Communities In Schools is proud to provide a voice for the students and families in the communities we serve.

Back to School with Communities In Schools

Dear Friends,

It’s back to school season in Los Angeles, and CIS site coordinator Kenn Campa is ready at Mendez High School, welcoming back students as they return. Thanks to Kenn’s leadership and tailored approach, last year, 100% of CIS seniors at Mendez H.S. graduated, despite at one-point being identified as likely to drop out. Our students arrive at school with incredible talents and potential, but also bring challenges outside the classroom that create barriers to success inside the classroom. With your support, site coordinators work full-time in schools to help remove those barriers.

As Kenn explains, it’s all about the relationships, “I see our students as individuals, always. When I am advising and supporting our students I apply interventions to meet their individuals needs. We have to always treat students as uniquely as possible.”

Students like, Anita. Kenn began working with Anita during her 9th grade year because she was identified as having potential barriers to graduation. Over the next three years, Anita remained on Kenn’s caseload and continued to receive one-on-one support to ensure she stayed on track. By her senior year, Anita was thriving academically, but was struggling to navigate next steps for pursuing college.

Anita will be the first young woman in her family to attend college. She expressed interest in attending the University of San Francisco, but had concerns: she didn’t know how she would pay her tuition, she was having anxiety about going so far away for school, and she worried about the impact leaving Los Angeles would have on her family. Kenn sat with Anita and listened to her concerns. He counseled her through her questions, and together, they devised a plan. This week, Anita will begin her freshman year at USF, as a member of the class of 2021.

Kenn encouraged her to “be proud of the work she did to get accepted… and, recognize her potential for greatness. I immediately saw she had gained a newfound sense of confidence. I’ve known her since she was a freshman so to see her take that personal leap of faith was incredible.”

As another school year begins, I hope you will consider making a gift in support of site coordinators like Kenn, who work tirelessly, every day on behalf of more than 11,000 students in our city. Every dollar you give helps keep another student, like Anita, in school and on the path to reaching their full potential. Every gift has an impact:

  • $25 provides students like Anita with back to school supplies
  • $50 sends a student on a field trip to explore college and career
  • $250 brings a guest speaker to campus and inspires students around what’s possible
  • $500 sends a group of students on a field trip to explore college and career
  • $1,000 per year gives a student, like Anita, a champion, like Kenn, who provides one-on-one support and empowers them to achieve their brightest future.

Please consider supporting as many students as you are able this back to school season.

With gratitude, 


Donate Now




Message from Communities In Schools of Los Angeles: DACA


“The cruel and irrational elimination of DACA threatens the goal of inclusion and opportunity for all, and should compel all of us in philanthropy to increase support for our immigrant communities.”
– Fred Ali, Weingart Foundation

The horrific announcement made this morning by the Trump Administration runs contrary to our beliefs as an organization.  Not only does the decision put the lives of nearly 800,000 young people at risk of deportation, instability and further marginalization but will cruelly tear apart families who have bravely come forward to serve and contribute to this country that they rightly consider their home.  More than 200,000 DACA recipients reside here in California. Over the last 10 years, CISLA has served over 35,000 students, many of who will be directly and negatively impacted by this decision.

As an organization, we remain committed to working daily to mitigate the systemic barriers that many of our communities face through our work in schools. Today’s decision further reinforces our purpose:  doing whatever it takes to ensure that EACH student and their family have access to the resources they need to succeed and persevere in the face of discrimination and marginalization.

We are mobilizing to provide information and resources to our school based personnel who will continue to ensure social and emotional supports to students and their families who will suffer from the emotional trauma as well as the financial ramifications of this decision. We will also do everything in our power to support DACA recipients in renewing DACA issuances and work permits that expire between now and March 5, 2018 by the approaching October 5th deadline.

As educators, we see every day the reality of the uniquely detrimental psychological impact of policies that target immigrants on children. The six-month delay, however, means there is still time to #DefendDACA. We call on Congress to move on legislative efforts to provide as much relief as possible for these deserving young people as expediently as possible. At EdLoC, we will continue to advocate for comprehensive immigration reform legislation that creates a pathway to citizenship that keeps families together and gives both our country, as well as DREAMers and their families, the opportunity to realize their full potential.”
– Education Leaders of Color (EdLoC), September 5, 2017

Further we commit to keeping you informed about ways to support our undocumented communities.  Here are some action steps that you can take to participate in the fight:

Advocacy / Take Action:  

For Students and Families

Stay Informed and Sign up for Newsletters: 
  • Informed Immigrant (link
  • National Immigration Law Center (link
  • Here to stay (link
  • UndocuMedia (link

Deborah Marcus
Executive Director, Communities In Schools of Los Angeles


The Give That Keeps on Giving

Tuesday, November 29, 2016  


Dear Friends,

This holiday season, I write to say thank you. Your support has allowed us to engage with over 11,000 students – just last year alone – in Los Angeles’ public schools, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. This past June we saw our highest graduation rate to date: 93% of our students who began our program as freshmen – those considered most at-risk of dropping out – graduated and 74% of those students had plans to attend college.  Our program works – and your investment in children’s lives continues to yield results.

