It really is not that easy to mess up a child’s life. Fritz Redl, a renowned psychologist and educator, summed it up: “It takes 14 years to make a good delinquent. Everything has to go wrong, over and over again. Family, school, neighborhood, friends … all have to let him down. Not once but many, many times.”

Flipping Redl’s insights upside down suggests a theme for how we can foster better outcomes for our most vulnerable children: Something has to go right. If the family can’t provide consistent support, then perhaps the school or neighborhood or church can. But for many of our Lowcountry’s most fragile, none of these can step up by themselves. That is where Communities in Schools (CIS) enters the picture.

Last month, The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof endorsed the role played by CIS when he published his annual holiday gift guide: “The issue in America today is our pre-K through 12th grade education system, which routinely fails our neediest kids. To address this, Communities in Schools supports disadvantaged kids, mostly black and Latino, in elementary, middle and high schools around the country.”

As chairman of the board, I am proud that our organization was endorsed by Kristof. The work we do in 25 local schools not only has an impact on the students we serve, but has ripple effects across our communities. We work with parents, teachers and the community to connect nearly 12,000 students and their families with the resources they need. We teach them what it takes to be successful, and they show us that they do have great reserves of potential waiting to emerge. Last year’s graduation rate for our case-managed kids was 98 percent.

One of the most important child development researchers of the last century, Urie Bronfenbrenner, conducted several meta-analyses of what it takes to help children succeed in the challenging environments they often face.

It’s not special programs or special therapy, Bronfenbrenner concluded. What it takes is for someone in that child’s life really to care about the child. Someone who is “irrationally crazy” about the child will often make the difference.

This is exactly what Communities in Schools does, and I encourage community members to help us by making a charitable gift to our local CIS at www.cischarleston.org. Your support will help give some of our area’s most vulnerable kids the support they need to stay in school and become the proud citizens of Charleston’s future.

Samuel Streit

Chairman

Communities In Schools

Colleton Drive

Charleston