CIS of Nevada names Nicole Willis-Grimes Western Nevada Executive Director


CIS Western Nevada also launches the first “CIS Academy” in Washoe County for the 2021-2022 school year. Tami Hance-Lehr, CEO and State Director of Communities In Schools of Nevada (CIS), announces the appointment of Nicole Willis-Grimes to executive director for the organization’s Western Nevada affiliate.

Willis-Grimes, a longtime Reno resident, comes to CIS and joins the nonprofit world after working for more than two decades in the professional services sector. Most recently, she served as the director of public affairs for The Ferraro Group in Reno, Nev. where she managed the firm’s clients and their legislative, regulatory and public outreach priorities. Professional highlights include work on the 2010 and 2020 Nevada Census statewide public awareness campaigns, serving as legislative affairs coordinator for the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C. and advocating for various missions as a staff member, volunteer and board member for several local and international nonprofits around the world.

“I am thrilled to be named Western Nevada affiliate executive director and to be working with an organization that has such deep roots in the Reno-Sparks community,” said Willis-Grimes. “I’ve told my friends and family this position found me, not the other way around.  I’ve already had the pleasure of meeting key stakeholders and partners, and every meeting has confirmed what I knew before joining CIS – the ‘all in for kids’ spirit is strong, translating to evidence-based results that help more students cross the graduation finish line. It’s a true gift to find an occupation that embodies my passion – kids, education and helping those in need.”

As Western Nevada affiliate executive director, Willis- Grimes oversees all aspects of the organization’s efforts in Washoe County, which serves 8,000 students in the Washoe County School District. In this position, Willis-Grimes’ responsibilities include development and fundraising, finances, programming, community relations and practicing diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) to continue meeting CIS’ mission of surrounding students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.

“Nicole is a tremendously respected public affairs professional whose years of board service to other nonprofits demonstrates she is a leader who can get things done and build good relationships,” said Hance-Lehr. “In just the two months she has been with us, she has displayed strategic vision and a people-first approach, two of the things we value most in our organization’s culture. Under her leadership, we look forward to reaching more students in need to close opportunity gaps and increase graduation rates.”

Willis-Grimes is working closely with her team to launch the first CIS Academy in the Western Nevada affiliate this coming school year. This yearlong elective class of 11th-graders focuses on CIS’ four pillars (academic growth, life skills, college and career exploration and service learning) and emphasizes on Social Emotional Learning (SEL) and Diverse, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) learning.

“Joining CIS just in time to celebrate this milestone of launching the first CIS Academy in Washoe County means the world to me. What makes CIS Academy so unique is that it pairs a teacher with a CIS site coordinator, providing an even stronger support system for our students as they inch closer to graduation. I am ready for what this year has in store for me and CIS!” said Willis- Grimes.

CIS Academy launched in Hug and Sparks High School on August 9, the first day of school for Washoe County School District.

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