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From CIS Student to Volunteer

By CIS of Takoma | Nov. 12, 2019

CIS took concerns that seemed small, but they were huge to us because they cared. CIS has just been a blessing in my life and in my family’s life, and I am forever grateful for them.

I grew up in a low-income immigrant household, but my parents always worked their hardest to make sure my sisters and I succeeded. Our education was their priority and mine. At times it was hard to understand my family’s financial situation. I just knew that this was the way we had to live to survive.

With the support of my parents, I got involved in volunteering for various organizations. I first became involved with Communities In Schools the summer of my sophomore year of high school.

I was helping at a volunteer event at Mt. Tahoma High School, my alma mater, when I saw someone that looked familiar moving boxes. That someone was Trisha Tracy, CIS senior site coordinator at Mt. Tahoma High School who was running a Stuff the Bus school supply drive. I had met her previously during a summer educational program for students who are low income or of color. From then on, I began visiting the CIS room frequently, and then daily, where I got life advice and was presented with numerous volunteer events.

The site coordinator was a mentor for me, she was an adult who I could trust at my high school and I had not met anyone so willing to listen to my story. One day I mentioned to my site coordinator that I was struggling with math. I wanted to play sports, but I knew I had to put my grades first. My site coordinator explained that CIS had a tutoring program and I could be set up with a tutor to get the support I needed.

I met with my tutor multiple times a week and my grades were displaying a shift in progress. I went from almost failing the class to receiving a B in the second semester.

But that is not the only way CIS helped me. They presented me with the opportunity to give back to my community by interning with Rebuilding Together of Puget Sound. There I could assist families who were low income and/or elderly and could not afford home repairs. A group of students and I worked over a month to make repairs and help those who needed it.

Another internship CIS presented me with was with the Stuff the Bus campaign. This is where I was introduced to CIS initially, and now I was helping coordinate it. I did it to help students like me, those who could not afford to buy a pencil for the first day of school. It’s been over five years since I started helping with the program, and every year it’s more rewarding.

There have been so many things that CIS has helped me with but one event that I have held near and dear to my heart to this day took place during the holidays. One year at the beginning of the school year my mom had fallen ill, she was under intensive care and she was unfortunately uninsured. My mom was doing well, but my family got hit with the enormous debt of paying medical bill after medical bill.

When the holidays came around my family was confronted with money insecurities. It was winter, and the house needed to have the heaters on constantly, which drove the heating bill up and forced my parents to choose between celebrating Christmas or paying the bills. My concern was that my little sisters would end up without a Christmas.

I talked to my site coordinator because it was a very hard and stressful time, and she told me that she would help. At the time I did not know what she meant, but a week before Christmas she presented my family with gifts from a family who had helped sponsor us. I was overjoyed! My younger sisters would receive a Christmas after all.

CIS took concerns that seemed small, but they were huge to us because they cared. CIS has just been a blessing in my life and in my family’s life, and I am forever grateful for them. With my site coordinator’s assistance, I am now a first-generation college student.

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