Cities in Schools expands to Plainview with pilot program

Michael D. Smith
The Daily Ardmoreite

Cities in Schools has offered services and programs to young Ardmore students for decades through after-school programs, summer camps, tutoring and mentorship. The local nonprofit is now testing an upgrade to its after-school services in an effort to reach more students in more schools across the county. 

CIS board president Daryle Steele said the goal of providing role models to young students, or the “littles,” remains the same but that the mentors will now come from the ranks of local high schools. 

“Maybe somebody needs help with their reading, maybe one of the littles needs a positive influence,” Steele said. “We’re saying ‘mentor’ because it’s a broad spectrum. That could be playing checkers to working on your math homework.” 

A pilot program launched at Plainview Public Schools this year has about 15 high school students going to the elementary school to help during the district’s after-school program. Steele said the older students are given guidance on how to interact with the younger students by a site coordinator. With more mentors, organizers hope that will translate into serving more young children. 

Steele estimated the program last year, which only worked with Ardmore City Schools, could service up to 40 young students with mentoring or tutoring. With high school students helping mentor younger students at both Ardmore and Plainview school districts, he expects that number to nearly double and serve more than 70 students. 

“We’ve found a way to service more kids by offering our services to other existing programs,” he said. 

CIS board members researched similar programs and compared those services to what was being offered locally. Steele said the current model of delivering services to area students was a combination of other groups’ services and input from local educators. 

“After talking with some of the schools and getting some of their feedback on what they thought was needed, we implemented that into our structure,” said Steele. 

CIS after-school programs have traditionally targeted younger students up to fifth grade only at Ardmore schools. Now in a second school district and with staff preparing high school students to tutor and mentor their younger schoolmates, officials hope to learn what works and what doesn’t before looking at expanding to other area schools. 

While after-school programming from CIS looks different than previous school years, Steele said that the organization’s summer camps will continue as normal. The new after-school program is expected to stretch into the summer months, however, considering school districts’ individual programs often continue even after the academic year. 

Once CIS leadership sees how the current program works this semester, Steele hopes that the organization will be armed with data to then approach other districts and offer services to even more students. He knows that each district will have their own unique needs and resources but hopes CIS can grow with the help of its new services. 

“When we add a school that takes our services and sees the value, which they will, at that point we’ll be servicing more kids than we ever have in the history of Cities in Schools,” said Steele.