The Promise of Communities In Schools
For many children, a rainstorm is nothing special.
Maybe it’s an opportunity to spend the afternoon inside watching movies or playing games. An excuse to debut a new raincoat at school; a chance to splash in puddles.
For Fredrick Bailey, a rainstorm was life.
Bailey, 31, recalls his childhood in LaGrange, Georgia, living in a home without electricity or running water. With both parents suffering from drug addiction and his father often gone, a 12-year-old Bailey placed a bucket on the front porch and prayed for rain – precious water he needed to wash his clothes. One winter night, scrubbing his jeans with rainwater and a bar of soap, Bailey had enough.
“I told myself, I convinced myself, life is better than this,” Bailey says. “And I wanted to experience that better life.”
Today, Bailey is truly experiencing that better life. He credits an intervention from national education nonprofit Communities In Schools (CIS) as the catalyst both academically and on a personal level, that enabled him to change the trajectory of his future.
On a summer evening, after being dropped off at a home with no lights and no parents, Fredrick called the driver – Mr. Cofield – and asked to stay over at his house. A single night with the Cofields turned into six years, marked with family dinners, time together at church and lots of studying.
With support from the Cofields and his CIS coordinator, Bailey began to see a different future for himself. His grades improved, as did his behavior at school.
“Communities In Schools means that you don’t just have to settle in your current situation,” Bailey says. “Because there was a moment in my life where I wanted to settle and say to myself, this is life, and I will be just like my mom, just like my dad.”
Bailey continued to face hardships after leaving the home of his stepmom and dad, like the unexpected death of his older sister. But he persevered, eventually becoming the first person in his family to graduate high school before continuing his education.
Bailey continues to pay it forward by mentoring young men and tutoring students in reading, an area where he particularly struggled as a child.
“If it was not for Communities In Schools in my life, I don’t know what type of man I would be today,” Bailey says.
Being named as an inaugural Bill and Jean Milliken Fellow is a continuation of Bailey’s 15-year relationship with CIS, allowing him to help create new opportunities for young people who may be losing hope or who face seemingly insurmountable challenges.
He often revisits the memory of the bucket he used to collect rainwater, framing it as an opportunity to ask young people, “What’s in your bucket?”
“Don’t let it defeat you,” Bailey says. “Refill it with joy, peace, love, faith, hope and other good things.”
Mary Kathryn Steel
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Call: + 1 847-937-4111