NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — My journey in community service within the News 2 Gives Back initiative began with the group, Communities In Schools (CIS) at Tom Joy Elementary School in East Nashville. Many of the students are below the reading average, a lot of them are in single-parent households, and some are even experiencing homelessness.

CIS aims to close the opportunity gap for individuals and families living in some of Tennessee’s most distressed neighborhoods.

“Communities in School is part of an organization that is part of a national network, who empowers children to stay in school and to achieve in life,” said CIS Chief Program Officer Tiffany Patton.

The group also helps students with their basic needs, eliminating barriers around food, nutrition, and clothing.

“We can also help with social, emotional, and behavioral issues. So CIS is really able to pull in whatever resources are necessary for that school to help those children succeed,” Patton said.

The need right now? Volunteers to pair up with a student and read to them each week.

“Reading comprehension is really the building block of education,” said Patton. “Not are they helping with an academic skill, they’re building a relationship that keeps that student engaged. And so having volunteers come in who really partner with schools, partner with students and families, and build relationships, helps make the work that we do possible.”

CIS said every week students are making progress, including one student who stood out among the rest.

“We partnered her with a student that I believe at the time was in first grade and she was significantly behind in reading level, and after about a year, year and a half, that student is now the best reader in the third-grade class,” said Michelle Fletcher, Development and Communications Coordinator

From someone who grew up in East Nashville, Oprah Winfrey says, “Your life gets better when you find a way to share it with someone else.” Which is something Patton said is possible, especially through the CIS volunteer program.

“All of our lives are enriched when we are able to connect with others – people who are not like us, or people from different backgrounds, so it enriches us all and it makes our world and our schools and our communities better,” Patton said. “You’re not just helping that one student, you’re really changing a culture, and transforming lives for generations to come.”

To learn about how you can volunteer, check out these pages below:


DONATE | Communities In Schools of TN