Tablet Local

Agency helps more than 20,000 at-risk students in 2013

Communities In Schools of Greater Tarrant County served 24,758 students last year, many of whom who stayed in school, improved their grades and learned better behavior.

The agency announced its 2013 numbers Thursday.

“The needle is moving in the right direction in Tarrant County and across Texas. There are smaller and smaller percentages of young people who are dropping out of school,” said Mike Steele, president and CEO of the nonprofit organization, which links social workers to at-risk students.

In August, the Texas Education Agency reported that Texas’ high school graduation rate hit an all-time high with 87.7 percent graduating in the Class of 2012.

CIS reported Thursday that 3,456 students received intensive attention from its program and of those, 98 percent stayed in school. Of the total served, 70 percent improved their grades and 92 percent improved their behavior.

The nonprofit also encouraged community leaders to invest in the program by donating to the recently established Communities In Schools Endowment Fund, which currently has about $500,000.

“We are moving the needle in the right direction. We are just not moving it as quickly as any of us would love have it move,” Steele said at the group’s annual Celebration Luncheon at the Petroleum Club.

The social workers involved tackle issues that get in the way of learning — poverty, violence, coping with a family death and more.

“How can anybody expect a young person do great on an algebra test if they are worried that their mother is going to get beat up by a father who drank too much?” Steele said.

Theron Bowman, 12, brought his grades up and gained a positive self-image when he started working with Kati Tollison, a CIS project manager and social worker at Hoover Elementary in Azle.

The sixth-grader said CIS helped him find a balance so he could deal with his health issues and keep up. He said he always felt out of place because he has Shwachman-Diamond Syndrome, a disorder that affects his skeletal and digestive systems.

Bowman said he also struggled with anger issues and used to go off on people. Now, he has coping mechanisms that help him stay calm and he has made the A/B honor roll. His last report card was “all A’s,” he said.

Bowman also has an eye on his future.

“I want to grow up and work on really cool cars like be a mechanic. I just want to be one of those people who want to help,” Bowman said.

School is no longer a source of added frustration for him.

“It’s really cool. It’s going good,” Bowman said.