Communities in Schools provides safety net for students
Diane Boyett

The African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” has never been more true than it is in our society today.

We are blessed in Victoria to have so many people who truly care about children. I shared last week how the volunteer program is growing in our schools. Today, I want to share some information on a program that has been in our schools for many years.

Communities in Schools works on five campuses as an outreach of the Workforce Solutions of the Golden Crescent. The communities coordinators work individually with students with a focus on helping them to overcome the obstacles that life may place in their way and moving forward to the bright futures they deserve.

Last week, the national president of the Communities in Schools organization made a stop in Victoria to see the wonderful connections the site coordinators are making with students and to tour the Workforce Development Center downtown.

Dan Cardinalli commented during a welcome breakfast that children who grow up in poverty have brains that develop differently from children who are not economically disadvantaged. The brain is physically different.

He likened the difference to someone who is training for a long run. They start out each morning for the run, but in poverty, it is like someone hits the back of their legs with a 2 x 4. The first day, it hurts. The second day it happens, the pain is a little more intense, but the run continues. After repeated hits on the legs, the runner slows and eventually, the runner stops.

But, the key, Cardinalli stressed, is that the way to overcome those brain differences and the “hits to the legs” is in building relationships, creating a connection between the child and a caring adult.

Those connections are where schools come into play. The connection may be the bus driver who brings the child to school each day, the teacher who builds a rapport with the student, a counselor, campus administrator, paraprofessional, child nutrition worker, or a custodian. It is also a role that is carried out by the Communities in Schools representatives.

Liberty Academy student Alisa Martinez will soon graduate from Victoria College with an associate degree and then the following month will graduate from high school. At the welcome breakfast, she related how the communities site coordinators she has worked with in her years at Liberty Academy checked on her frequently. They made sure she had support. She remarked how they were like “friends, but with better advice.” She is an awesome young lady who is destined for a great future because there were people like Communities in Schools and the staff who cared and created the connections to keep her going through a challenging high school program that included 60 hours of college work.

Communities in Schools has been a powerful partner in building connections. They work to provide enrichment for their students, connections to health and human services, academic support, college preparation, and outreach to the families.

Our communities coordinators are Diana Spears, Espiridion (Speedy) Castillo, Nicole Janke, Carolina DeLaVegas, Diana Johnson, Nidra King, Leland Schuetz, Nola Harris and Daryl Ewers. They work with wonderful people like Carmen Herrera Lara, Grace Carr, Evelina Garza, Rick Villa, Edwin Dyer, Jane Valderama, Mike Milson and Henry Guajardo.

VISD provides financial and resource support for the program. Communities in Schools also receives funding through the United Way and Workforce Development.

We’ve created some very powerful connections for our students through the strong bonds of caring. Our children deserve futures of hope, and we celebrate all our “village” members who want to make that happen.

Diane Boyett is the communications director for Victoria school district. Contact her at