Bill Miliken, Founder and Vice Chairman of Communities In Schools, Inc., once said "Programs don't change children - relationships do." We could tell you about our programs all day, but our mission is carried out by relationships.
Josh is a young man who lovingly calls CIS staff his "second family" and we wouldn't have it any other way. His story is near and dear to our hearts, and we would like to share it with you.
Imagine a child that will not look you in the eye when you are speaking with him. You aren’t sure why, but you know that he will not meet your eyes. Keep the image of that child in your mind. Josh was matched with Gary Newman in the 3rd grade as a Communities In Schools Lunch Buddy. Their relationship solidified so quickly that in the 4th grade they continued their match in the Friends of Youth mentoring program. Within the next few years, Josh, who lived with his mother, experienced multiple moves throughout the county. However, his mentor diligently kept up with him continuing their relationship through CIS.
During Josh’s middle school years, CIS started a community garden. Gary was also an avid gardener and helped CIS tremendously with their community garden. The first time Josh came to the CIS garden, you can honestly say Gary drug him there. However, it didn’t take long to find Josh behind the tiller with a blade of grass hanging out of his mouth. CIS came across a grant opportunity, T3LC, that required it be student led. The project included growing seedlings into plants using Wilkes Central High School. The first candidate that came to mind was Josh, who by this time was a freshman at this high school. It was explained to him that he would be the student partner for the grant, but he would not be required to carry the burden of the grant. Josh agreed to help. What was not expected was the amount of leadership and ownership he took during the project. At the end of the grant cycle, there was a celebration and Josh agreed to give a speech in tandem with the funder. Josh got to his point in the presentation and ran with it! The other speaker never got the chance to speak again because he was doing a fantastic job and revealed a passion for the subject he was discussing. During the time he was overseeing the grant, an opportunity to attend a week-long horticultural camp at NC State University was presented to CIS. When CIS explained it to Gary, he was skeptical and protective of Josh thinking Josh would turn down the opportunity because he had never been out of the county. Josh agreed to go! Gary made sure he had everything he would need that would make his week at camp memorable. Leading the project grant combined with attending the horticulture camp at NC State gave Josh a confidence boost that carried him through that summer and into his sophomore year.
In high school Josh struggled a bit to find his way, but sophomore year, a CIS site coordinator, Caitlin, was placed in his school. Because of his relationship with CIS in the past, he was one of her first (and favorite!) students. Josh was smart and had so much potential, all he needed was a little extra support to push him to the finish line! He stayed after school with Caitlin to get his homework finished before going home and Caitlin would check in with him daily to make sure he had everything he needed to succeed. The senior project was the last barrier to a diploma, and it was no easy feat. As most teenage boys do, Josh put it off and had a bad case of senioritis. Caitlin and his (STILL!) mentor Gary joined forces to motivate Josh to finish strong, and that he did. June 6, 2015, Josh looked his principal in the eye, shook her hand and he was given his high school diploma. Caitlin and Gary cried tears of joy in the audience.
Josh is now 20 years old and still has a strong relationship with CIS of NWNC. After graduation, he struggled to get to class at Wilkes Community College, and he was working jobs he wasn’t happy in. Having kept in touch with Josh, CIS staff and Gary put their heads together to come up with a way to help. Tiger brought up JobCorp, the largest free residential education program and job training for young adults 16-24. Once again, CIS and Gary motivated Josh to go out of his comfort zone to better his future, and he agreed. Gary drove him to the location right outside of Asheville in September and he is currently one of the best welders they have. Josh will complete Job Corp in three months and be ready for a new (well paying) career.