Maur’jon will tell you middle school was tough and many labeled him the “bad kid.”

From threatening to throw weights during PE class to frequent outburst in the classroom, his bad behavior constantly kept him from focusing on the most important thing: academics.

“Grades was actually the one thing I’ve always cared about,” Maur’jon shared. “Discipline stopped me from coming to school though and it stopped me from doing my work.”

That is until he met his Communities In Schools (CIS) site coordinator, Beth Howell. Maur’jon began working one-on-one with Beth and one day at a time, they set goals to tackle his behavior issues.

“Last year, we talked a lot about anger and how that can be a big distraction,” Beth explained. “We also talked about ways to cope with it.”

Maur’jon is one of around 90 middle school students who received individual case management services at Fair Park Middle School this year. The two site coordinators, Beth and Sally, not only identify students, like Maur’jon, who receive extensive support, but they also provide school-wide services, such as a clothing closet or hygiene bags that are available to the entire student population.

This is all possible due to a licensed partnership between Volunteers of America North Louisiana and Communities In Schools, the nation’s largest and most effective dropout prevention organization.

Maur’jon made tremendous strides in one year. Beth shared, “When discipline was no longer a distraction for him, we began to focus on his grades.”

“One day, his teacher came to me and said he was having a hard time in class. He was not turning in his work, so Maur’jon and I sat down to talk through different things,” Beth continued. “We discovered that Maur’jon wasn’t engaged in class, because he couldn’t see the board. His teacher agreed to move him closer up to the front.”

That’s the goal of CIS—to identify and remove these type of barriers for students, so they can focus on learning.

Today, Maur’jon is looking forward to high school and he will always remember his experience in the CIS program. “When I grow up, I want to be a football player or video gamer. But if those two things don’t work out, then I want to be a motivator and therapist,” Maur’jon shared. “Working with Mrs. Beth and Mrs. Sally has been a dream come true. I can go to them for anything.”

At Volunteers of America North Louisiana, we are committed to expanding Communities In Schools in Caddo Parish schools to follow students throughout their academic years and continue to reach more students in need.

“Some of the kids that are on our CIS case load are kids that have been written off as ‘bad kids’,” Beth shared. “My favorite thing is when I can work with a kid and see them turn it around, because I know they aren’t defined by those issues.”

The Volunteers of America North Louisiana and Communities In Schools partnership is funded in part by a grants from the Community Foundation of North Louisiana and The Grayson Foundation.

Together, we are all in for kids.