The best communities are places where people come together and feel accepted and loved. Many times, people have this community and support through an organization such as church. Others create a community through friends, family, or clubs. Having a sense of community and support helps a person thrive in so many ways. However, some people don’t get to experience this. What about the families that have been excluded from all of these communities? What about the ones that aren’t able to get the support they need because they don’t even know where to begin? Without community supports people are more prone to mental health adversities, criminal outcomes, and many times are unable to receive the education that they need to thrive and succeed in life.

            Fortunately for some, there is an agency called Communities In Schools that reaches out to students and their families when they see that problems are on the horizon. They implement strategies to help the family according to whatever level of care needs to be implemented – all through a tiered system and holistic framework. Their presence within the school system allows them to be able to have frequent access to students, evaluate the measures taken, and determine how they can help assist students and their families more effectively as time passes. By utilizing this framework, they are able to locate outside resources and bring them inward to be used by the families that need them most. Agencies like Communities In Schools are the reason that so many children have been able to thrive in school and feel the love and devotion of someone who truly cares. Having this love and support by bringing the community inward, is the difference that it takes for many children to be able to succeed beyond school. They are also the reason that some families are able to move on to the next level and become better parents and individuals. I know all of these things because this is how the program has helped change my family’s life.

After trying to leave an abusive relationship multiple times and failing, I was struggling. What is worse; my children were struggling even more. The saddest reality is that I didn’t even realize how much they were struggling academically because of all the trauma they and I were enduring due to the domestic violence. I knew that I would be moving to Decatur Township, so I seized the opportunity to charter my children to school in hopes of securing an apartment later on. I ended up not being able to get into an apartment, but was able to obtain housing in a local mobile home community. Before leaving my husband, I knew that they needed counseling and was able to implement it quickly – and thanks to Karen Hartnett who brought in Cummins, a partner within the school – we were able to utilize it when otherwise my children nor I would have been allowed to leave the house. I was very busy surviving, trying to get a place to live, and working multiple jobs. My kids’ education, although important, was not my priority. It was their safety and mine as well as putting food on the table and a roof over their head that mattered most. As difficult as it was, I thought we were doing okay because I made it out of the abusive relationship (finally). I also had multiple jobs to provide and care for my family. I thought that perhaps things would slow down and we would all start feeling better because there wouldn’t be so much violence. I thought I definitely did it right this time because I had the financial stability I needed. What I wasn’t counting on was the aftermath of abuse that would develop due to not going back. The brainwashing is what effected the children the most, and because there was nothing I could do to stop it, he tormented mine and their lives with no remorse. My son, Arnold, had the hardest time adjusting out of the 3 of my children that were school age. I’m sure there were red flags all over the place, but it was his outbursts that sealed the deal. Karen Hartnett, a Communities In Schools coordinator and support coach, became an integrated part of our daily life at the school. She bonded with the children and was able to build a trust with Arnold and the others that would eventually help them thrive better in school. She was able to help me get the counseling going for the kids, and together we thought through other possibilities that were needed to improve their functioning in and outside the classroom. One of them was finding out that Arnold had a learning set back which was keeping him from being able to understand his reading and writing. With Karen’s guidance these supports were able to be utilized and I was even able to focus on getting the help I needed through other community partners including therapy from a battered woman’s survival program. Without Karen’s help my children would just be another lost statistic that people would read about and disregard. Now the statistic for my children has moved. It has moved from the negative side to the positive side. They will be the statistic that shows that children can succeed despite adversities. That despite every obstacle that was thrown in their path to make them fail, that they were able to overcome that obstacle and create a beautiful future for themselves. They understand more so than ever the importance of their education, and I have the privilege of knowing that I have the ability to help them succeed.

            The biggest motivator of it all was the love and sincere compassion that Karen exhibited. This is especially important for someone like myself coming from domestic violence because there is usually no one or anything out there for someone like me. That love and encouragement she shared helped me to keep going. It motivated me to do what was best for my children. I did not give up or go back to the sick love that I tried so hard to leave. Karen was there, right before everything fell apart and just in the nick of time. She was there to help my family get focused and do what is important to succeed and help my family learn to thrive. She is the kind smile and compassionate hug when tears seemed to be my only option. She is the caring heart and encouragement that motivates a person to succeed. She planted a seed within all of us to maintain and thrive and do whatever it takes. Communities In Schools and programs like these are a huge need in any school system. They could be the only difference that these families come into contact with. They could be the only difference that helps these children succeed. My children will always have the option of which path they choose when they get older, but I know it’s going to be a path of them bettering themselves. Now, they believe in themselves and have the community supports. They are thriving and continue to do well in school. In fact, they are very active and exceeding expectations and learning projections. I have full faith knowing that my children won’t be on the negative end of the trajectories that otherwise they should be associated with. It is because of this agency that opportunities like these are possible. CIS can change the path that is otherwise set before so many students and families and instead help them succeed. If anyone ever needed a reason to believe that these agencies were making a difference, I could give them 5 including myself. I couldn’t even begin to thank the people enough who decided to integrate this framework and utilize it within the school system. My heart is full of gratitude and I am so thankful for Karen and CIS, for all the agencies involved, and everyone who helped us utilize the resources that we needed to thrive as well as be the love and encouragement we needed to succeed.

Thank you,
A very grateful parent