Meet Bonnie Jordan, New Director of Communities in Schools
Positive changes are coming as Bonnie Jordan steps into the executive director role for Communities in Schools of Brunswick County.
PHOTOGRAPHY BY Kristin Goode
The newly elected executive director for Communities in Schools of Brunswick County, Bonnie Jordan has a wealth of experience when it comes to supporting families in need. Before moving to Oak Island in 2013, she served the homeless community in southern New Jersey as the director of the Hunger and Homelessness Prevention Program through the Diocese of Trenton. It was during that time that Jordan recognized the true impact homelessness has on a child’s academic success.
“During those years, I dealt a lot with homeless families, and the one thing that always bothered me was the children who were moved from place to place and were not consistently in school,” Jordan says. “I really saw the impact of that on them, both academically and socially. They didn’t have any opportunities for enrichment, to really connect with one community, or to develop a positive peer group, and they were certainly missing a lot of time from school.”
Moving to Brunswick County and coming on board with Communities in Schools (CIS) as the program operations manager allowed Jordan to address this problem directly. Founded in 1995 CIS’s mission is to help students stay in school by supporting them with academic tutoring, social enrichment and intervention services that reach far beyond the classroom.
“Many families are impoverished, and the children just need a lot of support and services to help them be successful and stay in school,” she says.
When the executive director position became available, Jordan says she felt it was the next logical step for her. “It would give me an opportunity to work with the board of directors and make sure that they really understand what we do every day, so that they can make well-informed decisions and provide the needed support for those we serve,” she says.
At the core of CIS is the Action for Success Program. Currently operating in all Brunswick County middle schools, the program focuses on dropout prevention by bringing in community volunteers to provide consistent, positive adult role models who take the time to show a genuine interest in the students. Volunteers also provide tutoring and small-group interventions.
Under Jordan’s new leadership comes one big change at CIS. At the conclusion of the current school year, CIS’s fee-based before and after school childcare program will be terminated. According to Jordan, the decision was made based upon the changing needs of the community. The program originally started when CIS was at its infancy and options for affordable, safe childcare in the community were slim; however, demand for the program has diminished in recent years.
“We’ve seen the number of schools where we’ve been able to get a significant number of students to enroll has really declined, so the program has continued to shrink for us,” Jordan says. “At the same time, nationally as well as locally, we’re really focusing more on outcome-based programs like our Action for Success program.”
The decision ultimately was made to follow the lead of the national CIS organization and focus on those services that benefit children in an ongoing and academic manner. “The program that we’re no longer continuing at the end of this school year was really a childcare program,” Jordan explains. “It was not an academic program. We had wonderful staff who did an excellent job, and I think it met the community needs for a long period of time, but I just think right now it’s time for the organization to refocus and move in a different direction.”
Under Jordan’s leadership, the goal for CIS is to develop a strategy to expand the Action for Success program beyond the middle school level.
“Middle school is really that time when you can lose a student’s interest as he or she starts to focus more on peer activities and move away from the guidance of parents,” Jordan says. “It’s a challenging time for parents and for the schools, so we try to engage the students and put them on a path where they’ll be ready to enter high school more self-confident and feeling that they can set goals, achieve them and have a path for success in place.”
Jordan says it important that the CIS presence is there throughout the entire spectrum of the school experience and that’s why they want to grow the program into elementary and high schools.
Want to learn more?
For more information about Communities in Schools of Brunswick County, including volunteer opportunities, call (910) 457-3494 or visit cisbrunswick.org.