In the 1960s, on the streets of New York City, youth worker Bill Milliken and his colleagues launched a series of non-traditional “street academies” with backing from major corporations like Union Carbide and American Express. Young people who had already dropped out of school were able to return, complete their education and, in most cases, go on to college.
In 1977, Milliken and his colleagues had the idea of developing a safety net so youth could get the assistance they needed to stay in school and perform successfully, and so they decided to bring community resources inside a public school building. This way, the services would be accessible, coordinated and accountable. This began the CIS model that exists today in 27 states, serving more than two million students across the country.
Today, CIS is widely known as one of the pioneers of the “community school” concept – a vision of schools as vital centers for the entire community, and a delivery point for services and resources that would otherwise be scattered far and wide, uncoordinated and unaccountable. CIS has grown to become the nation’s leading stay-in-school network, the largest and most effective coordinated response to the burgeoning dropout crisis.
CIS of Kansas was established in 1995 after the very successful implementation of a CIS program in Wichita/Sedgwick County in 1990 led more and more communities to seek how they could establish their own CIS programs. In 2014, CIS of Kansas became Communities In Schools of Mid-America with the addition of programs in Tulsa, OK; Omaha, NE and Kansas City, MO. Today, the CIS of Mid-America network includes seven local affiliates, providing services in 74 schools to more than 25,000 students each year.
Worth magazine named Communities In Schools one of the “top 100 nonprofits most likely to save the world” in both 2001 and 2002. Worth’s criteria for selection (out of a field of 819,000 registered U.S. charities) were “skill, innovation, effectiveness and strategic insight.”