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It's In You.


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Rediscovered Emotions

I have returned to the field of school social work after about a 10 year hiatus. My first job after receiving my Masters in School Social Work was with CIS (in Bexar County) and here I am again, at CIS of Tarrant County. I have spent a lot of time reflecting on the significance of being at CIS again—working for an agency that I really believe in, but starting at the “bottom” again.

In December, I moved with my family into a new home (the final step in our transition back to Texas), and I discovered a box labeled “School Social Work tools” that had been in storage for about 8 years. It was like Christmas morning. I felt like a young graduate who was full of ideas and enthusiasm.

At the bottom of the box, were the magic wand and magnifying glass that the faculty advisor for my cohort gave to each of us upon graduation. She explained to us that the magic wand had many uses—one use was to remind us of all that we’d learned. As a cohort, we had shared group curriculum, therapeutic games, ideas for working with teachers, and many amazing and “magical” tools to help us as we work with kids. The magic wand was also for us to use (in a lighthearted manner and with the right teachers) when we needed to remind teachers that we were, in truth, not magical and that we could not “fix” students by twinkling our nose or waving a magical stick. Change would be slow and our job was to give the kids the tools to make their own change and their own magic. A magic wand is also very fun to use in several group activities and games with our youngest students.

The magnifying glass was a very important reminder to look for and be grateful for the smallest change, improvements or “magic”. As social workers, change is often hard to see and easy to overlook. Some days in my CIS position, I feel like “all I have done is paperwork”, but when I look back at my day, I remember that I shared a smile with a child, I helped a family make a connection to needed resources, or I enlightened a teacher on the bigger picture of a child’s life. I believe we empower families, teachers and volunteers to make magic every day.

Since that “School Social Work tool” box has been in storage, I have added tools that I have learned as a parent, a preschool teacher, a foster care case manager and therapist, a community organizer, PTO Vice President and volunteer. I have filled my toolbox over the years but some days, admittedly, I get frustrated—by the paperwork, by the roadblocks, by the budget cuts–then I remind myself that there is important work to be done.   Each opportunity I have to sit with the other CIS Tarrant social workers and share ideas, I add to my toolbox.  The real magic is that the toolbox has no boundaries and I can just keep on filling it up.

Kathy Roemer, LMSW
Communities in Schools


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New Addition to Our CIS Family

I recently joined Communities In Schools as Vice President and Chief Development Officer. I joined CIS because they make a difference. Cliché, right?

Not when you have the results to prove it.

Since the earliest days of organized altruism, people support charitable organizations because they want to “make a difference,” to “strengthen the community,” to “change lives,” etc. These sentiments, while noble, lead to a key question that many organizations struggle to answer with concrete evidence. And it is a pertinent question that funders are now demanding an answer to: You say you are making a difference. Can you prove it?

I joined Communities In Schools because they CAN prove it.

Last year, the Texas Education Agency (TEA) funded an independent, national research project led by Texas A&M University (WHOOP!) that included every drop-out program in the nation.  This study concluded that Communities In Schools is the only program in America that can prove both reduced dropout rates and improved graduation rates. 97% of the at-risk children served by CIS remain in school.

Our dedicated staff work intensely with children facing a wide range of challenges which, if left unaddressed, will have a devastating effect. Every day our staff see children who face hunger, gangs, lack of shelter, pregnancy, and the list goes on.

You know the story of the man who takes a walk on the beach and sees hundreds of starfish washed up on the shore? In the story, the man sees a stranger picking up one starfish at a time and tossing it back in the ocean. When the man asks the stranger why he bothers (because he can’t possibly save them all), the stranger replies, “no, but I saved that one.” This story, while heartwarming, is little comfort to a social worker who goes to bed on Friday night wondering if one of the children at their school will have enough food to sustain them over the weekend, for it is not the hundreds of success stories that stick with this social worker. It’s the face of the child who desperately needs someone to reach out to them, someone to help them navigate and obtain the resources available in the community, someone to empower them. And there are many in need.

