CIS-Charlotte Announces $5 million Donation to Help Combat Inequities in Education


Communities In Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Inc. (CIS-Charlotte), the local affiliate of the national organization working to ensure every student, regardless of race, zip code, or history of marginalization, has what they need to succeed in school and beyond, today announced it is the recipient of an unprecedented $5 million donation, the largest single gift in CIS-Charlotte’s history.

This gift is part of a transformative $133.5 million donation from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott to the Communities In Schools Network and National Office. In addition to the CIS National Office, 40 affiliates of the 110 organizations in the CIS Network are also direct recipients of the MacKenzie Scott donation. CIS-Charlotte is one of the affiliates selected by the donor.

In a time when the global pandemic has created unparalleled challenges for students and families, including experiences of social isolation, economic crisis, stress, and trauma, this investment will help CIS-Charlotte further its mission to break down the systemic barriers that stand in the way of opportunity and student success. This is tremendous fuel for impact, infrastructure, and the people working inside schools, but it does not change the reality of the continued work ahead, and the public and private partnership that remains critical to long-term sustainability and growth.

“We are beyond ecstatic about what this transformative gift means for our students,” said Men Tchaas Ari, President and CEO of CIS-Charlotte, which currently serves over 4,000 students in 54 Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools (CMS).  Ari added, “It’s no exaggeration to share that the needs of our kids are greater now than during any point in our 37-year history so this donation comes at such a critical time. MacKenzie Scott’s investment will allow us to both deepen and extend our programming to reach even more of the CMS students who need us.”

Since 1985, CIS-Charlotte has demonstrated measurable success in student outcomes. In the 2020-2021 school year, 99 percent of students enrolled in CIS Charlotte’s programs remained in school, with 96 percent of K-11 students being promoted to the next grade, and 96 percent of seniors graduating or receiving a GED.

CIS-Charlotte’s strategic plan informs its top three priorities this year: (1) to reengage students in their education – including those who stopped attending school altogether during the pandemic, as well as those who are “physically present” in school yet who have suffered significant social-emotional losses and academic setbacks;  (2) to expand programming to support more students attending under-resourced schools; (3) to enhance the agency’s college and career readiness programming to ensure that every student has a post-graduation plan for success, whether that is college, the military, entering the workforce or a trade.

“This gift will allow us to build capacity to address these priorities,” said Ari, “while also positioning us to accelerate towards our ultimate goal – ensuring that all students have an equitable educational experience and are poised for success.”

Communities In Schools’ school-based staff works inside schools and establishes one-on-one relationships with students to help them navigate issues and move beyond barriers in the classroom, at home and in the community. CIS coordinates with schools and local service providers to meet the needs of students and families, as well as providing critical resources, like food, housing, healthcare, counseling, access to remote technology, and more so that students (and educators) can focus on academics.

CIS believes that transformative relationships are key to unlocking a student’s potential. Our staff and community partners coordinate with schools to improve school climate; boost socio-emotional skills among students, teachers and staff; and reduce barriers to academic success.

“Today is an important day for students who are underserved, under-resourced, and in need of supports to build a brighter future,” said Rey Saldaña, President and CEO of Communities In Schools. “This unrestricted gift allows us to combat the inequities in public education and reimagine the way schools operate and show up for all students. Our National goal is to bring our model inside of every one of the 70,000 Title I-eligible schools in the country; currently, we operate in 3,000 schools – so we still have a long way to go, and we will need ongoing support to get there.”