By Isabel Pérez, Francis C. Hammond Middle School CIS Site Coordinator

Picture this: the year is 1998; Chumbawamba’s on top of the charts; Chandler, Joey, Monica, and the gang reign supreme in TV land; the internet is just hitting its stride. Then there’s me, a bright-eyed, patchouli-drenched college grad ready to take on the world. I was ready, I was driven, and I wanted nothing more than to say goodbye to long, cold New England winters. So I did what every not-sure-what-to-do-with-my-life college grad does; I joined AmeriCorps Vista! I researched a few assignments and narrowed it down to a small program in the Phoenix Public School District called Communities In Schools. The prospect of working in a school with students and families of limited resources completely resonated with me. Plus, I was going to a warm climate and living on my own!

Turns out the late 90s were not only a pivotal time in my life, they were pretty important for Communities In Schools as well. Here are a few CIS milestones from that time:

  • CIS enhanced its national reputation as founder Bill Milliken helps to develop President Clinton’s “Summit for America’s Future.”
  • General Colin Powell’s “America’s Promise” adopted CIS’ “Five Basics” as its “Five Promises” delivered to all children.
  • People Magazine chose CIS as one of three charity beneficiaries for its 25th Anniversary Celebration, including magazine ads and a celebrity concert in New York City to raise funds and awareness for the program.
  • One hundred fifty‐four CIS programs served 700,000 students annually.

Fast-forward 17 years later. After serving in AmeriCorps, Peace Corps, and holding various positions in the field of education – and living in three countries and four states – I find myself returning “home.” I am yet again a Site Coordinator for Communities In Schools, and couldn’t be happier. Communities In Schools continues to shine as the #1 dropout prevention organization in the nation. We are still in search of the most effective equalizers in order to promote student success and CIS knows how to be the catalyst for this change. I am elated to be back in the CIS family here in Northern Virginia at Francis C. Hammond Middle School as their CIS Site Coordinator, and I’m committed to advocating on behalf of my students and their families.