The CIS program works, and it is my goal to support this amazing organization by raising needed resources to ensure the program is available to children who need it, and to the school principals who demand it. Yes, you heard that right. Principals in nearly every district in Tarrant County have heard of the success of the CIS program and have expressed desire to bring it to their school because, at the end of the day, they know the CIS social workers will provide their at-risk students with resources and services the school can’t. Even while school budgets are being slashed, our program, since 1992, has grown from serving 2 schools to serving 38. And the demand is growing.

As Communities In Schools celebrates 20 years of helping children succeed in school and in life, we are thankful to our supporters in the community who have made our services possible, and we look ahead to the next decade of demonstrating that CIS is the proven dropout prevention program.

Lindsey Garner


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The key is to work together

It always amazes me to hear the arguments when it comes to school reform. Most pundits propose simple answers: better teachers, better accountability, no more testing, more fine arts, more early education, more charter schools, better post high school options … many are viable and yet, all of these work on only a part of the problem.

Communities in Schools works to keep kids in school because research shows that in the end, it is best for all parties involved. The model consists of placing a social worker in schools that want one. These social workers serve as a resource aggregator for teachers and administrators to get what the student needs to be successful. Sometimes it is as simple as a new pair of eye glasses. Oftentimes it is much more complicated. But ours is one part of the solution. Instead of battling it out over the “best” solution, why don’t we look at the problem like it is … a really tough, complex and important problem to fix. We have been talking about reform for more than 50 years … don’t you think it is time to work together to make it happen? I found this from a local media outlet from the fall outlining a program to prevent drop outs. Working together, we can make a difference.

http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2011/09/09/city-leaders-knocking-on-doors-to-find-school-dropouts/

Stacy Landreth Grau
Community in Schools Tarrant County Board Member


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Save a Smile

If a child is sick or in pain it is very difficult for them to pay attention and learn in school.  If they are hungry or sad, school work might not be the most important thing on their mind. These are all needs that must be met to give that child the best chance of succeeding in school.  The same can be said for a child who is experiencing dental pain, but it seems that it is sometimes easily forgotten that a child’s mouth is connected to the rest of their body.

Save a Smile is a program that is the product of a very unique collaboration between Communities In Schools, Cook Children’s Hospital, and 107 volunteer dentist throughout the community.  Save a Smile takes very generous volunteer dentists to screen 16 Tarrant County elementary schools annually.  Students are screened and put into categories according to the severity of

their dental decay.  Save a Smile then case manages the students who were found to have the most severe dental decay through those screenings.  There are 6 Community Health Workers who are dedicated to these students.  The CHWs make numerous attempts to contact parents, including phone calls, notes home, and home visits, to offer SAS services.  Once a family has agreed to work with SAS the CHW will have a discussion with the family about available resources such as savings and insurance.  If the family does not have private insurance the CHW will assist the family in applying for Medicaid and/or CHIP.  If for any reason the family does not  qualify for either of those programs, the CHW then gives the Save a Smile Program Director the student’s information to schedule a dental appointment with one of the SAS volunteer dentist.

We have volunteer dentist in every specialty including general practice, oral surgery, endodontics, pediatrics, orthodontics, and we even have a couple of anesthesiologist who volunteer for surgery cases. Students are scheduled with a dentist that most closely meets their needs. Our dentists treat Save a Smile patients in their private offices free of charge.  SAS provides translation and transportation for families when needed. The CHW also works with the family throughout their child’s entire dental treatment to ensure the child makes it to scheduled dental appointments, and that the parents understand the child’s treatment.

There have been many cases in which the CHW assigned to a child has gained the trust of a family and was able to assist in other areas of need.  We have received donations of beds for children who have been sleeping on floors, we have assisted families in need of food and clothing, we have helped families pay for prescriptions that are needed for their children, and we are able to help families begin the process of receiving treatment for medical conditions that may not necessarily be related to the child’s mouth.

It is very rewarding to be part of the save a smile program.  It is so great to see so many members of our community give so much to the students in our schools. I feel incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by so many individuals from different professions who have come together to give the children in our community the gift of a healthy smile and another nudge in the right direction to overall success.

