CIS North Texas Program Manager Holly Steward writes about a former CIS student who has embraced the chance to give back to her peers and her community.
Holly Steward (third from left) with Northwest High School seniors from the class of 2011.
This month's student brag from Northwest High School is a little different than usual. It is about a previous CIS student who graduated two years ago. Gabrielle was a student who was extremely involved in CIS North Texas at NHS for her last two years of high school. She worked very closely with me and her mentor. She was a very high achieving student who excelled in her classes and was ranked in the top 40 of a class of over 800 students. Though she faced many obstacles in her home life she was determined to excel in college and pursue her dreams of visiting another country for mission work.
Since graduating from high school, Gabby has kept in touch with me and has volunteered her time to help CIS North Texas at Northwest HS on several occasions. I have had the privilege of writing a multitude of recommendation letters for her for scholarships and jobs. She ended up gaining scholarships and financial aid to attend the University of North Texas for the first year for free. During that time she gain the opportunity to go to Honduras with a campus church group and this past fall she traveled to Spain through a study abroad program offered through UNT.
Although Gabby has gained many successes since her time as a CISNT student she has also faced many trials. In November her mother passed away due to illness. Gabby left Spain for a week to return home and plan her mother's funeral as well as support her younger sister. During this time I had the opportunity to meet with her and her family and offer support during a devastating time.
Since then, Gabby has completed her study abroad program and has returned to UNT. She has expressed her gratitude to me on several occasions and has always told me how thankful she was for the CIS program and the support she has received all these years. It wasn't until January that I truly knew how much she appreciated the CISNT organization and how passionate she was about our mission. I was informed that Gabby received a job as an Academic Enrichment Specialist 2 with CISNT's 21st Century after school program. I was overwhelmed with pride and excitement for Gabby to have the opportunity to pay it forward. Her story brings tears to my eyes and happiness to my soul. This is what CISNT is truly about, and I'm so thankful to be able to see her success story unfold in front of me. She truly has come FULL CIRCLE.
Jennifer Hughes, Program Manager at DeLay Middle School in Lewisville, TX, writes about a volunteer who has filled multiple roles for Communities In Schools of North Texas.
Laura Bakkan is a first year mentor, but has been a supporter of Communities In Schools of North Texas for several years now.
Laura started her relationship with CIS North Texas through our Dressed to Learn program. She lead the committee of local PTA members to help facilitate fundraisers and clothing drives for schools in the Lewisville Independent School District. She also was the lead contact if we needed help purchasing clothes. I could call Laura with my needs and she would have uniforms in my office within a week or 2. I'm certain she spent many hours and miles in her car going from store to store and then from school to school delivering clothes. Before she stepped down for this position, she helped organize the new Dress to Learn Clothes Closet at Central Elementary.
In March of 2011, Laura joined the Board of Directors of Communities In Schools of North Texas to help provide stewardship over our agency. However, even though she oversaw the agency on a macro level, she was still willing to jump in the trenches with CIS Program Managers whenever we needed help.
For the past two years, Laura has also been a tremendous help with my Holiday Assistance program. She has adopted students and helped me sort and organize the presents.
This school year, Laura really wanted to be a mentor. She had seen many mentors and students during her time DeLay Middle School and Central Elementary and wanted to be a part of this program. I was able to pair her with Jessica, a sixth grade student who needed a little extra help with her academics. They have bonded quickly and Jessica is very excited every time Ms. Laura comes to see her. They have been reading many books and playing games together. Laura was a former teacher and has been encouraging Jessica in her academics.
Recently Laura told me that she and some friends were hosting a "friendraiser" for CISNT, called What WISE Women Want. They will be having an auction for handbags that will help raise money to purchase caps and gowns for our graduating seniors.
I am so thankful that Laura Bakken is involved with Communities In Schools of North Texas!
Hope Williams, CIS North Texas Program Manager at Gene Pike Middle School in Justin, TX, writes about a student determined to change her perception of herself through a positive attitude and hard work.
