Honor the Mentor Who Inspired You – Thank Your Mentor Day

Today is #ThankYourMentor Day, the National Mentoring Month’s day for all who have real life mentoring experiences to thank those who helped them on their path to adulthood and beyond.

Having a mentor empowers young people to make smart choices that put them on a path to making better life decisions. It is a vital role in creating a support network for students – kids who have mentors are more likely to stay in school and enroll in college, and twice as likely to hold a leadership position in a club or sports team – like the Boston Celtics star Marcus Smart, who had a high school coach who made a huge impact on his future. See how Marcus got through the loss of his brother with the help of a mentor.

CIS is committed to connecting students to the community support they need to stay in school and achieve in life. Thank the mentor who inspired you by making a donation to CIS in their honor – together we can fill the mentor gap and deliver real-life impact in young people’s lives.

To make an honorary donation visit our website. To express your interest in joining our in-school mentoring program, visit our Mentoring Page.

Learn more about National Mentoring Month at mentoring.org.

The School Redesign Summit – Louisiana’s Strategy for Improving Struggling Schools

Tomorrow is a pivotal day in the life of Louisiana public education.  Representatives from school districts and charter schools across the state will convene in New Orleans to meet with representatives of more than 40 organizations for a massive sharing of information.  The Louisiana Department of Education describes it like this:

“Louisiana has dramatically reduced the number of D and F rated schools in the past several years benefiting thousands of students who otherwise would have been assigned to a struggling school. At the same time, there remain schools in our state whose challenges are significant. Research indicates that nearly every effective model of school transformation includes some external support. Frustratingly, no comprehensive inventory of possible partners exists, and few—if any—opportunities exist for Local Education Agencies (LEA) and school leaders to meaningfully collaborate with industry experts and possible partners.

The School Redesign Summit seeks to address these gaps. Through a series of interactive sessions, the Summit will provide an opportunity for LEAs and school redesign partners to begin brainstorming strategies to improve the achievement of Louisiana’s persistently struggling schools. LEA teams will leave the day-long School Redesign Summit with:

  1. an understanding of school improvement strategies working in Louisiana and across the nation;
  2. greater clarity on the improvement strategies they plan to use in their lowest performing schools; and,
  3. a list of potential partners to support their work.

Partner organizations will leave the day-long School Redesign Summit with:

  1. a deeper understanding of what the state needs to improve its struggling schools; and
  2. the role they can play in supporting improvement for Louisiana students and schools.

After the Summit, each LEA may choose to submit their school redesign plans as part of a competitive grant process. Per the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the Department will competitively award these funds to LEAs with the strongest evidence-based plans. These diverse plans will, in due course, make up Louisiana’s school turnaround component of the state’s ESSA plan.”

Communities In Schools – with its strong evidence of success across the nation and 21-year presence in Louisiana serving students in the New Orleans, Baton Rouge and Shreveport communities – is pleased to be an invited partner organization at the Summit. Four CIS representatives, led by Dale Erquiaga, CIS National President, will meet with at least 17 school districts and charter schools to explore needs and possible CIS solutions.  

CIS Champ Camp Session 3 Begins

After school programming provides students with the opportunity to be in a safe place around caring adults, hone their academic skills to prepare for college and career, be active, gain critical teamwork skills, and pursue individual interests in a variety of enrichment activities.  The “Voices and Choices” portion of CIS Champ Camp daily schedule represents CIS collaboration with numerous, skilled community members, and is funded either by the 21st CCLC funds CIS receives from the Louisiana Department of Education, or private donors.

CIS welcomes the return of NOLA Code, with funding support from first time donor Kinder Morgan, to continue exposing campers to the skill of computer coding, while FC NOLA continues to provide a soccer league and Louisiana Rugby teaches, well, rugby!  Returning this session is the WriteBrain project funded by Dollar General Foundation, and Knitting and Sewing have been added to the offerings. All four sites will begin using the exciting curriculum by Mindworks, which integrates math, literature, social studies, science and the arts.

