Community Connections Newsletter
June, 2021
Watch the new CIS video that tells the compelling story of how students have gone beyond challenges to reach their dreams. 
Jasmin, Lehman High School Class of 2021
Jasmin has been participating in CIS since she was in 2nd grade at Hemphill Elementary in Kyle. She remembers going on field trips and college visits, but most of all she remembers the many caring adult relationships she had with CIS staff and AmeriCorps members. She still has a box full of the letters she received over the years from her CIS mentors. She says that she rereads these letters when she needs to be reminded of all that she has accomplished, or to remind her of her goals for the future.

When her campus closed due to the COVID pandemic, Jasmin struggled academically. CIS Program Manager Cayla Cecil continued to check in with Jasmin during that time and helped her successfully transition back to in-person learning. Jasmin quickly caught up and graduated earlier this month.

At Lehman High School, there is an annual “robing ceremony” event where students honor teachers and educators. Jasmin selected her CIS Program Manager to honor. She says that Ms. Cecil helped her with grades, her personal life, and has been there for her “no matter what.” Jasmin will attend Austin Community College in the fall and pursue a career in photography. 
Hart Elementary Students learn about Teamwork and Community
CIS AmeriCorps Member Jacob Levy brought a group of 5th grade students from Hart Elementary together this spring for social emotional learning and team building activities. They met with Cap Metro and explored ideas for improving a bus stop in their community. Mr. Levy and the students decided on a two part project they could work on together that would benefit the community, and allow them time for artistic expression.

First, they completed a graffiti art project. Their artwork was featured in a display called “Mobility and the Way We Move” in the Hart Elementary hallway. Next, the students cleaned up Stop 5447 to make it a nicer place for riders in their community. It was hard work, and they found lots of interesting trash that day, but the result was an improved bus stop for all. After the art and cleanup activities, the students came together for a reflection activity. Mr. Levy says, “We found a way to give students artistic expression through an art project, which allowed for emotional learning and creativity, and the bus stop cleanup brought the group together as a team to make a positive impact.”
Empowered Women Empower Women
Josefina first began participating in the Communities In Schools program at Bedichek Middle School in 7th grade. CIS AmeriCorps member Julissa Maldonado was assigned to be Josefina's mentor, and the two met weekly. Ms. Maldonado says, “I am very proud of Josefina and all that she has already accomplished. She was born in Angola and moved to Austin in 2016 when she was in the 3rd grade. She learned English in a short time and is now an avid reader. She read 80 books just this school year!”

One of the ways Josefina and Ms. Maldonado spent time together was researching and learning about the accomplishments of women of color. Each week they learned about a different woman, and then Josefina would journal important facts, listing career titles, universities attended and areas/degrees of study, awards and recognition. She would write about her thoughts, how it inspired her, and the ways in which her own life was similar to the women they were learning about.

Josefina says that she related to musician Rihanna and how alike their childhoods were. She also enjoyed learning more about Ms. Maldonado’s personal role model, Selena Quintanilla-Pérez. She says she felt inspired to learn more about topics like media representation, gun violence and the Black Lives Matter movement when she read about The Hate U Give author Angie Thomas.

Josefina plans to become a teacher after college and says she will be a “fun teacher” that will give lessons in an exciting way that makes learning a positive experience. In order to learn more about what to expect from the college experience, she interviewed four adults on campus this year, including three of her teachers.
Ready for School Supply Drive
You can ensure CIS students are ready for school by donating, fundraising, and spreading the word to others to do the same. For as little as $20 you will help provide CIS students with the supplies they need to be successful in school! 

From pencils to uniforms, CIS direct care staff will help meet student back-to-school needs.

Interested in getting your team or company involved? Contact Jenny Jensen to get your company fundraising page set-up! 
"When you work at a school with only two grade levels, 5th and 6th graders, you have to prepare yourself for saying goodbye to half of the students you work with every year. I have been thinking about this since day one and preparing myself for it. As the school year ended and I said goodbye to 6th graders, each student picked a word, an intent, to propel themselves forward. For example, they picked words like limitless, joy, fearless, family, impact, and play. We created bracelets with their words as a closing activity together." - Olivia-Beth Horak, CIS Program Manager at Bastrop Intermediate School
CIS Micro Grants enhance CIS Programming
In late 2020, Communities In Schools of Central Texas launched its Micro Grants initiative. CIS Program Managers were invited to apply for funds to create and implement projects to provide teacher training, to enhance the traditional work of CIS, and to elevate youth and family voice. A total of 27 grants were awarded providing $63,684 in funding for projects across Central Texas. At Widén Elementary, a Micro Grant was used for a school engagement project. More than 50 art submissions came in from students depicting why school is important. The artwork was made into 800 stickers that were then posted around campus to spread positive peer-to-peer messaging campus-wide. The project kicked off the school’s College and Career Week. At Dawson Elementary, a Micro Grant allowed CIS to start a book club to encourage a love of reading. Each month for three months, students were invited to choose a book based on their own interests and preferences, and have it ordered especially for them. So far, the students have ordered and enjoyed well over 100 books. The Micro Grant program was made possible through a generous gift from Andy and Karen Esparza.
Communities In Schools of Central Texas surrounds students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.