CIS May Newsletter

Students' Mental Health Matters

We are dedicating the month of May to Mental Health Awareness for students.

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Building healthy relationships between students and caring adults is at the core of CIS. Our Student Support Specialists work directly with students to develop the social and emotional competencies and skills that lead to improved mental health and wellness, behavior and school engagement.

Students face a wide range of challenges, including depression, anxiety, and exposure to trauma. But when they are empowered with the supports and social and emotional skills to address these challenges, they are capable of succeeding.

Welcome Matt Garcia-Prats, Chief Operating Officer

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Please join us in welcoming Matt Garcia-Prats to the CIS family! Matt Garcia-Prats has joined Communities In Schools of Houston as the Chief Operating Officer after having spent more than fourteen years serving in under-resourced communities in Los Angeles and Houston. His experience as both a classroom teacher and as an administrator enabled him to understand that in order to create long term academic success, we must address the non-academic barriers facing our students and families. Matt attended the University of San Diego obtaining his Bachelor’s Degree in Sociology. While teaching in Los Angeles, he earned his Masters in Education from Loyola Marymount University. After moving into Administration, he obtained his Masters in Education Administration from Grand Canyon University and completed coursework at the University of St. Thomas to receive his Texas Principal Certification. Welcome, Matt!

"Rise & Shine” at Coop Elementary School

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Research shows that taking some time each day to practice mindfulness helps students prepare themselves for learning. CIS Student Support Specialist Glendy Lara, LMSW at Coop Elementary School in Houston Independent School District leads students in grades 1-5 through a "Rise and Shine" activity where they do two to three student-lead breathing techniques before school begins. Then Lara leads the students in celebrating birthdays and holds a short talk depending on the day’s theme, such as responsibility or a topic she notices is trending in her counseling with students from month to month.

CIS Mental Health & Wellness in SBISD

Wellness Market at Memorial High School


Students at Memorial High School kicked, colored and meditated their stress away at an event this month intended to help raise awareness for the need to face and manage what wears students down emotionally. Students received free massages, yoga, smoothies and more at the CIS Wellness Market.

Melanie Phillips, LCSW, CIS Wellness Counselor, said many students struggle with managing stress this time of year when they are worried about final exams, college plans, and more. “We’re here to provide students with whatever supports they may need to focus on their academic success,” Phillips said. “The Wellness Market will introduce students to all kinds of mental health and physical wellness tools they can use now and for the rest of their lives.”

Wellness Week at Stratford High School


As part of the CIS Wellness Week at Stratford High School, each day of the week CIS Student Support Specialist Amanda Thompson, LCSW highlighted healthy activities for the students.

During the week, she hosted yoga in the library for students to calm their minds and to practice mindfulness. Later that week, they made stress balls in the cafeteria at lunch to help relieve stress and bring awareness to ways students can stay mentally healthy in the midst of the daily stress of life.

With Gratitude

Mental Health Funders:

Thank you for supporting CIS’ Mental Health Initiative

American Red Cross

M.D. Anderson

The Cullen Foundation

John S. Dunn Foundation

Former Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and Harris County

Rockwell Fund

The Texas Health and Human Services Commission

Former Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and CIS Board Member Gwen Emmett:

We are grateful for the nearly $1 million received from the Child Safety Fund to place counselors and social workers into CIS schools this year.


American Red Cross:

Thank you for supporting CIS students affected by Harvey

CIS' Student Support Specialists, accustomed to responding to children’s needs on school campuses, continue to see students with stress, anxiety and other lasting effects related to the 2017 hurricane. In addition to emergency assistance with food, clothes, rent and more, Houston-area schools called on CIS to expand counseling services as families and students, exhausted by the long recovery process, struggled to cope with the trauma on their own.

With support from organizations like the American Red Cross, CIS expanded its staff to counsel displaced students one-on-one and in support groups to comfort one another.

“We continue working with community organizations to help counteract the upheaval in students’ lives that threatened their ability to focus and succeed in the classroom,” Lisa Descant, CEO of CIS of Houston, said.

While American Red Cross' funding supported mental health for students in several CIS schools, the impact can be seen in the words of one of our own Student Support Managers, who has seen the benefits of American Red Cross' assistance first-hand, "Because of the Red Cross Grant, CIS was able to bring DePelchin Children's Counseling to the campus of Stratford High School. In 2017, this community was devastated by the impact of Hurricane Harvey and are today still recovering mentally and physically from the trauma of that natural disaster. Providing counseling services has helped students and families begin the healing process,” said Amanda Thompson, LMSW Student Support Manager.

CIS Houston