When Krista Dusek was first hired by Communities In Schools of Central Texas two years ago to be a site coordinator at Manor High School, she was tasked with introducing the work of Communities In Schools to Manor Independent School District. Today, the affiliate has five staff members and two college interns at Manor High supporting 1,200 students.
“The school and the community have seen the results of Communities In Schools being on campus, and of providing such a range of valuable resources,” said Dusek, who is a licensed social worker. “And because of such positive results, the school has applied for funding to keep adding more support.” Communities In Schools now has a presence in two middle schools that feed into Manor High, which makes for an easier transition for the students. Communities In Schools of Central Texas won Community Organization Partner of the Year for the 2011-2012 school year.
Dusek has been involved with counseling and community service since before receiving her undergraduate degree in social work from the University of Hawaii. She’s worked with victims of domestic violence, female offenders and people with addictions. At Communities In Schools, Dusek and her staff have provided 185 students with Level Two services, which are targeted and sustained dropout prevention interventions.
While Dusek’s work at Manor was, in the beginning, about establishing the identity of Communities In Schools – with students, parents, the community and other agencies/organizations in the school district – it is monitoring the relationships she’s since built that remains her focus and priority now.
In addition, Dusek focuses on establishing programs for girls as well as manages a ninth-grade transition program created by Communities In Schools to help incoming freshmen navigate the sometimes tricky transition from middle to high school. Her other current project, Check & Connect, is an initiative that aims to help students improve their attendance.
Having identified one significant cause for absenteeism, Dusek will address the issue from the point of view of the student.
“When they don’t come in, it’s typically because they don’t feel like they belong,” she says. “But if you check in, and make a point of saying, ‘it’s really good to see you today,’ and ‘I look forward to seeing you tomorrow,’ you can make a connection. If they can make a connection to school, they feel encouraged to come in.”
Dusek absolutely made a significant connection to Jazmine Scott, a student at Manor whose success story is highlighted in the P&G myGIVE campaign. Dusek guided Jazmine through several difficult years, counseling her to manage anger and cope with the death of her grandmother. In doing so, Dusek helped put the onetime at-risk student on the path for college.
It is this chance to have an impact and make a difference in students’ lives that drives Dusek.
“To see them walk across the stage at graduation, like Jazmine did, when they did not know if they would graduate or attend college … that feeling is why I do my job.”