Lizet De Rojas, CIS North Texas Program Manager at Lake Dallas Elementary in Lake Dallas, TX, writes about the impact that CIS has had in her community.
Communities In Schools was welcomed to Lake Dallas Elementary this past January. In the last 10 months that we have been able to serve the Lake Dallas community, we have been able to make a great impact. Last year, we served a total of 87 students in our case management program. This school year I am already at 46 students enrolled, and it's only been the first 6 weeks of school!
Lake Dallas ISD already had some programs in place to help our families. Communities In Schools was able to come in and bring in more ideas and man-power to make these programs even better. Some of the programs we have been able to work on so far this year are Food 4 Kids, Lake Dallas Elementary Clothes Closet and the Parenting Room.
In our Food 4 Kids program we are currently serving 42 students. This program provides low income students with a backpack full of snacks for them to have over the weekend. Every other Wednesday I travel to the North Texas Food Bank in Dallas and pick up boxes of food. The food is then hanged up on numbered hooks, each hook belonging to each student enrolled in this program. The students then stop by on Fridays before school is out and pick up their bag for the weekend.
Our LDE Clothes Closet has been a work in progress. With the help of staff members and volunteers we have been able to have all the clothes accessible to any family in need. Families are welcomed to go in the clothing closet during school hours and pick out anything they need for their family.
The Parenting Room is a new project that Dr. Denise Evans-Jackson and I have been working on. Our goal is to have increase parent involvement in their child's education. Parents are able to come into the parent room and sign up for a "library card'. This card gives them access to books in English and Spanish for them to read to their child(ren) or for themselves. We have also set up the "Tree of Knowledge" where parents are able to get tips on how to work with their student, different resources and any other important information in both English and Spanish.
I work directly with students during lunch time. In the beginning of the school year, lunch groups are set up based on the student's grade level. When we meet for lunch group, we focus on different topics, ranging from character building, dealing with stress, self-esteem, study skills and anger management. I also make myself available throughout the day. Students know that my room is always open for them. They know that my room is their safe room where we can discuss anything they want and where they can come for help.
I am very glad to see that our students and families really do know that Communities In Schools is here for them. For many of these students and families, CIS is their only support system, their only listening ear, their only safe place and their only source of help. I believe the Lake Dallas is a community and Communities In Schools can partner together to bring much needed resources into the school setting. I am very glad to work for such a wonderful organization that is here for the students and their families!
Stephanie Valle, CIS North Texas Program Manager at Lewisville High School Killough in Lewisville, TX, writes about the relationship she has built with a ninth grade student.
When I first met Samantha, she was very hesitant to talk to me. She knew I was a social worker and had a bad history with “people like me." She was closed off, but I let her take her time getting to know me, and not my title.
We slowly built a relationship with one another, and Sam started to talk to me about her day when I saw her in the hallways. She began to see my office as a safe place and would sometimes come into my office just to decompress. She also found it beneficial to come into my office whenever she had panic attacks. Sam would get panic attacks in the middle of her class and often would begin to cry. She hates to show this type of emotion in front of others, so she knew she could also "chill out" in my office. It would be during these times that we would really begin to dig deeper in our relationships.
Sam's panic attacks and depression were not getting any better, and one day she made an outcry that she wanted to kill herself. She was checked into a hospital and withdrew from school. During her time as an outpatient, she stopped by Killough High School, and we would talk for some time. She was getting better! She looked like she had life in her again, and she even stood taller with more confidence. Since she was attending an outpatient school, I had come to terms that she no longer would attend Killough. After a few months, I heard she would be reenrolling at Killough. I was so excited to know we could continue working together, and I was more excited to see her grow!
At the end of the year, the students were given the opportunity to give a speech thanking a teacher that made an impact on their school career. When Sam told me she would be speaking, I was overwhelmed with joy! I know I am biased, but Sam did an amazing job. Six months prior, she would have had a panic attack at the thought of even speaking in front of an audience. But that evening, Sam spoke with ease and confidence.
It was hard saying good bye to Sam at the end of the year. She has this thing where she does not like anyone getting in her bubble. She vocally tells people they are in her bubble. On the last day of school, I patted her back to tell her bye and apologized for getting in her bubble. To my surprise, she stood up and hugged me. It was a sweet moment, and it represented how far we have progressed in our relationship. Sam is a rock star and continues to grow in so many ways! I am so eager to see where she decides to go with her future!
