Climbing the Ladder
Though she began volunteering within her church as a child in Miami, Elyssa Linares thought her true passion in life would be as a secondary school English teacher. Little did she know that a chance job as a tutor would send her down a completely different path. “The work that I am currently doing is not my chosen field, but in fact it is the field that chose me,” she says. After leaving the University of Central Florida during her senior year to be closer to family in Miami, Linares took a job as a reading tutor for Communities in Schools of Miami, hoping to earn a teaching certificate and begin teaching. “[CIS] was a great place where I was able to work within the field of education and do what I loved, while expanding my role to engage and give back to the community,” she says. Within a year she was offered a role as a Site Coordinator and “my aspirations began to change.” Eight years later she’s the President and CEO.
An affiliate of the nation’s leading dropout prevention organization, CIS of Miami surrounds students with a community of support to allow them to stay in school and achieve what they want out of life. Unlike other organizations who focus on afterschool programs or initiatives at home, CIS places certified site coordinators (SCs) directly inside of schools to work with at-risk students on a day-to-day basis. “We help students see their potential so they can start to realize it in ways big and small,” says Linares. “We work hand-in-hand with their schools, communities, and families to create access to the resources and opportunities that help them overcome life’s current and future barriers. Together, we clear the way for their success, so they can lead the way to a brighter future.”
“We believe that relationships, not programs, change the trajectory of a child’s life,” says Linares. “We would not be able to change thousands of students’ lives each year without the support and involvement of our community members.” To that end, the organization is always looking to recruit volunteers as mentors and coaches or guest speakers as well as to organize drives for students and much more. “Our SCs seek out community partnerships, resources and wraparound supports designed to help students to succeed,” says Linares. “Whether it’s a clean or complete uniform, a bus pass, a ride to school, a meal, a job, or a chance, students who face adversity need a web of support and supportive relationships with caring adults to build personal resilience to thrive in school and in life.”
October 10th will see CIS Miami’s first “Dine Out For Kids” fundraiser, giving local restaurants a chance to demonstrate their support for at-risk kids in the community. Partners such as Misha’s Cupcakes, Flanigan’s Pinecrest and South Miami’s Deli Lane Cafe & Tavern will donate a flat amount or portion of the day’s sales to to CIS Miami. “We are asking people to dine out at one (or more) of the restaurants on Wednesday, October 10th,” says Linares. “Together we can help local kids get the resources and caring relationships they need to stay in school, graduate, and achieve great things in life.”