CIS and Bank of America Summer Interns

Communities In Schools of Houston (CIS) provides opportunities for Houston area students to gain real world experience with summer internships.  We have legal and nursing internships, but we also have a  few students at our central office this year from Bank of America’s  Summer Youth Internship Program.  We asked our @BankofAmerica interns how the internship was going and here is what they had to say:


  1. Describe Communities in Schools’ mission in your own words
  2. Why is this mission important to you personally?
  3. What are you most excited about learning at Communities in Schools?  What have you learned during your internship?
  4. How did you hear about Bank of America’s Summer Youth Employment Internship Program and why was this a program you wanted to participate in?
  5. At the end of the internship, what do you hope to walk away with?
  6. What is your dream job?

Karol Carballo

KarolQuestion 1: Communities In Schools of Houston (CIS) goes into schools and tries to lower dropout rates and help students succeed.

Question 2: Karol wants to teach and she is passionate about minority students pursuing a higher education.

Question 3: Karol is excited to learn how the departments within CIS and connect and become a part of students’ lives.

During her internship she has sharpened her communication skills and teamwork skills. She has learned on to face responsibilities head on.

Question 4: A high school counselor told her about the program.  She wanted to participate in order to gain valuable skills, and become more self-reliant while building a resume.

Question 5: Karol wants to walk away from this program being able to make the transition to adulthood. She wants her role to be that of an educator and an emotional pillar for all students she comes across.

Question 6: Karol aspires to become a kindergarten teacher because she realizes how pivotal the early stages of education are and wants to get those kids off to a good start.

Katya Cedillos

KatyaQuestion 1: Communities In Schools is an organization that has a strong support system that encourages students to stay in and finish school.

Question 2: This mission is important to her because a lot of minorities are limited due to financial restrictions and CIS assures that everyone can pursue a better life.

Question 3: Katya was excited to get out of her comfort zone and see what a working environment is like. She has learned to deal with different types of people and complete tasks despite differences.

Question 4: She discovered this program through a counselor sending an E-mail; through this experience she wants to be able to build up a resume and use the adaptation methods she’s learned here in the real world once she graduates.

Question 5: She wants to be able to walk away from this internship with the ability to complete complex tasks and produce exceptional results.

Question 6: Katya’s ultimate dream is to be a surgeon but there are various other professions in the medical and engineering field she wants to pursue.

Guadalupe Merino

GuadalupeQuestion 1: To prevent kids from dropping out to graduate and aspire to new heights.

Question 2: Guadalupe has always wanted to leave an impact on people’s lives for the better.

Question 3: Guadalupe was excited about the opportunity to leave an impact on people and help them continue to improve. She has learned how to deal with people calling all throughout the day and being able to assist them despite their attitude.

Question 4: A teacher told her about the program; she wanted to join the program in order to gain job experience and succeed.

Question 5: Guadalupe wants to able to walk away with the attitude that regardless of financial background it is still possible for students to get help and aspire to be anything they want.

Question 6: Guadalupe aspires to be a business consultant and have her own major consulting firm.

Liyjon DeSilva

CIS is so proud of our awesome CIS student who just graduated from Lee High School and has hit the news bigtime…Liyjon DeSilva!

He was featured in one of our CIS video vignettes during our 2015 Gala; please click the picture to open and watch:


In the past year, Liyjon has received the revered “full ride” Posse Scholarship and will attend Carleton College in the Fall!

A very big “thank you” to Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell from Windsor Village United Methodist Church for having Liyjon speak at his Church last Sunday. The Church has raised over $7500 for Liyjon so far!  Thank you Pastor Kirbyjon!

CIS Board member and Baker Botts attorney, Lauren Gore, has made significant deposits in Liyjon’s life by mentoring Liyjon for the past year. Thank you Lauren!

CNN and Disney have reached out to Liyjon! Liyjon’s story was picked up by many media outlets in the US and in other countries, see the links below.  We are beyond proud of Liyjon and the significant difference CIS makes in students’ lives every day!



Liyjon graduates from high school with CIS’ help

CIS helps formerly homeless student Liyjon to graduate from high school and go on to college! He is an inspiration, which is why channel 13 featured his story last night. He is working at our CIS central office an intern this summer and we couldn’t be prouder of him!

To hear more about his story, here is the video HISD made about Liyjon this year:

and here is the video CIS made about Liyjon’s journey last year:

CIS Earns Charity Navigator’s 4-star Rating

On June 1, Co4Star 125x125mmunities In Schools of Houston was awarded a coveted 4-star rating from Charity Navigator for sound fiscal management and a proven commitment to accountability and transparency.