Now more than ever, we need you to continue investing in our city’s most vulnerable youth. Following the election a couple of weeks ago, our students came to school scared about how potential policy changes may impact their lives. Will their parents be deported? Will they lose their health insurance? We remain committed to doing what we have always done, but with a renewed sense of urgency: surrounding students with the resources they need to achieve their greatest potential.

I would like to share a story about Kevin. When Kevin was a 6th grader at Mark Twain Middle School, he was recognized by teachers as a hard worker, but nevertheless struggled academically. The school counselor connected Kevin to Ms. Turner, the CIS Site Coordinator at Mark Twain. Ms. Turner quickly understood that his quiet demeanor often caused him to be overlooked in class and, as a result, he wasn’t getting the academic support he needed to succeed. Recognizing how this was holding him back, Ms. Turner encouraged Kevin to enroll in CIS’s tutoring program. In this more individualized setting, he received the support he needed to improve his grades. By the end of 7th grade, his confidence had grown and so had his level of comfort in knowing how to ask for help. In 8th grade, he enrolled in CIS’s Male Mentorship program, which helped him gain confidence in public speaking. By the end of his 8th grade year, data showed increased motivation and valuing of his education. Kevin passed 8th grade, achieving Bs and Cs on his report card.

Building confidence, increasing motivation, and learning the value of school are not only skills that helped Kevin successfully move onto high school, they are skills that will be critical to his continued success. They keep on giving. When you renew your support for students like Kevin, you can be confident knowing that your gift has an immediate impact, but also extends far beyond today, arming students with skills, opportunities, and resources that have life-long dividends. Your investment is truly the “Give that Keeps on Giving.”

Every dollar you give helps give another student like Kevin a champion like Ms. Turner. Please consider supporting these students who will reach their full potential with your help. Will you join us again in empowering students?

Thank you for your consideration and warm wishes for a happy holiday season.

With gratitude,


Deborah Marcus


Thank You

Tuesday, November 22, 2016


Happy Thanksgiving from CISLA!

Dear Friend,

Thanksgiving is a holiday that I look forward to every year for time off spent with family and friends, and for the expressions of gratitude. At Communities In Schools of Los Angeles, we have a lot to be grateful for.

We are grateful for the $1 million investment made by one of our greatest champions. This gift truly changed the way we operate, allowing us to focus on strengthening our organizational culture, as well as long term sustainability and eventual growth to serve more students and do it better.

More so than ever in the aftermath of the election, I am grateful (and humbled) to work alongside a professional and deeply passionate staff who come to work to support the youth of Los Angeles every day – no matter the day – celebrating student achievements on some and providing the resources and reassurances they need to power through on others.

I am also grateful to our board of directors and to our community of supporters, public and private, who take a similar approach in support of our work, truly doing whatever you can to empower our students, whether advising strategically as board members, through partnership, volunteering your time, or providing the necessary financial investments that we need to continue the work that we set out to do, 10 years ago.

On behalf of all of us, thank you for your ongoing commitment to ensure that our future leaders, elected officials, community organizers, teachers, entrepreneurs, CEOs and future parents have the support from us today that they not only deserve, but that they need, to represent and lead us well into the future.

Wishing you and your families a happy, peaceful and plentiful Thanksgiving.

With gratitude,

Deborah Marcus


Surrounding Students with a Community of Support

Wednesday, November 16, 2016


Hello, supporters and friends:

Last week, I visited each of our schools in the wake of an unprecedentedly divisive election. I left feeling incredibly hopeful and energized. I am truly honored and grateful to work with such an amazing group of social service professionals, and I want to take a moment to thank each of you for all that you do to support us and our students.

As I went through my day, it was evident that the outcome of this election has been difficult both personally and professionally for many of us. It has also been incredibly challenging for our students. Each school I visited shared that students are feeling fearful and anxious about what’s to come; fears of being deported, fears of losing health insurance for parents who are sick, as well as their personal safety. At the same time, I heard messages of strength, of resilience, and of courage to continue moving forward. Our site coordinators were holding space for students and adults alike to process, identify coping skills, and build community. In those spaces, students were not only coming forward with fears, but also with messages of hope and encouragement.

