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MacKenzie Scott donates $5 million to Communities In Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg

Communities In Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg is getting $5 million to help fight inequality in education.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Communities In Schools of Charlotte-Mecklenburg (CIS-Charlotte) is getting a big donation, thanks to philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, whose wealth originates from her marriage to ex-husband Jeff Bezos, who owns Amazon.

CIS-Charlotte is getting $5 million to help fight inequality in education.

RELATED: MacKenzie Scott dominates donations to racial equity

CIS-Charlotte operates in 54 schools in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools (CMS) district, providing case-management services to 6,000+ students annually, according to their website.

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“We are beyond ecstatic about what this transformative gift means for our students,” Men Tchaas Ari, President and CEO of CIS-Charlotte, said.“It’s no exaggeration to share that the needs of our kids are greater now than during any point in our 37-year history so this donation comes at such a critical time. MacKenzie Scott’s investment will allow us to both deepen and extend our programming to reach even more of the CMS students who need us.”

Joy Fields is a CIS-Charlotte alumnus, and she said the one-on-one mentoring she received in high school, including field trips to colleges, inspired her to get into Winston-Salem State University on a scholarship. 

"They helped build that bridge for me," Fields said. "They helped me walk across it. They made sure [nothing] fell through."

Lex Bibbs, a CIS-Charlotte site coordinator said the donation will allow them to expand into more Charlotte-area schools.

"Wow, we can do more programs or we could take more field trips," Bibbs said. "We can expose more students."

But to help more students, more adults are needed, especially as the pandemic has led to waves of teacher resignations.

With school districts across the region, including Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, relying on volunteers to substitute teach classes, organizations like CIS-Charlotte and Heart Math Tutoring are trying to bridge the gap.

Emily Gaffney is Heart Math’s executive director, and they work with some of the same students as CIS-Charlotte.

Besides philanthropic donations, Gaffney said more volunteers is an affordable solution that can involve anyone, regardless of income.

"There's about 1,200 people tutoring currently every week an elementary student with Heart Math Tutoring," Gaffney said. "That said, there are still 120 students currently on a waiting list."

Adults interested in getting involved can visit CIS-Charlotte's website or Heart Math Tutoring's website.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story said MacKenzie Scott donated to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools instead of CIS-Charlotte. 

WCNC Charlotte is part of seven major media companies and other local institutions producing I Can’t Afford to Live Here, a collaborative reporting project focused on solutions to the affordable housing crisis in Charlotte. It is a project of the Charlotte Journalism Collaborative, which is supported by the Local Media Project, an initiative launched by the Solutions Journalism Network with support from the Knight Foundation to strengthen and reinvigorate local media ecosystems. See all of our reporting at charlottejournalism.org.

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