It’s all about removing the barriers that make it so difficult for some students to learn. That’s the idea behind a new program starting this school year in some West Virginia classrooms.
Bill Milliken is the founder of the program “Communities in Schools,” and there’s a huge reason he believes in the success of every single student.
“I don’t want any other kids to go through what my friends and I did,” Milliken said. “Only five of my friends made it to 30 without being dead or in jail, and I found out the power of relationship.”
Communities in Schools helps students achieve more by building strong relationships with caring mentors. Teachers and principals say when students have to deal with ‘grownup issues’ learning is difficult.
“We have a big attendance issue at Huntington High School,” Gleason said. “So, we have students who need some extra support; maybe they don’t have the support at home or maybe they have to get themselves off to school.”
Hurdles like family members with substance abuse issues, a broken family, and personal health problems is why Communities in Schools exists. It gives schools more resources so teachers can focus on teaching, and students who need help can get it. It’s also caught the attention of West Virginia’s First Lady Cathy Justice.
“These teachers are wonderful,” Justice said. “They’re doing great jobs and everything and we’re just here to enhance what they’re doing.”
When asked what success with this program looks like, Principal Gleason said graduating 80-90 percent of his students.
“They have more doors open for them,” Gleason said. “They’re not closing off their opportunities by not getting that high school diploma.”
Many schools share in the cost of the program and some affiliates fundraise for the rest. In West Virginia, the State Department of Education partners with Communities in Schools and money comes from the state budget and other sources.