Making a Difference

National Make a Difference Day occurs on the fourth Saturday of October, encouraging people to join forces to make a difference. Created in 1992 by USA WEEKEND magazine and joined by Points of Light, the goal was to provide a collective day of service. Since its inception, Make a Difference Day has become the largest national day of community service.

Juan M. Rangel, Jr., SchoolSmart Kansas City Director of Family Engagement, says he feels it is important to make a difference because “there are many in my journey who have made a difference in my life and my family…so I need to do the same. My parents, out of appreciation for what they were given, always wanted to make things better for others. As immigrants to the United States, my parents would often say, ‘we struggle and sacrifice so you don’t have to, and you will do the same for your family and your community.’ I am committed to doing everything I can to make the lives of others better.”

Rangel, Jr. makes a difference by working with CIS of Mid-America through his role at SchoolSmart Kansas City. He continues, “I have seen with CIS leadership and CIS Coordinators [that CIS] is committed to serving students and families to remove barriers. During the pandemic, when everybody was running from the fire that was COVID-19, CIS ran towards it to make sure students had what they needed to continue their education but beyond that, support them emotionally in a very tough time. The CIS team to me are heroes and true difference makers, which aligns with my personal values.”

“In the end, it’s all about people and relationships,” said Brett J. Martin (no relation to the author), United Way of Greater Topeka Vice President of Community Impact. “After years of working in education and nonprofits, it all comes down to people and relationships. I have found that I am most fulfilled and have the most impact when I focus on people and relationships. As a teacher, I came alongside students to help them develop a love of learning and a love of themselves and their neighbors. Their relationship with the subjects they were studying had everything to do with their learning. As a nonprofit professional, I work alongside numerous community partners, developing relationships to maximize our impact in the community. These relationships often involve working across sectors and barriers and working to keep the community – people – at the center of our work. Too often in nonprofit circles, we become ‘siloed’ and focus too much on our programs and their success and can, at times, lose sight of the people we serve. And so, for me, it’s about people and relationships.”

When asked why he has chosen to make a difference with CIS of Mid-America, Martin replies, “CIS of Mid-America understands the unique needs of families and the strategies necessary to make sure they have the resources to thrive. It both recognize and value the whole student and the whole family and go beyond traditional case management to serve children and their families. For this reason, and so many others, I love making a difference with CIS.”

Need more inspiration on how you can make a difference this month? Here are some great ideas:

  • Volunteer in your community or for a local nonprofit organization.
  • Be a mentor. Help a youth or another professional to gain new skills.
  • Donate to a charity with meaning to you.
  • Say a kind word of support to someone who is struggling.
  • Put your skills to work. Sometimes our hobbies can bring joy to others in ways we least expect it.

Are you ready to make a difference with CIS of Mid-America? Contact us at

This month’s blog was written by CIS of Mid-America’s President and CEO, Malissa Martin.