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