Brigitte Diaz-Voigts LMSW
Save a Smile Program Director


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Tidbits for Thought

CIS is about keeping kids in school because we believe education determines our future. Hopefully this is one thing that everyone can agree on – at least at some level. Keeping kids in school may be the biggest opportunity to change the things that need to be changed and create a future that is rich in independence, confidence and the desire to be self-sufficient.

There are several challenges that get in the way of children’s success and make staying in school difficult.  Most of them don’t have anything to do with the work required in school but rather the nurturing of the heart and dealing with basic needs of life.  Teaching is about engaging the brain and heart and requires different kinds of resources – maybe more than one teacher can present. The heart is as critical as the brain to performance, wellness, and emotional stability.  When children find meaning in their life, and have a mentor to help them define their path and deal with the obstacles they are confronted with, they learn to be independent and learn to succeed in life.

Questions I ask myself:
1.       Doesn’t it make sense to seek out children in need and create an environment that nurtures the heart so we can engage the brain?
2.       Does the combination of CIS Social Workers and quality teachers in our school district provide the best approach for dealing with the life challenges that get in the way of education?
3.       How do children in a negative environment, with no mentor to help them find meaning in their life, find the way to create a future for themselves and build confidence?
4.       Can we change “takers,” those people looking for someone to give them something, into “contributors” by providing an environment that nurtures and teaches independence and self-sufficiency?

The concept of helping others to help themselves is far from new.  A basic example that we have all heard, “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach him to fish and he will eat for a lifetime”, is what  this is about and, we need to find a way to begin teaching children why “learning to fish” will prepare them to improve their future.

The problem isn’t access to education, it’s helping children and families overcoming the obstacles and helping them to understand the relevance of education and it’s positive effect on our future.  We should be asking the questions “What do you want your future to be? What do you want it to be for your children, your community, your world?”

-Michelle Jenkins, CIS Board Member


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Happy New Year

Believe it or not, it is 2012. With the start of the new year here at CIS we are saying goodbye to a close friend, Yvette Hanshaw who has helped CIS grow into 38 schools in seven school districts. She accepted the position of Director of Development for the College of Communication at TCU. We already miss her smiling face.

We are also saying hello to a new school, Sharrod Elementary School in Arlington. We are interviewing now to find the perfect social worker for that school.

As we returned from the holiday break, we also learned that two of our staff members are now engaged! Congratulations to Myra McGlothen and Alejandra Morado…….2012 will be a big year for the two of you.

One last thought – In our December e-newsletter we asked for help to restore the right ear for one of our elementary school students who was born without the outside part of her ear. Her family needed about $5,000 to move the process forward and we received generous gifts that moved them closer to that goal. Members of the extended CIS family always seem to come through when we need them. Thank you for your generosity.

Have a happy and prosperous new year.

-Mike Steele, President & CEO


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The importance of return on investment

It is the end of the year. As we come off the holiday season (well, almost) undoubtedly you had many opportunities to give to those who are less fortunate than yourself. It could be angel programs or church groups; the food bank or presents for kids under the supervision of Child Protective Services. All great, worthy causes. These organizations tug at your heart strings especially when so many people have so little. It just feels good to give.

And of course, I am not one to say that there is no return on investment for these gifts. The idea that kids have presents under the Christmas tree or food in their tummies is obviously what we want. Obviously the ROI is there.

But do you really know?

So in the new year … I challenge you to think about your gifts. Really think about them. What is the return on your investment – whether it is money, or time or talent? An organization like Communities in Schools Tarrant County has verifiable results. We can see the ROI on our money – not only immediately (e.g. how much it takes to keep a kid in school and graduate) but over the long term (e.g. how that kid goes on to become a more productive citizen who may not need public assistance). Honestly, the fact that CIS has an amazing ROI is one reason I am involved (that is probably the business professor in me).

When developing a “giving strategy” for 2012, I would suggest you ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do you care about? What causes are important to you? Concentrate on those.
  • What organizations work on the cause that you care about? Make a list. Do some research. See what these organizations are doing with their donor dollars and what difference they are able to make.
  • Get involved with one or two. Make a donation, join a committee or a Board. Make a civic contribution to make your community better. Be the difference that you want to see.
  • And give. Give to these organizations that you feel have a great ROI. Give to some that honestly, just feel good to give to. But give.

