It's In You.

Leave a comment

Fond Memories

I have been employed with CIS for the past 4 years & I have thoroughly enjoyed my experience with CIS.

I was first introduced to CIS shortly after I moved to Texas upon graduating from Western Carolina University. I was furiously job hunting & knew very little about Texas or the social work job opportunities here. While scouring the internet for social work jobs, I came across the CIS website. I knew the moment I stumbled upon the CIS website that this job was for me. I enjoy working with children and their families and thought CIS would be the perfect fit. So, I decided to apply for the Project Manager position.

A couple of weeks later, I received a call for an interview. I was so excited and anxious throughout the interview. I really hoped to get this job.

After a second interview, I shortly received a call from Myra letting me know I got the job. I was so excited I did not know what to do. Little did I know the exciting and wonderful journey I would begin by accepting a position with CIS.

My time with CIS has been an exciting. I have gotten to work with and help many families.  I feel that I have been able to make a difference in their lives. I am not going to say it has always been an easy journey, but it has been an enjoyable one.

Although it has been challenging at times balancing the many roles and responsibilities a CIS social worker takes on, I am happy I had the opportunity to have this unique social work experience. It is not often that people can say they love what they do, but I honestly do and would not trade my experience with CIS for anything.

I will truly miss my Azle Elementary and my CIS family when I leave Texas this summer to go back home to North Carolina. I will cherish the fond memories I have made.

-Staci Ward

Leave a comment

Save a Smile

If a child is sick or in pain it is very difficult for them to pay attention and learn in school.  If they are hungry or sad, school work might not be the most important thing on their mind. These are all needs that must be met to give that child the best chance of succeeding in school.  The same can be said for a child who is experiencing dental pain, but it seems that it is sometimes easily forgotten that a child’s mouth is connected to the rest of their body.

Save a Smile is a program that is the product of a very unique collaboration between Communities In Schools, Cook Children’s Hospital, and 107 volunteer dentist throughout the community.  Save a Smile takes very generous volunteer dentists to screen 16 Tarrant County elementary schools annually.  Students are screened and put into categories according to the severity of

their dental decay.  Save a Smile then case manages the students who were found to have the most severe dental decay through those screenings.  There are 6 Community Health Workers who are dedicated to these students.  The CHWs make numerous attempts to contact parents, including phone calls, notes home, and home visits, to offer SAS services.  Once a family has agreed to work with SAS the CHW will have a discussion with the family about available resources such as savings and insurance.  If the family does not have private insurance the CHW will assist the family in applying for Medicaid and/or CHIP.  If for any reason the family does not  qualify for either of those programs, the CHW then gives the Save a Smile Program Director the student’s information to schedule a dental appointment with one of the SAS volunteer dentist.

We have volunteer dentist in every specialty including general practice, oral surgery, endodontics, pediatrics, orthodontics, and we even have a couple of anesthesiologist who volunteer for surgery cases. Students are scheduled with a dentist that most closely meets their needs. Our dentists treat Save a Smile patients in their private offices free of charge.  SAS provides translation and transportation for families when needed. The CHW also works with the family throughout their child’s entire dental treatment to ensure the child makes it to scheduled dental appointments, and that the parents understand the child’s treatment.

There have been many cases in which the CHW assigned to a child has gained the trust of a family and was able to assist in other areas of need.  We have received donations of beds for children who have been sleeping on floors, we have assisted families in need of food and clothing, we have helped families pay for prescriptions that are needed for their children, and we are able to help families begin the process of receiving treatment for medical conditions that may not necessarily be related to the child’s mouth.

It is very rewarding to be part of the save a smile program.  It is so great to see so many members of our community give so much to the students in our schools. I feel incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by so many individuals from different professions who have come together to give the children in our community the gift of a healthy smile and another nudge in the right direction to overall success.

Brigitte Diaz-Voigts LMSW
Save a Smile Program Director

Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

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

Leave a comment

Kitchens Tour Excitement

On Saturday, October 29th, I attended the 16th Annual Communities In Schools (CIS) Kitchens Tour.  What a fun and excited weekend for CIS!  Over 500 people came out to see some of the most beautiful kitchens in the Idelwild neighborhood.  Thank you so much to the homeowners in this gorgeous community who so graciously opened their homes to help serve the kids of our community.  Thanks to all of our sponsors, homeowners, chefs and volunteers – we truly had a day to remember.

It was fantastic to watch the live Chef demonstrations outside in the beautiful weather – along with all of the incredible edible dishes they cooked up inside each home.  These homes were beautiful.  Some had an extensive collection of art, some had landscaping and backyards that were stunning, others had the most beautifully decorated tables – and of course all of the kitchens came right from a magazine.  What a treat to get to spend a Saturday with great food and wonderful people all to raise money for CIS so that we can keep more kids in school and graduate them!  It is such an honor to be involved with an organization that strives for excellence in everything they do.

