CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Communities In Schools program in West Virginia is expanding to eight counties in the 2019-2020 school year and First Lady Cathy Justice said she will not stop there.

She has hopes for the program (CIS), that is set up to bring a holistic and multidisciplinary approach to helping at-risk and economically disadvantaged youth in the state, to be in all 55 counties in West Virginia in the future.

Justice spoke in front of the CIS Advisory Board on Wednesday at the Governor’s Mansion to discuss moving into Cabell, Calhoun, Clay, Fayette, Hardy, Lincoln, Pendleton, and Raleigh counties this school year.

Cathy Justice

“We want them to know that someone cares about them, Justice said of the students. “We do everything from mentoring, scholastically to the health needs to transportation to emotional needs. If they need to go to the dentist, the doctor we try to fill all these needs.”

The program came to the Mountain State in 2004 into Greenbrier County Schools. It wasn’t until the 2018-19 school year that the initiative grew through the West Virginia Department of Education into three districts: McDowell, Wyoming and Berkeley counties.

The program links educators with the community to bring local resources into the classroom to create a network of support for students, a release said.

The results from Greenbrier County show case-managed student outcomes reaching as far as 100-percent graduation rate, 92-percent promotion in grades K through 11, 87-percent improved academics, and 81-percent improved behavior, per CIS.

“Education has to be the centerpiece in our state,” Justice said on the importance of the program. “If people are going to move somewhere, they want to make sure their children have a good education. That is what we are doing with this program.”

Cathy and Gov. Jim Justice recently returned from Chicago where they and other leaders of the program where the state was honored as national CIS Policy Champions at the organization’s Town Hall Conference.

Gov. Justice donates his salary to the program that is now in 59 schools statewide, serving more than 26,000 students, the First Lady said.

“We love children,” she said. “We want them to do as well as they can do. We want them to be proud of themselves, have a good education, feel good about themselves and don’t feel like they are a downtrodden person from the state of West Virginia.

“Hold your head up high and do what you want to do in life.”

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