Friends and Good Mannners

"Friends and good manners will carry you where money won't go."
- Margaret Walker, African-American Poet, 1915-1998 

CIS Site Coordinators Debra Rakestraw (SCES) and Ivy Corder (MAHS) know that brains and brawn will only take you so far in life.  Truly successful people are those who get along well with others, and that's why they emphasize good manners as part of our CIS 4th Basic: A Marketable Skill to Use Upon Graduation."

Students at Monroe Area High School were treated to an encore of last spring's very successful Dining Etiquette program, where students from the Athens Tech Culinary Arts program catered in a formal meal and students were instructed on table manners, conversation skills and networking.  "Today's fast-paced culture offers kids little opportunity to experience formal dining, and when they find themselves at an interview, lunch meeting or awards banquet, it can be intimidating," Corder said.  "We want our kids to have this experience so they can be confident in any setting."

Every student at Social Circle Elementary recently attended a Life Skills Seminar, where volunteers from the community came in to instruct them on everyday manners like covering a cough or sneeze, holding doors, talking on the phone, addressing adults with respect and not interrupting conversations. Boys were instructed on how to tie a tie, and girls were given tips on how to sit like a lady. "These skills are important and the sooner kids start to use them, the sooner they become natural to them,"  Rakestraw said.  "I'm so thankful to the volunteers who made it possible for us to have every student in the school participate." 


Let's Go to College!

A whopping 205 out of 250 seniors at Walnut Grove High School (82%) completed college applications Tuesday during Georgia Apply to College Day. 

Representatives from several colleges, adult community volunteers, school counselors and other staff spent the day in the school's computer lab to help students complete the applications as part of the event, which was held at WGHS for the first time this year.  

Georgia Apply to College, sponsored by Communities in Schools, the Georgia Department of Education, the Georgia Independent College Association, the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education, the Georgia Student Finance Commission, the Technical College System of Georgia and the University System of Georgia, and endorsed by the Georgia Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (GACRAO), has the goal of providing all Georgia high school seniors with the opportunity to apply to college using, with a focus on providing assistance to first generation and economically disadvantaged students as they navigate the college application process.

"We are thrilled that so many of our students took advantage of this opportunity and completed their applications today," said Milisa Wise, CIS Site Coordinator and organizer of the event.  "We know that many of our students are first in their families to apply to college, and the process can be overwhelming for the students and their parents.  The kids really need this support and are so appreciative." is a one-stop college access resource for students, teachers, parents, and colleges which places all the information a student will need about career planning, staying on track in high school, selecting and applying for college, applying for financial aid, HOPE Scholarship and more.  "Students really need to tap into this resource and make the most of it, and Apply to College Day helps them do that,"  Wise said. 

November is Georgia Apply to College Month, and events like this are being held all over the state. 


Music to Our Ears

Here's a great example of how Communities In Schools brings community resources into schools to help kids succeed:

Walnut Grove High School had a number of students express an interest in taking a music elective course in guitar.  The school had the classroom and the instructor available, but faced a critical guitars. So CIS went to work to identify resources in the community, and after a few phone calls, found a champion for music education to save the day. 

The Walton County Music Guild board was quickly polled by its executive director Brian Hardman, who came back with good news.  The Guild would sponsor $1000 to purchase 20 guitars that could be issued on loan to students in the program.  Without their support, this class would not have been held.  

So what does this have to do with keeping kids in school?  WGHS Assistant Principal Carole Hicks explains, "Because we didn't have funds to purchase guitars, we were going to be forced to replace the guitar class with another course that doesn't require instruments, one that students don't enjoy.  Because of the extra funding that you have arranged for us, we have been able to add students to the guitar class, thus, saving the program.  Since we began the guitar class a few years ago, it has been a refuge for many students who have no interest in athletics, band, or acting. It is amazing how these students have thrived as a result of continuing the course. Many of them perform in talent shows, others have formed bands of their own, and they are amazing! Students who were once invisible to their peers are now viewed with new respect by faculty and peers because of their talent."

The Music Guild saw this partnership as a great opportunity, too.  "This is exactly the kind of outreach we want to be doing in the community," said Hardman.  "Music education has to be part of our mission, and partnering with schools is a great way to do it."

When the community surrounds students with its resources and support, students, schools and the community win. 

