Wilmington youth center for Inspiration, Recreation, and Education

Organization Information:

Organization Name:
Communities In Schools of Cape Fear
City & State:
North Carolina
Organization Website:
Organization's Mission Statement

Communities IN Schools of Cape Fear (CISCF) is dedicated to championing the connection between community resources and public schools in New Hanover and Pender Counties, for the purposes of helping young people learn successfully, stay in school and prepare for life.

Submission Information

Impact Essay

The Microsoft contribution of 20 Windows and 20 Office XP licenses has allowed Communities In Schools of Cape Fear to provide computer access to 80 inner city youth on a daily basis.

Wilmington, North Carolina is a beautiful and historic resort town on the Atlantic Coast. The beaches attract tourists and retirees who bring resources and wealth to the community. However, in a five mile area surrounding downtown Wilmington, families experience extreme poverty, high crime rates, and low graduation rates. From this population of students, only 30% pass the required End of Grade Tests, and fewer than 50% graduate from high school.

The community disadvantage index for this area is the highest possible rating at 10, and approximately 75% of the children in this vicinity live below the poverty line. According to the North Carolina Office of Juvenile Justice, New Hanover County experienced the thirdhighest juvenile delinquency rate in the eastern region of the state and the second highest juvenile arrest rate statewide. The New Hanover County Gang Task Force has identified over 70 different gangs and over 250 gang members in schools.

Students who do not have the opportunity to participate in constructive after school activities, are more likely to become in involved in gang activity, 49% more likely to use drugs and 37% more likely to become teen parents than those who spend one to four hours per week in extracurricular activities.

Communities In Schools of Cape Fear, is dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty and violence for these youth and helping them stay in school and be successful. CISCF, Inc. has renovated an old downtown building to house a Youth Center for youth in this area in order to provide much needed academic, physical and mental health resources.

The building was formerly the law enforcement center and jail. The third floor which was renovated for the Wilmington youth center for Inspiration, Recreation, and Education (W.I.R.E.), was the Crime Scene Investigative Unit. This floor housed the ballistics chamber, property and evidence rooms, interrogation rooms, line-up, and finger print lab. The W.I.R.E. Youth Center is a positive repurpose of this building.

This center serves the community in a unique way by providing a safe place for middle and high school students to engage in positive activities after school or while suspended from school, and by providing the academic, social and emotional support necessary for school success.

The Microsoft computer labs are the hub of the youth center.

During school hours, students who have been suspended from school come to the youth center, and with the help of a teacher, complete the work that they would be missing. This keeps the students on track academically while they are out of school for up to ten days.

During after-school hours, the computers are continually used by students to complete class work, and assigned research, explore subjects of interest, learn specific computing skills, and complete the required Graduation Project.

Approximately 80 middle school and high school students come to the youth center on school buses after school from three downtown schools. The students are generally those students who are struggling to maintain passing grades and who have difficulty passing the state required End of Grade Tests. With the availability of the computer labs, these students are able to not only complete their homework and class work, but also to complete computer assisted tutoring programs, which increases their success in school. Many are students who have failed classes required for graduation. These students have the opportunity through the use of the computer labs to complete online courses in order to graduate. The semester long Graduation Project -- the entire grade for their senior English course--has been completed by several students at the youth center. The students report that they would not have been able to complete the project and pass the class without the availability of the computers at the youth center.

Many of the middle and high school students who attend the after school program have improved grades and increased their scores on End Of Grade tests. All of the seniors attending completed their Graduation Projects, received high grades and are on track to graduate in two weeks.

The computer labs not only serve to provide students with academic support and enrichment, but also attract kids to come. Kids are interested in connecting with others on networking sites, playing games and exploring the internet. The youth who come to the youth center from the area generally do not have computers at home, so are happy to have the opportunity that is available to other students their age. The availability of the computer labs is a prime reason many students come to the after school program. W.I.R.E. staff monitors and supervises students at all times in the lab. In addition, during the renovation of the law enforcement center, the lineup room windows were repurposed to serve as viewing windows in to the lab.

While grades and test scores are important, the purpose of the W.I.R.E. youth center is also to provide a safe place for youth during high risk hours and keep them off the streets, to connect with kids and support them emotionally, and give them a social connection to other kids and adults. Results of and evaluation of the programs (utilizing nationally normed Centers for Disease Control surveys) show that the students who attend the after school programs feel lower levels of emotional distress, and increased levels of self control and self esteem.

The computer labs were equipped with old computers donated by church groups, small businesses and private donors. Communities In Schools, Inc. employed technology specialists willing to work at a reduced rate to assist us in setting up the center, and, with the donation through Tech Soup of the Microsoft licenses, we had two computer labs completely functional for approximately $3,000! The cost of equipping and up fitting the 20 computers for these labs would have totaled $30,000!

To paraphrase a popular commercial:

The cost of 20 state-of-the art computers-------------------------------$30,000

The actual cost of CIS computer lab with Microsoft Donations------$3,000

The benefit to the youth of the community------------------------------PRICELESS!


Submission Category
Optimize Mission Delivery
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