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For more information, please contact Alejandra Morado at alejandra.morado@cistarrant.org or (817) 446-5454.


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New Things, New Comforts

There were a few ideas that came to mind when I was asked to write this blog but I think the most significant has been my recent experience as a new Program Director.  This change has taken a bit of getting used to, but I am finding more and more every week that I am truly enjoying it.  I respect and appreciate the increased responsibilities of being a PD.  While traveling around to 6 different offices puts a lot of mileage on my car, it is great to change the scenery and see new faces almost daily! A few things that I love about this position is helping the PM’s with field trips, events and doing groups all while encouraging and watching them grow to produce their best work.  I have a wonderful area of ladies and could not be more blessed with hard workers!

Another great part of this new job, and probably my favorite part, is the camaraderie among all of the Program Directors.  As every social worker knows, paperwork is no picnic.  This is especially true here at CIS when, at the end of the month, each of the 88-92 students has about 20 days’ worth of documentation that is turned in. The load can seem overwhelming at times. Reviewing five or six of these loads can be an even bigger trick! However, it becomes a lot easier with the knowing smile or jokes from a fellow PD who is in the same boat. When we are all together, the various personalities of the PD’s come out and create true laughter and support.  Sometimes I’ll hear giggling from the office at the end of the hall and we all run down to hear the joke.  (Some PD’s have ALL the jokes J). Laughing together really breaks up the hum-drum of staring at Campus Plans or Monthly Measures.  We all work very hard with our different schools, schedules and staff, so coming together to share ideas and lean on one another is often times the kick we need to keep up that hard work.  These girls have gotten me through some tough days with a smile on my face!  This school year has been chaotic to say the least, but the importance of office humor and support from the Central Office staff has been wonderful and makes all the difference in the world.  Going to a job every day to find people that make you smile is the best work of all!

Sara Isley, LMSW

Program Director

Communities In Schools, GTC


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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


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Proud, Proud, Proud

As the CEO at Communities In Schools I have the great good fortune of knowing some of the most dedicated young professionals in our community. They are the social workers of CIS. I hear them talk about the students and families they are serving and I even get to meet some of our students. Bottom line, on occasion I have the honor of being up-close-and-personal with the work of CIS. I can see the day-to-day work and have a feel for the difference it is making, not just statistically or in hard outcomes, but in the lives of students and family members. This is here & now stuff…..it is real and inspiring work.

Occasionally though, I see first hand the longer-term transformation of a CIS student over a period of several years. One such student was a student at a Fort Worth high school a few years ago. I met her because of her extraordinary story and success. She lived for most of her time in high school in a homeless shelter here in Fort Worth with her mother, father and a younger sibling. She was picked up in the morning in front of the shelter by a school bus and dropped off at the end of the school day. I’m sure you can imagine as well as I can, the grief she must have taken from her fellow students. All of her worldly belongings fit inside a steel locker that was about a foot wide. She said that when visitors toured the shelter she felt like an animal at a zoo.

To say that she had low self-esteem would be a pretty giant understatement. As she walked, her head was always down and her arms hung lifelessly at her side, she didn’t look anybody in the eye and she would only respond to people when absolutely necessary. When she graduated from high school, I was really proud of her. When she went on the Tarrant County College, I was really proud of her. When she earned her Associates Degree, I was REALLY proud of her. Now she is a junior at UTA majoring in social work and she is doing her first internship here at CIS and doing a great job……proud, proud, proud of her. But do you know what is the most obvious and striking difference between now and when I first met her? Confidence! Genuine confidence in who she is and where she is going. I see her walk down the hall and her posture is straight, her head is up, she greets people when she sees them and she stretches out her hand to meet new people. She is growing into a mature, successful professional.

For me, she epitomizes the most significant and lasting accomplishment of CIS. She has changed her family tree forever. When she has her own family, it will be on a different pathway than the one she grew up on. Expectations for her own kids will be completely different and that difference means that her kids will be very unlikely to need the help of a program like CIS. Proud, proud, proud of her!

– Mike Steele, CEO


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What Motivates Me

What motivates me, you might ask?  As the chief fundraiser for CIS, there are many reasons why I look forward to coming to work every day.  I love our mission and what we do to support the community we serve.  I also feel a great sense of loyalty toward the kids we work with.  The service we provide is a necessity.  I feel confident that in the years to come, CIS will have a presence in every school in Tarrant County, working on behalf of at-risk students.

I’m also incredibly impressed with our staff, especially the hard-working program managers located inside the 37 schools we are serving this year.  When I get the opportunity, I like to remind our staff that we are able to raise money because of the wonderful work they do every day.  Day in and day out they come to work to help our students find the motivation to stay in school.  When you hear some of the heart-wrenching stories from our students and truly understand the obstacles they face, you seriously want to go home and cry.  You wonder how our staff continues this good fight and never gives up on a single student.  I know it’s because of the relationships they have built with their students.  Our program managers recognize that they are the glue that keeps students connected to school.  Without the presence of our program managers inside the schools each day, the students we serve would likely become overwhelmed and unmotivated to come to school.  What a major responsibility our program managers have and all I can say is THANK YOU!

Finally, without a doubt, we have the best board of directors in our community.  They are the most dedicated, smartest and energetic board I have ever worked with.  I feel honored to work along side them to do the good work of CIS.  A non-profit is only as strong as its board of directors.  I can enthusiastically tell you that CIS is a strong and efficient organization and that is, in large part, due to the wonderful and dedicated board members and volunteers who offer their time and support to CIS.

This is what motivates me.  I can go home every night and know I work for an organization that makes the world a better place.

— Yvette Hanshaw, VP & Chief Development Officer, Communities In Schools


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Part of My Job

My name is Mandi Pickens and I am a 3rd year returning CIS Project Manager in an elementary school. While the summer break has been nice (who am I kidding?), I am ready to see my students again! I guess it’s safe to call this the “final countdown” before they arrive on Monday.

During the last 2 weeks, I have participated in extensive training; learned important techniques for interacting with students and families; reviewed policies and procedures; been taught how to complete my paperwork; stapled enrollment packets; and decorated my office…

But I have NOT seen my students! There is a void in my heart and the anticipation of finally being with them is growing by the second! I know that Monday morning, when I walk into the cafeteria during breakfast, I will be surrounded by little people who I have missed during the last 2 months! They will smile ear-to-ear and be excited to get back to school. I fully expect to be greeted with an instant overflow of details about their summer breaks. Do you know how fun that is? I cannot wait to hear their stories!

That’s part of my job!

I consider it an incredible privilege to be part of my students’ lives. To be honest, there are some students I have worried about. Some faces I’m afraid I might not see when school starts back. Other faces that will carry the pain of a difficult summer. As a social worker, I have to face the reality that I get to be part of my students’ lives for a season: some longer than others, some happier than others.

That, too, is part of the job.

I guess that’s why I am so ready for Monday. I long to look my kids in the eyes and know that they are safe, each and every one of them! I want the chance to remind them that I care about them and believe in them! I want the chance to help them grow, lead, achieve and believe in themselves this school year.

That’s my job! What an honor.

-Mandi Pickens, CIS Project Manager