Education Non-Profits Social Work

Jessica Herrmann, Communities In Schools

My internship was with Communities in Schools as a tutor and mentor to students considered at-risk. CIS is a drop-out prevention program that targets at-risk students. Students are considered at-risk for a series of reasons including social, financial, emotional, academic, and cognitive impairments. These impairments can make it difficult for student to stay in school, which is necessary to have more positive outcomes later in life for students and the surrounding communities. These issues are addressed by CIS because they can have long lasting implications on the students’ social, occupational, health, and behavioral problems and can have lasting impacts on the local communities.

CIS employs techniques that build trust between student and CIS staff to better facilitate the student’s progress in addressing their issues and needs. These techniques include non-judgmental language, non-directive play therapy, tracking, and non-directive language that facilitate a sense of control over one self.

Communities in Schools’ objective is drop-out prevention among students that are considered at risk.  CIS believes in helping students considered at-risk by providing them support & guidance suited to the student’s needs. CIS doesn’t have a strictly defined curriculum schedule that students are expected to fit into that will solve all their problems. What CIS does believe in is that every child needs and deserves:
1.    A personal relationship with a caring adult
2.    A safe place to learn and grow
3.    A healthy start and a healthy future
4.    A marketable skill to use upon graduation
5.    A chance to give back to their peers and the community

A student that is receiving tutor/mentor services will meet with the same adult at least for 8 sessions. The first couple of sessions the student and adult begin to build a rapport with each other, while simultaneously the adult is observing where the child is struggling. The way I built a rapport with some of my students was by playing Jenja. On the Jenja blocks there were general questions that asked your likes/ dislikes, asked about your friends/ family etc about a person. When my students answered a question I answered the question as well so my student could get to know me as I was getting to know my student. These first couple of meetings helped build a relationship between student and adult so that each could be comfortable with each other. Becoming comfortable with each other is important to the student trusting the adult to help them when they are struggling.

My job for some of my students was to tutor them. The students that need tutoring could be more accustomed to failures than success. One student I tutored was quick to give up during our first few sessions. This student would say self degrading comments “I’m stupid” “I’ve failed a grade, I’m stupid.” Currently this student, after about 7 sessions, doesn’t say these things anymore and is more determined at solving their problems even if there is no direct incentive in doing so.

After training, supervision consisted of weekly review sessions with my supervisor. I would review each student I serviced, concerns, struggles, challenges, reviewing upcoming schedules/calendar, relationships with staff, ethical concerns, professional goals, identifying success, and next steps to be taken. I would also ask questions between review sessions that my supervisor or her co-worker would answer.

Communities in Schools addresses issues of children at-risk that include social, emotional, academic, and cognitive impairments. It is these impairments that make it difficult for students to learn and stay in school if they are not being addressed and allowed to persist. These impairments can lead to long lasting social, occupational, health, and behavioral problems. These are issues that CIS is addressing by being a drop-out prevention program and by working with the students with these impairments.

I recommend this Internship with Communities in Schools to students that are looking to work in social work, education, psychology, and other relatable social sciences. I also recommend that those that do have an Internship with CIS to volunteer hours to the after school program Smartkids as it allows extra practice using techniques with the children and adds extra insight to the children that are considered at risk.

About the author

The Internship Coordinator

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