Scott has also given significant gifts to colleges, including more than $800 million to historically Black colleges and universities. She no longer discloses grant recipients, leaving it to the organizations to make information about the gifts public if they so choose. As with other Scott donations, Communities In Schools got a call out of the blue from her staff with the news that she wanted to make the contribution, according to its president and CEO, Rey Saldaña.
It’s a version of the community school model, which considers academic success linked to many other factors that affect children’s lives and works to offer wraparound services. Counselors might help a family submit an application for public housing, access a food bank, provide emergency financial assistance to a family or arrange health care — in addition to providing tutoring or other academic supports.
“We think in order for students to be turned on to learning, they have to be turned onto living. The living is sometimes the most important,” Saldaña said.
“It’s relationships,” he said. “Is there someone in a school building who is going beyond the point of, ‘Are you doing okay?’ And the answer is ‘fine,’ ” to understand that a student may not being doing fine. Addressing family and other issues “helps turn a student back onto learning.”
Communities In Schools offers different levels of support, from programming offered to the entire school to more targeted, intensive supports for small groups or individual students. The programming is funded through a combination of payments from the schools and private fundraising by the Communities In Schools affiliates.
The national office received $20 million of Scott’s gift, Saldaña said. He said 40 individual sites, each of which serve multiple schools, got grants of about $2.5 million to $3 million. That compares to annual budgets that range from as little as $1 million for a small rural group to as much as $12 million for a large urban program. Local branches receiving direct donations include those in Washington state, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Atlanta.