Now that it’s August, the countdown to the start of the new school year has officially begun. While I know lots of kids are probably dreading retuning to school, I was always one of the (not so cool) ones that looked forward to it. There’s so much excitement and anticipation of what the year might bring. I would spend the weeks leading up to the first day of school carefully planning my perfect “first day outfit”, stocking my backpack with pretty new notebooks and freshly sharpened pencils and constantly wondering about the new year: Will my friends and I have the same lunch period? Will Mrs. Jones be as hard as I’ve heard she is? Will there be any cute boys in my classes? Will I make the volleyball team?
Unfortunately for many of the students that our CIS social workers work with, their concerns are slightly different. A typical CIS student might be wondering, will I be able to get the school supplies that I need? Will I have breakfast the morning of the first day so that my stomach isn’t growling during class? Will this be the year that I can finally pass Algebra and go on to the next grade? Will my mom be able to get the car fixed so that I can have a way to get to school every day? Will I finally be able to make some friends so that I don’t have to sit at the lunch table alone every day?
When it comes to dealing with these kinds of issues, there’s no time to waste. The social workers begin working on ways to help our CIS kids overcome various obstacles before the school year even begins. All of the school staff returned from summer break on Monday and will be spending the next two weeks attending trainings on topics like navigating the Medicaid system, dealing with bullying and preventing teen dating violence. They will also be learning about and networking with local agencies and community resources that are available to help our students.
The CIS social workers recognize that many students are dealing with obstacles that have a significant impact on school performance and put them at a higher risk of dropping out of school. It’s the social worker’s job to find ways to help the students and families address those obstacles so that the students can focus on being successful in school. Finding solutions isn’t always easy, but our social workers have the “whatever it takes” attitude and are constantly motivated by seeing the positive impacts that they can have on the lives of our CIS kids and their families.
I still spend the weeks leading up to the first day of school filled with excitement and anticipation—but now it’s because I can’t wait to see the changes that we can make in our schools and in our students’ lives.
-Alison Sanburg, LMSW