 

Stacy Landreth Grau

Neeley School of Business

Texas Christian University

Board Member: Communities in Schools Tarrant County


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Chance Meetings

When I was asked to blog, I thought what can I possibly blog about.  I researched blog sites to find out what others are blogging about and they stated that your blog should be about things that people want to hear.  So… I asked myself what do people really want to hear and I sat there for an hour pondering what types of things people might want to hear.

I came to the conclusion I would speak from my heart.  I have so many things to be GRATEFUL for in life.  I thought I will blog about what I am most grateful for.  Like most people I am grateful for my health, sound mind, wonderful family and friends.  However, when it comes to work I am grateful for our Central office staff.  Our Business Operations Manager who ensures that WE are paid monthly and all our bills are paid, our Data Entry staff ensures that all student data is entered into the CIS system so that we have measurable outcomes at the end of each school year. Our Community Health Workers make sure that all of the children screened through the Save a Smile Dental Program are seen by a volunteer dentist. I am SO grateful for our dedicated group of Social Workers who work tirelessly to help our students and their families navigate this crazy thing we call life. I’m also grateful for our DEDICATED board members who consistently go above and beyond the call of duty making sure that annual campaigns are met, donating collared shirts for school uniforms and prom dresses for the young ladies in our program who otherwise might not have been able to attend prom due to lack resources.  I’m grateful for the relationships that we have with the School Superintendents, Principals, teachers and other key school personnel.  I’m grateful to our wonderful partners such as Wells Fargo, Girls Incorporated, Tarrant Area Food Bank just to name a few and a countless army of individuals who give their undivided time and attention to the children in our program.

Lastly, I am grateful for chance meetings.  Approximately 12 years ago, I met Mike Steele while I was working as a bank teller at Nations Bank.  He frequented the branch I worked at dropping off CIS deposits.  One day I asked what type of agency is CIS?  He told me it was a social service agency employing all social workers who worked with at-risk students trying to help them succeed in school.  He told me to apply; I promptly told him I was relocating to San Antonio to pursue my Master’s Degree in Social Work.  But after visiting my choice college in SA, I realized UTA was a much better financial fit. I decided to give CIS a whirl, and for that chance meeting, I am very grateful.  If it hadn’t been for that meeting, I would not be working in a job that I absolutely love…..I will be eternally grateful for that chance meeting with Mike.

Myra McGlothen, Vice President
Chief Program Officer


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The Holidays

The holiday season is a time of reflection and thanks. Family is always my first thought, but I am lucky enough to have a great family at work too. That family includes our Board members…..all of whom came to us because of their passion to help kids and specifically to help them secure an education……the kind of help that lasts a lifetime and into future generations. But at this time of year, my heart really goes out to our staff. None of these wonderful people are here because of great salaries. CIS people, social workers, financial, marketing and other office staff find their way to CIS and stay with CIS because they know CIS is making a difference in the lives of thousands of kids and their families. It is not everybody who is lucky enough to get paid for doing something that they really love. I am thankful for the opportunity to be associated with so many wonderful and dedicated people. Those of you who know me know that I love my job……you hear me say it all the time. I also hear it from CIS people all the time. So I want to wish a very happy holiday season to everybody in the CIS family…..a very special family.

– Mike Steele, CEO


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Aim Higher. Fight Harder.

I was very blessed to always have the support of my parents when I was in school. My parents have always encouraged me to be better than them; to aim higher and fight harder. I was the first in my family to graduate from high school and continue on to get a college degree. I am the new Marketing and Special Events Coordinator at CIS (8 days strong) and I am excited to be part of such an incredible agency.

During my initial interview, Yvette Handshaw, Vice President and Chief Development Officer, shared a student’s success story with me and I wanted to ask her if it was okay to cry! I was so inspired and touched by the story I had to choke back my tears. I’m pretty sure it’s not appropriate to cry during an interview. I knew at that moment that I wanted to be part of CIS.

In my position I will be working with committees, board members and other staff to bring awareness to CIS and raise money so we can keep Tarrant County kids in school. I am here to do my part so that our at-risk students can aim higher and fight harder too.

– Alejandra Morado
Marketing & Special Events Coordinator