“Communities in Schools” Awarded NBC Universal Grant

Communities in Schools, which is considered the nation's largest stay-in-school network, has been awarded a grant from the NBC Universal Foundation.

The foundation decided four North Texas charities should split $100,000 to keep their programs going.

Communities in Schools' sole mission is to help children who are at the greatest risk of dropping out.

Young people without high school diplomas are the last to be hired, the first to be laid off and are also more likely to be incarcerated, abuse substances or need public assistance.

Communities in Schools wants to prevent that. Their goal is to help people like Anastasia Martinez.

Martinez was pregnant in her last year of high school. It was scary, but she was determined to remain in school.

"I knew it was the right thing to do, was to continue going back to school," she said.

Martinez attended the Keys Learning Center in Euless, which helps parenting teens complete their course work, and she got help from a social worker hired by Communities in Schools.

"Their full-time and only job is to work with kids who may be either now, or sometime in the future, in jeopardy of dropping out of school," said Mike Steele, president and CEO. "And we help them in whatever way it takes, usually working with the families."

Communities in Schools is the only private organization allowed to place full-time staff inside schools. Its licensed social workers are in 33 schools across seven districts in Tarrant County.

In 17 years, Communities in Schools has a 97 percent success rate at preventing dropouts.

"It happens more than most people really know," Steele said. "In Tarrant County there are 17 school districts, and 37 percent of the kids who start as freshmen do not graduate four years later, so this is a huge problem."

Martinez is now enrolled in the culinary arts program at Tarrant County College.

"It's wonderful; I love it. It's like -- there are no words to explain it. I just love it," she said.

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