Communities In Schools of San Antonio became the latest local educational entity Thursday to receive a multi-million dollar donation from billionaire philanthropist and author MacKenzie Scott.

The local branch of the national nonprofit that works to provide support to students and their families to keep kids in school received $7 million from Scott. The gift is part of a $133.5 million donation from Scott to 40 Communities In Schools branches and its national office.

“There aren’t words,” Communities In Schools of San Antonio CEO Jessica Weaver said. “‘Thank you’ doesn’t seem appropriate.'”

In the past year, Scott has donated $75 million to higher education institutions in San Antonio, each of which were their largest gifts to date. In December 2020, Scott donated $20 million to Palo Alto College, and in June, she gave $40 million to the University of Texas at San Antonio and $15 million to San Antonio College.

Communities In Schools San Antonio CEO Jessica Weaver
Communities In Schools San Antonio CEO Jessica Weaver

Communities In Schools National Office President and CEO Rey Saldaña said in a prepared statement that Scott’s gift would push the nonprofit one step closer to bringing its services to all 70,000 Title 1 schools in the country. Currently, it operates in 3,000 schools. Title 1 schools enroll high numbers of children from low-income families.

In the 2020-2021 school year, every student enrolled in Communities In Schools’ programs remained in school, with 98% of K-11 students advancing to the next grade and 90% of seniors graduating or receiving a GED, according to the organization.

“Today is an important day for students who are underserved, under-resourced and in need of supports to build a brighter future,” he said in the statement. “This unrestricted gift allows us to combat the inequities in public education and reimagine the way schools operate and show up for all students.”

While the nonprofit hasn’t solidified plans on how to spend the funds, Weaver said the $7 million will help Communities In Schools expand the services it offers in more than 160 schools across 12 San Antonio school districts. That could mean serving more students at additional schools or offering more services at the schools it already serves.

“It could not come at a better time. This has been a challenging few years for everyone,” Weaver said. “The pandemic has created these unprecedented needs and identified needs that have continued to grow.”

Communities In Schools has seen the need for mental health supports and reengagement efforts for students increase during the pandemic, Weaver said. Some students stopped going to school while learning virtually and never returned.

“We know that there was already an increased need, and we’re still trying to help meet those demands,” she said. “This will really help our organization build capacity.”

Communities In Schools staff works at campuses with teachers and parents to address students’ non-academic needs, such as counseling, housing and health care. Staff coordinates with local service providers to connect students and their families with resources. The nonprofit has a team devoted to finding and understanding the resources available for families so they can easily direct them to the help they need.

“This donation is such an incredible lift to the work that we have been doing and a confirmation that we’re on the right track and that our community has supported us to do this work for all these years,” Weaver said. “This is a gift to our community, not to CIS.”

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Brooke Crum

Brooke Crum covered education for the San Antonio Report.