As recent hard economic times have forever shaped the nonprofit sector, there is an unprecedented demand from savvy donors for greater accountability, transparency, and quantifiable results from the charities they choose to support. In this competitive philanthropic marketplace, Charity Navigator highlights the fine work of efficient, ethical, and open charities. As America’s premier charity evaluator, Charity Navigator is the gold standard in providing donors with essential information needed to give them greater confidence in the charitable choices they make.

The highest possible rating by Charity Navigator illustrates our commitment to good governance and highlights how we pursue our mission in a fiscally responsible way. Only one-quarter of evaluated charities receive this distinction, indicating that we outperform many other charities in America.
About Communities In Schools of Houston—Our mission is to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.

Mental Health Awareness Month – Poem by a CIS student at Lone Star College

During #MentalHealthMonth, read the inspiring words of CIS youth and young adults speaking out and supporting each other in the face of mental illness.


My Fight

By Angelica Moreno, CIS Student at LSC Victory

Every day you face a different battle. I can see that you’re struggling to keep the light going. You can’t help, but let the darkness take you over. You try to get them to understand, that this fight can get more than you can handle. Don’t let the little dark cloud block your view. I know it’s a struggle to fight the demons in your head, but you have to remember what’s coming up ahead.

Remember that you’re not the only one in this battlefield, even if it sometimes seems like you’re always standing here alone.

Don’t forget the life that you want to live. Don’t be scared to ask for help. Recruit some soldiers that will fight with you.

You are not alone!

You can fight this battle!

Today, you will fight the demons in your head. You will not let them take the smile from your face. You won’t let people put you down. You will fight to be brave every day.

Today, you will speak up and let the others hear what’s on your mind.

I know every very day will still be a struggle. You just have to keep repeating these words:

Every day I’m in a battle with myself and the world, but I will not let that stop me from doing what makes me happy. I will not let the others make me feel invisible anymore. It’s going to be a constant battle that may seem like it never ends. I just have to remember; To Always Keep Fighting!


Mental health Awareness Month – Poem by a CIS student at Lone Star College

During Mental Health Month, read the inspiring words of CIS youth and young adults speaking out and supporting each other in the face of mental illness.


By Jonathan Mendoza, CIS student at Lee High School

When I looked in the mirror all I saw was a blurred figure

A sad excuse for what I am

But when I found a place where I belonged the image started to make sense

When it seemed that the rain always followed me, they gave me an umbrella

When it seemed that the light from my candle was going off they gave me a torch

When I didn’t eat they gave me food

When I couldn’t walk they gave me crutches

When I had no home to go to they gave me one

When I had no one to trust I knew I could trust them

When I didn’t believe in myself they believed in me

They chased away the monsters hiding in my bed

Now when I look in the mirror

I can see…..



Happy New Year from a CIS Student

As the Communities In Schools (CIS) Mental Health Specialist at Spring Oaks Middle School, I’ve had the opportunity to work with some incredible students.  Many have dealt with so much in their short lives, but I Iove being able to help them find their passion and foster their talents.

Jacklynn is one example I’d love to share. Jacklynn is an 8th grade student here at Spring Oaks. I’ve worked with her for the past 2 school years. She’s found that writing is her passion not just as a future career aspiration, but also as a way to cope and heal. “Writing is my way to get out what I’m feeling without the fear of being judged. Writing has given me a more positive outlook on life. My new year resolution is to write every day in 2016.”

So far, Jacklynn has upheld her resolution and shared that it has really made an impact. “I feel happier this year.” Jacklynn has also written 25 poems recently, and I enjoy when she shares them with me. It is definitely a talent of hers, and it gives me a better understanding of how she processes her thoughts, beliefs, and emotions.  Specifically for the January CIS blog, Jacklynn wrote the following poem:

-Lindsay O’Brien Head, M.Ed., LPC


Some think that dreams are what your parents want
Some think it’s what money can flaunt

With an opportunity for a new start
Your hopes should be large and come from the heart

Dreams don’t get weighed, they’re never too big or stupid
You want to change then get movin’

And if change isn’t what you’re looking for then live with  no sorrow
Live as if the sun will die tomorrow
Travel, go through trials, tribute

And have a Happy New Year

-Jacklynn M. jacklynn

What “Giving Back” Means to Me?

