At Communities In Schools, we see potential in every student - and we are committed to helping them see it too.
Every student's experience is different, many with road bumps and detours along the way - but our stories show how students are realizing their potential in ways big and small every day.
CIS Team and Partners
The 8th Street house fire on April 23rd, 2020 ripped through families’ homes on a Thursday morning in the middle of an already rising community crisis during the COVID-19 pandemic. There were 8 families impacted by the fire, and 4 of them were families at one of our Allentown School District elementary schools. The CIS team joined school leadership in working together to support families as they faced chaos and loss in an already difficult time and with school buildings closed.
The CIS team traveled to the fire location well before the flames were extinguished. They quickly analyzed the situation and determined what families needed most before donations started coming in. The CIS team coordinated and streamlined the donation process, collecting details from individual family members about their immediate needs, clothing sizes, and more. The CIS team participated in discussions with community partners like the United Way, American Red Cross, City of Allentown, UNIDOS, Promise Neighborhood, and more working together to help the families find long term solutions in terms of housing, furniture, technology, education, and other basic needs, so families could start rebuilding their lives.
Easton Area School District
Jared was often skipping school and his grades were falling. His guidance counselor and teachers were concerned, but Jared's poor attendance made it difficult for them to help him get back on track. Together, his guidance counselor and the CIS team at his school connected him to one-on-one case-management with a CIS Student Support Specialist. With this newfound connection to a caring adult in the school building, Jared slowly opened up about the loss of a family member, and how it impacted his motivation to attend school or achieve his goals. He was close with his family at home, but they had trouble communicating about emotions and loss.
His Support Specialist invited Jared to join a grief and loss group, where he could feel safe working through emotions and find peer support. The CIS team also opened lines of communication with other staff in the school building and various partner agencies who were trying to help. Jared begin to trust that he had people in life who wanted to support him. He started to attend school more and worked hard to make up missed class work. Even as virtual learning began, Jared maintained strong connections with CIS, gradually bringing his grades back up, identifying new goals, and even improving his relationships with family members at home.
Bethlehem Area School District
Jennifer is a senior in high school with strong grades and goals to attend college, but her journey to graduation hasn’t been easy. She is working a part-time job while balancing hybrid learning in and out of the classroom. Jennifer is also serving as a caregiver to three younger siblings, who are learning virtually as well. She regularly checks in with her CIS Site Coordinator to stay focused on her goals and work though some of her stress at home.
In the middle of an already chaotic pandemic, Jennifer’s refrigerator broke and the family lost their food. Jennifer connected with her CIS Site Coordinator, unsure of what to do next. CIS worked together with another local nonprofit to get Jennifer’s family a brand new refrigerator and a supply of groceries for the next few weeks. Jennifer’s siblings also received some clothing and gift cards to cover the basics.
With the challenges of the COVID-19 crisis forcing school buildings closed once again, Jennifer knows that she can count on her CIS Site Coordinator to be there for her no matter what - whether it’s connecting her to the supplies her family needs most or meeting over a virtual check-in to relive stress and refocus.
Bethlehem Area School District
The new school year had just begun, but Lucas' was already struggling to understand his angry feelings in the classroom. At recess, he often became frustrated with his peers and his friendships were strained. Lucas' teacher connected with our CIS Site Coordinator, and together they talked with Lucas' mom to make a plan to help. Working as a team, they hoped Lucas' relationship with a CIS Site Coordinator would help him build positive and healthy relationships both in school and at home.
Lucas' Site Coordinator created a Lunch Group for him and two other students in his class. The group was a casual and safe place for the boys to decompress before recess and find new friendship. Lucas started opening up and enjoyed this special time with peers. As the pandemic began and school buildings closed, Lucas and his mom continued to keep in touch with his Site Coordinator. Lucas' behavior at home started to improve too as his Lunch Group with his peers continued virtually throughout the remainder of the school year.
Lucas' Site Coordinator even surprised him at the end of the school year with a drop-off of some toys for the summer, celebrating his progress and success!
Reading School District
It was the start of the school year, and eighth grader Carla struggled to prioritize her education, regularly expressing her frustration, disappointment, and anger in unhealthy ways. Arguments with teachers and peers led to suspensions, and when Carla did come to school, she often skipped class. The CIS team at Carla's school stepped in, offering her an invitation to a CIS support group with five other female students, which focused on anger management, resilience, and coping skills.
Carla's peers welcomed her into the support group and she immediately began to feel comfortable applying the skills learned from each meeting and relying on the group for support. Changes in Carla's character were already noticeable and she started taking intentional steps both at home and at school to change her behavior and her approach to life's obstacles. Carla even opened up to her CIS Site Coordinator in one-on-one check-ins, which helped her start to see her own potential.
Carla started to repair relationships with her teachers as she worked hard to apply what she had learned. Not only did Carla's behavior and grades improve, but she also made the middle school basketball team - an accomplishment she felt so proud of!
Allentown School District
Instability and stress at home impacted Michael’s ability to succeed in the classroom. Michael connected to CIS with the help of his guidance counselor, and soon he began weekly check-ins with his CIS Support Specialist.
Together they role-played his responses to conflict and practiced some conversations he could have to express his emotions in a healthy way.
Michael's relationships with his teachers had become strained too. His CIS Support Specialist empowered him to mend those bonds and prepare for positive relationships with teachers in the new school year.
Michael started 8th grade with a network of caring adults cheering him on..and he steadily improved his behavior and attendance. He found academic success too, passing all of his classes and even winning Student of the Month!
CIS Site Coordinator Elise Symia talks about serving students at Easton Area High School.
CIS Site Coordinator Elise Symia
speaks about impacting students through her role at Easton Area High School!
Hear more from Elise!
"There is a very heavy need to connect with kids so they know they have some place to go..."