JACKSONVILLE, Fla – Some local students, before and after school programs hold their lives together. There's a meal, adults who sometimes become part of the family, and an outlet to keep the students out of trouble. The programs included in Communities in Schools work with thousands of students in Duval County and one young man shares his story of how it changed his life for the better.
Dominic Cummings is the first college graduate in his family. He's now in his 20s and has three children of his own. Cummings works for JP Morgan Chase, owns a home and volunteers with the same programs that he believes opened the door to opportunity.
His name is still etched in the concrete right in front of the house where he grew up, in a rough part of historic Springfield.
"I've seen prostitutes walk by. I've seen people strung out on drugs," says Cummings.
But not far away was a community center where Dominic and his brothers and sisters could get away from any drama.
"My mom had to make sure I had a safe place to go," says Cummings.
Another one of those places was right inside the walls of his elementary school where he met Mr. Johnson during Communities in Schools' after school program. All these years later they're still very close.
"I'm very proud of him, very very proud of him," says Eric Johnson.
Johnson is now a supervisor with Communities in Schools but worked one-on-one with Dominic when he was just a kid.
"It fills that gap that people need. It fills the gap that young people seek in their lives. Those caring adults, those caring children, we just come together and we blend together and we become something very powerful, something very unique," Johnson said..
Dominic is completing the circle by giving back. He's on the board of directors for Communities in Schools, mentors a student, and often comes back to the neighborhood that he's since left but will never abandon.
"Sometimes I come in this area just stop by and sometimes it breaks my heart. Some of the same people I went to school with, they're knocking on my window and asking for money," says Cummings.
Cummings says he gives this advice to anyone who will listen.
"It doesn't matter where you grew up. It doesn't matter where you live, that you can do it. Don't let your current circumstances determine where you are and what you can do. Try your best, work your hardest, reach out to people and ask for help. A lot of times people don't ask for help. Ask these teachers, your coaches, people that you trust, and share the things that you aspire to do with them so they can help," says Cummings.
Dominic is on the board of directors for Communities in Schools and mentors a student. There are many ways you can help support the mission, for more information go to cisjax.org .