As I made my way through Los Angeles, I was able to experience the power of our youth’s voice and leadership, in choosing to walk out of school. I spoke with one student we work with and she explained that the purpose of the walk-out was not in protest of this election’s outcome, it was not “anti” anyone. The purpose was to bring our communities together and create a space to support each other amidst these difficult times. I’m so encouraged by our youth and know that they will carry us through.

At the end of the day, I left feeling hopeful and reassured that the work we are doing is not only important, but needed as we continue to build equitable educational environments. We will continue to work towards leveling the playing field for black and brown students by providing the individual resources they need and we will continue to support schools in creating academic environments that take into consideration the many barriers that our students face.

Thank you for all that you do!


Gaudencio Marquez
Chief Program Director


Celebrating Our Students: 93% Graduation Rate

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016



To our supporters:

It feels like just last week that I attended the graduations of our high school seniors and now, all of a sudden, we are preparing to meet new groups of entering six graders who we will follow through to their graduations in 2023!

This will be our tenth year heading back to school in the Los Angeles Unified School District. When we started we were in just two schools, and now our services reach over 15,000 students a year. We begin this year at 10 partner schools in Venice, West LA, Pico Union, East Hollywood, Boyle Heights and South LA partnered with principals, teachers, counselors and you to ensure that EVERY CHILD has what they need to succeed in school.

I will be going back to school on Tuesday to welcome returning and new students and it is my hope that you will join me at one of our schools this fall to do the same. Just reply to this email if you’d like more information and we will get it done.

We could not be more excited to share our students’ accomplishments with you as we embark on a new year.

With gratitude,




93% of CISLA students graduated on time in 2016


15,372 students were served by CISLA


1,442 students were individually case managed



–  Click here to read CISLA’s full 2015-2016 Impact Report! –




Dou’Jae recently graduated from Hamilton High, and is getting ready to embark on the next leg of her academic career at UCLA. Not only did she graduate with over a 4.0 GPA and accepted to Brown, UC Berkeley, UCLA, and Spelman College, but she is also a student that has shown a great deal of strength and perseverance in overcoming many challenges. As the oldest in her family, she took on a great deal of responsibility once her father passed away during her 10th grade year. Living with her disabled grandmother and younger sister, her life’s circumstances demanded that she grow up quickly. “At a young age, I became the ‘man’ of my family,” she said, “I aged twenty years in one day in order to provide for them. Having fun and being a kid was not an option anymore.”

Dou’jae experienced injustice at a young age, and saw a need in her family and in her community that she knew she had the ability to fill. She understood the value of her education and worked unrelentingly to rise above every challenge she faced.

Dou’Jae achieved straight As for the majority of her high school career and she took the initiative to seek out assistance and guidance from teachers, school counselors, and community organizations when she needed it. She sought out available opportunities like tutoring, CAA’s STEAM program, and college and workplace visits. A recipient of the JP Scholarship through CIS, she will be attending UCLA in the fall, and intends to study law and become the first in her family to obtain a college degree. Her drive for excellence and passion for law stem from a deep desire to help others overcome the challenges she experienced.

“I will become a lawyer,” Dou’jae writes, “And I will eventually open my own law firm dedicated to serving low-income families for affordable prices. I can’t change the fact that my father was killed, but I can do everything in my power to lighten the load for others. I continue to work my hardest in the most difficult situations for all the future children I will be helping; to ease the pain that comes along with not receiving justice. That is what drives me to relentlessly pursue academic excellence and prepare myself for the future.”


Celebrating our #CISLAClassof2016 graduates

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016


“It wasn’t until I met my CIS site coordinator, Karina, that I saw my future with more clarity… CIS not only gave me the tools to be successful, but also a network and a family who I continue to turn to when I have a question.”

— Selena Juarez, CIS of Los Angeles Alumna, class of 2012


(L to R) Singer-songwriter Jojo and students of Venice HS choir perform at CISLA’s Annual Celebration; Risa Gertner, honorees Richard Lovett and Erin Favre-Smith, and Deborah Marcus; Jojo with CISLA alumni Selena Juarez, Jamal Tate, and Manda Wheeler

Two weeks ago, at the home of Chris and Jennifer Lewis, CIS of Los Angeles celebrated its 9th year and honored two of its own: Erin Favre-Smith, CIS Site Director, and our long time champion, former board member, and friend, CAA president Richard Lovett, for their commitment to doing whatever it takes to ensure that students succeed.

