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Serving students and the community

Published on Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020

rachelle hall handling Lowcountry Food Bank boxes

BCSD photo/Monica Kreber

Rachelle Halle wears many hats at Mount Holly Elementary.

She serves as a Lead Site Coordinator for Communities In Schools (CIS) – and her position is unique because she is the only person with such a role in the district.

In addition to working directly with children, she has formed partnerships outside the school to provide programs to assist residents in the community.

CIS is a national dropout prevention program. Hall’s role is to case manage potentially at-risk students – students who maybe need assistance in attendance, behavior or academics.

CIS of Charleston’s website states the program was established in 1989 following a study by Johns Hopkins University in Maryland that advised Charleston County School District to implement dropout prevention programs.

CIS of Charleston has since grown to serve nearly 8,000 students in 15 Title I schools in Charleston and Berkeley counties.

Hall’s caseload at the end of last year was 53 students whom she sees weekly or biweekly in small groups. They follow a particular curriculum; students work on social-emotional skills, and Hall incorporates the school’s Leader In Me traits into the small groups.

Hall received her Master’s degree in social work from the University of South Carolina in 2009.

“Being in a school as a social worker is a completely different role form anything I’ve ever done before and I love it,” she said. “It’s a great place to be.”

She is not a district employee but works for the Communities in Schools of the Charleston Area program, which she has been a part of since 2017. She is housed at Mount Holly Elementary, where she came on board to fill a need for case managing students at the school. She is the only CIS employee in Berkeley County School District and has been at the school for seven years.

“Typically…schools will approach CIS and say, ‘We’re interested in your program, how can we get you into our school?’” she said.

Children are referred to her based on need, and that can come from parents, teachers or administrators.

Hall said she enjoys providing extra support to students and being “an extra caring adult in the building.”

“I have a lot of kids that aren’t case management come by every day just to stop in and say hello or chat for a few minutes,” she said.

Ideally, CIS would have more on-site coordinators at feeder pattern schools to follow students as they go on to middle and high school and ensure the students graduate on time.

“It would be awesome if that’s how it went…if we had Communities in Schools site coordinators at every feeder school, all the way until they got to Goose Creek High. That would be ideal,” she said. “But we’re still making a difference here at the elementary as much as possible.”

In addition to case managing students, Hall is also a volunteer coordinator for different programs at Mount Holly Elementary. One example is the school’s Lunch Buddy program, which is on a hiatus right now because of the pandemic but would otherwise consist of volunteers who come in to mentor and tutor students during lunch.

Hall also coordinates the school’s community partners, such as Lowcountry Food Bank. Mount Holly Elementary has a “school market” within the school where normally residents are welcome to come and “shop” for grocery items. The students usually run the school market. However, the school is still giving out pre-sealed boxes with items – residents can request the boxes on the school website.

In the spring and fall the school hosts a Fresh For All community event for residents to come and gather fresh produce. It is similar to a farmers market and Hall coordinates the event with Lowcountry Food Bank.

Through the Growing Food Locally program, Lowcountry Food Bank invests in small-enterprise local farms and sources surplus produce to distribute to food insecure children, families and seniors. By working with local farmers to procure fresh vegetables, Lowcountry Food Bank is able to keep donor dollars in the local food economy and provide the most nutritious produce possible. This method contributes to the financial stability of local farms by covering the production cost of crops that farmers are unable to sell at market.

The school hosted a drive-thru Fresh For All event last spring and is hosting another one on Nov. 17 from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. in the bus loop.

Mount Holly Elementary also has Lowcountry Food Bank's Backpack Buddy program: the school gives away pre-bagged grocery items to identified students to take home. Parents can sign up for this program online as well.

These are not programs that are provided by CIS, but rather programs that can be brought into schools.

To Hall, “success” means having all of her students at school, in their small groups, and seeing her students succeed in whatever challenges they are facing.

“Overall I think it’s all about being here and servicing kids and families and the community, just making sure I can provide whatever they need,” she said.

A good day is seeing students put those social-emotional schools to good use.

“I’m here to work through all that with them so that they can continue their day with a positive attitude,” she said.

Monica Kreber