In the past 20 years, Communities In Schools of Greater Central Texas has helped more than 90,000 local students be successful, giving the nonprofit good reason to commemorate its 20th anniversary this week with a celebration dinner in Killeen.

Mary Erwin Barr, executive director, talked about the growth CIS has seen in the last 20 years.

“In 1995, we served 1,500 children on a budget of $800,000,” Barr said during the Wednesday dinner. “In 2012, we served 7,000 children on a budget of $2.8 million.”

Barr attributed the growth to the hard work and dedication of CIS staff.

“You can’t fake loving and caring … the kids and their parents know that we truly care about them and have no ulterior motives,” she said.

CIS is a private, nonprofit organization with the primary goal of helping kids stay in school, succeed and graduate. It is the only nonprofit organization to have professional staff permanently housed on school campuses, enabling them to work directly with students on a regular basis, according to the organization.

Currently, CIS has a presence in seven school districts in four counties, including Killeen, Copperas Cove, Temple, Belton, Salado, Florence and Cameron. CIS employs a staff of 60 degree-holding professionals from all walks of life, including social workers, psychologists, former teachers and retired military members.

“They’re an eclectic bunch, all with one goal of helping kids to be as successful as they can be,” Barr said. “As long as it isn’t illegal or immoral, I expect my staff to do whatever they have to do to help a child and their family succeed.”

Along with tutoring, grade monitoring, and one-on-one counseling, CIS also helps with clothing, food and shelter needs. All services are free to students.

“It’s a very constructive program for us,” said Sam Atwood, Florence school superintendent. “You can easily see the outcome of the work that they do. … It shows up in the student’s academics, attendance and behavior.”

In the last academic year, CIS of Greater Central Texas reported the best outcomes out of all 28 CIS programs in Texas. More than 97 percent of students improved in academics, behavior and attendance, 99 percent of eligible seniors graduated, and 100 percent remained in school.

“This has been a beautiful walk for me,” said Barr, who will retire this year after 15 years with CIS. “It’s just been pure joy.”

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