CIS Alum, Manda Wheeler and Jamal Tate travelled from Texas and North Carolina to join Selena on stage to share their stories, each inspiring examples of what is possible when we come together as a community to surround students with the resources they need to overcome barriers, graduate, and reach their goals. As we move towards our 10th school year here in Los Angeles, and 40th nationally, we know that high school graduation, while critical, can’t be our endgame. Ensuring that our students persist in college — and graduate from college with a support system in place — is our next frontier, and Manda, Jamal, and Selena will lead the way.

The arrival of June means graduation is upon us. We are taking to social media to honor and celebrate the incredible accomplishments of our students who are graduating and going on to futures that are bright and full of opportunity. Join us in celebrating their success! You can learn more by following us below.

Congratulations to the CISLA Class of 2016!

With gratitude,

Deborah Marcus
Executive Director

This month, we are kicking off a campaign to celebrate the incredible accomplishments of CISLA students graduating this month.

Follow along with @cislosangeles and share using hashtags:
#CapsOff and #CISLAClassof2016!




2016 Annual Celebration

Thursday, April 14th, 2016




March Madness, Camp CAA, and More!

Friday, March 11th, 2016

Next week, join us in supporting our students by entering to win amazing sports-themed prizes in our Hoops 4 Kids bracket game!

A Message from our Chief Program Officer, Gaudencio Marquez

This February, thanks to a partnership with CAA led by music executive Shannon Silber, we were able to take 75 middle school students from six different LAUSD middle schools on a weekend/overnight camping trip in Lake Hughes. Students engaged in fun activities – like rock climbing, ropes courses, team-building exercises, and group performances – that fostered new friendships, leadership skills, creativity, and a love of the outdoors. The weekend revolved around learning the 5 R’s: Respect, Responsibility, Reaching out, Reasonable Risk & Role Modeling. Students came back to their schools having conquered fears, with a newfound confidence, new friendships, and a greater understanding of their individual strengths. It was an amazing experience for all involved; as one student put it, “It was the best time I ever had.” We are very grateful for all the folks at CAA and Camp Lake Hughes who made this happen, and are very much looking forward to next year! 

– Gaudencio

Supporter Spotlight: Taylor Friend

Taylor Friend, a member of CISLA’s Professional Circle and a champion for our students, ran the L.A. Marathon this past month on our behalf and raised over $2,000 for the organization while spreading awareness about the work we do in Los Angeles. Congratulations on finishing the big race, and thank you for your amazing support, Taylor!

Community Partner Spotlight: L.A. Clippers Foundation

The LA Clippers have partnered with local youth organizations to assist with community based mentorship initiatives. The Mentorship Assist Zone supports local organizations with mentorship recruitment, student incentives, speakers, cultural experiences, and group outings. While the program supports all youth mentorship, it has a special emphasis on organizations serving youth in underserved communities and young men of color. In the past year, CISLA’s XY Zone has had over 30 students participate in the Mentorship Assist Zone activities with the Clippers. Students have had the chance to attend NBA games and also to meet players and coaches at the roundtable discussions held at their practice facility, joining in conversations with different members of the Clippers operation around leadership, teamwork and achievement. “The NBA players were so inspirational,” said Bryant, a student from Liechty Middle School. “I am just happy they sat down and talked to me. It made me feel very special.” And it is this sentiment that is shared by all of our students.

Save the Date!

CISLA’s annual celebration event will be held on Tuesday evening, May 24th in Brentwood. Contact Lydia for details about sponsorships:

Michelle’s Story

Wednesday, December 9th, 2015

Dear Supporters & Friends,
I spent the morning at Manual Arts High School in South L.A. with Michelle, a proud Latina woman we have known since her 9th grade year, who yesterday received the first of her college acceptance letters! She shared with me that as a 9th grader she was “rowdy” and didn’t care about school because she didn’t know what she wanted to do or what her options even were. But after building relationships with her CIS site coordinators, her teachers and participating in school programs, she now wants to pursue a career in communications or law. She spoke of being a leader – to herself and to her younger sister – instead of just trying to fit in.
Michelle is just one of over 1,500 students who we are so lucky to get to know, learn from and help to support every day. By building relationships with one student at at time, we are showing the youth of our city that they matter and we empower them to succeed and to LEAD. I cannot wait to see where Michelle and the class of 2016 will lead us.
Please help us to continue this work by making an end-of-year gift to Communities In Schools of Los Angeles by clicking here.

