Agency Spotlight: Communities In Schools

Dec 21, 2023

United Way of Whatcom County has always helped fund solutions to our community’s toughest challenges. Currently, we fund 25 local nonprofit agencies, including Communities In Schools. By funding a diverse range of organizations and services, we help to remove barriers to financial stability and create opportunities for every person in Whatcom County to get to a better place!

A failure to graduate on time can severely impact a person’s future college or career opportunities and earning potential. According to the Washington Student Achievement Council, students who drop out of school “are less likely find a job and earn a living wage, and more likely to be poor and to suffer from a variety of adverse health outcomes.” As United Way looks to strategically fund agencies and programs that support the long-term well-being of our community, it is apparent that there is a significant need within our schools to support our kids, in the classroom and beyond.

Enter: Communities In Schools. Communities In Schools of Whatcom-Skagit is a United Way funded agency dedicated to meeting the needs of all students, both inside and outside the classroom, so that they can come to school ready to learn.

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Supporting students facing hardships in the classroom and beyond

According to Communities In Schools, an estimated 40% of the total student population across the 12 schools they served in the 2022-2023 school year were facing economic disadvantages. An unstable living environment, food insecurity, and other barriers can prevent children from coming to school ready to learn. Communities In Schools works to break down barriers that disrupt youths’ ability to attend school with a readiness to learn. By creating partnerships with local organizations and providing resources that help get families on track financially, they are helping to mitigate barriers for students so that they can come to school without these obstacles in mind.

Communities In Schools follows a national model of Integrated Student Supports that addresses each student’s needs, strength, and barriers holistically, ensuring positive impacts for served students. School-based site coordinators encourage students to stay in school by providing a range of services, as well as guidance and encouragement to build confidence.

When asked to describe a typical client, here’s what Maddy Halverson, Communities In Schools of Whatcom-Skagit’s Communications and Development Director, had to say:

“Communities In Schools of Whatcom-Skagit embraces a diverse range of students seeking support, and there isn’t necessarily a ‘typical’ client for our organization. We are dedicated to providing assistance to every student, regardless of their unique circumstances. Our students span a spectrum of needs, from those requiring basic essentials like hygiene products to those grappling with profound challenges related to home life or behavioral issues in school. Our Student Support Coordinators extend a warm welcome to all students, regardless of their race, gender, or background. We firmly believe that every student deserves to arrive at school with the knowledge that there is at least one caring adult who believes in them and is committed to their success. We are committed to supporting a wide variety of students facing a multitude of challenges in both their educational and personal lives, ensuring that no student is left without the help they need.”

Changing lives and creating measurable outcomes

Communities In Schools of Whatcom-Skagit creates measurable change for students in our community. Here are just a few impressive stats:

  • In the 2022-23 academic year, Communities In Schools of Whatcom-Skagit provided 18,496 Basic Need Items in the 2022-2023. This includes clothing, gift cards, food, water bottles, school supplies, care bags, hygiene products, laptops, emergency housing, and so much more!
  • 100% of CIS mentored students stayed in school.
  • 100% of case-managed students met or improved on their goals for college and career readiness
  • For every one dollar invested in Communities In Schools of Whatcom-Skagit our community receives a return on investment of $11.60.

Building a better tomorrow, United

When asked about what Communities In Schools would like to say to United Way donors, this is what Halverson said:

“We want to express our deep appreciation for the donors of United Way of Whatcom County. Your support has a profound impact on our students and their families. With your generosity, we empower at-risk students, strengthen families, promote academic success, and foster inclusivity for all students, ensuring they feel welcomed and supported in their educational journey. Your contribution is integral to our mission, and we are excited about our shared impact in creating a brighter future for our community. Thank you for believing in our students and the potential of our work.”


Communities In Schools provides essential services to our community members, and the work they do is a critical piece of the puzzle when it comes to holistically addressing poverty and financial instability. By funding a network of local nonprofits such as the Bellingham Food Bank, Brigid Collins, the YMCA, and other organizations, United Way of Whatcom County is helping to create county-wide change so that every person in our community has the tools and resources they need to achieve stability!

All United Way funded organizations undergo a rigorous vetting process to ensure that generous donations are stewarded well. 100% of gifts to our Community Impact Fund stay local, helping to create a better tomorrow for the place we call home.

To learn more about our work, click here!

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