Being a licensed social worker is not a requirement for CIS Dallas Region staff. However, this profession attracts public servants, many of whom have pursued higher education to become social workers. From our site coordinators, to Human Resources staff, to management, CIS Dallas Region employees use their experienced as licensed social workers to inform every day decisions made to improve the lives of students.
Social workers give so much of themselves every day, no matter what position they ultimately take after obtaining their license. The positions at CIS Dallas Region are no exception. The work our staff does is hard, but incredibly rewarding. The fact that many of our staff come from a background in social work only enhances the life-changing interventions experienced by students in the CIS program, and we are thankful for all of the diverse experiences among CIS employees. Below, we hear from six members of the CIS staff about how their background in social work enhances their job now.
Bryce George, Site Coordinator; Jack Lummus Intermediate School, Ennis ISD – Being an LMSW has enhanced my work with CIS in such significant ways. The skills I received from my time in school have allowed me to connect with young minds and hearts in a special way. Social work is a profession with a foundation built from empathy and compassion. Being able to meet our students where they are with a genuine sense of concern and care has been one of the greatest joys of my life and career.
Growing up in the church world I was raised to help those who were hurting and in need. As I got older, I realized I was looking for more “boots on the ground” type opportunities. As I researched many different options for study and credentials, I kept landing on a Master’s in Social Work. It was a practical degree that would allow me to use my strengths to help those in need. It has opened many doors and allowed me to fulfill my calling. My favorite part of being a social worker is all the social interactions that come with the job and the many people I get to meet and serve. I love people and I love spending time with them and hearing their stories. We all have so many unique personalities and ways of looking at life. And while humanity can be messy, helping others is always worth it. To be able to do my part and show the hurting that there are people out there who truly care for them is something I hope to never take for granted. I am humbled by the opportunity to serve others and be allowed into their lives, if even for a moment.
Lyn Morris, Site Coordinator; Lamar Elementary School, Greenville ISD – Being a site coordinator means being flexible, being a creative problem solver, learning local resources, listening and being able to teach social and emotional skills to 5 -12-year-old students all while keeping a clothes closet full and helping handle those embarrassing accidents a student may have and documenting everything in the process!
Being a LMSW, I have had experience working with people in various types of situations, usually when a person is having a difficult time. In a school setting, I am available not only to the student, but to the family as well. I may be called on to help with behavior, a child who is grieving, a family who needs food/utilities/housing or to teach lessons to help students with their emotions, conflicts or relationships.
By utilizing my skills as a social worker, I am able to find resources for the family, approach them with kindness and empathy and hopefully teach skills that will enable them to handle the situation, help them make better decisions or to find the support/resources they need to meet their needs. I am able to make assessments and am ready for a variety of needs. Working with the goals of the campus and meeting the needs of the students means a great deal of flexibility, knowledge, availability and organization.
Karla Carrasco, Organizational Development & Training Manager – There are many great things about Social Work but one of my favorites is the ability to work in a variety of settings. Whether it’s one-on-one, with groups and families, or within an organization or community, there is always an opportunity to make a difference and I’ve seen this during my time at Communities In Schools. When I initially started my career as a Social Worker, I never thought that working at the organizational level would be where I would eventually find myself, but I am so thankful I did. Not only do I believe in the mission and work of CIS, but I love being in a position where I get to work with a team whose goal is to support our Site Coordinators to achieve their goals both professionally and personally.
Emma Donaldson, Site Coordinator; Richardson West Junior High, Richardson ISD – I knew that I wanted to become a social worker at the age of 14 because I wanted to help people. Before I joined Communities in Schools, I had never worked in a school setting before, but I had a mentor while in my undergraduate program who worked for CIS and had nothing but praise for the organization. Having two degrees in social work, as well as my license, enhances the work I do every day. Because of my background, I am equipped with a wide variety of approaches to use when working with the students in my school. I immediately see the assets and strengths they offer while many others see the things they are lacking and are doing wrong. Social work has ingrained in me the ability to understand more deeply the issues that present as basic surface level ones. I can recognize the root causes and differentiate between the micro and macro, small and big picture factors at play.
My favorite part of working for Communities in Schools as a site coordinator is seeing behavioral changes. Actions speak louder than words, and witnessing a student engage in a positive behavior is gratifying because it means the work we have completed together is actually affecting them and changing their lives.
Beena Thomas, Site Coordinator; Crockett Elementary School, Greenville ISD – I have always had a heart to help those in need, to be the voice for the voiceless. Once I learned what social work was, I immediately fell in love with it. Being a Master Licensed Social Worker for CIS has allowed me to apply all that I have learned into practice. By getting a master’s degree, it has allowed me to learn more about the different practices and applications that I can use during my practice to help those in need. This has also allowed me to make various connections to great mentors and resources.
One of my favorite things about working for CIS is that everyday is not the same. The way I interact with the students, staff, and families changes each day depending on the need for the day. One day I am hosting a lunch bunch with some 3rd graders, the next I am giving a financial resource to a family in need. On another day I am reading a book about kindness for a Kindergarten classroom, the next day I am making vision boards with my 5th graders. I have given tutoring sessions, cultural talks, supportive guidance, mediation sessions, social-emotional learning activities… The list can go on and on. By being a master social worker, I am able to provide for students mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually. I am thankful to be at a job where I am able to embrace being a LMSW to my fullest potential.
Justina James, Site Coordinator; Greenville High School, Greenville ISD – Social work was never something I thought of as a kid. Originally, I wanted to pursue a medical career because I wanted to help people. I wanted to be by their side through the good and the bad. I learned about the social work profession through my older brother who told me I reminded him of all his social work friends at school. Once I learned more about social work, I was hooked. This was the kind of job that would allow me to do everything I felt like I was called to do- it would allow me to be beside people in both their joys and pain. I could not get the field out of my head and I knew there was just something about it, so I researched and I prayed and ultimately felt like this was the profession I was called to.
Over the course of my social work experience, I fell in love with working in the education system and that is what brought me to Communities In Schools of the Dallas Region. I use my education and experience as a social worker in my role as a site coordinator to aid in the social-emotional learning platform I have at my school. After these past two years, SEL programs and coping skills are needed now more than ever. With the need for SEL in mind, I make sure that my program creates a safe space for students to be open and learn the right tools they need in their everyday toolboxes.