Staff Spotlight with Jennifer Herrera, Senior Policy Specialist
Jennifer Herrera is our Senior Policy Specialist at the National Office. She works on advocating for and raising awareness of policy that benefits our students on the federal level. Read her Q&A below to learn about her journey to CIS and her take on some important educational policy happenings in Congress right now.
Q: How did you find your way to CIS?
Jennifer: I began my career as an elementary school teacher and after five years I realized that I wanted to be a part of larger efforts making changes towards a more equitable education system. So, I went to graduate school for public policy and have worked for organizations serving refugees and most recently an organization serving health and human service nonprofits where I focused on economic mobility and education policy. Through this work I became familiar with the community school movement and with Communities In Schools and was immediately intrigued and impressed. I realized how many more students I could have helped when I taught if I had access to these additional supports. When the opportunity to join the policy team at CIS became available I was thrilled at the opportunity and even more thrilled to join this incredible organization.
Q: What is your favorite part about working at CIS?
Jennifer: Aside from the mission of CIS, my favorite part about working here is, hands down, the wonderful people I get to know and work with at both the national office and throughout the network. The entire CIS network strives to have the best talent and the most devoted people in advancing success for all students, but they also happen to be the most lovely and interesting people.
Q: What do you do when you are not working?
Jennifer: I love spending time outdoors doing activities like hiking, camping, or just enjoying time near the water. My husband and I also love to travel both abroad and to the Pacific North West in the United States. When at home, I love to dabble in drawing and other arts and spend time snuggling my two dogs Walter and Basil.
Q: What do you think about President Biden's FY22 policy update?
Jennifer: I was excited to see integrated student supports named in the President’s FY23 budget request, and believe years of our messaging efforts with U.S. Dept. of Education contributed to this. President Biden requested that the Full-Service Community School grant program receive a historic funding level of $468 million and that $25 million of that to be used to help schools design and implement integrated student supports (ISS) focused on “addressing a range of student and family needs including meeting student social, emotional, mental health, physical health, and academic needs and providing resources and services to meet family needs, including through cross-agency efforts and partnerships with community-based organizations and other family support providers external to the school site”.
It is clear that this Administration is prioritizing wrap-around services and a more equitable education system. Beyond the budget request, they have called out CIS and ISS in recovery fund guidance, made written commitments to advancing community schools and equity, has formed a joint-department effort between Health and Human Services and the Department of Education to expand school-based health services, and the President’s office has organized meetings with multiple federal agencies and community school leaders, including CIS, to inquire what they can do to ease the pathway for ISS and community school implementation and growth.
The federal government’s prioritization of wrap-around services and local and state governments focus on pandemic recovery for students has created a policy window of opportunity for CIS that I am excited to capture. I think we will see real wins towards the network’s strategic goals, which translates to bringing these services to more students than ever before.