CIS of Greater New Orleans Celebrates 21 Year Milestone

Thanks to all of you who had a role in birthing us, funding us, nurturing us, working for us, partnering with us, and volunteering for us.

Twenty-one years ago today marked the founding of the New Orleans affiliate of Communities In Schools. The organizing efforts were led by well-known community activists Margaret Wall, Claire Stahel and Frankie Wittenburg to bring the nationally known organization to New Orleans almost a decade after initial work was begun under the name Cities In Schools. Incorporators Margaret Wall, Elsie Rose and Shannon Parker filed the papers with the Secretary of State, listing 17 community leaders as board members and another 12 leaders as advisory board members. Thus began the journey of connecting students to resources they needed to be successful, including those which the Orleans Parish School Board could not otherwise tap.  Initial programming began at Sarah T. Reed High school as CIS and the US Department of Defense brought more than $400,000 to New Orleans to establish career academies and integrate them with JR ROTC.

CIS of Greater New Orleans and Baton Rouge currently provides integrated students supports through five program areas to 6000 students in 18 schools in New Orleans and one in Baton Rouge. The variety of supports ranges from supplying food, clothing, school supplies and books to intensive case management and crisis intervention. Mentoring, after-school programming, and AmeriCorps members compliment the core case management work that CIS Site Coordinators and Behavior Specialists do. 

The CIS team is now 75+ strong.  Today, 32 of the CIS staff and AmeriCorps members who are skilled in counseling/social work are providing the comprehensive interventions for the entire student body and staff at ReNEW Schaumburg as school reopens a week after the tornado strike. Just 11 years ago, only one person was on the CIS payroll.

Save the date— on the evening of April 27th, the night before our community’s beloved Jazz Fest opens, we will gather at the home of Gary and Martha Solomon to raise a birthday toast, celebrate the young people whose paths to the future have been molded by CIS, and share the vision for the work that can be done, needs to be done, and should be done by those of us who see the payoff of surrounding students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.

CIS Americorps Members – Making a Difference Through Experience

Americorps members who serve in the CIS Americorps program work side-by-side with CIS Site Coordinators, inside ten schools. These graduate students from outstanding local universities combine their internship time with volunteerism under the guidance of our CIS team.

Serving as an Americorps member is an educational and inspirational experience, and Communities In Schools is a perfect fit for graduates dedicated to social work and counseling. Like Keri, an Americorps member who saw CIS as a great way to continue working with young children and families.

“As soon as I walked into the school I thought, ‘This fits. This work and environment makes sense to me,’” Keri explains, “and its been great so far.”

When she decided to join Americorps, Keri chose the CIS program based on her previous social work in Nashville, where she was first introduced to Communities In Schools. “The organization I worked for helped bring Communities In Schools to the city’s public schools, and I gained a lot of respect for CIS.”

For Tyris, who began his Americorps membership this spring semester, the decision to join the CIS program came when a Communities In Schools staff member spoke at his school. “I wanted to help kids, and CIS felt like the route to get there,” he says. “It felt like that’s what CIS believes in. When CIS came and spoke, it really made me want to become an Americorps member.”

Tyris, whose social work up until Americorps focused mainly on working with adults, finds inspiration from the kids he counsels and mentors each day. “They’re great kids, real funny and active. The work I do is very fulfilling as a whole. When I get home, I feel good.”

Americorps members not only gain skills and experience from the CIS program – they make a valuable, positive impact in the lives of CIS students.

Learn more about the Communities In Schools of Greater New Orleans AmeriCorps program at our website –

CIS Tornado Relief Efforts for ReNEW Schaumburg Elementary

The tornado that hit the New Orleans East area on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017 affected approximately 250 properties over the tornado’s 2.5 mile path including ReNEW Schaumburg Elementary school. 

