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!

CIS is Excited to be a Recipient of the 2016 Wisner Grant


On Tuesday, Mayor Mitch Landrieu led the 2016 Wisner Grant Awards ceremony at the Ellis Marsalis Center, where the Wisner Foundation celebrated public and non-profit organizations making a strong impact on the New Orleans community. For 2016, the Grant Donation awarded 68 organizations with a total of $1,773,000 in funding.

This is the third year that CIS of Greater New Orleans received the support of the Wisner Donation, and we are thankful for the ongoing funding that supports the work CIS does for students across 18 New Orleans public schools.

The Edward Wisner Donation was created from the estate of Edward Wisner to the City of New Orleans in 1914, to support local needs in the areas of beautification, education, recreation and human services.  You can read more and see pictures from Tuesday’s Grant Recipient Event here.

Wishful Wednesday Works – Pajama Project Provides Preschool With Donations

It’s wonderful when people respond to the needs of kids and help shape the network of support they need – like the patrons of the book and educational materials provider Scholastic, who put out its wish for donations of pajamas to the Pajama Program, a non-profit organization that delivers warm sleepwear and nurturing books to children at risk.

Nettie Amedee, the Pajama Program East Louisiana Chapter President, suggested  Christ the King Lutheran Church Preschool to make their donations to the CIS Champs Choice store, allowing CIS to provide the littlest of its students with the feeling of love and comfort that bedtime should bring.

Under the leadership of Kristin Diaz of Christ the King Lutheran Church Preschool, families of the preschool donated nearly 100 pairs of pajamas to CIS. It’s an inspiring example of what your contributions can bring to a student’s life when you donate for Wishful Wednesday. We appreciate our collaboration with Scholastic, the Pajama Program, our 19 CIS schools, and Christ the King Lutheran Church Preschool in Kenner!

Rey Saldaña – A CIS Alumni & Inspiring CIS Mentor

Rey Saldaña is a Stanford alumni, a City Councilman for San Antonio, and the CIS Alumni Leadership Network Chair – but as a teenager he assumed that his high school diploma would be the end of his education. “Coming from a low-income community with parents who didn’t graduate high school and didn’t speak English, my path at that point was just to graduate high school,” Saldaña said in an interview with NBC Latino.

That outlook changed with Saldaña’s participation in CIS’s Upward Bound program, which provides college preparation and guidance to high school graduates. He obtained a scholarship to attend Stanford University, one of the most prestigious and rigorous universities in the country, and graduated with a Master’s degree at 23. He now chairs the CIS Alumni Leadership Network in San Antonio, where he provides guidance and support for CIS alumni all across the country as they graduate from high school, navigate college, and follow career paths as he did.

Read the entire NBC Latino article here.

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

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

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 To express your interest in joining our in-school mentoring program, visit our website here (