With deepest gratitude and respect,


Giving Tuesday

Tuesday, December 1st, 2015

Dear Friends,
Because of your support, more students are graduating from LAUSD high schools, college- and career-ready. We are excited to share that 91% of CIS of Los Angeles students graduate on time with their class. This is a number that is a full 20% higher than the district’s average. Here is a story from Selena, who graduated from one of our high schools a few years ago:
“My name is Selena Juarez. When I was in the ninth grade at Hamilton High School, my grades were low, as was my motivation to improve, and I had no aspirations beyond high school. When Communities In Schools came into my life, they opened the door for me to hope. As my site coordinator, Miss Karina, began to build a relationship with me, I realized that I was not alone – she shared much of my background – and that I could achieve beyond the low expectations I had set for myself.Miss Karina was there for me through the daily struggles of being a teenager, she kept me accountable for my grades, and when I got to senior year, she helped me to navigate the seemingly impossible tasks of applying to college and finding scholarships to help me pay for school. In June of 2012, I crossed the stage of Hamilton High, proudly wearing my CIS stole and ready for life beyond.

Today, a proud alumna of CIS, I am a junior at Cal State L.A. majoring in business management. I have been fortunate enough to receive a full-ride scholarship, and I work part time as an administrative assistant at the CIS office! I have many goals for the future, and one of them is to give back to CIS to thank them in some small way for what they have done to help me become a first-generation high school graduate and college student, and for what they are currently doing to help my younger brother and sister do the same.

This Giving Tuesday, will you join me in giving back?”



Happy Thanksgiving from CISLA!

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015





Dear Friends,

This Thanksgiving, while I think about all that I – and we – have to be thankful for, like the health of our families and loved ones and the freedoms and liberties that are ours as Americans, I am also aware of recent (but ongoing) local and global tragic occurrences that at times feel impossible to solve. I am thankful for my family, my loved ones, my colleagues and our supporters, but this year more than ever, I am especially grateful for all who are working hard to reverse and repair those things that may seem insurmountable. You make me hopeful for the future.

Thank you for all that you do for CIS and for supporting the many causes that are important to you.

Have a happy and restful Thanksgiving.

With gratitude, 



First Day of School!

Tuesday, August 18th, 2015


Dear Supporters and Friends,

This morning, we joined with principals, teachers and counseling staff to welcome back to school over 16,000 students in public middle and high schools across our city.  Some students were excited to return to school, while others were understandably nervous to simply travel to school because of increased violence in their community over the summer. Whether it is with excitement or trepidation that students arrived at school today,  CISLA site coordinators were there and will be there every day – before, during & after school –  surrounding our students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.


A HUGE thank you to those who participated in our Back to School Backpack Drive – we have received over $15,000 in donations and supplies!  We have begun delivering backpacks to schools and will continue to over the next several weeks, ensuring that students start school with the learning tools they need to succeed. If you haven’t yet participated, we invite you to join us by clicking here or below.


Because of your support and volunteerism, this past June, 96% of CISLA seniors graduated on time with their class! We look forward to continuing our partnership with you as we enter this next year.


With gratitude,

Deborah Marcus

Executive Director



Partner Spotlight: Windsong Trust and United Way

Thank you to two of our most consistent multi-year funders for your renewed investment.


The Windsong Trust has renewed its investment with a generous $360,000 grant for the 2015-2016 school year. Windsong Trust is a major supporter of education for underserved youth in LA, and has been a CISLA partner since 2013, when their investment established our program at Webster and Twain middle schools.

For the fifth year in a row, CISLA was awarded a $30,000 United Way Pathways Out of Poverty grant for its work around parent and family engagement in our six middle schools. 




CIS of Los Angeles and Proyecto Pastoral Receive National

CIS of Los Angeles and Proyecto Pastoral Receive National

2015 Unsung Heroes Award

Promesa Boyle Heights Named Community Honoree
John Liechty Middle School Named One of Four School

At the CIS National Town Hall Convention in New Orleans on January 22, Communities In Schools of Los Angeles was named a 2015 Unsung Heroes Awards winner in two categories. CISLA, Proyecto Pastoral and Mendez High School were recognized for their collective impact in Boyle Heights, and our site team at John Liechty Middle School was honored for their outstanding work in helping students overcome obstacles to succeed in school and achieve in life.

CISLA was one of nine Unsung Heroes Awards winners across the country. Read more and watch a video of the work being done in Promesa Boyle Heights here and one of John Liechty and other CIS
schools here

These awards are shared by all of us at CISLA for the hard work and dedication to meeting students’ needs. We are grateful to be recognized and will continue doing whatever it takes to provide the highest quality of services to students and families in LAUSD.

