Communities In Schools rappel to promote education

Brian Adamik, president and CEO of Ram Aircraft, Over the Edge 2014 at the McLane Stadium | Courtesy Photo

Rappel down the edge of the Texas Life Insurance building in downtown Waco to promote the importance of education for at-risk youth.

Communities in Schools of the Heart of Texas is hosting its second annual Over the Edge event to raise funds to provide vital resources and services for students in the Waco community. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday.

Over the Edge is CIS-HOT’s largest fundraiser of the year. The focus is on the rappelling event where donors and sponsors who have raised at least $1,000 will descend the Texas Life building with helmets and harnesses. The community is also invited to attend a block party held on Washington Avenue between ninth and 10th street.

“Since the CIS office is right here across the street, we’re hosting a block party on the same day,” said Venee Hummel, resource development coordinator for CIS-HOT. “We’re inviting the community, Baylor students, faculty, staff and anyone in Waco that wants to come out and just check out the event and watch some daredevils scale the side of Texas Life.”

The block party will provide a full day of events including a tailgating trailer where the community can watch the Baylor-Kansas football game, free haircuts courtesy of Sports Clips, food trucks, a bounce house, children’s activities and a DJ.

“Our goal is to raise $100,000, and all of that money stays here locally and supports Communities In Schools – Heart of Texas,” said Hummel.

CIS is a nonprofit that that connects community resources with schools to help at-risk youth graduate from high school. The focus is on a case management program where social workers and counselors are placed into a public school to coordinate and provide services.

“Some of our most vulnerable youth just need extra support in order to be successful in school and help them continue to stay in school in case they’re older and are starting to think about potentially dropping out,” said Hummel.

The dropout rate for Texas is 2.2 percent. However, CIS-HOT reports that 99 percent of students that they serve remain in school, according to the Texas Education Agency.

CIS coordinates student groups to help with college and career preparation, self-esteem and anti-bullying. The program also assists students who may be homeless and are struggling with meeting their basic needs, as well as students who are struggling academically because of language barriers, learning disabilities, special circumstances or stress in their lives from home.

CIS-HOT partners with AmeriCorps and Baylor University to provide mentoring and tutoring services for students that are struggling academically.

AmeriCorps is a federal program that offers an 11-month service program where members serve in schools to mentor, tutor and advocate for students. According to Hummel, most of the AmeriCorps members are social work students from Baylor.

“The biggest thing for me with the kids is that they knew that somebody believed in them,” said Shane Austin, second year AmeriCorps member. “You get to see your impact on these kids’ lives whether you’re prepared for it or not. It’s more than just a volunteer opportunity.”

Austin described an instance where he was paired with a student that was struggling with her grade point average. Through dedication and hard work, they were able to get her GPA a letter grade higher, so she could apply for college and scholarships.

CIS-HOT’s tutoring program is supported by Baylor’s work-study program. Tutors provide additional academic help and encouragement to students that are at risk of failing classes or repeating a school year.

“I like to think that as a tutor that’s already in college I get to motivate students because they get to see what it’s like,” Wichita Falls senior Ethan Talley said. “Being able for them to paint a picture as to why they are doing what they are doing instead of just showing up to school every day and turning in some paperwork.

Talley offered students the opportunity to apply basic knowledge from high school such as algebra and grammar to possible future educational endeavors so that they could find the value in their education.

“I got to meet a lot of cool kids,” Talley said. “They definitely impacted me, so I hope that I was able to do the same.”

For more information about Over the Edge or on how to become a mentor or tutor, visit Communities In Schools of the Heart of Texas’s website.