Communities In Schools serves the students at ReNEW Schaumburg Elementary and other students who live in the area of impact. School leaders have cancelled classes this week because of the damage and loss of electricity. Meanwhile CIS is working with school leaders to assess the needs of the students. Aid is being provided ranging from food and clothing to mental health counseling.  Coordination is underway with other agencies. AmeriCorps members and CIS leadership are providing adult supervision and activities for families and children at the Joe W Brown Recreation Center. In addition, CIS coordinators are working to aid children that live in the affected area that attend additional CIS schools. 

If you would like to support CIS Tornado Relief efforts, please donate here. Donations will enable CIS site coordinators to meet specific needs for individual families affected.  While some needs are being taken care of by other agencies such as United Way, the Red Cross or Second Harvest, our efforts will be focused on the students in CIS schools. We are NOT coordinating volunteers at this time. 

Other ways to support those affected:

United Way requests volunteers to support ongoing relief & recovery efforts – learn more and sign up at the United Way HandsOn New Orleans Volunteer Center.

The American Red Cross is accepting donations in their efforts to provide residents with short term and long term housing needs.

Second Harvest Food Bank is accepting donations of nonperishable food items for those affected by the tornado and the resulting power outage. For a full list of suggested donation items, click here.

For information on available shelters, schools closed, and the status of public transportation routes, visit

National School Counseling Week

National School Counseling Week

National School Counseling Week 2017 is Feb. 6–10.

The week, sponsored by the American School Counselor Association (ASCA), highlights the unique contribution of school counselors within U.S. school systems and the tremendous impact they can have in helping students achieve school success and plan for a career. CIS values the skills of school counselors and has twelve counselors on its staff serving as CIS site coordinators, behavior interventionists, and in senior leadership. We celebrate their dedication and contributions to the success of students across New Orleans and Baton Rouge!

Four New Members Join CIS National’s Board of Directors

CIS of Greater New Orleans, like most of the 160 affiliates, is an independent company. We are a Louisiana-based company, with our own local board of directors and our own decision-making authority. We enjoy, though, a tremendous relationship with the CIS National office, a group of more than 60 professionals helping to drive awareness, policy, funding and expansion of Communities In Schools across the United States. The national office is led by a board of gifted individuals, led by education advocate and philanthropist Elaine Wynn.

This week Communities in Schools welcomes four new members to the CIS National Board of Directors: Arne Duncan, Jerry Croan, Kimberly Davis, and Pascal Fernandez. They bring their talents in business, education, and research to the CIS National Board of passionate CIS mission supporters.

Former US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is a managing partner at Emerson Collective, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of young adults in his hometown of Chicago. Prior to joining the Obama Administration, Duncan served as chief executive officer of Chicago Public Schools. From 2001 to 2008, Duncan won praise for uniting the city’s stakeholders behind an education agenda that included opening 100 new schools, expanding programs, boosting the caliber of teachers, and building public-private partnerships around education initiatives. Read Full Bio

Pascal A. Fernandez serves as Senior Vice President, Consumer and Marketplace Insights​​ for Altria Client Services, where he leads a team that provides market and consumer research services to the Altria Group companies. He is a member of the European Society for Opinion and Marketing Research, and serves on the Board of Keep America Beautiful. Read Full Bio

Kim Davis is a Senior Managing Director and the founder of Teneo Diversity & Inclusion. With over 30 years experience in the financial services industry, she served as Managing Director of Global Philanthropy and CSR, President of the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, and a member of JPMorgan Chase’s Executive Committee. Ms. Davis’ passion for the issues surrounding leadership for women prompted her to help develop, design and implement a national leadership center – Spelman LEADS – in collaboration with Spelman College, where she is a trustee and chairs the HR Committee. Read Full Bio

Jerry Croan is currently a Senior Fellow with Third Sector Capital Partners, Inc. and serves as President of the National Learning Institute, which provides strategic advisory services to non-profits. Prior to founding Caliber Associates in 1983, Mr. Croan spent five years in the PA Department of Justice, where he directed the juvenile justice and delinquency prevention program. As Executive Vice President at ICF, a $1B international consulting firm, he led corporate strategy and operating divisions focused on the health and social sectors. Read Full Bio

“One of the first things that became clear to me about CIS is the strength of its people, and our board of directors are certainly no exception,” said Dale Erquiaga, President & CEO of Communities In Schools National Office. “We are privileged to have leaders of this caliber join our ranks. Their expertise and proven track record in education will be a tremendous asset to CIS.”

