Career change was an opportunity to make a difference
Randy Just sees himself as a life coach for students who can benefit from a relationship with a caring adult. As a Site Coordinator for Communities in Schools Mid-America at El Dorado Middle School, he plays many roles to help kids stay in school and achieve in life.
Many of us may know Randy as a member of the Wildlife and Parks staff at El Dorado State Park. When he had an opportunity to take early retirement and take the job as CIS Coordinator, he saw an opportunity to make a difference in lives that would have a lasting impact.
“My goal is to provide a way for students to get past barriers in their lives in order to move to the next level,” said Just.
To help a child stay in school, CIS has five basic tenets:
- A one-on-one relationship with a caring adult
- A safe place to learn and grow
- A healthy start and healthy future
- A marketable skill to use upon graduation
- A chance to give back to peers and community
Services provided by the program include non-academic assistance such as healthcare, food and clothing; one-to-one mentoring; after school tutoring; family involvement such as helping parents to become involved with the school and to access the services they need; out of school enrichment such as after school activities; and preparing for the future such as helping students explore post-secondary education and career options. Eighth graders can participate in the Future Now Finance game which teaches budgeting on a salary.
Randy feels it is important for CIS staff to be in the schools with students so they can see firsthand what the issues are and help to tailor a program for a student. At the El Dorado Middle School, there are approximately 65 kids who are receiving assistance.
He has performed a myriad of duties including providing transportation for students and sometimes parents, getting a student out of bed to come to school, taking students on field trips, helping students obtain adequate clothing, school supplies and weekend food backpacks, just lending an attentive ear to a student who needs one-on-one attention, and providing a positive male role model.
He gives great credit to the EMS teachers who show how much they care about students in many ways every day, including providing out-of-pocket expense for items and putting in extra hours.
The program is funded through grants and donations. The El Dorado program receives help from the Department of Children and Families, USD 490, the Kansas Food Bank, and multiple community business partners which give discounts to the program on goods and services. Individuals may donate to the not-for-profit. Cash is most useful, even in small amounts. The program also utilizes volunteers who are willing to help students with homework, provide companionship or transportation.
According to CIS, the cost of a student dropping out of school impacts society tremendously because the majority of dropouts will not be able to contribute due to lack of employment skills. The dropout with low self-esteem and lower employment prospects too often turns to alcohol, drugs and crime.
“It just makes economic and social sense to fix this before a teen drops out of school. One of the best investments a business can make is to support an organization that can reverse the course of a student in danger of dropping out.” Communities in Schools of Kansas
In the Mid-America region, Communities in Schools serves more than 35,000 students in 49 schools across a five-state region. Students receiving individualized support during the 2016-17 school year achieved tremendous results- 99% stayed in school, 94% were promoted, 93% of seniors graduated.
If you would like to help in some way, contact Randy Just at 316-322-4820 Ext. 3311 or Randy.Just@cismidamerica.org.