Communities In Schools of Houston is the center of student support at Houston ISD’s Benavidez Elementary – a large campus with a high concentration of refugee and other students new to the country. CIS student support specialist Kathryn Medina says that because CIS is able to impact the family as a whole, Benavidez is able to meet the community’s unique needs and equitably educate every child.
Because the school serves predominantly immigrant families, Medina says there’s an inherent fear of approaching school officials. Through CIS-coordinated programs, families start coming to the school consistently, and they feel safe. Medina builds trust with parents, which results in them committing to other services, such as English classes provided by CIS and psychological support CIS offers in partnership with DePelchin. The school now has a Parent Teacher Organization, as well, that helps with campus fundraising and regular parent meetings.
“Because we work to help the family, and they trust us and trust that we will take care of their kids, the kids are impacted. It makes us more approachable. Students know they can come and knock on our door and ask for pretty much anything,” Medina said. “CIS is able to support students and their families on a grand scale because we have the flexibility and partnerships to make a difference.”
It’s that flexibility that keeps Medina excited about going to work every day. As a former teacher, she was eager to have more time to cultivate relationships with students and their families and to help make sure kids have what they need to overcome obstacles in their lives.
“I spent time outside of the country and taught in the Dominican Republic. I saw the state of poverty there and realized there’s a state of poverty at home too. I decided to return and become a social worker because I have a passion and heart for these kids,” Medina said. “There are all of these resources in the city of Houston that CIS pairs with our families to impact them in a positive way and to provide some love and support and consistency for the families.”