View the complete list of honorees and other videos here. For more information on CISLA’s honors, contact Lydia Carmany,


Linked Learning, New Partners, and Robert Downey, Jr.

Hello CISLA supporters – it has been some time since our last communication with you! This school year has gotten off to a rapid start and we have been busy at work.

In June, 97% of our seniors GRADUATED from high school. This was a 4% increase from the year before and is 10-20% higher than what is happening school-wide. We have also expanded our program to include Santee High School in South Los Angeles, which is the feeder high school for Clinton Middle School. This means that the sixth graders with whom we began working three years ago are now 9th graders at their local high schools, but still part of CIS. Ninth grade is a critical year for students – we are grateful to you for providing the support to enable us to be there for them during this transitional year.

The district and its policies are in constant flux in an effort to improve learning for students. We are dedicated to working closely with the district to understand new systems and policies so that we can continue to ensure that our students’ needs are met.

Over a year ago, we began programming specifically related to supporting our young men of color with CIS’s own XY Zone. We have very recently been invited to partner with LAUSD in the first ever Young Men of Color Conference & Movement. The purpose of this conference is to provide these young men with a village of support to help them achieve academically and graduate from high school college and career ready. Thank you to Dr. Brenda Manuel for inviting us to join you and your team. We are privileged to be a part of your village.

“It takes a village,” a wise woman (or two) have said and it does. I hope that you all continue to stay involved in our work whether as funders, volunteers or people who can help to amplify our message.



Deborah Marcus

Executive Director, Communities In Schools of Los Angeles



We are pleased to welcome two new board members: CAA’s Risa Gertner, and Sabas Carrillo, President of Adnant, LLC.


Thank you to CAA for raising over $500,000 for CISLA and at the second annual School Day celebration and for hosting an amazing Lunch with a Leader event at Bouchon. The restaurant also invited eight students from Santee High School’s culinary arts program to apprentice in the kitchen. As one student put it, “We didn’t just get to watch how it worked – we got to experience it ourselves!” Also joining the lunch were Halle Berry, Robert Downey, Jr., Stacey Snider, Ron Meyer, Buzz Aldrin, Jon Hamm, and Jennifer Lee (of “Frozen”). 

Over the summer, we partnered with LAUSD and United Way of Greater Los Angeles in Linked Learning. Linked Learning combines rigorous academics with career-based learning and real-world workplace experiences in a proven approach to transform the way students learn. We are excited to be bringing Linked Learning best practices to our partner schools, and to be expanding our reach to include Hollywood, Hawkins, Hilda Solis, Fremont and Contreras High Schools. We would like to welcome Shadae Sherrod, our Work-Based Learning Coordinator, to the team.


CISLA Announces 94% Graduation Rates!

As kids around the country are graduating, Communities In Schools of Los Angeles – part of the nation’s largest and most effective organization dedicated to keeping kids in school and helping them succeed in life – today released a report demonstrating the organization’s impact on dropout rates, highlighted by local success stories. The report was released as part of a national public awareness campaign featuring young people from around the country who have graduated from high school as a result of their involvement with Communities In Schools. To view the full Los Angeles report, click here


A Thanksgiving Update from Executive Director, Deborah Marcus

It’s been an exciting fall for Communities In Schools of Los Angeles. Check out our Thanksgiving message from Executive Director, Deborah Marcus, in our fall newsletter here!


See’s Candy Factory Tour Benefits CISLA!

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett toured the See’s Candy factory with the Staub family to benefit Communities In Schools of Los Angeles. All of those bonbons really helped to support CISLA and our students! Watch the NBC news coverage here!


School Day Auction a Tremendous Success!

The Creative Artists Agency School Day Auction on has raised more than $450,000 to benefit Communities In Schools of Los Angeles! Auction donors include entertainment and business icons, including Academy Award-winning actress Reese Witherspoon, Oscar-winner Morgan Freeman, business magnate Warren Buffett, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, and Disney CEO Bob Iger. We have also received nearly $115,000 in financial contributions bringing the current total to $565,000 so far for the School Day campaign!

Check out some of our press here:


Back to School with Communities In Schools!

CISLA is excited to begin the 2013-2014 school year! On Tuesday, we started up again at our twelve LAUSD partner schools, where we were busy welcoming back returning students and greeting new 6th and 9th graders.

IMAG0918IMAG0917Tomas w studentsUnknown



















(Clockwise from top left: Clinton Middle School Site Director, Daniella Shina, with students; Clinton Middle School Site Coordination, Jaqwel ‘Q’ Brown, with students; Mendez High School Site Coordinator, Tomas Licea, with students; Webster Middle School students showing off their CIS shirts.)