Ciara is an 8th grade student at Pike Middle School in the Northwest Independent School District. Due to medical reasons, Ciara could no longer participate in athletics. The counselors gave her the option to be an office aide. She decided that was something she was interested in, and they assigned her to the Communities In Schools office.
Ciara has worked in the CIS room every morning since September. She came into this position with a hard working attitude and has not faltered once. She has completely reorganized the room to her liking and has developed systems that have helped this program run very smoothly. When students come in during first period for help, she is eager and willing to assist them.
Ciara's attitude here at Pike Middle has not always been the best. She came to this school in the middle of her 7th grade year due to a major move that she had no control over. She had a rough first school year which unfortunately gave hers a reputation that she is determined to change. Despite all the negative perceptions that she is dealing with, she maintains a positive attitude and understands that her perception is the consequences for her past actions. Aside from giving back to the Pike Middle community, she also participated in my Homework Club and a girl's group to help her build up her confidence and self-esteem. In November, teachers and staff began really noticing a difference in both her attitude and academic grades.
Ciara has become a big part of the CIS Program here at Pike Middle School and she has become a role model for students looking to use their free time by volunteering. She has never failed to complete a task given to her. In addition to her hard work for Communities In Schools of North Texas, her attendance and grades have also come up. It is easy to see why Ciara has earned the CIS Student of the Month Award. I am very proud of this young lady and the mature attitude that she has maintained. Watching her grow has been such a privilege.
Lizet DeRojas, Program Manager at Lake Dallas Elementary in Lake Dallas, TX, writes about a parent volunteer who has been of tremendous help in preparing Communities In Schools at Lake Dallas.
Maria Vazquez has been a parent volunteer for Lake Dallas Elementary for two years now. When I was first introduced to her, I was told that she is an amazing parent, volunteer and community member.
Since the Communities In Schools program is new to the Lake Dallas community, I had a lot of set up to do to prepare serving the students and families. Maria has made it known that she is here to help.
One of my first tasks at Lake Dallas Elementary was to arrange the Clothes Closet. The Clothes Closet is available to all Lake Dallas Elementary families who need to come and pick out any clothing items that they need. It was a big task and I could not have done it without Maria. She came every morning at 8 and started working. Having young children did not stop Maria. She always brought them along and kept them entertained while she worked in the closet.
Maria is now attending the parenting classes offered at Lake Dallas Elementary. She is currently working on improving her English and developing her computer skills. Even though we do not see each other every day, she always leaves messages with other teachers letting me know she is available to help.
Maria Vazquez is a great parent volunteer, and I am glad she is part of the Lake Dallas Elementary community!
Correne Lynch-Fierro, CIS North Texas Program Manager at Little Elm High School in Little Elm, TX, tells about a young man who took his future into his own hands and graduated from high school.
I first met David after a recommendation to the Communities In Schools of North Texas program at Little Elm High School last year due to family conflict and attendance. David had been kicked out of his home due to a family conflict and as such had difficulty getting to school. I visited some various places, including his job, and I was able to eventually track him down and let him know someone cares whether he attended school or not.
David was already in his senior year, and through my meetings with him, I showed him how it was still possible to graduate if he was willing to work for it. We got him qualified in the Homeprogram which allowed him to get some extra support through the school and district if he should need it as well. I continued to meet with him regularly to ensure he felt supported.
After a few months, David again stopped attending school, and my attempts to locate him this time around were futile. At the beginning of this school year, I again made attempts to locate him but again to no avail.
This past week David found me to let me know that he had in fact graduated after enrolling in the District's Credit Recovery program. He further indicated that he was joining the Marine's and then planned to pursue college after that. He is hoping to serve as a role model to his younger siblings to show that it is possible to graduate and have a future despite having a few obstacles along the way.
While David certainly made the decision on his own to come back this year and finish school, it is good to know that I had a small impact on him as demonstrated by his desire to come and let me know he had graduated and allowing me to share in his success!