Stories of people reaching success usually have a common theme, says Sara Kerley, executive director at Cities In Schools.
Most success stories include mention of another person, one who believed and supported the other. Some tales include a mentor who helped push the person to high achievement.
Ardmore’s Cities In Schools program strives each day to be a facet to help children become successful, she said.
“We can be that one person,” Kerley says about Cities In Schools. “We are the bridge between schools and parents.”
The after-school program that offers educational opportunities for grade school aged children has entered 25 years in Ardmore. To mark the silver anniversary, Cities In Schools staff want to hear the tales of success and memories made by past students, volunteers, staff, board members, AmeriCorps members, Vista volunteers and the community.
“We want stories. We want testimonies,” Kerley said. “How has it changed your life. We want to honor everyone. We want to celebrate.”
In October, Cities In Schools will plan a homecoming event inviting all past participants in the program to attend the 25-year occasion. Until then, Cities In School has taken to Facebook in hopes of connecting with supporters and participants from the past.
A Facebook page called Cities In Schools 25th Anniversary has been created for people to share stories, memories and photos. The page will also be posted as more details are made available for the homecoming celebration in October, Kerley said.
Both Kerley and Ginny Lang Blankenship, who served as director of the program from 1993 to 2000, said there are thousands of individuals, hundreds of businesses and several agencies who have helped contribute to Cities In Schools’ success over the years.
The program, once known as Communities In School, began in 1989 on an initiative by the Ardmore Chamber of Commerce. It began as a program designed to aid struggling students and prevent those students from dropping out.
In the early years, there was a mentoring program, in which local business leaders would spend an afternoon mentoring students at Jefferson Elementary.
Also, students that were removed from classes and placed on suspension were referred to the program, which worked to assist the student in a variety of ways from counseling to academic tutoring.
In the early 1990s, the program met with students at the old Ardmore High School, specifically at the science center building.
Over the years, it evolved to its current status of after-school program offered during the school year. Currently, 120 youths, from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, are enrolled and enter into St. Mary Catholic Church on weekdays for two hours of homework help, reading and math games, a meal and extracurricular activities.
During the summer months, volunteers and staff switch gears as a summer camp is offered for grade school children. This year, the camp will reach 352 youths.
“The original concept was to get resources into the schools,” Lang Blankenship recalled. “We offered mentoring and tutoring. It was to prevent drop outs. Later it evolved beyond that to being program-based and offered a summer program. But, it has always been about the kids.”
Kerley says the focus has remained the same. All staff and volunteers know every student’s name in the program. There are many hugs, high-fives and smiles shared, as well as reviewing vocabulary, helping with science homework, reading time and playing games.
“This is an exciting time for us,” Kerley said. “We are headed to bigger and better things.”
To learn more about the Cities In School’s 25th Anniversary, visit facebook.com/CIS25anniversary or call (580) 226-8762. Testimonies and memories can be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org.