CIS of Nevada Announces Transformative Investment to Help Students Overcome Obstacles to Learning

$5 Million donation from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, the largest one-time gift in the organization’s history, to accelerate organization’s vision to serve every high-needs school in the State

Communities In Schools of Nevada (CIS of Nevada), the fifth largest state office 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, has announced it is part of an unprecedented and transformative gift to the Communities In Schools Network and National Office of $133.5 million from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott.

CIS of Nevada has received $5 million of that total and is one of 40 affiliates of the 110 organizations in the CIS Network selected to receive funding.   The donation is the single largest one-time gift in the organization’s history, both nationally and for the Nevada affiliate. 

“We are beyond grateful to be named a recipient of this generous gift from MacKenzie Scott,” said Tami Hance-Lehr, CEO and state director, Communities In Schools of Nevada. “Through our evidence-based approach to ensuring kids stay in school, led by the work of our caring and trusted site coordinators on school campuses, we are mobilizing our state’s resources to surround students with a community of support. Through their thorough research, Ms. Scott and her team were inspired to invest having seen our proven success serving students across the country along with our ability and emphasis of creating educational and racial equity. It’s not only a great day for Communities In Schools. It’s a great day for every Nevadan who cares about our children’s success, and for the thousands of students and families we serve statewide.”

Currently, CIS Nevada operates in 81 high-needs schools across four rural and urban school districts throughout Nevada. The organization places full-time site coordinators in enrolled schools to support more than 75,000 students considered at high risk for dropout.  

 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 of Nevada to carry out its cause to build sustainable systems of support for the students and families that would otherwise be left behind, according to Hance-Lehr. “An investment in CIS to use its model and evidence-based programs to help students overcome obstacles to learning is tremendous fuel for impact, infrastructure and the people working inside the schools. However, it does not change the reality of the continued work ahead, which requires an all-hands-on-deck approach across the public and private sectors,” she said.

Since 2004, for nearly two decades, CIS of Nevada has demonstrated measurable success in student outcomes. For the 2020-2021 school year, the graduation rate for CIS case-managed high school seniors in Nevada was 92 percent, 13 points higher than the Nevada statewide graduation rate of 79 percent for students on free or reduced lunch, as released by the Nevada Department of Education.  

According to Hance-Lehr, the gift is also a reminder of the long road ahead to achieve the goal of having CIS programs and services in every Title I school in Nevada.  “Our vision is for every child enrolled in a Title I or high-needs school to have access to a CIS site coordinator and our evidence-based model of Integrated Student Supports.  While this gift will help us expand our reach, we are mindful that more is needed to reach every Nevada student in need of our services.”

Students enrolled in CIS programs come from low-income households or may experience other adverse childhood events. These students have more obstacles standing in their way to graduation and are disproportionately affected by conditions such as hunger, homelessness, emotional trauma, and lack of access to basic healthcare and other critical needs. CIS of Nevada site coordinators build one-on-one trusted relationships with their case-managed students and identify their needs – from food, housing, medical, dental, counseling and beyond – tapping into a network of more than 100 community partners statewide and literally bringing community into our schools to meet those needs and remove barriers to learning.

“Our statewide goal is to bring our model inside of every one of the more than 400 Title I-served schools in Nevada,” said Hance-Lehr. “Currently, we operate in 81 schools, which is roughly 1 in 5 – so we still have a long way to go, and we will need ongoing support from the entire community to get there.