Walnut Grove HS Students Pledge Not to Text While Driving

Walnut Grove High School is at it again!  Last year the students participated in a "Don't Text & Drive" campaign.  Students & faculty pledged to stay safe while driving after attending an assembly educating them about Caleb's Law.  This law was signed here in Georgia after a teen driver, Caleb Sorohan, was killed while texting and driving.  This year, Walnut Grove students and faculty will have the opportunity once again to sign a pledge not to drive distracted.  AT&T is promoting a "No Text on Board - Pledge Day" on Wednesday, September 19th.  Ironically, that would have been Caleb Sorohan's 21st birthday. 
During lunches on Wednesday, Milisa Wise, the CIS Site Coordinator at Walnut Grove, will be presenting AT&T's "The Last Text" documentary.  Everyone will have the opportunity at that time to sign a pledge card that will be displayed in the halls of the school.  Texting Kills Awareness thumb rings will be given out to each person that pledges, courtesy of Peyton Pettus, State Farm Insurance Agent.  His agency provided 2 signs to Walnut Grove that were attached to the stop sign posts as drivers exit the school.  These signs remind drivers not to text while driving. 

This year, Walnut Grove is receiving 2 more signs, courtesy of  They are helping to spread the word about distracted driving to teen drivers through their sign donations to schools nationwide.  Mrs. Wise states, "I am so appreciative that we have businesses both locally and nationally that donate resources to our schools.  I look forward to talking to the students about the importance of driving without distractions.  While I know we can't eliminate texting and driving completely, I hope it reduces it significantly.  If nothing else, it will remind them of the danger it poses on our roads.  Then, hopefully the signs in the parking lot will serve as daily reminders."  - this link can be used by other schools to order their free signs. 


Communities In Schools of Georgia Launches New Parent Resource Website

Photo: As a parent, YOU are your child’s most valuable resource. The new online CIS of Georgia Parent Resource Center offers FREE info and tips so you can help your child succeed this school year! 

Click SHARE let everyone know that every day leads to graduation day! 

The new online CIS of Georgia Parent Resource Center offers FREE info and tips so parents can help their children succeed this school year! 

Every day leads to graduation day! 

CIS of Walton Receives Network Empowerment Initiative Grant

Communities In Schools of Walton County is among 16 local affiliates in Georgia to receive funds from the Network Empowerment Initiative, a grant from the Trustees of the Jospeph P.Whitehead Foundation through Communities In Schools of Georgia.

The award, which totals $158,000 over three years, will allow CIS of Walton County to partner with Walton County Public Schools to place Site Coordinators in all middle and high schools in the district.   Joining the existing sites at Carver Middle School, Monroe Area High School and Walnut Grove High School, will be new programs at Loganville Middle School, Youth Middle School and Loganville High School.

"We are so proud to have been awarded this grant and grateful to Communities In Schools of Georgia for securing the funding from the Whitehead Foundation and making it available to the network," said Angela Yarman, Executive Director.

The CIS Network Empowerment Initiative is focused on increasing the scope and impact of Communities In Schools by supporting local affiliates to provide programming that will improve graduation rates, college success rates, student outcomes, and affiliate sustainability.

"Communities In Schools is a valuable partner in helping our schools meet the non-academic needs of our students," said Dr. Rita Dickinson, Projects Director for Walton County Public Schools.  "Many of our students need additional support to help them stay in school, graduate and move on to their adult lives, and CIS helps us provide that support.  This grant will allow us to serve more students in more schools and keep our graduation rates improving each year."


The Economic Impact of Communities In Schools

In May 2012, Communities In Schools released the results of an economic impact study conducted by EMSI, one of the nation’s leading economic modeling firms. The purpose of the study was to quantify the return on investment of Communities In Schools’ 113 high school-serving affiliates in its network to taxpayers, businesses, and students.Among the significant findings are:
  • The average annual rate of return to society is 18.4%.
  • The benefit/cost ratio is 11.6, which means that every dollar invested in Communities In Schools creates $11.60 of economic benefit for the community.
  • High school graduates will be net contributors to their communities for an average of 44 years of their working life, using their increased income to purchase homes and cars, and paying taxes that will support police officers, firefighters and teachers.
To learn more highlights of the report, read our press release.

To read the full report, download the PDF below.


The Power of the CIS Site Coordinator

This is what our awesome Site Coordinators do to make a difference in the lives of students!  


