It's In You.

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A Starry Night at AM Pate Elementary

As I entered the hallway, it felt like the elementary school vibe had been replaced with an art museum-like quality- creativity floating throughout the building. It was Family Art Night at A.M. Pate Elementary and an exciting energy could be felt from the smiles and laughter of the students and their families. Family events after school are not rare at A.M. Pate. The staff works hard to provide enriching activities, free of cost to families, and as the CIS social worker I am proud to be a part of the excitement.

Family Art Night was unique because of the variety of activities and involvement of each staff member. Mr. Cruz was teaching salsa dancing lessons in the science, Ms. Arrieche was creating an original painting by the cafeteria, Mrs. Layton and Mrs. Ambrose were furiously face painting in the hallway, and I was with Ms. Soncrant by the library encouraging students to create their own rings made from buttons and glittery jewels. Not only were the students lining up at the different stations, but their parents were, too, eager to take part in the activities. I felt privileged to meet my students’ parents and family members, and even better to have them be a part of what became our very own “art museum.”  As an outsider from Dallas (which to individuals from Fort Worth is a different world), this event made me feel like a part of the A.M. Pate community.

My journey at A.M. Pate has definitely had its ups and downs because of the complex issues facing my students (which on some days seem to just multiply). Yet, my students demonstrate an amazing resiliency when given the opportunity to shine and when they are encouraged to be unique. Family Art Night was just the type of event needed to showcase the potential of my students who are sometimes overshadowed by others. Even if it was for just one night, the hallways (and permanent student handprints on the outside mural) still reverberates the exciting energy of the school community reminding students to “Keep Your Eyes on the Rise.”

Blanca N. Garcia, LMSW
AM Pate Elementary, Fort Worth, Texas
School Motto: “Keep Your Eyes on the Rise”

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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