Mariela smiling at sliding glass door, kneeling to pet a large white dog.

Mariela, an 8th grade student at Sequoyah Middle School, was a student who often “slipped through the cracks,” meaning she never got in trouble for discipline, but she also did not really exceed in her classes. Often times, her peers who needed constant intervention got the most attention, and the kids who were acing all their tests received the most praise. Mariela was stuck somewhere in the middle. Mariela is also an ELL student. Her native language is Spanish and she sometimes struggles to translate her thoughts and feelings into English.

Mariela was referred to the CIS Mentoring Program to receive a little extra attention from a caring adult, and was matched with our AmeriCorps School Outreach Coordinator, Makenna Lester. Mariela and Makenna met once a week and played games, colored, listened to music, and even potted some succulents. They also talked about careers and Mariela’s plans for the future.

Mariela was also part of a girls group coordinated by Communities In Schools. The group consisted of 8th grade girls who were passionate about social issues. The girls discussed issues such as racism, gender inequality, the impact of social media, and body image. The girls watched videos, read articles, and looked at images to spark discussion and debate. Mariela was most passionate about body image issues and sexism, and she contributed lots of great ideas and questions to the group.

Over the course of the school year, Mariela found issues she feels passionately about. In science class, she learned about environmental issues and pollution. She found an interest in reducing plastic, especially plastic straws and utensils. She promoted reusable items to her friend group and wants to advocate to ban the use of Styrofoam lunch trays at her school.

Mariela was also very involved in clubs at Sequoyah. She attended WE Act and GSA club meetings, two clubs focused on social issues and change. She was one of the 8th grade leaders in WE Act and contributed to the food drive and fundraiser for the club. In GSA, she had one of the highest club attendance rates and was very passionate about LGBTQ issues because she has a family member who identifies as transgender.

Mariela wants to attend college and study math and engineering. She set goals for herself to raise her grades in math, knowing that it is important for her future career goals, and by the end of the year succeeded in doing so! Through working with Communities In Schools, Mariela not only set a foundation for her future, she found her voice and is now using it to help make social change!