It’s easy to go into a community and talk about the success of our CIS model. It’s easy, because before I do that, I get to see firsthand how effective that model is at each of our CIS NOVA schools.

Every fall, slightly after the back-to-school dust settles, I visit our Site Coordinators to learn about the great programs they have planned for the school year. The first thing I observe when I visit, is that Site Coordinators are busy. It’s no surprise that 5,745 students were connected to CIS resources and supports last year, or that 98% of our students were promoted to the next grade, 99% remained in school, and 100% of our CIS NOVA seniors graduated in the 2017-2018 school year.

With no slackers in sight, Site Coordinators have hit the ground running again this year, developing distinct school support plans for getting their students on a path to success. I visited all five schools, four in Arlington and one in Alexandria. They are diverse with respect to size and demographics, serving students in Kindergarten through 12th grade, as well as adults returning to finish their high school diploma. Despite these differences, there are commonalities between the schools and the students’ needs.

When I visited Madelyn at Francis C. Hammond Middle School, our conversation was interrupted by a 7th grader who needed help. Madelyn jumped up and took the student to our CIS NOVA Community Corner, a room housing resources from food to clothes to hygiene products and school supplies. After fulfilling the teen’s needs, she waved the relieved, smiling girl back to class, then picked up where we left off without missing a beat. With about 1,100 students (80%) qualifying for free and reduced meals at Hammond, creating the Community Corner and keeping it stocked has gone a long way toward meeting students’ needs.

Similarly, during my visit with Blair at Arlington Community High School, she told me 65% of her students reported they came to school hungry, making it hard to concentrate. In response, she started a Breakfast Bistro to make sure all students had access to food before classes began. At Barcroft Elementary, Elizabeth described to me her weekend backpacks that serve almost 100 students. The latter ensures her students have access to food when they’re not in school. Also seeing similar needs, Rula at Gunston Middle School and Martin at Wakefield High School always have snacks to offer their students during programs and dinners to support family engagement nights.

Addressing basic needs and food insecurity is common to all schools, but is only one area of support provided by our SCs. They work hard to improve academic outcomes by increasing student attendance and bringing volunteer tutors into classrooms. Last year alone, CIS NOVA Site Coordinators utilized 229 volunteers and partnered with 50 organizations to support their students.

Site Coordinators are also improving their school’s climate. Whether it’s through school-wide health initiatives, creating leadership opportunities, offering curriculum to improve behavior,  adding adult literacy programs to improve family engagement, or even getting International students to tell their story of what it’s like to live in the US, each Site Coordinator is encouraging students, their families, and the surrounding communities to get involved and learn the importance of supporting all kids to achieve in school.

Above all, CIS NOVA Site Coordinators are Champions for their students. They go to the ends of the earth, all day every day, to see them thrive. That’s what I see when I visit, and that’s why I know the model works.

Interesting in seeing for yourself? Please contact Candace Hill, CIS NOVA Outreach Coordinator at for more information on volunteering or to donate much needed items for our students.