Communities in Schools Scholarship Recipient: Sa'Ryiah Simmons-Flood
Sa’Ryiah Simmons-Flood, of Building 21 Allentown, was awarded the Chandler Barnes Scholarship at this year’s Building Bright Futures graduation celebration. Each year, Communities in Schools of Eastern PA presents this award to a student attending an accredited college or university, business school, trade school, or training program. With this $1,500 scholarship and a fresh high school diploma in hand, Sa’Ryiah is very excited to continue her education at East Stroudsburg University this fall.
CIS of Eastern PA (CIS) has played a formative role in Sa’Ryiah’s life since middle school. When Sa’Ryiah was diagnosed with a difficult medical condition, attendance became a challenge. Struggling to keep up with her classmates, Sa’Ryiah turned to CIS of Eastern PA for support. Here, she was able to be reengaged with school and was provided with the five basics, including a support system of caring adults led by her site coordinator at Trexler Middle School, Gardenys Fernandez. “Without Communities In Schools, I wouldn’t be the person I am today, let alone a graduate,” said Sa’Ryiah. “When I met Mrs. Fernandez, my CIS case worker… she saw something in me that most people couldn’t.”
Sa’Riyah’s foundational relationship was built in middle school with Mrs. Fernandez, but continued through high school. Sa’Riyah transitioned to Building 21 as a high school student, where she worked with site coordinator Heather Annunziata. CIS has site professionals working in many districts at both the middle school and high school level. In fact, in seven of the fourteen school districts that CIS serves in Eastern Pennsylvania, site coordinators have the ability to collaborate when students change schools. This collaboration among site coordinators ensures that case managed students are getting the support they need during this important transitional time. It also provides an additional layer of trust from families that are familiar with working with CIS.
From the beginning, the CIS team saw Sa’Ryiah’s potential to thrive. With their support, Sa’Ryiah not only graduated but also completed the Upward Bound Program and the Early College Program offered through Lehigh Carbon Community College.
Outside of school, Sa’Ryiah has always managed to stay active. Growing up, Sa’Ryiah played on multiple sports teams, including her role as cheerleading team manager. Throughout high school, she impressively balanced her schoolwork with a part-time job. Sa’Ryiah also loved spending her summers volunteering for CIS of Eastern PA’s summer camps. “(She is) a positive role model for many young women,” said Mrs. Fernandez. “She inspires other girls like her.”
After many years with CIS of Eastern PA, Sa’Ryiah is well-prepared to begin the next phase of her education. She plans to graduate early from East Stroudsburg University with a degree in Education. “My dream is to come back and become a teacher and try to have at least half the impact Mrs. Fernandez had on me,” said Sa’Ryiah. “The best way I know to repay her is to be the best me and to pay it forward.”