We kicked off this year’s Lora M. Robins Speaker Series with a great discussion and presentation lead by Dan Cardinali, President of Communities in Schools (CIS). CIS, founded in 1977 is the nation’s largest dropout prevention organization which serves more than 1.3 million students each year, including students in the Richmond metro area. CIS Richmond supports students in 41 Richmond City and Henrico County high poverty neighborhood schools, by working with 160 partner agencies in our area to eliminate barriers to success and keep kids in school.
During his presentation, Dan outlined the challenges students in poverty face today. The public education system was designed during a time when children had a portfolio of support outside of the classroom. Today, school systems still operate in a way that assumes those supports are in place, leaving a structural disconnect. CIS recognizes this disconnect and has found that a majority of students come to school in need of basic necessities like food, clothing and shelter. If basic needs are not addressed, learning is difficult.
So what can Richmond do to combat the effects of poverty in school? Dan encourages us to focus on:
- Education reform
- Youth development
- Community resources
Dan also challenged Richmond leaders to shift their thinking on the data, “Some of the most important progress is when you slow down decline. If you can engage the community and keep hope alive, you have real possibility for change. It is going to be messy, but the most important progress is slowing down the decline.”