MOULTRIE — As Colquitt County Communities In Schools celebrated its 10th anniversary Tuesday, it also prepared for some major changes.

Executive Director Denise Bell announced during the annual banquet at Charlie A. Gray Middle School that CIS will end its affiliation with the national Communities In Schools program.

Bell said that in 2007 the national CIS organization released a new program model for their affiliates. After consideration of this model, Bell said, CIS of Colquitt County has decided not to adopt it because it did not focus on their priority programs — mentoring and afterschool efforts.

“As a result, Communities In Schools of Colquitt County has decided not to remain in the CIS National Network beyond June 30, 2009,” Bell said.

The CIS board is focusing its efforts on the sustainability of those two core programs, she said.

The mentoring program will merge its operations into another nonprofit organization, Bell said.

The survival of the afterschool programs will depend on community-level discussions addressing the out-of-school time needs of all youth in the county, she said. CIS now serves more than 200 children annually in afterschool and summer programming that has been funded by grants, she said, but those grants will expire at the end of this school year.

“Unless a solution is provided at the community level, these children will have no program serving their needs beyond this June,” Bell said.

Mentoring and afterschool programs were the cornerstones of the program founded 10 years ago, Bell said. She said they also formed partnerships with schools, businesses, and other agencies “to get the job done.”

“We have strived to create true community ownership of ensuring school success for all children,” she said.

She told the audience that the decisions have been difficult but she believes CIS is doing the right thing for the children in the community. She also said she would keep them informed of further developments and she invited them to give their input, suggestions and leadership.

Following Bell’s presentation, keynote speaker Patrick J. Schloss, president of Valdosta State University, spoke to the group, comparing the students of today with past generations.

“We work with a very different group of young people,” he said.

He said few of his students had ever had to share a bedroom, be without a car, or do chores. He said these students have never heard of a gas station that pumped gas and looked under the hood of a car or had to manually change the channel on the television for their parents.

He told the audience that there were 1,200 alumni of Valdosta State University in Colquitt County.

“We have a critical relationship with this area,” he said.

He gave some national statistics on the declining number of students attending and graduating from college in the United States. He said the U.S. had always led the world in the number of students who went to college and graduated from college. He said that in his heart, soul, and mind, he couldn’t imagine how someone could get along without a post-secondary education.

“We have to regain our focus on higher education,” he said.

He laughingly said that when he went to Valdosta State back in 1971, his education cost about as much as a Volkswagen Beetle, which was $2,000.

“We must encourage our young people to make payments on their future and not a vehicle that will become obsolete,” Schloss said.

In closing, he said he was very proud to see the exuberance in this community and compared the community to a mosaic work, which is made up of thousands of tiny chips. He said each one of the participants in CIS was one of those shiny chips that create the community.

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