Connect to Classrooms

press release 07.14.2014

Communities in Schools of Southwest Pennsylvania Announces Name Change to Connect To Classrooms

Name change reflects expanded mission and new programming efforts.
Uniontown, PA, July 14th, 2014

Communities in Schools of Southwest Pennsylvania (CISSWPA), a local leader in dropout prevention programming, announced today that they are changing their name to Connect to Classrooms.  The name change coincides with the organization’s 25th anniversary of service to southwestern Pennsylvania communities and reflects an expanded mission of building innovative community-school partnerships and resources that inspire student success.

For 25 years, CISSWPA has served the region as an affiliate of Communities in Schools, the nation’s leading dropout prevention organization.  “We are proud of our work with more than 50,000 local students as part of the CIS network, and we believe in the CIS mission,” says CISSWPA Executive Director Stacey Papa.  “Though there are many benefits to operating as an affiliate of a national organization, we feel that we can best respond to the unique challenges and opportunities of educating students in our region by working with our schools and other stakeholders to make decisions about the design and implementation of our programs at the local level.”

 The process of managing change sometimes means making difficult decisions about long-time programs.  Last fall CISSWPA made the decision to close the Success Academy, the alternative education program at the Uniontown Mall at the end of the 2013-2014 school year after more than 18 years of operation.  “This was not an easy decision,” says Papa, “Success Academy has served hundreds of students in the past 18 years and the Uniontown Mall has been incredibly supportive of the program since its inception, but as one of the smallest alternative education programs in the area we have really felt the impact of the changing educational environment.”  Enrollment is down, and the program has operated at a loss since the state legislature eliminated line item funding for alternative education in 2010.  In the past few years many families with children who struggle in the traditional classroom setting have also turned to cyber schools as another option.  “It takes a significant commitment of resources to operate a school program like the Success Academy, and there are other quality alternative education providers in Fayette County,” says Papa, “Ultimately we felt we could make more of an impact on the community by focusing on providing programs and services in existing schools.”

 The new name, Connect to Classrooms, reflects a focus on building connections and partnerships throughout the community that will inspire students and give them the tools and resources they need for success.  The organization recently received a grant from the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime and Delinquency to facilitate the Botvin LifeSkills ™ program (an evidence-based substance abuse prevention program) in Albert Gallatin and Laurel Highlands middle schools.  Connect to Classrooms will also be partnering with the Master of Social Work program at California University of Pennsylvania and the Human Development and Family Studies department at Penn State Fayette Campus to pilot a social services internship program in local schools.  Connect to Classrooms plans to complete the transition, which will include a new website and relocation to an office in the First Niagra Bank building in downtown Uniontown in time for the start of the 2014-2015 school year.