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Emerging Stronger: A Deeper Look at Professional Development at CIS



At Communities in Schools of Eastern PA, we know education is a lifelong endeavor. This means for the students we work with as well as our staff. We not only support and encourage professional development opportunities for our team members. Sometimes, education means attending conferences for a chance to look deeper at the work we do each day. Vice President of Operations Wendy Seiffert, Director of Operations Migdalia Garcia, and Program Manager Darline Nyangweso had the opportunity to attend a Student Supports Institute Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada, called Emerging Stronger. Professionals from our national network of over 130 affiliates were present. Migdalia and Wendy were presenters at the conference in-person and virtually.


The conference was focused on re-engagement with families, students, and their communities. Recovery and self-care strategies for personal as well as community impact. Participants also explored what it means to “build back better.” To share these ideas, Migdalia and Wendy presented two different sessions:


  • CIS’ Role In Building a Positive School Climate covered how CIS’ work on attendance, parent engagement, trauma-informed care, and school faculty professional development all contribute to building a positive school character. Migdalia shared her experience with implementing different models into local schools and helped other CIS affiliates to identify how they can incorporate positive school climate methods into their current practices.

  • Providing Supports for Instruction and Enrichment Programming was an interactive session focused on how CIS of Eastern PA reengages with families, students, and school teams. Multiple initiatives are in place to support students’ equitable engagement in school, particularly after the COVID-19 pandemic. Migdalia and Wendy were able to provide other affiliates with opportunities to discuss their approaches and practices, in and out of the classroom, and how they can maximize their re-engagement to best ensure positive outcomes.

Professionals from our national network of over 130 affiliates attended the conference, which Migdalia recalls as very empowering. She said, “meeting people from California, Washington, Virginia, Nevada, Texas, and more was such a great experience. Engagement reignites our passion for the work, and everyone, regardless of where they resided, was focused on emerging stronger. The environment allowed everyone to be comfortable and authentic.”


In addition to the two sessions led by Migdalia and Wendy, there were countless other workshops to attend throughout the conference. Darline’s favorite session was “Trauma Informed Care,” where she learned its five principles. “The biggest thing that I learned from this session was that healthy stress builds and develops people. Having the right support in place is key when overcoming stress and stressors,” she says.


All three took away that CIS does extremely impressionable work. Being able to emerge stronger together is an important theme for our field because some practices may not work, but that’s how we grow, make improvements, and evolve over time. They were able to reflect on how they can strengthen the current tools of CIS and engage deeper into the why of their work.


CIS of Eastern PA is lucky to have a passionate and engaged team, always willing to dive deeper into the motivations behind our work. The strategies learned at the national conference will be disseminated at a local level during professional development sessions here in Eastern Pennsylvania. We look forward to attending more conferences to gain even more skills and knowledge and strengthen our daily work.



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