Remarks by the First Lady at the Communities in Schools (CIS) Leadership Town Hall Conference

October 19, 2022

[As prepared for delivery.]

Thank you, Juliana. I always feel so inspired when you talk about this profession that we both love so much. You are an incredible teacher—and you make me proud to be an educator.

I first learned about this great organization back in 2019 when I met with Elaine Wynn, and I was so moved by her passion and dedication to community schools. There is no better advocate than her.

It is an honor to be with all of you today.

Last week, I sat next to a mom named Koa at a homework diner, hosted by a community school in Milwaukee. And as we got to know each other, she shared how difficult her path had been. Her mother died when she was young, and as a single mom of four kids, she relied on her dad for support—but he passed away from COVID last year.

Like so many working parents, she just does her best. She tries to take it one day at a time. But when Koa brings her family to the homework diner, she doesn't have to worry about making dinner or cleaning up.

Instead, she laughs with her head back when her kids tell her stories. She's able to check in with their teachers—asking questions about the math that is so different from what she learned growing up. Homework gets done without bargains or pleas.

And when they leave, Koa knows that, though she's a single mom, she's not in this alone.

Schools have always been the heart of our communities—where students learn to be good citizens, where families come together for a common cause, where towns find pride.

And there is no better place to support families.

Because kids can't learn when their stomachs are empty; they can't master reading when they need glasses, or concentrate when there's trouble at home.

Students perform their best—and are happiest—when their parents and educators work together, when their families get the support they need—as soon as they need it.

Communities in Schools was founded on that idea—and for decades you've brought resources to students—tailored to the unique needs of every community in an environment that children and families already trust: their schools.

And after the disruptions of the pandemic, your work has only become more important.

Whether it's organizing a school food pantry, or setting up after-school tutoring, or working with the community to bring in doctors, counselors, and health specialists, you're giving students and families the support they need to thrive.

Our administration is here to help in your efforts.

We safely reopened schools and are addressing the academic and mental health needs of students.

We've provided funding to hire more mental health professionals and create wraparound support.

And with key partners like CIS, the Biden-Harris Administration launched the National Partnership for Student Success to help increase the number of tutors and mentors in our schools.

This work doesn't just help families, it's crucial for supporting educators as well.

When we lighten the burden on teachers, they can focus on what they do best: teach, counsel, create, and inspire.

In fact, educators tell us that when CIS services are in their schools, they are better able to improve student achievement and they get more satisfaction from the work they do.

To some people, schools may seem common—the fluorescent lights, the felt walls, the same simple classroom, again and again.

Those people don't know that what happens in schools is anything but ordinary. But we do.

Because we know how an idea can light up a pair of young eyes.

That teaching is an art where black and white words can open a rainbow bridge to uncharted worlds.

That our classrooms are a place where students find pieces of themselves, hidden and waiting to be discovered, transforming them into something new.

That every day, because of this work, a student somewhere is standing a little taller, working a little harder, being a little braver because their school helped them find the kindness, confidence, and courage that they need.

That is what it's all about—the connections we build, the communities we create.

So, thank you for your work and dedication. Thank you for lifting up students and their families. I can't wait to see the magic you make.

Thank you!

Jill Biden, Remarks by the First Lady at the Communities in Schools (CIS) Leadership Town Hall Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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