CIS Looks Forward to Partnership with Avodah Service Corps

This coming year brings exciting new programs and partnerships for CIS – like our partnership with Avodah and their Service Corps Members, who will perform their year-long commitment to social service and social change alongside CIS staff and programs.

Avodah’s mission is to enable anti-poverty organizations to perform their work more effectively, by providing enthusiastic, reliable staffing who bring energy and creativity to their work – their programs enable Service Corps Members to learn about themselves and their Jewish heritage, and develop their skills as leaders by living out their highest ideals through service.

Avodah Corps Members, as well as the organizations they partner with, are from backgrounds ranging from traditionally religious to secular. What they all share in common is a commitment to full-time service and long-term social change.

CIS looks forward to working with Avodah, with plans for a Service Corps Member to serve as our Mentoring Coordinator, as well as providing and coordinating the Reading Is Fundamental Program and the Children Incorporated program. 

To learn more about Avodah’s mission to cultivate resources of spirit and community, and to apply for the Avodah Service Corps program, visit their website here.

If you would like to help fund the anticipated $15,000 in annual support costs that CIS needs to host the Avodah, please contact Sara Massey, CIS President at

City Partners with Chevron to Fund Youth Violence Prevention Efforts



The following press release is from Mayor Mitch Landrieu on Jan. 31st –


New Orleans – Yesterday, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, in partnership with Chevron, announced two grant recipients through NOLA FOR LIFE’s Connecting Students to Supports program. Launched in December 2016, the Connecting Students to Supports program funds non-profit organizations that provide services to high school students who are at risk of involvement in violence.

Communities In Schools of Greater New Orleans was awarded a $136,500 grant to provide case management services that help kids complete school and succeed in life. The Children’s Bureau of New Orleans was awarded a $25,000 grant in support of their efforts to enhance access to mental health and wellness, as well as improve the quality of life for children and families.

“Violence prevention and public safety have remained top priorities for this administration since we took office in 2010,” said Mayor Mitch Landrieu. “Connecting Students to Supports is a critical component of NOLA FOR LIFE’s work to protect our children. We’re grateful for the commitment of our teachers and school administrators who work every day to determine which children may be in need, and work to end the cycle of violence. We are also proud to partner with Chevron to support these non-profit organizations working to better our community.”

Chevron has committed a total of $270,000 in funding for the Connecting Students to Supports program. In addition to providing the two grant awards, the Connecting Students to Supports program partnered with the Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI) to provide $70,000 to deliver data management and needs assessments. The remaining $38,500 will be used to address additional needs of the Connecting Students to Supports program. Chevron has shown a longstanding commitment to advancing the mission of violence prevention in New Orleans. In 2013, the company gave $1 million to the NOLA FOR LIFE fund.

“Chevron believes every child deserves to have the tools and support they need to overcome obstacles they may be facing, excel in school, and succeed in life,” said Leah Brown, Public Affairs Manager for Chevron’s Gulf of Mexico Business Unit. “We’re proud to invest in NOLA FOR LIFE and these prevention, mental health and wellness services as part of our commitment to giving children an opportunity for a better future.”

In May 2015, NOLA FOR LIFE began collaborating with KIPP New Orleans Schools, New Orleans College Preparatory Academies, ReNEW Accelerated High School, Orleans Parish Juvenile Court (OPJC), LPHI and other partners to develop an early warning system that identifies students with the highest risk of being perpetrators or victims of fatal violence in the future. The students with the highest prevalence of these risk factors will be connected as needed to case management services with Communities In Schools and mental health services with the Children’s Bureau.

