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Report to the Community Recap

Communities In Schools’ 7th annual Report to the Community Breakfast took place on Tuesday, February 5th at The Woman’s Club of Fort Worth. CIS was delighted to share program outcomes with key stakeholders, confirming that their investments are yielding a positive return in the lives of thousands of Tarrant County students. Guests heard a detailed report of the stay-in-school and graduation outcomes for the past school year as well as personal accounts from students served by the program.       

CIS has a strong track record of successfully keeping at-risk students in school and providing them the support they need to graduate. The CIS “report card” from the 2011-2012 school year can be found at http://www.cistarrant.org/about/results. A few key outcomes include:

  • Total Students Served in 38 Schools……………………23,297
  • Intensively Managed Students……………………………3,307

Of those students receiving intensive case management:

  • Stay in School Rate: 98%
  • Improved behavior: 95%
  • Graduation Rate: 95%
  • Post Secondary School: 76%

These results confirm the effectiveness of the CIS program. Proof also lies in the personal accounts from students who have worked intensely with CIS social workers, resulting in positive life changes. At the Report to the Community Breakfast, students Emahni Holliday and Christine Thompson shared how CIS intervention has transformed their lives.

Emahni Holliday is a student at Central Junior High School. Emahni has experienced many trials that would be difficult for any child to overcome. At a young age Emahni found herself beginning to act out both at school and at home. Emahni explains she felt “angry” almost all of the time, and eventually she started abusing drugs. It seemed as if no one could correct the path she was on. Emahni then met her CIS social worker and things took a turn for the better. She developed a relationship with her social worker that allowed her to start connecting with those around her, including her Assistant Principal. Then this past Thanksgiving, Emahni’s older brother passed away. In a situation where she would usually react with anger and misbehavior, Emahni has been able to work through her anger and sadness in a healthy way with the help of her CIS social worker and others with whom she has begun to develop relationships. Those around Emahni have noticed the change in her and her future has begun to look very bright. 

Christine Thompson is a senior at Azle High School. Christine’s father operated a meth lab in her house when she was only 6 years old. Her father would leave her and her older brother at home to go on drug deals, and even at such a young age Christine knew she was living a nightmare. After Christine developed a rare lung condition from the fumes of the meth lab, her father was arrested and charged with drug possession, a controlled lab, and two counts of child endangerment. Afterward, Christine was placed into the custody of her mother and step-father and things seemed to be improving. Christine entered high school with a positive attitude, she made the honor roll and was even a member of the school marching band. Things were looking good until she learned her father had passed away. Christine had trouble coping with the devastating news, and her grades slipped as she gave up on her dream of going to college and becoming a nurse. However, it was then Christine was introduced to CIS, a program that she says has “change her life forever.” Christine developed a relationship with her CIS social worker, Ms. Haas, which was a blessing, especially when Christine’s mother was soon thereafter arrested for drug possession. Feeling hurt and betrayed, Christine was able to turn to her social worker, Ms. Haas, to help her through her grief and depression.  Christine pushed through yet another trial in her life, improved her grades, set goals, and was recently accepted to Lubbock Christian University with an academic scholarship to study nursing.

 

If you would like to see more success stories you can visit our website at http://www.cistarrant.org/success-stories.


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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