CISLA & CAA’s School Day Auction Featured on CBS!

Support Communities In Schools of Los Angeles by winning an item in the CAA School Day Auction at! KCAL9’s Cristy Fajardo met up with CISLA Executive Director, Deborah Marcus, to discuss one of the action items: an all-you-can-eat tour of the Los Angeles See’s Candy factory, followed by a meet & greet with Warren Buffet, during which the billionaire will demonstrate the ‘proper’ way to eat a bonbon! Watch the video here.






Clinton Middle School Wins Diplomas Now Middle School of the Year Award!

At the 2013 Diplomas Now Summer Institute, CISLA’s own Clinton Middle School was recognized as the Diplomas Now Middle School of the year! Clinton has embraced Diplomas Now and after two years has achieved impressive gains:

– Maintaining a 97% attendance rate through every month of the school year

– 75% of 8th graders met culmination requirements-a 14% increase over 2012-2013

– A 28% increase in the number of 8th graders passing the algebra end of course exam

Congratulations to the Clinton CIS Site Team Daniella Shina, MSW, and Jacqwel ‘Q’ Brown!

Clinton Site Team and Students











Daniella, Q and Clinton Students at the CISLA 2013 SCHOOL LIFE Gala


Stanford Social Innovation Review Recognizes Communities In Schools

The award-winning magazine, Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR), has taken a closer look at the effectiveness of Communities In Schools, detailing how our national network mixes the hard data of our research and evaluation with the soft skills of our caring site coordinators to empower students to achieve.

Take a minute to hear how SSIR recognizes our hard work and dedication to students across the nation here:

As Communities In Schools National President Dan Cardinali explains, “We train our site coordinators the way you’d train a doctor as a diagnostician, to work on both prevention and intervention.” That attention to detail and careful orientation we provide our site coordinators has paid off here at Communities In Schools of Los Angeles – during this past school year we helped 2,300 students stay in school.


Making College Dreams Come True

It started with two students, seniors at Hamilton High School in Los Angeles, Calif., who had the American dream like so many others to get a college education. Only these students were undocumented immigrants – they were brought by their parents to the U.S. as children, but never granted legal citizenship. And while they have been guaranteed access to K-12 education through the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Plyer v. Doe, without a social security number, they could only apply for college as non-U.S. citizens. That meant paying hefty tuition fees since they were ineligible for state or federal financial aid. Their dreams were dangerously close to becoming faded memories.

Then they heard the story of Karina Chavarria, a Communities In Schools of Los Angeles graduation coach at Hamilton, who herself had been undocumented but had gone on to obtain both her undergraduate and master’s degrees. And suddenly, the vision of becoming a college student came into sharper focus.

“I tell them my story – who I am, what I’ve been through and how I got here,” said Chavarria, who was 25 before she was granted citizenship. She knows the psychological toll that comes with being silent about being undocumented, and of waiting and wanting, because she has lived through it.

“They don’t say anything while they’re listening but you can see that they understand I know exactly what they are facing. When I stop talking they come up to me and say, ‘Can you help me get into college?’”

An estimated 65,000 undocumented young people graduate from high school each year according to a 2012 report by the Immigration Policy Center. Yet, approximately only five to ten percent of these students make the transition to college Within the Los Angeles Unified School District there are reportedly 200,000 undocumented students.

The Dream Act, federal legislation originally proposed in 2001, if passed would allow qualifying undocumented youth to be eligible for a conditional path to citizenship by meeting specific criteria and completing a college degree. Similar versions of the legislation at the state and local level now allow undocumented students to pay in-state tuition, and other legislation has passed that grants individuals access to state funding that can help with financial aid. These steps have helped low-income families afford to send their kids to college.

Helping students succeed in school and stay on track to graduation is something Chavarria deals with every day. In her part-time job at Hamilton, she provides approximately 70 students with targeted services while also pursuing her doctorate degree at UCLA. But Chavarria has made it her central focus to work on an issue that is very close to her heart – giving hope to undocumented youth by providing them with the information and resources they need to become college students.

“This is a passion of mine,” said Chavarria, who’s worked with high school students for more than a decade and at Hamilton since 2011. “Nothing will stop me from doing my work with the students.”

After the first two students, two more approached her. Then there were 11, and by year’s end, Chavarria had guided nearly 20 students to resources that helped them find funding to pay application fees, apply for financial aid and complete paperwork so that they could become college students.

