Monday, November 24, 2014

Program honors Ottawa schools, city, community with top awards

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 1/10/2014

When Communities in Schools of Mid-America staff members sat down to decide who should receive the organization’s inaugural awards, all signs pointed to one community: Ottawa.

“The mission of Communities in Schools is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life, and nowhere is this more exemplified than in this Ottawa community,” Malissa Martin said.

When Communities in Schools of Mid-America staff members sat down to decide who should receive the organization’s inaugural awards, all signs pointed to one community: Ottawa.

“The mission of Communities in Schools is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life, and nowhere is this more exemplified than in this Ottawa community,” Malissa Martin said.

Martin, president and chief executive officer of Communities in Schools of Mid-America, Lawrence, addressed a crowded school district board room Friday morning as she presented the organization’s inaugural awards for Communities in Schools affiliate, school district and community of the year to Communities in Schools of Ottawa, Ottawa schools and the community of Ottawa.

Becky Nevergold, Communities in Schools of Ottawa executive director, Jeanne Stroh, Ottawa school superintendent, and Sara Caylor, Ottawa mayor, accepted the awards.

“It’s very unlikely all three of these awards will land in the same community in the future,” Martin said in presenting the awards for the 2013-2014 school year. “As we were talking in our office about the most deserving recipient of these awards, every time we kept coming back to Ottawa at every level. That is an amazing testament to the community, to the school district, to Becky, to her staff, to the board of Communities in Schools of Ottawa and everyone who has a role in Communities in Schools.”

Communities in Schools of Mid-America is a non-profit organization with local affiliates in Kansas, Tulsa, Okla., Omaha, Neb., and soon is expanding to Missouri, according to a Communities in Schools Mid-America news release. During the 2012-2013 school year, Communities in Schools of Mid-America served 27,493 students, the release said. All the organization’s affiliates were eligible for the awards, Martin said.

The Ottawa community has much to be proud of, Martin told the audience.

“[Communities in Schools of Ottawa] is the most successful implementation of an independent CIS affiliate anywhere in the Midwestern part of this country in the last decade,” Martin said to a round of applause.

Communities in Schools runs after-school programs, sponsors Day on the Job events, places site counselors at schools to serve as mentors to students, as well as participates in many other programs for the betterment of students. Nationwide, the organization serves more than 1.4 million students and their families in 26 states and Washington, D.C., the news release said. Communities in Schools has become the nation’s leading dropout prevention organization, and the only one proven to both decrease dropout rates and increase graduation rates, the release said.

“On behalf of everyone with the CIS national network, we can’t thank you enough for helping make this vision real,” Martin told those in attendance.

Martin also presented Nevergold with a check for $300 to use for the emergency needs of students Communities in Schools of Ottawa serves.

Nevergold asked her staff, Communities in Schools board members, and others who have helped with the Ottawa affiliate since it was established in July 2007 to come forward and be recognized.

“We are so appreciative, and we are humbled, and I mean humbled, to receive this award,” Nevergold said.

Nevergold quoted President Obama, who recently reflected on the 50th anniversary of the war on poverty.

“President Obama said, ‘These endeavors didn’t just make us a better country, they reaffirmed we are a great country. These endeavors lived up to our best hopes as a people who value the dignity and potential of every human being.’

“Communities in Schools believes we are one of the best hopes because we do value the dignity and potential of every human being, especially our children and our young people,” Nevergold said. “As I look at this amazing group of people in this room, I see all of you who are the best hope. Staff members, board members, volunteers, supporters — we are hope in this room. Whether through volunteering, gifts, prayers, uplifting words and actions, please feel our thanks from Communities in Schools.”

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