The Communities in Schools of Mid-America at Iowa program serves George Washington Carver Academy Middle School and Central Middle School in Waterloo, Iowa.
Please join us in welcoming two new Iowa Site Coordinators!
Ras Smith seeks to serve CIS of Mid-America by utilizing his ties in the community established over a lifetime from growing up locally in this community. Ras believes being engrained in the community allows him to view the needs in the community through a firsthand view, allowing him to more effectively serve at-risk students and their families. His diverse background includes improving life outcomes for at-risk youth through community partnerships, skill development, and youth programming.
During Ras’s time in graduate school, he stumbled upon CIS in some of the research he was conducting for his thesis project. A month later, someone he knew from the local school system handed him a copy of the job description and mentioned he should take a look.
What peaked Ras’s interest in CIS was the the idea of being able to better reach the population in need and connect that population to the necessary resources.
“It makes sense. Why not bring services into the schools and have someone there to facilitate to make sure the services reach those who need them?” Ras said.
Although Ras grew up in an environment where his resources were not scarce, he said his parents were both busy. The financial responsibility and planning for something like college is something Ras said he could have used a little more guidance in preparing for.
“Being coached and being a coach – I saw the impact of the individual relationship,” Ras said.
“The idea is to be more preventative than reactive,” Ras said when talking about how much it matters to have CIS in schools of all socioeconomic and demographic areas. Students have a variety of needs. Not all of them are linked to levels of income.
Ras believes the work CIS does is sort of, “cutting-edge,” he says.
“It’s not everywhere, but it probably should be,” he said.
Dina Plum is a qualified and passionate Social Worker with a background working with at-risk adolescents, some in the juvenile justice system. Dina has a desire to help children and their families who struggle socially, economically, and psychologically. Dina looks forward to furthering the CIS of Mid-America mission by using her passion to help people find healthy and creative ways to succeed. Dina strives for quality and excellence in everything she does.
When Dina found out about CIS, she was stunned. She traveled a road that seemed like it led her straight to the position that opened up to her as a Site Coordinator for CIS.
Dina began her education pursuits thinking she would be a teacher.
“I wanted to reach children in school because that’s where people reached me,” Dina said. “It was the support in schools that actually got to me,” she said.
Dina knows the resources are available in communities but it’s not always easy to access them or for parents to have the time to get their kids to the places where those resources exist. She knows it increases the chance for kids to be successful when they can access these critical sources of support.
“My mom was a single parent. She worked a lot so I was home by myself a lot and it made me angry,” Dina said. “As kids, we don’t always reach out when we’re angry, or we don’t know how.”
Dina said it was the educational support system that allowed her to feel safe and comfortable that was offered to her at school. “My supports at school noticed when things where ‘off’ or just not right. They gave me the relationships that made me feel comfortable about asking for help with ACTs and for help with getting prepared for college,” she said.
It was the trust she built that allowed her to feel confident about her education moving forward. Dina now has her master’s degree.
Affiliate Director at Omaha and Iowa
Sarah comes to CIS of Mid-America with more than 12 years of experience working to improve the lives of youth and families. Prior to joining the organization, Sarah served as a Director of the Attendance Collaborative (a partnership with the University of Nebraska Omaha and Building Bright Futures). Sarah was responsible for enhancing collaboration between school districts and community organizations by establishing sustainable attendance strategies that aligned and supported students, strengthened schools, engaged families and increased communication.
Sarah has a Bachelor of Science in Family Science from the University of Nebraska Lincoln and a Master of Social Work Administration from the University of Kansas. She lives in Omaha with her husband and daughter. In her free time, Sarah loves spending time with family and friends, traveling and cheering on the Huskers.