Communities In Schools of Jacksonville helping students stay on track

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — In some parts of Jacksonville, crime has unfortunately become a normal part of life.

Tationna Meadows-Laster's neighborhood is one such neighborhood.

“Two people were shot in our front yard and we just sat there like 'OK, what's next?" she explained.

It’s a harsh reality but for some, it is reality. In ninth grade, Meadows-Laster was introduced to a site coordinator for Communities In Schools so she wouldn't fall through the cracks.

“It helped me stay focused. Like, if my grades were slipping, Miss Teneshia Durham would call and be like, 'You had an “A” last week and a “C” this week. What’s going on?'” she said.

“I cried when she graduated because of the young lady that she has become,” Durham said.

CIS encounters kids with real challenges. The program is embedded within Jacksonville’s top three ZIP codes for homicides -- 32208, 32209 and 32210. A large number of students are on free and reduced lunch.

“We’re in 34 schools and reaching well over 5,700 students who are at-risk of dropping out. Our goal is to prevent them from dropping out so they can graduate on time and eliminate those barriers so they can be focused in the classroom,” Chief Operating Officer Leon Baxton said.

The cool part is Meadows-Laster has really grasped the meaning of paying it forward. Since she left the program, she went to Lake Forest Elementary School, teamed up with Communities In Schools and is now a literacy tutor for kindergarten through third grade.

It’s a real success story that's only getting better. Meadows-Laster now studies business administration at Florida State College at Jacksonville and encourages others to do the right thing and walk to the beat of their own drum.

“You don't have to follow someone else's path to be heard or known," Meadows-Laster said.

Communities In Schools also has a clothes closet and food pantry to help students. Its biggest need right now -- donations. If you want to help support the program, you can do so at cisjax.org/.

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