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.
Mirna Cervantes, CIS North Texas Program Manager at Harmon High School in Lewisville, TX, writes about how helping a student achieve a single goal has made tremendous changes in that student.
When I first started working with DW this school year, he appeared hesitant and untrustworthy. He was having difficulties in school because of his negative behavior. He would not complete class assignments and had zero motivation. DW is the oldest of three children and comes from a household with a single mother who struggles daily to make ends meet.
After talking with DW, I found out that he was interested in the Lewisville High School Cheer Program, which was split into two groups: Junior Varsity (composed of sophomores and juniors) and Varsity (made up of juniors and seniors). All students trying out for the LHS Cheer Program receive specific tryout guidelines, an application to complete and must fulfill the requirements at the time of cheerleader tryouts. Once selected, the student must follow all rules and guidelines of the Lewisville ISD Cheerleader Constitution and participate in all cheerleader events (including a competition in Orlando, Florida). In addition, each student must pass all their classes, follow the general school district code of conduct, and sign a contract that states they will follow the discipline system that contains sections regarding good attendance and good behavior.
DW saw this as his only chance at attending college, but he was unable to pay for the cost of the program.
I began asking the community to request assistance. Through the assistance of First United Methodist Church in Lewisville and the generosity of Linda Whitman, we were able to pay for DW's Cheer tuition.
Once DW got in the LHS Cheer Program, I began to see a dramatic difference in his attitude and his school work. DW's math teacher has said the following about him: "DW always completes his geometry work with detail and accuracy. He is respectful and helpful. He is usually on task and willing to help and work with others. He is a natural leader in my 3rd period classroom. This is my 2nd year as DW's math teacher and he has improved by leaps and bounds over last year. I truly enjoy having him in my classroom." Another teacher said the following: "He works hard and, when focused, does well."
I have noticed that DW's behavior, motivation, and overall school performance have greatly improved. When I asked him how joining the Cheer Program has affected him, DW responded, "It helps me stay out of trouble and pass my classes." DW now looks forward to becoming a member of the Varsity Cheer and to become a nurse one day. I am thankful for organizations like First United Methodist Church and individuals like Linda Whitman for helping DW get on the right path towards graduation and higher education.