CIS provides CIS Champ Camp for 285 students across four sites: Encore Academy, Homer Plessy Community School, Bricolage Academy and Cypress Academy.

The New Orleans Youth Index Published by The Data Center

Have you seen the 2016 New Orleans Youth Index produced by The Data Center? This report provides a statistical snapshot of the well-being of New Orleans children and youth age 0-24.

Communities in Schools thanks The Data Center for compiling such a valuable index that helps us all to better understand the demographic shifts in the city’s child and youth population. It is a resource that will help us surround students with the network of support they need, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.

You can read the report in its entirety and learn more at datacenterresearch.org.

I Am A Mentor Day – What it Means to Volunteer from a Mentor and his Mentee

Today is I Am a Mentor Day, a day for mentors to celebrate their role and reflect on the ways mentees have enhanced their world. While National Mentoring Month focuses on the positive impact that mentoring programs make in young people’s lives, becoming a mentor has made a lasting impression too on volunteers like Matthew.

Matthew started mentoring Dun-trez in August of 2015. The two bonded over weekly pick-up games at the school basketball court, and a friendly rivalry between their favorite teams. “I like the Cavaliers and he likes the Pelicans,” Dun-Trez explained. 

Dun-Trez has excelled in school since he and Matthew started shooting hoops together. He is focused in the classroom, and on his goals. “I changed my attitude, he said. “I’m going to start playing for the school basketball team. I want to be a basketball player or a boxer.”

As a pastor, Matthew got involved as a volunteer through his church, and considers mentoring to be as much a learning experience for him as it is for Dun-Trez. “I spend a lot of our time listening. It’s helped me to get his perspective, being his age and living here in the city,” Matthew says. “I’m in a different stage of my life, but he’s helped me to be more mindful.” 

Matthew’s mentoring has encouraged Dun-Trez to take on a mentor role for others, and Matthew is proud and inspired by how considerate Dun-Trez is to those around him. “He included a younger kid recently when we played basketball, and Dun-Trez was really considerate, making sure he got his shots. He’d be a really good mentor.” 

Inspiration goes both ways when you volunteer as a mentor and has a lasting impact on our community. Celebrate #IAmAMentorDay with Communities in Schools and the National Mentoring Partnership by filling the mentoring gap  volunteer to make a real difference in young people’s lives. To learn more about National Mentoring Month visit mentoring.org. To express your interest in joining our in-school mentoring program, visit our website here (http://www.cisneworleans.org/get_involved/mentoring.html).

Thank you Pro Bono Publico Foundation!

The Pro Bono Publico Foundation awarded over $1 million in grants to New Orleans schools and educational organizations, including Communities In Schools of Greater New Orleans, last week at the Rex Den. This year marked the seventh year that the Foundation, an outgrowth of the Rex Organization funded predominantly by its members, has supported the work of CIS in changing the picture of education in New Orleans. We thank Pro Bono Publico for their dedication to improving the lives of students in this city, by funding both CIS and so many of our partner schools and organizations.

The Pro Bono Publico Foundation was organized by Rex members returning to New Orleans after levees failed in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, flooding the city. The Foundation’s annual
grants have helped support the reformation of New Orleans failed public school system through awards to schools successfully educating our children and the organizations supporting that success.

You can learn more about the Pro Bono Publico Foundation at ProBonoPublicoFoundtion.org. We are grateful for their generous support and their dedication to serve New Orleans, both with their annual parade and through the Foundation.

Welcome new AmeriCorps members; Wishful Wednesday-Gardening supplies

Communities In Schools welcomes eight new AmeriCorps members to its team.  These corps members join seven others on the CIS team who are working side-by-side with CIS Site Coordinators to provide mentoring and social skills development programs to hundreds of students.  They are graduate students from our outstanding local universities who are combining their internship time with volunteerism under the guidance of our CIS team.

