Lizet DeRojas, CIS North Texas Program Manager at Lake Dallas Elementary in Lake Dallas, TX, is grateful for her motivated volunteer.
Janelle Rodriguez is a University of North Texas student who has been dedicating at least three hours each week to our students at Lake Dallas Elementary. She works with several different students in different subject areas. She begins her day by mentoring one of our third graders. She has been able to build a great relationship with this student in these past few months. They work on different activities from self-esteem discussions to enrichment games and assistance with school assignments.
Once she has finished working with our third grade student, Janelle begins working with one of our bilingual kindergartners. Unfortunately, because of a language barrier this student is struggling academically in many areas. Janelle is able to use her bilingual skills to work with him and keep him motivated. While working with him she has been able to show a great deal of patience. This kindergartener often becomes frustrated because of the difficulty of the work, and he immediately shuts down. Every time this happens she is able to switch her approach and turn the assignment into a game. Janelle makes him feel like they are just playing when in fact they are working on the same assignment he previously felt lost on.
After working one-on-one with the kindergartener, Janelle begins to work with a group of fourth graders. She has a passion for finding new ways to problem solve, and we have put her math skills to work with this group. She meets with a different group every week and they work on math. Our fourth graders are currently struggling a lot with math and she has been a major help to our teachers and our students.
Janelle Rodriguez is always willing to help in any way she can. She always stays positive and motivates all the students she works with. I am very fortunate to have such a motivated volunteer at Communities In Schools!
Kali Carter is the Behavior Intervention Specialist for the Communities In Schools Club ACE afterschool program at Oak Point Elementary. She is a stellar employee who is always willing to go above and beyond to bring the best services to her students.
At the beginning of the year, she created a name/theme for the behavior intervention counseling services offered to students in ACE. She titled it, Club ACE S.T.A.R.S.S. - Students Trusting, Achieving, Respecting Self (and other) Students. She has taken off full speed running Leadership and Friendship groups for students.
In addition to running S.T.A.R.S.S., Mrs. Carter has also assisted with providing a sense of teamwork amongst the Club ACE staff and team. She has created various activities for staff to participate in once a month for every other month that encourages team building and communication.
In December, Mrs. Carter recently conducted a parent event for parents at Oak Point Elementary to help reduce stress and increase relaxation. Many adults suffer from stress due to the ups and downs of the holiday season, so the workshop taught coping skills and techniques. Mrs. Carter made stress balls for all parents and students to use.
What I enjoy most about Mrs. Carter is that she is willing to go outside of the box when it comes to the job duties of her position. She understands the importance of making sure not only are students' needs met, but also the parents and Club ACE staff needs. In my opinion, she displays the epitome of assisting our students from a whole-student approach. She is a joy to have on staff!
Jalen is a first grade student at Hedrick Elementary. He is one of those kids that teachers have a rough time with. His larger than life imagination and seemingly endless energy makes it almost impossible for him to sit in his chair for long periods of time. When you add him with twenty other first graders, it makes one recipe for chaos! He has a hard time following the structure of school that he and his peers are still growing accustomed to. In fact, he has a hard time with structure in general, which is why I have paired him up with one of our phenomenal mentors.
When Dan comes and gets Jalen out of his classroom every week he is greeted with a hug you usually only see at the airport. You know the ones that happen when the family members haven't seen each other in months? Jalen jumps out of his chair and makes a mad dash for Dan. The excitement in his face is one of pure joy, and seeing this gives me chills up my spine and tears to my eyes every time I see it. (Yeah, I am one of those sensitive guys... what did you expect from a male doing school social work with elementary kids?)
Jalen and Dan fit so well together. Jalen is a hyper first grade boy who cannot seem to stay out of trouble, and Dan is a wise retired man who has raised three kids of his own. Dan gets straight to business when he is working with Jalen, and there is little time that is not spent implementing structure and correction while they are working together. He does this in every aspect of their time together, whether it be reading to him or playing a board game. He finds creative ways to teach Jalen through any activity they are participating in. Jalen completely eats this up! He absolutely loves this time, and adores Dan, hence the airport greeting. This interaction is no doubt the best intervention for Jalen's behavior issues. This individual support and direction is so impactful for this little guy, especially coming from an adult male.
I look forward to seeing the impact that this relationship has on Jalen's life in the future. I have no doubt that the time spent with him now at his young malleable state will bring invaluable improvements in his behavior for the years to come. It is crazy to think about what the one hour a week can do in a child's life.
Nkechi Chibueze, Site Coordinator at Ginnings Elementary in Denton, TX, brags on her youngest volunteer at her campus.
Each school year, the Ginnings Elementary 21st Century program has the privilege of gaining wonderful volunteers who take the time out of their schedule each week to tutor and read to students. Usually, our volunteers are college aged or older, but this semester, I was pleasantly surprised when our program gained our youngest volunteer ever.
Marissa Cuetlach is an 8 year old student and the daughter of Ginnings Elementary’s first grade teacher Ms. Cuetlach. Marissa told me that she would love to help the kindergarten and 1st grade students of the Communities In Schools 21st Century program with math and reading, and I happily agreed. For past few weeks, Marissa has been coming to class to tutor help students with math homework. Towards the end of programming, Marissa gathers all the students together to read aloud a book of their choice. The children have really enjoyed having Marissa in the classroom!
It is refreshing to watch Marissa at work because she has strong leadership skills for a child her age. She is also kind, patient and respectful to the students she helping. She processes a lot of the great attributes that makes a successful teacher (I wonder where she got it from?). It is a pleasure to have her around! When asked why she decided to volunteer, she answered “I have a lot of math going on in my brain, and I need to share it was others.”
I am glad Marissa decided to share her math with our students at Ginnings Elementary.
Holly Steward, CIS North Texas Program Manager at Northwest High School, writes about a CIS student who has participated in a variety of CIS activities throughout the year.
Jorge has been a part of the Communities In Schools of North Texas program since he was in 2nd grade. He will be a senior at Northwest High School next year. Throughout this past school year, Jorge has been involved in the CIS program in a variety of ways. He had a mentor, attended field trips, participated in lunch groups and was extremely helpful in Summer Camp. Jorge spends a lot of time helping take care of his younger brothers and his mother. There are times when food is scarce in their home, and Jorge works part-time jobs to support the family's needs.
Through it all, he was able to find time to give back to younger kids who are in similar situations by being a summer camp mentor. During the 2 weeks of CISNT's summer camp, he worked closely with the elementary and middle school kids by providing them support during activities, playing games, and being a role model. As a CIS Program Manager, it has been a wonderful experience to watch Jorge grow into a responsible young man who is determined to give back to others.