The early warning system is based on the 31 risk factors for youth violence identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The partners on this project prioritized eight of those risk factors following a review of national research on risk of youth violence and an intensive review of the backgrounds of local students who had been shooting victims or perpetrators. Those factors include involvement in the juvenile justice system, truancy and school disciplinary infractions. Based on these risk factors, it was determined that case management and mental health services were most needed to address those issues.

“Connecting Students to Supports drives home the NOLA FOR LIFE pillar of investing in prevention methods. It gives New Orleans youth access to greater opportunities and decreases their chances of being trapped in the criminal justice system.” said Criminal Justice Commissioner Calvin Johnson. “These important partnerships speak to this administration’s commitment to creating a city for tomorrow and a place where our children have the best chance at success.”

The Children’s Bureau and Communities In Schools will begin working with the identified high school students this semester, and that work will continue through the remainder of the 2016- 2017 school year, summer 2017 and duration of 2017-2018 school year.



Launched in May 2012, NOLA FOR LIFE is New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s comprehensive strategy to tackle the city’s historically high murder rate. Recognizing that law enforcement alone cannot solve the murder problem, NOLA FOR LIFE takes a holistic approach to get to the root of the problem and implements initiatives in five main categories: Stop the Shooting, Invest in Prevention, Promote Jobs and Opportunity, Strengthen the NOPD and Get Involved and Rebuild Neighborhoods. In the four years since NOLA FOR LIFE launched, there have been 86 fewer murders and an 18% lower murder rate than in the four years prior to NOLA FOR LIFE. In 2011, 55 percent of New Orleans murders were gang or group related, while that number has been cut in half today. For more information, visit external link and tune in to NOLA FOR LIFE original programming 24/7 on Cox Cable Channel 99.

In June 2016, the City of New Orleans released the NOLA FOR LIFE 2016 Four-Year Progress Report, which details why certain initiatives were selected, who they are reaching and the results they have produced. View the Progress Report:

Meet Our New CIS Champ Camp Coordinator at Cypress Academy

We are pleased to introduce Larry Hill, the CIS Champ Camp Coordinator at Cypress Academy, as the newest member to the CIS team.

Cypress Academy opened two years ago at Touro Synagogue, and in addition to a full-time CIS site coordinator and intern, the school is the latest to offer CIS Champ Camp programs. Thanks to expanded funding from the Louisiana Department of Education, the CIS Champ Camp at Cypress Academy now provides 39 students with sports, music, art, and academic enrichment programs.

As the CIS Champ Camp Coordinator, Larry Hill manages and builds the community support network available to Champ Camp students at Cypress Academy, as well as personally providing help with homework and program activities.

When a friend and CIS team member told Larry about the Champ Camp coordinator opportunity, he saw CIS as an organization where he can continue his passion for giving back to the community. He is a well travelled and experienced teacher, having taught art therapy for emotional and mental development in Nashville, and believes interaction is an important part of education.

“I like sharing the skills I’ve acquired and putting them to a productive use,” Larry explains when asked about his community work. He is excited to be a part of CIS Champ Camp’s after school assistance and enrichment activities, and we are excited to welcome him to the CIS family.

Be Sure to Pick Up a CIS Recyclable Bag at the Urban League’s School Expo 2017

On Saturday, February 4th the Urban League‘s School Expo 2017 will be held at the Mercedes Benz Superdome. This free event allows school leaders and community service providers to meet with parents face-to-face, with information on the resources available throughout the community.

By providing a one-stop shop, parents will be able to learn about all of their school options in New Orleans, prioritize their OneApp submission, and enjoy the Expo’s entertainment with their kids – there will be STEM activities, games, inflatables and rock climbing!

CIS is a sponsoring organization of the Urban League’s School Expo 2017, and we are providing complimentary recyclable bags for attendees to use as they collect and connect with schools and community programs. Pick up your CIS bag upon entrance and enjoy the expo –and remember, our bags are recyclable and perfect for collecting mardi gras throws!