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My First Semester as a CIS Project Manager

Alfi Thazhathel is a new Project Manager serving in Crowley ISD.

I joined Communities In Schools in fall of 2013 as a Project Manager, eager to begin my career in Social Work, especially working with students at a school.

The training sessions were intense–it seemed like there was so much information to absorb! My fellow co-workers encouraged me along the way, reassuring me and empowering me as I moved toward my first day working inside the school.

On my first day at North Crowley 9th Grade Campus, I was introduced to the school staff, a friendly group who welcomed me with open arms. I truly enjoy working with each and every staff member. They make me feel as if I am making a difference and a vital part of the school’s team. Similarly, the students at the school are very respectful and understand that I am there to help them succeed. In just a short time, we have developed strong relationships–they view me as someone who is always there for them.

Even in a short time, there have been many successes to celebrate.  I have coordinated school-wide events, class field trips, and other activities for the students. I have provided effective individual services and case management, with many students showing improvements in grades, attendance, and behavior. Low self-esteem and anger are prevalent at my school, and group sessions with students who struggle in these areas are already proving very successful at addressing the issues.

As with any job, there are some challenges, mainly paperwork! It can be difficult to keep up with intense documentation as time flies by each day. However, a critical part of the CIS model is accountability and tracking the effective and performance outcomes of our program. Student data allows us to analyze our practices, improve where needed, and monitor students’ progress throughout the year. Another challenge is finding adequate time to meet with the students, to provide them with the in-depth support we desire for them. We are constantly trying to strike a balance between providing them with the support they need for individual or group sessions without interrupting classroom time.

Despite the challenges, I truly enjoy going to work every day. I can see the difference I am making. Seeing students come in to my office with a frown and leaving with a smile truly makes my day. The dream I had of making a difference in the lives of young people is slowly coming true. I am thankful to be a part of the CIS team.

Alfi J. Thazhathel, LMSW

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Making a difference

I don’t know how you do it…For years; I have heard this statement after describing my job.  Prior to Communities In Schools I worked for years as a Child Protective Services Investigator and Child Forensic Interviewer.  I heard and saw some horrific cases of child abuse and neglect.  Child Protection jobs are unfortunately a necessity in our society.  I worked long days, spent countless hours in the hospital with the abused children that I had removed.  I found comfort in knowing they were safe and away from the family who hurt them so severely.

Let’s fast forward a few years to October 2011 when I started at Communities in Schools.  Nobody ever asks “how do I this job?”  They simply assume since it is not in the child protection industry, it must be better.  However, I still work with Child Protective Services.  They come to my elementary school frequently to inquire about our students and sometimes place them in foster care.  Knowing the CPS system while carrying out my Communities In Schools responsibilities has proven to be more difficult than I imagined. I know and have a personal investment in the students that CPS comes to visit and interview.  I know their siblings, parents and sometimes grandparents.  I have seen the losses they have suffered and have hurried to be a support and advocate to them.

The social work position at my school on many days is more emotionally taxing than being a worker at Child Protective Services, but I love it!  I have the opportunity to see firsthand what a difference one social worker can make.  The kudos are different in many ways, seeing a child smile because I let him chose a backpack since his was broken and his parents cannot afford a new one. When I hear the excitement in a students’ voice when she says, she can see the “smart board” in class now due to getting glasses from the Vision Fest field trip. The warm feeling of a hug given from a student after receiving much needed dental services that allowed him enjoy the foods that he loves once again.

Helping students achieve goals, become more successful or having their basic needs met provides a feeling of fulfillment.  We have a responsibility to help the youth of today become leaders of tomorrow and I am happy to do my part.

– Stephanie Nick
Project Manager