Communities In Schools Empower At-Risk Students Through Mentorship Program

Tapping into student potential is the goal of most educators, but some student’s need a stronger nudge than others. Communities In Schools of Miami in placing at-risk students in corporate settings once a month to prepare future graduates for careers.

Communities In Schools of Miami is helping students in Miami-Dade County with their mentorship program where they pair students with professionals to expose them to possible career choices after graduation. CIS is currently available in 17 schools and helps about 15,000 children each year. The program targets juniors and seniors who are close to graduation but at risk of failing or leaving school who could use the guidance of someone in the professional world.

The process begins through a site coordinator working at each school and includes benefits such as ensuring the student is prepared for school with essentials like glasses, meals and working with parents and families on social services issues.

President and CEO, Elyssa Linares manages the operations and strategic direction of Communities In Schools of Miami, and she said the program aims to expose students to all types of opportunities surrounding their interests.

“We want to remove any barriers that prevent the student from learning,” Linares said. “One of our most effective programs is our mentor program, but we assist students beginning in elementary up through graduation. They get a wrap around of learning, and we do workshops with them such as college tours, resume writing workshop and how to prepare for an interview.”

One of the mentor program sites is AT&T. About 20 students visit the location monthly and take a tour of the facility as a group, learn about the company and speak with employees. Then they break off in individually and have one on one time with designated mentors."

The process to get into the program is easy, but is in high demand because of the small capacity. CIS participants are evaluated by their teachers at the beginning of the year and recommended to the site coordinator. There isn’t limit as to when the student can begin in the program and if they transfer schools mid-school year they can also attend the program if offered at the new school.

Linares said CIS is in urgent need of funding as the program is free to all students participating but rely heavily on donations. They’re sustained mostly through grants like The Children’s Trust, but would like to offer the program at all Miami-Dade Schools and expand it to other grades. CIS is also looking for a variety of corporate partners to mentor the students exposing them to alternative careers and other types of job opportunities.

Malik Carter-Ferguson a senior at North Miami Beach High School moved to Miami from Fort Myers during his junior year. He said the program gave him the ability to see other things happening around him outside of his daily routine in his neighborhood. He said he knows college is not for everyone, but he wanted an opportunity at a career that would give him a chance to do more than a regular job. He had multiple mentors including a pilot and a chef, all careers that he was curious about, but took an interest in the Coast Guard partnered with a Coast Guard Captain who showed him the ropes of the job.

Now, he said he takes on the personal responsibility to tell his friends and anyone at his school that will listen about CIS. He even convinced a friend to join which Carter said has made him more career focused than before he entered the program.

“The program showed me more choices that I can do with my life. I was able to see different careers, and I was able to see that maybe I don’t want to sit in an office and do paperwork, but I want to move around and do more. I think it would be great if more students could get into the program, it does it a lot for kids where I live and shows them all of the things they can do. It’s just another opportunity,” Carter said. “It shows us another choice.”

To donate,mentor, or for more information visit