Staff Spotlight with Onita Terrell, Senior Office Manager
For over 40 years, Onita Terrell has been a leader at Communities In Schools® (CIS®). Her responsibilities as Senior Office Manager include managing the entire National Office facility and daily operational activities, assisting Human Resources and the VP, and acting as a liaison to external management companies.
Q: How did you find your way to CIS?
Onita: I was working with a local CIS program when I met Bill Milliken, and he said, "You guys," referring to me and my boss, "are going to come work with me in my office." At that time, his office was located in Georgetown, and the organization was called Cities in Schools.
Q: What is your favorite memory of working at CIS? What do you enjoy most about your work with CIS?
Onita: I have so many great memories over my 40+ years with CIS. It is hard to think of my "favorite" memory. I will say that I still recall the time when I was working with one of our local programs at Fletcher School in D.C. I got involved with twins, and they were young adults at that time. They would sometimes get into precarious situations, and the Principal would call me and ask me to get them out of their situations. He would literally say, "Ms. Terrell, please go and get your kids!" Sometimes this call would come in the middle of the night. Our relationship grew over time, and a special memory of mine is when I gave them roses for their birthdays and told them I loved them. They said that was the first time anyone said "I love you" to them. That moment will forever be etched in my heart and my head.
Q: What do you like to do when you’re not working?
Onita: I recently started to collect shot glasses. Not that I drink like that—LOL!! Everyone knows I love to cook. And since I now have a new grandbaby, Alena, whom I call my Pumpkin, I love spending as much time with her as I can.
Q: What are some of the biggest challenges in your role and how do you overcome them?
Onita: Trying to manage an office remotely and making sure that the office is still operable. We still have staff that come into the office on a regular basis and need space, supplies, and access to other amenities. A new challenge is assisting with the on-boarding of so many new employees and also taking the time to get to know each of them.
Q: What does “All in for Kids” mean to you?
Onita: All in for Kids means just that—we have to do all that we can for the students we serve, even indirectly. When we were in the office, I used to think of ways we could engage and impact our students. We used to have a Halloween Costume Contest and the students would come into the office for treats and the staff would meet them. We also had a holiday clothes drive for our neighborhood school. We asked the school for the children’s sizes of clothes, including coats and shoes, and the entire National Office would purchase new items to donate.