Milisa Wise at Walnut Grove High School
Ivy Corder at Monroe Area High School
Amy Hunnewell at Carver Middle School
Debra Rakestraw at Social Circle Elementary School

Proctor & Gamble, a national CIS partner, produced these videos to help tell our story.

Bill Inabinet Named CIS Volunteer of the Year

Bill Inabinet, assistant vice president and branch manager at Athens First Bank & Trust, was named the Communities In Schools Volunteer of the Year at our awards luncheon in April.  Bill serves as a member of the CIS Board of Directors where he co-chairs the Resource Development Committee and chairs the Career and College Expo.  He also serves as chairman of the Education Committee for the Walton County Chamber of Commerce.

"He is a cheerful giver, always ready to lend a hand, contribute an idea, offer encouragement to our students, staff and other volunteers," said Jimmy Hogg, Chairman of the Board.  "He provides a valuable outreach into the business community and is a great asset to CIS."

Bill is committed to quality education in Walton County.  A graduate of Monroe Area High School, he received his degree from Georgia Southern University where he was a student leader and athlete.  He returned to Walton County to work and give back to the community he calls home.  His father, Bill Inabinet, Sr., served as chairman of the Walton County Board of Education for several years.  His wife, Blair, is a middle school science teacher in Walton County Public Schools.  They have two young children and attend First Baptist Church of Loganville.  

"It is such a pleasure to work with Bill," said CIS Executive Director Angela Yarman.  "He takes his volunteer work as a serious responsibility, rolls up his sleeves and gets things done.  He is also very thoughtful and analytical in the way he approaches challenges.  He is one of many great volunteers we are so fortunate to have leading our organization, and is well-deserving of this award."

Scenes from SCES "It Pays to be Good"

Students at Social Circle Elementary who had no discipline referrals in the second semester were treated to a water slide, obstacle course and a refreshing shower from the fire truck at the end of the year "It Pays to Be Good" celebration sponsored by Communities In Schools.  

"This is a great way to help teachers limit the disruptions that take away from instructional time," said SCES Principal Jodi Weber.  "The students know this reward is on the horizon and they really want to participate, so we get great behavior all year."

"I'm proud of all our students who made it," said CIS Site Coordinator.  "They worked hard and deserve a treat."  

In addition to the water festivities, the CIS Site Team at SCES also planned a fund raiser where students could "vote" by placing spare change in a jar to select Mr. and Mrs. SCES from among the faculty and staff.  The event raised $385 for the CIS Community Care Fund at SCES, an account that provides emergency financial assistance for students and their families. 

Check out the scenes from this fun day!

Yum!  Cake to start the celebration

Ready for the Obstacle Course

Big line for the Big Blue Monster Water Slide

Running through the "sprinkler"
from the Social Circle Fire Department



FISH Named CIS Community Partner of the Year

Faith in Serving Humanity (FISH) was named the CIS of Walton County Community Partner of the Year at the CIS Awards Luncheon on April 12.  

FISH Executive Director Cindy Little and Board Chair Ed Reinagle

Many Community Partners provide important resources to our students and form the community of support that is at the core of our work.    We simply would not be CIS without them.  We selected our award winner this year for their “can do” attitude toward helping students with whatever resources they need.  When all else fails, this organization is there for our students and for the whole community with everything from food, to clothing, to financial assistance.  The Backpack Buddies program alone accounts for a tremendous value as hundreds of our students receive food to take home for the weekend each week.  They truly embody the CIS 5 Basics and we are proud to name Faith in Serving Humanity, better known as FISH, as our Community Partner of the Year.

Scenes from the Career and College Expo

Juniors from six high schools across Walton County attended the Career and College Expo on April 12.  Sponsored by Communities in Schools of Walton County, the Walton County Chamber of Commerce and the Walton County Board of Commissioners, the event featured businesses and organization representing more than 100 careers and 19 colleges.  Students were able to explore careers and visit college recruiters during the event.


Charity Navigator Gives CIS National Office 4-Star Rating

Charity Navigator
Communities In Schools National Office has received the prestigious 4-Star rating from Charity Navigator.  The 4-Star rating, its highest award, is given to charities by the organization for high standards in financial management, transparency and accountability.   View the entire report from Charity Navigator.


The School-Community Connection

MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell talks with education correspondent Rahema Ellis about why the business community must be involved in schools to help develop a quality workforce and attract industry.


Register for the Career and College Expo

Registration remains open for Thursday's Career and College Expo at Meridian Park.  More than 1400 juniors from six schools will attend to explore careers and colleges. Career exhibitors are still needed and registration is free. 