“We are blessed to be a blessing to others.” This is a statement that is often repeated at my church by our Pastor. During this time of reflection and gratitude, the holiday season is where we often share gifts with others. However, I realize that it is not about the tangible gifts we share with each other, but about the gift of life and our mission to be a blessing daily to others. The reason I joined the CIS Board was not because of accolades or fame, but because of the “gift of life” I see them invest in our children of Houston every single day, and because of the need.

Last year with the help of Communities In Schools of Houston (CIS), 16 members of my HR team and myself began mentoring 6th and 7th grade students at Attucks Middle School. Not only has this been a tremendously rewarding experience for my team, but the students as well. They are being exposed to professional men and women who have demonstrated an interest in their future, and are rooting for them to succeed. My team wins because we are able to give back in a very personal way!

During this holiday season, remember it is truly more rewarding to give than to receive. I thank the CIS staff and board for the gifts that they are to our community daily.

~Omar C. Reid,

Director, Human Resources, City of HoustonOCR Bio Pic

How I Came to CIS and Why I Stay

I had a unique experience of beginning my career with Communities In Schools of Houston as a Case Manager six months after graduating with my undergrad degree in Psychology. As a young adult I wanted to change the world upon graduation. With help from my professor and curriculum advisor, I was lucky enough to find myself on a career path utilizing my degree, and working with staff members who taught me how to be an effective team member of any campus. I was a constant, caring adult in the lives of hundreds of students working in the field for Communities In Schools of Houston. I was able to see first-hand how a combination of social work resources and supportive guidance helps at-risk students stay in school over the five years I worked at Hamilton Middle School (HISD).

Today, I am the Project Manager at Lewis Elementary School (HISD), an elementary school on the other side of the freeway from where I grew up in Southeast Houston. Every day at Lewis Elementary School, I am able to work with children and parents that share similar stories to myself and my neighbors, and classmates growing up. I cherish the cheery days when I am teaching character education to happy students. However, I am especially grateful for the days that I am acting as an advocate for a child in crisis.

Working with parents is also a bright spot in my work day. Problem solving with parents is a vital component of the Project Manager experience. I spend time every month on professional development with the entire CIS field staff or my East End Cluster learning about important issues and resources that help families every day. I am grateful for the many community partners that facilitate helping families that I work with directly every day. I am grateful for the staff and teachers that I work with every day. I am grateful for Communities In Schools of Houston.

-Maricela Varela, CIS Project Manager at Lewis Elementary

Photo by: Lulu Lopez
Photo by: Lulu Lopez

Fighting The Dropout Issue

An organization fights to prevent school dropouts in my community, and throughout America.

Everyone has received a bad grade once, but there are kids who constantly get bad grades. Even worse, there are hundreds of thousands of students who are at risk of dropping out of school.

Communities In Schools of Houston (CIS) is a non-profit organization created to prevent school dropouts.

CIS provides many services for potential dropouts, including tutors and mentors. CIS helps in Title I schools, which have 40% of students living under the poverty line. They work directly inside the school, so case workers are present at the source of the problem.

CIS often utilizes the resources of local businesses that have already perfected their service. For the Project MOVE Dental Van, CIS has partnered with University of Texas Dental Branch to provide free oral care for over 1,200 elementary students.

CIS has helped a lot in the last few years, but mostly they helped improved students academics, behavior, and attendance (ABA’s). (See graph)

improvement proved

Nelda Zuniga, a case worker for CIS, works at Spring Branch Middle School in Houston, TX. “We try to embrace every culture, every language, every person, and see them for who they are,” she says. She works with “caseload” students, who seem to be at more risk than others. They receive special help from case workers and mentors. Mrs. Zuniga says, “I love what I do. My heart is to serve the students and to make sure they don’t have to worry about basic needs or anything that hinders them from really expanding their education.”

CIS not only affects the lives of people they help, but their effort impacts the local community. Allison Gower, a helper and mentor at CIS, says, “For every dollar we spend toward preventing school dropouts, that’s $12 for the economy.” With support from CIS, students have a higher chance of graduating from college, and becoming contributing members of society.

CIS is making a difference and changing the lives of students and their families. Mrs. Zuniga says, “CIS provides activities that will allow them to explore their potential, their talents, and their gifts. CIS gives them the opportunity to be creative with themselves and helps them develop as young ladies and young men.”

-Natalie Raskin, Age 12, 7th grade, home-schooled