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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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Prom Dress Drive

It is time to kick off our 2nd annual CIS Prom Dress Drive!  Please look in your closet and pull out any formal dresses that you would like to donate to our CIS prom store. The CIS Prom Store is designed to allow girls who attend our CIS high schools, who would not otherwise be able to afford a prom dress, to “shop” for their very own prom dress at no cost to the student. We are looking to collect approximately 80 formal dresses with no discrimination in size, color, or style. We are only asking that the dresses be in good shape.  If you are interested in donating a dress (or two!) please contact Brigitte Diaz-Voigts at brigitte.diazvoigts@cistarrant.org  or Sara Isley at sara.isley@cistarrant.org.  If you do not have dresses to donate but still wish to help, we are accepting small monetary donations to go toward dry cleaning and event supplies. We will need to have all dresses collected no later than Wednesday, March 21, 2012. Thank you so much for your help in making prom a special event for the seniors who attend CIS schools!


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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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Social Media Galore

With this fast pace technological era, we here at Communities In Schools have been working very hard to keep up. There is always new technology and new things to learn. Social media is one medium we have been setting our attention to. Social media is constantly changing and reinventing itself. Most importantly, everyone knows the huge part it plays in our everyday lives.

Our Facebook page is at an all-time high. Our friends on Facebook continue to grow and we love to hear from our supporters. If you haven’t “liked” us on Facebook yet, click here.

CIS is also part of Twitter. You can follow us at www.twitter.com/cistarrant. We post many different things on our Twitter that you may not see on our Facebook. We want to give our supporters a diverse range of information and with different social media outlets we are able to do so.

This very blog that you are reading is the most recent form of social media that we have gotten involved in. We believe that giving you and the rest of our supporters an in-depth look into Communities In Schools is a great thing. We get to share our experiences and accomplishments with our supporters who make CIS possible.

We are very excited to invite you to participate in our Back to School themed Facebook button contest. Our focus is to get supporters involved and to support our “Day of Giving.” For all event details and rules, check out our Facebook event or read details here.

Make sure to see us on Facebook and Twitter. Send us a comment or a tweet, we’d love to hear from you.

Sincerely,

Lindy Chen

Special Events/Social Media Intern


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My Experience as a Program Director

Social work is an interesting profession. There is much to be said about a person that devotes their life to children and families in need. The most frequent question I get asked is “What does a school social worker do exactly?” Honestly it depends on the school level the social worker is placed to be able to answer that question.

I began my career at CIS as a Project Manager (PM) in an elementary school where I had a case load of 90. I worked very closely with the children’s families, held many self esteem and social skills groups (around 13) and opened my office to individual counseling throughout the day. Unfortunately at the elementary level there are frequent encounters of abuse, extreme poverty, hunger and family eviction.

After two years of working with CIS, I was able to move up to a Program Director. I have loved the change but it is a different social work perspective. Instead of working closely with the children and getting involved with their lives on a personal level, which is direct practice SW, I am working hard to ensure that the PM’s I supervise are offering the services the students need. Not only to enhance the lives of their kids but to help ensure we are doing what we have contracted with the state to do and correctly. It is more administrative social work.

One of the experiences I have enjoyed the most this year is my learning curve working with a high school program. I was assigned to oversee Polytechnic High School where the school and the particular area of Fort Worth have various problems. Working at the high school level is a big difference; their problems are individually based such as pregnancy, physical/mental health issues, cutting, working to help support their family, drugs and gangs to name a few. I met a lot of great students this year; some struggled more than others and some overcame obstacles I could only dream up.

There was one student in particular that the PM and I met, worked with, guided, and deemed this years “success story.” A student is considered a “success story” when they have overcome situations that would otherwise lead to high school drop out. This student was able to tell her story at our annual celebration luncheon where one of our favorite CIS advocates, Deborah Ferguson, was a keynote speaker. The story touched Deborah’s heart and she felt like her story needed to be told to a larger audience. CIS was asked to share her story for a Channel 5 news segment which will hopefully be aired soon! We filmed at Polytechnic, where she went to school and it was neat to see what goes on behind the scenes. Deborah is such a nice lady and very approachable. When we finished saying our goodbyes we noticed a group of people standing outside. Two ladies pointed to her and yelled “Oh my gosh, It’s the lady from the news!” She gave hugs and was very kind to her fans. It was neat to be able to work with people who are looked up to by so many local residents. We appreciate the relationship we have with Channel 5 news; their belief in us is inspiring.

I want you leave you all with this: If you want happiness for a lifetime – help the next generation.

Love,

Ashley Parrish, Program Director