For details and registration information, please click here.


10 ways

Dining with Prepared, Polished and Professional

Students enrolled in the GOCF System of Care at Monroe Area High School got a lesson in dining etiquette during their weekly session on March 21.  A practice meal was catered in by students in the Culinary Arts program at Athens Technical College, as students made their way through three courses of tableware and conversation.  "Knowing how to manage a formal table setting will make you more comfortable in a business environment," said CIS executive director Angela Yarman, who taught the class.  "You may receive an award, a scholarship, or be invited to a meal as part of a job interview.  Knowing how to make other people feel comfortable in your company is an important skill."

Building a Community of Support

The Walton County Chamber of Commerce invited Communities In Schools to be its program at the March membership luncheon at Monroe Golf & Country Club.  CIS executive director Angela Yarman opened the program with an overview of the CIS 5 Basics.  

Bryan Hicks, principal at Monroe Area High School, and Jodi Weber, principal at Social Circle Elementary School shared the positive impact of CIS on their schools.  "It's been great for us," said Mr. Hicks.  "It's nice to have this kind of support from the community.  They just come in and get things done." 

"We have seen a real impact on attendance, discipline and the relationships we have in the community," said Mrs. Weber.  "It has been very positive."

MAHS student Chelsea Smith told the audience how CIS is helping her reach her goals.  "I want to go to Savannah State University and study to become a school social worker," she said.  CIS has helped me decide on a career and make a plan.  I am going to Prepared, Polished and Professional and CIS is helping me get some eyeglasses.  I am really thankful."

Board member Bill Inabinet, who chairs the Career and College Expo and co-chairs the CIS fund raising campaign, closed the program by telling the audience how they can become part of the community of support by registering for the Expo, signing up to be a Career Coach, donating to the professional clothing closet and liking us on Facebook. "We all know the impact education has on the economy," he said, "and that's why, as a community, we have to support our students and help them succeed."


Career Coaches Guide Students at MAHS

Amanda Pawich, project manager with the
Walton County Juvenile Court, talks with two students
 about careers in social work and juvenile justice.
Students in the Prepared, Polished and Professional series  at Monroe Area High School were introduced to their Career Coaches during Wednesday's session.  Career Coaches are volunteers from the community who make a commitment to work one-on-one with a student who is interested in pursuing the kind of career the volunteer holds.  

Two nurses from Clearview Regional Medical Center talk with
 a student about the different options available in nursing.
Career coaches help guide students with information about the necessary skills, traits and training needed to succeed in the specified career.  They also let the students know about opportunities such as internships, job shadowing, seminars, and other resources and help students with applications for scholarships and letters of recommendation. "Our students enjoyed meeting their coaches today and learned so much from them," said CIS Site Coordinator Ivy Corder.  "We appreciate the volunteers and their commitment to our students."

GBI at CMS Lunch Bunch

This week's Lunch Bunch at Carver Middle School featured Lisa Callahan, toxicologist with the State Crime Lab at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.  Her advice for students who are interested in in a career with the Crime Lab:  "Work hard in math and science and don't do drugs...ever."  Lunch Bunch is a six-week career exploration which students attend voluntarily during their lunch break.  About 75 students are participating. 

Lunch Bunch Explores Careers at Carver Middle

Over the next six weeks, students at Carver Middle School will have the opportunity to sit down face-to-face in small groups with adults from the community who are employed in the careers that the students are interested in pursuing.  The CIS Lunch Bunch Program will bring in a different adult each week exploring careers from crime scene investigation to culinary arts.  The students are selected based on their stated career interest and meet with the presenter during lunch. 

This week, the students met with Jack Armstrong, a firefighter from the Monroe Fire Department.  Mr. Armstrong talked with the students about the training required for the job, starting salary and what it is like to work at the Fire Department.  The series will run on Wednesdays through April.

Site Coordinator Amy Hunnewell facilitates the program. "This is a great way for students to begin to understand what the world of work is really like,"  She said.  "It helps them see how their school work is related to their future."


College and Career Expo Set for April 12

Communities In Schools of Walton County, the Walton County Chamber of Commerce and the Walton County Board of Commissioners will present the 2nd Annual College and Career Expo on April 12 at Meridian Park.  Juniors from Loganville High School, Monroe Area High School, Walnut Grove High School, Social Circle High School, George Walton Academy and Loganville Christian Academy will attend the exhibit featuring more than 100 businesses and colleges.

