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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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46 Million Americans Now Living In Poverty, Highest Level In 18 Years – The Consumerist

Article below is from The Consumerist found at You can also view the article here.

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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

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Excitement & Anticipation

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

Program Director

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Summer Vacation is Coming to an End

There are ads in the paper and commercials on TV for school supplies already. OMG! Where has July gone? Soon the new CIS staff will be attending Project Operations (training for new CIS staff) and former staff will return a week later. This means the Program Directors (that’s me!) are working on training so everyone will be up to par for the next school year.

I am really excited for staff to return and new staff to start with CIS. There are many trainings we have lined up for them to attend. The trainings teach the staff new techniques to use with their students and families and also give them resources to use as well. These trainings ultimately help ensure the staff will be able to meet the needs of their schools. Some of these trainings are an agency fair, solution focused therapy, parent involvement, etc.  Every school is very different and relies on the Program Manager (PM) in different ways. Likewise every PM is different and relies on me in different ways. I am excited to see how returning staff continue to develop their role as the social worker and are hopefully less timid then when they first started. I am also excited to have new staff start with CIS. It is a challenging time for both PD and PM but it is a great feeling for me to see them grow and learn the ropes of CIS. It is an exciting time to show them their schools and help them mold in to the best social worker they can be for their schools. The feeling of seeing your new school and meeting the people you work with is similar to those nerves you had on the first day of school as a young child. My role is to help the new PM feel comfortable and knowlegdable going in to their new school. Supervising staff is fun and keeps every school year completely different, but I am very excited to begin this process!

All this being said, newspaper ads and TV commercials for school supplies serve as a reminder that summer is ending and another school year is about to begin! But I am ready for all the stress, anxiety, and fun to begin because I know in the end we will be transforming students’ lives and making it better for them and their families. It’s all worth it!

Jade Taylor, LMSW
Program Director

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Hotel California – The Eagles

I grew up not knowing that Tom Petty, The Boss, Rolling Stones and The Eagles weren’t the only bands out there.  So this past April when Former First Lady of Texas, Mary Gale White talked about The Eagles at the Best of Texas Awards, I was intrigued to how a classic Eagles song could relate to CIS.  She said, “The song ‘Hotel California’ by The Eagles says you check in but you never check out.  That explains my relationship with CIS, I checked in but can’t check out.”   I couldn’t agree more with her statement.  I “checked in” four years ago and over the years have checked my family and friends in as well.

When I accepted the Marketing and Communication Director Position at CIS, I was excited to be employed right out of college, but I was surprised how much trust was immediately put in me.  My first project was to help plan the Annual Kitchens Tour, an event that places some of the best chefs from theFort Wortharea into some of the most amazing kitchens in the area.  Those who know me know I love to plan everything!  However, this isn’t your neighbor’s backyard BBQ.  It takes an entire committee dedicated to this event every year to make it a success.  Along with the committee, a large number of volunteers are required for the day of the event. The first year, I brought my husband to help on the day of the tour. In an office full of women, it’s always good to have some man power, and he immediately got put on trash duty.  After four Kitchens Tours, he has yet to be able to get out of trash duty!  He and the other volunteers understand that even the most mundane part of an event, like taking out the trash, contributes to the success of the event, and in turn, the success of our students.

Today I am now in charge of all CIS events. I strive for each event to be successful for multiple reasons.  The more money we raise, the more students we get to serve. When more people attend an event, more people are aware of CIS.  In other words, the more successful an event is, the more people “check in” to CIS.  Every event we do, big or small, helps spread the message of CIS and the amazing stories of our students. People “check in” to our events for many different reasons, whether it’s to taste some amazing food or, in my husband’s case, an overly pushy wife. Regardless of why they “check in”, most refuse to “check out” because of the students CIS serve and the future CIS helps them create.

–  Michelle Wagner

Marketing & Communications Director

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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.


Ashley Parrish, Program Director