at Francis C. Hammond Middle School.

CIS of NOVA is doing exactly what I believe is necessary for students to stay in school, graduate, and find their success. CIS of NOVA Site Coordinators are developing relationships with at-risk youth and providing necessary mentoring to get them to set goals and visualize their success, but it doesn’t stop there. CIS of NOVA is also bringing the community back into the school and working to get all city residents and businesses invested in our students’ achievement.

Through my outreach efforts, I’m excited to support these connections between the community and the schools and to bring in what ACPS students need to achieve at Hammond Middle School. The work at Hammond is the start of something exciting for all ACPS schools.

If interested in volunteering or learning more about the work she’s doing, you can contact her at