Tiffany Cason

Board Chair

Communities In Schools

1 Comment

Something Different

You did something different…I don’t like it!I have always known I wanted to work with children. To me, it is the best job. You don’t have to be perfect or even work super hard to impress them. I took some of my older girls on a field trip last week to a TCU volleyball game. It was TCU’s homecoming so there were so many fun things for them to see and do.

All the girls seemed to have a great time. One girl came up to me and said, “This is the BEST field trip I have EVER been on in my ENTIRE life!” This young lady is 11 years old. You just have to be there for them and show them that you care. It’s easy … at least for me. I have one of the greatest morning/afternoon jobs at my school…I get to stand at the front doors and greet every student in the morning and send them off with a goodbye every afternoon. I get countless hugs, high-fives and hear highlights of everyone’s day as they rush home.With kids, as you can probably imagine, there are many highs and lows. One day you are their favorite person and the next they can’t even remember your name. Kids are funny that way.

Don’t underestimate them though because they don’t miss a thing. They have you all figured out the moment you walk through the door. On top of it all, they are honest to the tee when it comes to what they are thinking especially if it is about you or someone else. I had a day last week where I decided to curl my hair. It was one of those days where I felt confident about myself and really liked what I was wearing; and it was just a great start to my day. And then one of my students came up to me and said, “You did something different with your hair…I DON’T like it! Can’t wait for group today, see you at lunch.” Well, that was humbling.

When I think about the conversations I have with my students I am often reminded of the old Bill Cosby show, “Kids Say the Darndest Things.” They don’t hold anything back and 9 times out of 10 they don’t regret anything they say! I do lunch groups with my students and on this particular day they were extra restless. All of them were coming up with all these excuses to get up and walk around during group time. The best one though, was this little boy who raised his hand (waving it in my face, because of course I cannot see a raised hand unless it is waving franticly) and he finally said, “Miss Collins, I have to poop real bad, I’m like squeezing it inside.” (all the girls screaming “EEEEWWWW” and all the other boys laughing like crazy.) I looked down at him trying not to show disgust on my face and trying not to laugh. I replied, “Did you really just tell all of us that information?” He responds, “Yeah, but don’t be mad I just made it up. Can I go get some water?” Oh, how they aim to shock us. With all these great light-hearted stories come the moments that few get to witness. Sometimes it is really hard work, and your self-esteem and physical and emotional states can take some hits. But then you talk with that mom you helped find resources so she could pay rent. Or the single parent, who, because you made 15+ phone calls in one day to 15 different places, CAN put 6 full plates of well-balanced food on the table for supper for the family. Or the mom, who, with tears in her eyes, embraces you with the biggest most grateful hug, thanking you for being there when everyone else walked away.

This is my first “real” job as a licensed social worker and it has been a wonderful, crazy, fun beginning. I wake up in the morning truly looking forward to getting to work each day. How many people do you think can actually say that? I tell some people that and they say that I am young and it will wear off. Others say that I will probably get “burned out” soon and be ‘oh so ready when that retirement day finally comes.’ But I say that I have found where I need to be. I am in the career that I have been called to all my life. Sure I work very hard and some days I am definitely ready to be home and not think about work. However, when I look back on my days I get to say I was there for someone today; I worked hard to help someone in need who was seeking a hand up.

– Nikki Collins

Leave a comment

Can one social worker overcome every obstacle a student faces; can she do it for dozens of students in her school?

 Of course not and that is exactly what three decades of research confirms very clearly. Yet the research also confirms that only comprehensive solutions achieve meaningful results in reducing dropout rates and increasing graduation rates. So if solutions for everything must be available, how does one CIS social worker get it done? Not alone………it literally takes a village. In fact over 80 partner organizations bring their expertise in things like gang prevention, drug abuse, bullying, anger management, self esteem, conflict resolution, abuse, neglect, vision correction, social skills, date rape, adolescent pregnancy, dental treatment, food, clothing, utility bills, family violence……… name it. The CIS social worker’s role? – Assess the needs of individual students, build trust and connect them and families with community resources. Then stay connected to monitor progress. In short – what ever it takes.


– Mike Steele, President and CEO


Welcome to Communities In Schools and to our “Running with Scissors” blog.

Why Running with Scissors? At a very young age most of us learned that running with scissors is hazardous, but too many young people do not understand the life-long hazards of dropping out of school. Success in our business requires fearless tenacity from both CIS social workers and from our students who run together toward school success and graduation.

By way of introduction, let me tell you what we hope to do with Running with Scissors. We would like our readers to experience CIS in depth and from the inside. We want you to get a taste of what it is like to be a CIS social worker or a CIS student. This 360 degree look into CIS will highlight both the daily challenges and the champions of what we do. It will also allow us to share the tenacity and many successes of our students. We hope it will also serve as a starter for many conversations about education, dropout prevention and societal issues facing children and about setting priorities for key decision makers at all levels.

Welcome to Running with Scissors. If you are new to Communities In Schools, please check our website at or join us on facebook. We look forward to hearing from you soon.

-Mike Steele, President and CEO