Register by clicking here!

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CIS Career Day at SCES

Students at Social Circle Elementary School got a glimpse of the world of work last week at the Communities In Schools Career Day.  More than 20 exhibitors spent the afternoon talking with students about careers ranging from construction and auto-mechanics to sports and music to public safety and law.  

CIS Site Coordinator Debra Rakestraw and the SCES Site Team planned the event, which brought each of the three grades (3rd, 4th and 5th) through the exhibit for some one-on-one time with adults who set up displays to explain their careers. 

"This is such a great opportunity for our students to see how the things they are learning in the classroom will apply to their futures," said SCES Principal Jodi Weber.  "Having the community come to the school to share their careers with our students is so valuable and we appreciate all of them."  

Exhibitors expressed how much they enjoyed seeing the students, especially those who had taken their "dress for success" instructions to heart.  "The kids are great," said Jennifer Broun, Community Relations Coordinator for Walton EMC.  "They are really taking it seriously and asking thoughtful questions."


Ticket to Success

Students and parents at Walnut Grove High School were offered a Ticket to Success, providing information about college financial aid, dual enrollment, preparation for SAT/ACT and more.  Hundreds came out to learn about how to take advantage of the many opportunities offered by the school, the state and the community to help students have access to college.

Students enjoy breakfast prior to the Ticket to Success
 sessions and make their way through
 the CIS resource exhibi
CIS Site Coordinator Milisa Wise worked with organizers of the event, providing information on the resources she offers to assist with basic needs, workforce preparation and college access.  

"This is a great opportunity for families to learn about the steps they need to take to transition from high school to college,"  said Wise.  "It is wonderful to see so many families participating."

Celeste Cannon, director of 6-12 curriculum and CTAE for Walton County Schools, offered a session on dual enrollment, where students can enroll in college while they are still in high school.  Students earn credit toward high school graduation and college credit at the same time and can complete high school with a year or more of college behind them.  "Dual enrollment is a chance for students who are prepared to work hard and do well to get ahead on college credits," Cannon said. 

A military recruiter talks to students and their families.
Georgia Student Finance Commission rep
Hal Wilkinson explains financial aide
Sessions were held on a variety of topics including options offered by the military, how to apply for financial aid and how to prepare for the SAT.  Jan Bohon, director of Total Learning Concepts in Loganville and a member of the CIS Site Team at WGHS, led a session on college entrance exams and offers free SAT and ACT practice tests at TLC.

Principal Thomas Boutwell praised assistant principal Miranda Compton for organizing the event.  "This is important information for students and parents to know, and we are pleased to be able to offer this program at Walnut Grove High School," he said. "We are glad to have had so many families come out to help their students prepare for success."


The Success Option

Knowing one's options is the first step in choosing the best path, and 25 students at Monroe Area High School will soon discover options they may not have seen before.

Students enrolled in the System of Care, a partnership among Walton County Public Schools, The Partnership for Families Children and Youth, Athens Tech and Communities In Schools, will be part of an extensive workforce prep, college access and career exploration program offered at the school. The program is funded through a grant from the Governor's Office of Children and Families.

At a kick-off dinner sponsored by Monroe First Baptist Church, motivational speaker Ellen Hester appeared as the character Dr. Choice, Optionist, to inspire the enrolled students and their families to exercise the option to succeed in school and in life.

As a partner in the program, Communities In Schools will offer a 10-week seminar series, Prepared, Polished and Professional, offering training on the soft skills that are necessary to find and keep a job, such as appropriate dress, business etiquette, interviewing skills, resume writing, selecting and applying to colleges, and applying for financial aid.

Throughout the program, students will have access to CIS Career Coaches, adults who volunteer to be matched with students based on career interest to provide one-to-one advice, guidance and information on opportunities in their fields.

The program will culminate with the Career and College Expo in April. This event, organized by Communities In Schools and the Walton County Chamber, gathers businesses and colleges in an exhibit where students can explore careers and investigate college options. Following the expo, students will attend the CIS donor recognition luncheon, where they will network with donors and exhibitors and put their new business skills to the test.

Seminars begin January 25, and volunteers are needed to serve as Career Coaches and Expo exhibitors. If you would like to participate contact Ivy Corder, CIS Site Coordinator for MAHS at

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