Chavarria knew that she could be exponentially more effective and have a greater reach if she enrolled others in her mission. She found students at Hamilton who were willing to support their peers and helped them launch the High School Dreamers club at the start of the 2012 school year. The club’s goals are to make sure students feel safe enough to reveal they are undocumented and then to create a plan that will get them into college. Chavarria acts as the facilitator – she keeps the students updated on immigration legislation, helps arrange for speakers to come meet with the club and attends their weekly meetings when she is not in class herself. The students are meeting leaders in their community, learning presentation and planning skills, and gaining the confidence to stand up for themselves. Because of Chavarria, these students are helping themselves while giving back to their own communities.

“I would do this work even if I didn’t get paid,” said Chavarria. “This is an investment. To see these kids walk across the stage and achieve their academic goals…it’s so gratifying. I know that I’ve impacted the life of not only one person, but the whole community.”

– Tracey Savell Reavis, Communities In Schools National Beyond The Classroom Blog


Communities In Schools And P&G Team Up With Matthew McConaughey To “School The Nation” About The National Dropout Crisis

This summer, Procter & Gamble (P&G) and Communities In Schools kicked off the second-annual GIVE Education “School the Nation” campaign designed to increase awareness of America’s dropout crisis, and enable thousands of mentors across the country to support and encourage at-risk youth to graduate to a brighter future.

Matthew McConaughey, founder of the j.k. livin foundation, lent his voice to highlight the importance of mentorship. More than 1.2 million students drop out each year – one every 26 seconds. One-third of high school students, including half of all minority students, fail to graduate in time. If the graduation rates and college matriculation of male students (alone) increased by just five percent, it could lead to combined savings and revenue of almost $8 billion each year by reducing crime-related costs.

Communities In Schools empowers students to stay in school and achieve in life by providing them with crucial community resources that are tailored to local needs through school-based mentors known as site coordinators. The thousands of mentors within Communities In Schools’ network work with 2,700 schools and approximately 13,000 community partners – including McConaughey’s j.k. livin foundation – to serve nearly 1.26 million young people and their families every year.

In Los Angeles, CIS and j.k. livin have partnered to provide an important service to at-risk teens at Venice and Hamilton High School. j.k. livin’s fitness and wellness program runs twice a week for two hours at both high schools, fulfilling CIS’s Third Basic to give students a healthy start and a healthy future. CIS students enrolled in j.k livin gain confidence, improve their attitudes and learn self-reliance, all while improving their fitness and health. Some have lost weight to reach a healthier size. Some have achieved their goal of finally joining a school sports team.  And many have started making more informed choices about what to eat and drink. But these students have also demonstrated improvement outside of the program; CIS of Los Angeles site coordinators have seen improved grades, attendance, and behavior among the students they have referred to j.k. livin’s after school program.

At the kick-off event, McConaughey led a handful of j.k. livin students through exercise drills, including jump roping and holding a plank for a minute. “I created the j.k. livin foundation so we can help children make positive and healthy changes in themselves and the world around them – and at the most basic level for many, that starts with graduating high school,” said McConaughey. “I am a firm believer in the power and necessity of mentorship, and by teaming with GIVE Education, we’re ensuring that people learn about the inspiring and effective work mentors are doing across the country to combat the dropout crisis.”

Consumers can easily help “School the Nation” when they Buy, Give and Get. By simply purchasing $25 worth of select P&G products, consumers will get a $5 rebate by mail, and P&G will give $5 to Communities In Schools on their behalf. Last year, GIVE Education raised more than $500,000 for Communities In Schools to help deliver much-needed resources to students and their families, including mentoring, tutoring, individual or family counseling, health services, food bank access, college visits and more.

To learn more about the rebate, including participating brands and how to redeem, visit



Hollywood Celebrates Communities in Schools

Amy Adams and other stars hit the red carpet for ‘Vanity Fair’ Campaign Hollywood 2011, which benefited Communities In Schools of Los Angeles.

February 22, 2011/ Huffington Post–Vanity Fair Campaign Hollywood 2011 kicked off Oscar Week, partnering with Chrysler to celebrate Best Picture Nominee The Fighter at District on Sunset. Attendees included the films co-star, Amy Adams, as well as actors Gerard Butler, Cuba Gooding Jr., Helen Mirren, and Channing Tatum, among others.

The stars were all smiles at the event, which benefited Communities In Schools of Los Angeles. Communities In Schools focuses on working “within the public school system, determining student needs and establishing relationships with local businesses, social service agencies, health care providers, and parent and volunteer organizations to provide needed resources.”