By Wendy Gragg

Killeen Daily Herald

Communities In Schools Bell-Coryell Counties took the opportunity Thursday to thank its community partners and asked them to enlighten the rest of the community about the work the agency is doing.

CIS administrators also used the annual appreciation lunch, held in a darkened Killeen Civic and Conference Center, to encourage attendees to continue to light the way for children across the area.

Communities In Schools Bell-Coryell Counties, also known as the Comfort Zone, serves school-age children in Killeen, Copperas Cove, Belton, Salado, Temple and Rogers school districts. CIS caseworkers work directly out of schools, helping children and families with problems, which can range from academics to homelessness.

Pretty much whatever barrier is causing them not to have success in school, we find a way to eliminate it, Crayton said. Pretty much whatever it takes.

In the Killeen Independent School District, all four high schools have CIS staff on site, but Crayton said there needs to be more CIS sites in the middle and elementary schools.

CIS Comfort Zone served more than 5,500 students last school year, said Frank Crayton, associate director of internal operations.

Of the students served last year, 99.3 stayed in school. More than 82 percent of those students improved their attendance, and more than 89 percent showed an improvement in behavior. Roughly 88 percent of the students served improved their academics, and 92.7 percent of the students who were eligible graduated.

Mary Barr, executive direc-

tor of CIS, said the year had been a challenging one in the area of funding.

She extended thanks to all six of the Comfort Zone school districts for coming through with the funding CIS needed to keep operating at the same level. She also thanked Sallie Mae servicing and the Sallie Mae fund for their annual support of $25,000.

CIS illustrated its theme, Light the Way, at the lunch with a serenade of This Little Light by Shoemaker High School singers La-Tasha Crawford, Maeva Gutierrez, Shadai Gutierrez, Jessica Loggins and Sha-Londa Tyler.

Guest speaker Dale Smith Thomas also emphasized the theme with a rousing motivational address. Thomas told her personal story of someone who lit the way for her and encouraged the crowd to do the same for children in the area.

Just a little bit of light starts to make the darkness evaporate and thats why we are here, she said.

Contact Wendy Gragg at

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