Partner Agency Spotlight: Children First/ Communities in Schools

A few months ago on the blog we introduced a few of our newest partner agencies– Asheville Poverty Initiative and A Place at the Table in Raleigh. This week we’re highlighting one of our agencies that’s been partnering with AYM since the beginning– Children First/Communities in Schools (CIS). 11060028_10204424358876163_4974995756456933357_n

Children First/Communities In Schools (CIS) is a local non-profit committed to advocating and empowering children and families living in poverty.” They do this through providing direct services, education, and public policy and advocacy work. Their direct services include meeting basic needs such as food and clothing, as well as longer-term needs through parenting classes, a mentorship program, after-school help at their learning centers, and the assistances of a Student Support Specialist, just to name a few. This infographic shows best how a Children First family is impacted daily by the programs offered. Their advocacy and education work seeks “to raise awareness of, and develop sustainable solutions to, issues affecting children and families and breaking down barriers of poverty.” Their campaigns include “Promoting investments in early childhood education and care…Promoting smart budget reforms so NC can invest in our children’s education, health, and safety…Raising the age of adult sentencing to age 18…[and] Expanding living wage jobs for county contractors.” To read more about these policies, visit Children First’s website.

These resources provided by Children First/CIS are necessary in a community where “one in four (24%) children…live in poverty,” and 12,170 children are experiencing food insecurity. Children First/CIS serves two public housing complexes in which families of four are living on less than $6,000 a year, and 85% of students at the neighboring schools are eligible for free and reduced lunch. The high school dropout rate in Asheville City and Buncombe County schools are higher than the NC average, and the number of families receiving food stamps almost tripled between 2008 and 2012. Asheville has one of the highest costs of living in the country, and it continues to rise while wages are not.11700865_10204424389596931_3747666754043390524_n

Children First/CIS has been an AYM partner agency since our very beginning. Jodi Ford, Children First/CIS’s Outreach and Engagement Coordinator, told us that throughout the years, “AYM has been instrumental in helping us move ahead on many of our projects that serve local low-income children and families—such as our community garden which supplements our family food boxes with fresh veggies, maintaining our after-school learning centers, and the many programs and activities the AYM youth coordinate for our Summer Campers!” Jodi said, “Great things happen in our community when organizations who share similar missions are able to join forces and make things happen!…Last year we served over 2,800 children with our direct services and educational support programs. This was possible due to partnerships such as the one with AYM that allows us to reach the many children and families we are fortunate to work with.”

We have loved working with Children First/CIS throughout the years and are excited to soon kick off another summer of partnership with them! What organizations in your community are working to empower children and families in poverty? How can your youth group get involved? Already involved? Let us know what you’re up to at [email protected]! For a resource on talking with your youth about the different types of services provided by Children First, check out this study guide we’ve created!

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