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Communities In Schools thankful for support by PSU's Enactus
Students in the group Enactus dropped off contributions at Lakeside Elementary last week to be used by children served by the Communities In Schools of Mid-America program. From left: Samantha Cicero, Ryan Hendrix, Kailey Pearson, and William Lamm

Communities In Schools thankful for support by PSU's Enactus

For the first time, every school in the Pittsburg district now is served by Communities in Schools of Mid-America. It's a big undertaking, Southeast Kansas Operations Coordinator Alex McNay says. 

He's thankful that Enactus, a student-run group at Pittsburg State University, stepped up to help. 

"It's a great thing for everyone involved," McNay said. "It gives the university students the opportunity to be a program facilitator of something, to connect resources, to be involved in the community, to make a difference in the areas where there is the most need." 

In turn, students in Enactus say they're glad to be involved in a learning experience they describe as "valuable." 

Communities in Schools got its start in New York City in the 1970s, when founder Bill Milliken put forth that relationships, not programs, change children. Putting community resources inside the schools would accelerate those relationships, he said. Today, Communities in Schools is at work in 2,300 schools in 25 states and the District of Columbia. 

At four elementary schools, the middle school, and the high school in Pittsburg, Communities in Schools of Mid-America works with counselors and staff to identify student needs according to severity, then assign them to one of three tiers of support. 

Tier 1 students are any students who are at any point need clothing from the school clothing closet, or need help with basic needs being met, like food beyond the school day, for example. Tier 2 students are those with whom there is one-on-one and small-group engagement — students with chronic absence problems, for example. Tier 3 students are those who need to be met with daily and weekly and who face numerous barriers to success. 

A typical caseload of students depends on the size of the school; if enrollment is less than 1,000, it's 10 percent. At Pittsburg High School, Communities in Schools of Mid-America serves 89. At Pittsburg Community Middle School, it serves about 60. At Meadowlark, Westside, Lakeside, and George Nettels, it serves 45 to 60. 

"We could go higher if we had the staffing," said McNay, himself a product of Pittsburg schools. 

Which is why assistance from Enactus was so welcome. 

"We began collaborating at the start of the school year, when they realized the support the community needed and were looking for a project," McNay said. "Everyone on both sides was excited to work with the other." 

Enactus student Cameron Brown, a finance and marketing major from Columbus, Kansas, said he has enjoyed the experience and learned from it. 

"We're connecting with groups on campus like sororities and fraternities to recruit volunteers and get donations of food, clothing, school supplies, and other things," said Brown, who with fellow Enactus students were part of a homeless solutions project last year in Pittsburg. "We've done a lot of projects, but this one, helping kids specifically, was something that I thought would make a clear difference."  

Enactus President Ryan Hendrix, marketing major from Bentonville High School, said it felt good to give back to the community. Her group collected non-perishable food on the PSU Oval, at a home football game, and elsewhere to the tune of more than 1,000 items. That food will go directly to Pittsburg schools for students being served by Communities In Schools of Mid-America.  

A $1,000 donation from CDL Electric, as well as donations from faculty and staff members, helped provide seed money for clothing for each school's clothing closet. 

"We asked about the greatest need, and they said children coming to school with very poor, ill-fitting clothing, with no socks, or shoes with holes, or too little clothing," said Enactus Advisor Suzanne Hurt. 

Hurt said her students have identified other needs in schools, as well, including helping older students with resumés, tutoring, and extending their community employment program to unemployed parents of school-aged children.  

Enactus likely will get involved in a Christmas effort by Communities In Schools of Mid-America to help provide gifts to 25 needy students at each elementary school, Brown said. At home basketball games, ornaments with gift wishes of elementary students will be on display on Christmas trees in the lobby of the Weede. Attendees may choose an ornament and fulfill a gift wish. PSU athletes will make the deliveries; Brown said Enactus most likely will provide gift-wrapping services. Additional support to Communities In Schools will be on-going. 

"We're just getting started," Hurt said.  

Past efforts by Enactus have included a drive to provide 60 coats, blankets and emergency kits to Pittsburg's homeless last year. 

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