Las Vegas Sun

December 15, 2018

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GOOD WORKS:

Nonprofit’s CEO: All children deserve hope for their future

Communities in Schools

L.E. Baskow

An instructor works with students at Dean Petersen Elementary School as part of the Communities In Schools program, a nonprofit resource for students.

Diane Fearon, from Communities in Schools of Nevada

Diane Fearon, from Communities in Schools of Nevada

• Title: CEO

• Agency address: 3720 Howard Hughes Parkway, Las Vegas

• Agency phone number: 702-770-7611

• Agency website: cisnevada.org

• Hours of operation: 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday through Friday

What is Good Works?

In Good Works, an occasional series, we highlight nonprofit groups that are making a difference in our community. If you’d like to nominate an organization, email [email protected] with details.

What does your organization do? Communities In Schools of Nevada removes non-academic obstacles for students in poverty, allowing them to stay in school and achieve in life.

Who are your clients? We partner with the Clark, Washoe and Elko County school districts to help low-income, high-risk K-12 students and their families.

When was your organization established? The Nevada chapter of the national organization was established in 2004 to provide wraparound services to students in need, to provide dropout prevention services and to increase the graduation rate of low-income, high-risk students in schools across the state.

What services do you offer that the community likely knows about? Coordinating community resources such as food pantries, mentoring, college prep, and medical and dental professional services.

What services do you offer that the community might not know about? Our dedicated, full-time site coordinators are stationed at the campuses we partner with and identify and help students. CIS has one-on-one goal setting and follow-up with 5 to 10 percent of each school we serve.

What sparked your interest in the nonprofit sector? During my 25 years in banking, I was involved as a board member with a number of nonprofits, including Habitat for Humanity, the Shade Tree and American Diabetes Association. In February 2013, I had changed professions, and the opportunity to become CEO of Communities In Schools presented itself; it truly was the perfect blend of professional challenge and reward, and personal challenge and reward.

Any recent updates about your organization that you’d like to share? We have expanded operations in more Title 1 schools in the Clark County School District and have developed a new affiliate serving western Nevada. CIS of Nevada also has worked closely with our national organization to enhance our program and business operations through the Total Quality System standards by which we measure our performance.

What has been your most exciting professional project to date? The expansion of CIS program services in the Clark County School District from 12 low-income, high-risk, Title 1 schools in the 2012-13 school year to 44 Title 1 schools in the 2015-16 year. We launched CIS program services in the Washoe County School District in 2014-15 with three Title 1 schools and now are in five Title 1 schools. This extraordinary expansion is our most exciting project because we have increased substantially the number of students and schools we serve while maintaining the level of quality that generates significant positive impact.

What can people do to help your organization? Monetarily, people can donate, which provides funding for direct service to students in need. Or volunteer, which helps our students with mentoring and tutoring in areas in which they may struggle. Advocacy also is incredibly valuable to us; please tell others about CIS and encourage elected officials to support evidence-based integrated student support for high-risk schools.

What can Southern Nevadans do to improve our community in general? Continue to put education in the forefront of social and political efforts.

Whom do you admire and why? I admire and appreciate Elaine Wynn for her smart, investment-style philanthropy and for the example she sets for all leaders in Nevada. Her support of Communities In Schools is invaluable and goes well beyond the generous financial contribution she makes. Her service on the Nevada State Board of Education is another example of her commitment to improving educational outcomes for all students in Nevada, for the social and economic benefits that will accrue to all of us.

How do you motivate people to get involved? Having the public come on a site visit allows for a first-hand demonstration of our program in action. This engagement often leads to meaningful experiences, which motivate folks to get involved. (Email [email protected] to sign up for a site visit.)

Where do you see your organization in five years? In the Clark County School District, there are 357 schools. Of those, 251 are Title 1 schools, where 40 percent or more of the students qualify for free or reduced lunch. We are committed to deepening our impact to help more students.

If you could change one thing about Southern Nevada, what would it be? Increase awareness about the benefits of investing in our youth and education, both financially and socially.

Anything else you’d like to share? One of the many things I love about being a part of Communities In Schools is that I am able to spread the message of hope. There are more people familiar with the problems we face in Nevada than there are people familiar with the solutions. It is a privilege for me to provide kids who don’t have a choice in their present circumstances the ability to have a choice in their future and the opportunity to realize their potential.

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