A’Ja: Empowering the Next Generation of CIS Students
My name is A'Ja Venible and I am sibling number 10 out of my mom’s 12 children. I met my first Communities In Schools® (CIS®) site coordinator when I was in sixth grade at Palo Alto Middle School in Killeen, Texas. Her name was Mrs. Brooks and she quickly became someone I trusted and looked forward to meeting with.
In eighth grade, I moved to a new town that did not have CIS until my 10th grade year. That was when I met Ms. Stills. I was dealing with a lot of personal and family issues, and she helped me work through them. She introduced me to journaling and provided me with a safe space where I could express myself.
Ms. Stills moved the following year, but she kept in touch with me by attending my sporting events and other school functions. Ms. Stills is a big reason why I became interested in pursuing a career in social work. She has remained in my life, cheering me on from the sidelines.
Mr. Williams replaced Ms. Stills my 11th grade year. Mr. Williams would take us on college tours and make sure we understood the financial aid application process, among other things. I was accepted to Sam Houston State University as an education major, but Mr. Williams helped me realize that I had a passion for mental health and social work, so I majored in Psychology and minored in Human Services. I graduated in 2018 and was the first of my siblings to finish college.
I am thankful to have had site coordinators that cared enough to invest their time in me. Now that I’m a CIS site coordinator at Vogel Intermediate, I have a better understanding of the workload and I can clearly see how much time my site coordinators sacrificed for me. I spent HOURS in their office at times, but I was never turned away. I was always welcomed with open arms and lots of love.
CIS is where I am supposed to be; CIS made a difference in my life and I am so blessed and thankful to be able to do the same for other students.
Note: A’Ja is currently attending graduate school to receive her Master’s of Social Work degree, which will be completed next year.