On Monday, the team will gather at The Net to build a memorial garden that students may access in times of grief. This wishful Wednesday we ask for donations of funds so that we can buy supplies that have not already been donated…paint, stain, paintbrushes and cleaner, gloves, shovels, plants, soil, containers, plants, etc. If you can make a quick, small donation to help, please go to our website here. 

AmeriCorps members are serving at these CIS schools:  Encore Academy, Homer A Plessy Community School, Success Preparatory Academy, ReNEW Schaumburg, ReNEW Accelerated High School, Phillis Wheatley Community School,  Joseph A Clark High School, Bricolage Academy, Cypress Academy and Morris Jeff Community School.

Jazz for Young People: The Resilient Cities Tour continues this week in New Orleans schools

Communities In Schools of Greater New Orleans welcomes the return of the Jazz at Lincoln Center musicians this week for the second in a three-part concert series for middle school students at 10 area schools. Wynton Marsalis, the Managing and Artistic Director for the Lincoln Center, spearheaded the expansion of its partnership with The Rockefeller Foundation to offer participating students examples of how others used music to wrestle with the enduring social struggles of urban life in the 21st century, particularly in cities where urban stresses have been especially prevalent, sometimes tearing at the social fabric of communities, yet now are on the road to resilience.  The program is doing this by illustrating the connection between jazz and democracy as well as the historical power of jazz to unite communities in a nonviolent manner at moments of unrest.

“I couldn’t be more proud, as an educator and the president of The Rockefeller Foundation, that we are able to support innovative curricula that expands possibilities for young people,” said Judith Rodin, President of The Rockefeller Foundation. “As we have seen with our support of HAMILTON the Musical, experiential learning, is a proven – and critical – tool for enhancing public education and building urban resilience.  Now with Jazz for Young People, we have another great opportunity to open up young minds by showing them how jazz has inspired hope in the face of adversity.”

Communities In Schools is facilitating the program in New Orleans and announced that two concerts will be held each day this week, as the Jazz for Young People musicians travel to Phillis Wheatley Community School, Medard H Nelson Charter School, ReNEW Schaumburg Elementary, Langston Hughes Academy, Arthur Ashe Charter School, Pierre Capdau Charter School, Homer A Plessy Community School, Success Preparatory Academy, Morris Jeff Community School and Encore Academy to play for the students. They will return in May for a final concert series.

Join CIS and President Obama in Celebrating National Mentoring Month

January is National Mentoring Month, celebrating the importance of mentoring programs and the impact they have in young people’s lives. Communities in Schools proudly joins the National Mentoring Partnership in raising awareness of the mentoring gap that affects 1 in 3 young people in America, and the critical role you can play in a student’s success by becoming a volunteer mentor.

Alongside programs like President Obama’s My Brother’s Keeper initiative, Communities in Schools is dedicated to connecting volunteers with young people in their local communities. The presence of a caring adult in a student’s developmental years makes a difference – with a mentor, at-risk youth are more likely to stay in school and enroll in college, and twice as likely to play a leadership role in a club or sports team.

One-on-one connections are the important first step to provide the opportunities, resources, and support networks that kids need. Celebrate National Mentoring Month with Communities in Schools and the National Mentoring Partnership by filling the mentoring gap – volunteer to make a real difference in young people’s lives.

To learn more about National Mentoring Month visit mentoring.org. To express your interest in joining our in-school mentoring program, visit our website here (http://www.cisneworleans.org/get_involved/mentoring.html).

Meet Dale Erquiaga, New President and CEO at CIS National


Get to know the new President and CEO Dale Erquiaga and hear why his dedication to education has deep roots in his family’s story. See his vision for Communities In Schools, and how our work can change the lives of at-risk students.

We here at CIS of Greater New OrleansInc. are one of 161 CIS affiliates working across 2300 sites with 1.5 million students.  Welcome to the family Dale!