Rebecca Page, CIS North Texas Site Coordinator at Evers Park Elementary in Denton, TX, shares a young student's journal entry.
Correne Lynch-Fierro, CIS North Texas Program Manager at Little Elm High School in Little Elm, TX, tells how with the help of CIS, a determined student overcame her obstacles and graduated from high school.
Di first began participating in CISNT in February of this year. When she first came into the CISNT office she indicated that her friends had told her for the past couple of years that she should come see me, but she felt that she could handle things on her own. She has a very complicated story of her life, having experienced a multitude of obstacles in her short nineteen years.
Di moved to Texas from California a few years back with her foster parents after her foster parent's mother had passed away. This person had made Di's foster parents promise her while on her death bed that they would look after Di and her sisters and see that they finished school. Based on Di's description of her, this person was very influential in her life and who Di credited for helping her and her sisters out of a bad situation with her biological parents and strived to keep Di and a couple of her sisters together.
However, upon moving to Texas, one sister left the home almost right away moving in with some friends in Lewisville. Di and one of her sisters remained with her foster parents until this year when Di left the home after a heated argument. She ended up moving in with a coworker. At this point, Di finally decided to come in and see me to see how I could help.
Di was working a full time job while attending school and was pursuing another part-time job. While I began working with Di on her academics, I looked at her class credits and advocated for her to get into Little Elm School District's credit recovery program since she only needed a credit to graduate, and she seemed very determined to do so. Through this program we were able to get her school schedule reduced to a half day to assist in alleviating some of her stress and free up her day to pick up daytime hours at work. In addition, I provided transportation on days when she did not have a ride to get to school.
This spring, Di attended the CISNT College Awareness event at the University of North Texas, which included a tour of the campus followed by a UNT Basketball Game. We began discussing college options as well as the steps to get into and fund college. Over the last few months, Di and I would continue to talk to discuss how things were going not only with her school but also with her jobs and her home situation.
Last week Di completed her credits and has now graduated from school. She has a determination unlike any other to overcome her numerous obstacles in life and succeed despite her situation. I expect her only to continue to excel! Congratulations, Di!
Rickey Hayes, CIS North Texas Site Coordinator at Strickland Middle School in Denton, TX, tells two stories of student breakthroughs at his campus.
In the month of May, we held our first Strickland Middle School vs. Calhoun Middle School Softball event. About a month before the showdown our Academic Enrichment Specialist coach went from working every day to being on the sub list. As a result of this, the students did not have the opportunity to prepare as they needed to, which resulted in a large drop in participating team members. The day before the game I pulled together the 5 remaining students that wanted to play and asked them what they thought we should do about the game. Should we reschedule? Should we take a rain check and wait until next year?
The students decided to do some self-recruiting and rounded up the remaining members of the team that we needed to play. They went to Calhoun Middle School the very next day and played very well. They showed a great display of teamwork. Strickland Middle School ended up being victorious against Calhoun Middle School, and we brought home the first ever 21st Century Softball Championship Title. Afterwards I heard kids, who had never played the game before, ask their parents if they could join a league and continue playing. It was really cool because it allowed me to see that something as simple as a softball game can plant a seed in our young students. Perhaps a simple softball game can one day produce the next Nolan Ryan or Ken Griffey Jr. It was a great experience that my staff and the staff at Calhoun Middle School gave to our kids, and it was a day none of us will soon forget.
We have been working really hard to go above and beyond with serving our qualified students this year in the CIS North Texas 21st Century after-school program at Strickland Middle School. There is a group of kids that are in 7th grade currently at Strickland, and at 12 and 13 years old, they have already been exposed to drugs, violence and lots of situations that kids their age should not have to deal with. They required more attention than most students and do not respond well to all adults.
I stepped in and doubled as an Academic Enrichment Specialist for the month of May and worked with this small group of students. I had the great opportunity to mentor, tutor and learn so much from this group of students. One student went from failing 7 out of his 8 classes to passing all but one. Another student opened up to me about the peer pressure he deals with on a daily basis, and he asked me to what to do when his peers wanted him to participate in things that were wrong.
These are kids that have been to juvenile detention centers and have had a lot of adults pass them on to somebody else instead of taking the time to listen to their story. I feel blessed and honored to have been able to work with them, and this is yet another example of how much of a difference we can make in a child's life just by being accessible and willing to hear them out.