FEDERAL WAY, Wash. -- While local schools struggle with deep budget cuts, many districts are now finding an old program is helping to ease the pain.

Communities in Schools (CIS) is the nation s leading dropout prevention organization, according to a recent independent study. In Federal Way, CIS partners with local schools to help schools that are having to make more with less.

There are so many different things that the schools need and teachers need and they just don t have time, said Tracy Oster, local CIS executive director. There job is to teach the reading and writing and math.

At Mirror Lake Elementary School in Federal Way, students are assigned a school coordinator or mentor whose job is to work closely with students and create a relationship to strengthen
a student in the academic and personal lives.

Georgina Hernandez works with all students, but mostly focuses on at risk students.

Kids need to have a relationship, they need to know they are safe here at school, but they have someone to come talk to, she said.

Hernandez can be paged to the office when a parent arrives with a question or concern. Often, these concerns can be resolved on the spot. But, if the problem is more complex, she meets with the family to assess the situation and put them in touch with the appropriate agencies and resources.

She s been known to help families purchase school uniforms, glasses and textbooks.

It s very rewarding, she said. They don t feel alone and they don t feel lost anymore.

Participating school districts pay CIS a fee for services. There are currently 12 districts in Washington State that utilize CIS including Seattle and Tacoma Schools.

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