Sincerity in Relationships

Jen Falletti | CIS of Mid-America Site Coordinator at Lakeside Elementary School in Pittsburg, KS

Jen and Melinda DeGruson, school counselor at Lakeside Elementary

As a Site Coordinator for Communities In Schools (CIS) of Mid-America, coming into a school as a brand new program that helps students succeed can sometimes be off putting for existing school staff. Anyone working at the school could possibly view it as if they were not already doing enough for their kiddos (and they will take claim to those babies as if they were their own). I could only imagine the apprehension the school counselor could understandably feel as if CIS had came into their school because they needed help doing their job. Thankfully, this was not the case at my school. I have been able to build the most amazing relationship with my counselor. Working together with the counselor to fulfill the needs of the students, and provide supports to help them succeed in school and succeed in life, is the ultimate goal.

My counselor and I both recognize the importance of working together as a team to ensure the students’ needs are being met that we are building strong relationships with families. The counselor already had some great activities in place in our school and instead of reinventing the wheel, I was able to come in as an additional support to connect community resources to those services and be another caring adult in the students’ lives. The counselor and I bounce ideas off each other and work together to make social skill groups and utilize all of the resources between us and the community resources to ensure our students are getting the best support they can while in school. 

Last year, the school counselor and I worked together on a school wide effort to bring light to bullying during Bullying Awareness Week. We worked closely with our School Resource Officer (SRO) from our local Sheriff’s Department to provide incentives to students who participated in our event by showing good character and positive behaviors. This year we are collaborating with the SRO and Sheriff’s Department again to celebrate National Kindness Week. We will have the students work together to fill out their “bingo card” of kindness acts. If the students get them completed, they will have a chance to earn a bicycle for their efforts of kindness. This is a huge behavior incentive for my caseload students as well as an attendance motivator to encourage the kids to be at school and participate in the activity. It makes a huge difference working collaboratively with all the supports and systems our school and community have to offer.

The staff recognizes the cohesiveness in our efforts as supports for the students. I try to be visible within the school and, if I am available to help, I will jump in to support the students as needed. If it isn’t one of my case-managed students that I work with directly, I simply pass the message and any information, to my school counselor. I don’t keep information from her, and that courtesy is reciprocated. I include her on what I am working on and what I need to get done and she is always very honest and helpful about if my ideas are plausible; and I do the same for her.

Part of being a Site Coordinator is becoming an accepted entity in the school as part of the school family. I feel that the relationship between the counselor and myself has helped to solidify CIS of Mid-America into our school culture (and family). The school staff trusts the counselor, and because she trusts me, the school does as well. This relationship trifecta has significantly helped in placing CIS as a reliable support within the school.

Overall, I believe the success of Communities In Schools is due to the relationships that are built, not only with the students and families, but with the staff in the school. It takes a village, and I love the village I’m in.