CISTA recognized by school board for service to students

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Communities In Schools of the Tecumseh Area staff Rhonda Tinsley (l-r), Cindy Hook, executive director Heather Masten, Lisa Kirby, and Diane Savoia. Photo by Deane Erts.

The Tecumseh School Board gave special recognition to the Communities In Schools of the Tecumseh Area (CISTA) staff members at Monday night’s regular meeting.

Supt. Mike McAran commended the non-profit group, which is independent but affiliated with Tecumseh Public Schools (TPS), for the many programs and services that the organization provides as a liaison between students at all levels and the business people and professionals of the area. McAran acknowledged the organization’s work on programs to prevent bullying, increase self-esteem, and encourage students to continue their education. He added that TPS was the only district in the county that benefits from its own CIS chapter.

CISTA executive director Heather Masten gave a brief overview of the group’s programs and objectives to the board, noting that the prime objective is to keep students in school until they graduate.

Masten introduced the rest of the staff which includes: Diane Savoia, developing site coordinator at Tecumseh High School; Cindy Hook, middle school site coordinator; Lisa Kirby, developing site coordinator for Herrick Park, Patterson, and Sutton elementary schools; and Rhonda Tinsley, Tecumseh Acres site coordinator.

Masten said that during the previous school year, CISTA had served 2,500 TPS students with special emphasis on 146 individual students.

Kirby explained some of the programs that CISTA had instituted in elementary schools, including a community walk; a peace-making program in all elementary schools to combat bullying; Rolling Readers, which pairs students with an adult reading mentor; Lunch Pals, which pairs an adult with an elementary student for socializing during the midday meal; a program called A Little Grace and Charm that teaches elementary students etiquette; and T-Town Safety, a comprehensive guide for safety in a wide variety of situations in which children may find themselves.

Tinsley explained a program to assure that disadvantaged students have sufficient food for the weekends. The premise of Friday Food Packs is that all students receive good nutrition while they are at school through the breakfast and lunch programs, but some are at risk during the weekends.

She said that she and other volunteers assemble packages of ready-to-eat food, such as crackers, cereal, packaged cheese and meat snacks, and fruit cups. The students receiving the food packs are referred by school staff or community members, and the packages are slipped into the student’s backpack when no other students are around to avoid embarrassment. The project is supported by such service groups as Gleaners and other local clubs.

Hook, Tecumseh Middle School coordinator, is the longest serving CISTA member, with 11 years in the organization, and with that experience is well acquainted with the programs that she oversees in the school.

She said that when she started in CISTA, staff was distributed as needed for the particular program that was being conducted at a given school. She said that she is happy that her co-workers have a school or schools of concentration now. Regarding her assignment to the middle school, she said, “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

Hook said that she is grateful to volunteer students from the high school who help her with the many programs offered, including after school homework sessions. There are a wide variety of other individual and group programs offered to students at the middle school through CISTA.

High school coordinator Savoia gave an overview of services and programs offered to secondary students. She said that services for the older students were more one-on-one and involve both students and teachers. She said that the Speakers’ Bureau, a pool of local business people willing to explain their paths to success and the workings of their enterprises, has proven very successful and informative.

A program that she and City of Tecumseh Economic Director Paula Holtz are working on would pair students with local businesses and industries for job shadowing. “It’s important to grow relationships with the community and its businesses to show students the skills they will need in the careers of their choice,” Savoia said.

Masten concluded the presentation by expressing her gratitude to the community for its support, especially through the “Taste” and “Savor” fundraising events. She said that the main fundraiser in the coming year will be called March Mingle and will be substituted for the previous events. Instead of taking place in the high school where Taste was held for all of its years, March Mingle will be in the new Community Center. She said more details would be provided as plans for the event progress.




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