Communities In Schools Cape Fear celebrates $1.5 million gift from MacKenzie Scott

CIS staffs 29 student support specialists who help students in need of food, tutoring, after school activities, money, and more
Published: Feb. 3, 2022 at 9:00 AM EST|Updated: Feb. 3, 2022 at 6:00 PM EST
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CAPE FEAR AREA, N.C. (WECT) - Thursday morning, Communities In Schools (CIS) Cape Fear celebrated a $1.5 million unrestricted gift from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

The announcement comes as part of a $133.5 million donation distributed across 40 Communities In Schools affiliates.

Its a gift so generous the executive director of CIS Cape Fear, Louise Hicks, was in total disbelief, deleting the initial email thinking it was a scam.

“What do you do as a nonprofit leader, to get that phone call of a lifetime? Just tears, and excitement and shock,” said Hicks.

CIS Cape Fear works in New Hanover, Pender and Duplin counties, placing 29 student support specialists in schools to remove barriers and connect students with food, housing, healthcare, tutoring and support so young people stay in school and accomplish their dreams. The group also coordinates after school care, a young parents support group, and summer programs like Children’s Defense Fund’s freedom school.

“They didn’t apply for this, they didn’t say ‘hey look at us’, they were noticed, they were acknowledged, they were validated for their work in our community. Super excited but not surprised at the acknowledgement for them,” said Julie Varnam, New Hanover County Schools Assistant Superintendent of Student Support. “It allows students greater opportunities to meet their own goals, and its not goals they know they have, it broadens their horizons to help them understand the goals they can have.”

In the 2020-2021 school year, they connected 16,242 students with their resources. Out of 1,108 students who received case-managed services, 99% stayed in school and 89% improved academic performance.

“Our staff, our team is incredible and they’re passionate and dedicated and they love and care for our kids all day everyday and this type of validation, this recognition of their work, I’m so happy for them,” explained Hicks. “We will be serving more students and you’ll see that this month, we have expanded into five new schools this month alone, so the gift is already having an impact.”

CIS Cape Fear plans for the donation to go towards building their capacity and maintaining programs where needed so families can lean on the agency for years to come.

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