By Jessica Weaver For the Express-News
Behind the headlines of losses to COVID-19 in our community is often a child. A child who is grappling with the death of a family member or a friend. Given the level of loss in our city, it’s unsurprising our schools are seeing a level of trauma and grief we’ve never seen before. Communities In Schools, or CIS-SA, is seeing the tremendous weight our children are carrying and the effect it has on our students.
While our site coordinators are well-versed in providing support for students and families, COVID has pushed us to provide more support around students’ mental health. We refer students who are struggling with losing loved ones and facing other social-emotional obstacles to our CIS-SA licensed clinicians, who provide targeted prevention and intervention services on school campuses.
This is what we do at CIS-SA. We see needs because we are embedded in schools. Then we pull together resources to address the problems so we are supporting students in every way possible.
For three decades, CIS-SA has provided critical support services for students and families in dire need of some of life’s basic necessities: health care, housing assistance, proper nutrition, counseling services and now internet connectivity. With our staff inside schools, we are able to assess students’ needs and provide direct access to resources, helping them succeed in the classroom and in life.
We focus on surrounding students with a community of support tailored to each one’s needs. CIS-SA uses a social emotional learning model based on relationship development to ensure students can cope with everyday challenges and make responsible decisions. We work to set up students for future success by ensuring they feel supported academically, emotionally and socially from preschool until the day they graduate.
The need for these often-overlooked services has always been there; however, the pandemic has increased the obstacles our students face. Many students are not returning to the same school system or classroom they left 18 months ago. Some kids are attending a different school altogether. Sophomores in high school are walking the halls for the first time. In addition to their own anxieties, students take on worries from home, such as financial stress, parental job security and health concerns. The need to support these students and their families is greater than ever.
We are proud of the work we have done. However, we cannot ignore that there are many more students and families who need our help. Expanding our model into more schools, CIS-SA can serve more students, provide critical mental health support throughout a student’s academic career, and add licensed counselors and social workers to work directly with students.
Last year, the federal government provided districts with emergency relief funds to address the impact of COVID-19 on schools. Thanks to this funding, we were able to expand our program into 50 additional schools. We now serve more than 170 school campuses in San Antonio across 12 school districts. We are working with U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro to secure $500,000 in federal funding to further our efforts in helping San Antonio students overcome pandemic-related challenges.
The power of an impassioned advocate who will do whatever it takes to help students succeed is clear. It bridges the gap from those who have resources at home to those who are suffering loss and poverty. Through our work and the support of our community, we see a future where the students we serve can be prepared and stronger than ever.
Jessica Weaver is CEO of Communities In Schools of San Antonio.
Contact: Felisha Sanchez | firstname.lastname@example.org | 210.838.2477