POP QUIZ: Sheldon Turner

Welcome back to the POP QUIZ! This is a regular, yet totally unexpected, feature where we ask students, parents, staff, our friends, and partners to answer a few questions about what they are learning, reading, and thinking about. Today we feature Sheldon Turner who will soon begin his fourth year with CIS as a youth development worker at Prairie Ridge Elementary School. Youth Development Workers, as their title implies, work hard to develop the strengths and talents of our youth by involving and empowering students in their own development. Like Sheldon, these enthusiastic caring adults are passionate about helping Kalamazoo Public School students succeed in school and in life. Students often refer to Sheldon and others in this important role as “coach.”

Thoughtful, gentle, and passionate about helping kids succeed, Sheldon says it was music that brought him from Muskegon, Michigan to Kalamazoo. As both the minister of music and music director at Renaissance Church of God in Christ in Grand Rapids, Sheldon is also all in for kids. In July, we had a chance to catch up with him while he was working at CIS Think Summer, held this year at Arcadia Elementary School.

Alright, Sheldon: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

POP QUIZ

In talking with Briasha, one of the students in CIS Think Summer, she identified you–Coach Sheldon–as one of the caring adults who is helping her succeed. What do you think about that?

Briasha is a great kid. We have so many great kids in the program.

How is CIS Think Summer going?

The program is going really well and the kids are learning a lot. We just had a visit from Pfizer and that was really great for the kids. They loved it. Some of them really wanted to be basketball players and now they are like, You know, I can actually have a career with Pfizer! It has opened them up to thinking, I can be more than one thing. I can be a basketball player and be a scientist, too. It’s always good to have a plan B, C, and D!

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

I’m learning from my job with CIS that kids engage better with kids and, given the chance, can naturally problem-solve together. That can be better than for me to come in and try to problem solve for them. I’ve seen it where, if students weren’t friends in the beginning, they’ll become friends by the end. I just need to let them work it out–that’s huge for me because I have a tendency to want to solve their problems for them. But it’s important to give them the opportunity to do this for themselves.

What are you currently reading?

Right now, along with the students, I’m reading a book called Long Shot by Mike Lupica. It’s about a kid and his team and how teamwork basically makes the dream work; that you can’t do things on your own.

What is your favorite word right now?

My favorite word right now is actually the “word of the week” here at CIS. This week’s word is confidence. And you know, focusing in on a word is fun and helps not just the kids, but the staff too! Confidence is about believing you can actually achieve things that you have planned. You can also think of it in terms of making it a goal to maintain confidences.

What is something you love about Kalamazoo?

I love the atmosphere of the entire town. I can go places and not feel you, know, like I’m being watched or something. Kalamazoo is just such a friendly city…the atmosphere, the people, the kids. Everything about this place is just amazing.

Behind every successful person is a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?

One of the caring adults in my life would have to be Stacy Jackson. She’s looked out for me year after year. She knows that I’m a hard worker, she knows that I love the kids, and she is part of the reason why I’m here helping with CIS Think Summer. I look at her as a mother figure.

She recognizes my work ethic and how well I work with the kids and engage with them to help them develop into what they’re not only good at doing, but also, what they’re meant to be.

Sheldon, thank you for hanging out with us at Ask Me About About My 12,000 Kids!

Our kids need more youth development workers, enthusiastic individuals like Sheldon, to step up and serve in an after school setting (Monday through Thursday) this school year. If you or someone you know might be right for the job, go here.

Doubling Down to Make a Difference

This article was featured in our CIS Connections newsletter, The Double Issue. You can find the full publication here.

Congratulations to CIS volunteer Mary Aldrich who, along with her husband, Scott, has recently been awarded the prestigious Andrus Award for Community Service. Given annually, this award is named for AARP founder Ethel Percy Andrus. Mary has volunteered with CIS for the past four years as a Senior Services RSVP member. In addition to her fine volunteer work at Spring Valley Center for Exploration, she and her husband are involved in many other volunteer efforts throughout the community. They’ve clearly doubled up to extend their reach and make a difference in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and elsewhere.

“Mary has become a part of the Spring Valley family,” notes Spring Valley’s CIS Site Coordinator Martha Serio. “She not only tutors our students, but she is there for them when they need a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear.”

KPS Teacher Jaime Hall says that “Ms. Mary has not only improved students’ confidence in themselves, but in their learning as well. She has worked with students in both math and reading. Many students have shown an improvement in their reading and math abilities after receiving one-on-one time with her. Ms. Mary is very thorough; she does her “homework” and comes in each week with new ideas and tools to help kids learn to the best of their ability…Ms. Mary is amazing. I am grateful for her each and every day, and I know that my students are as well.”

You can change the life of a young person by volunteering. To find out more, visit our website,
www.ciskalamazoo.org.

Mary-Aldrich
Mary Aldrich with students from Spring Valley Center for Exploration.
Photo by Kathleen Kelleher of Senior Services of Kalamazoo

Dear Mrs. Dalton

Thank you!

What better way to kick off 2017 than with a thank you letter shared with us by a CIS volunteer who is participating in our “caring adult” series (and has asked that their name be withheld).  To all the Mrs. Daltons out there who show up each day and help our children grow into the best students and people they can be, thank you!

Dear Mrs. Dalton,

I am where I am today because of your teachings, your guidance, and the love you showed to all your students.

I will never forget how you taught me about chivalry, or how to appropriately shake someone’s hand. You taught me to believe in myself and showed me my potential as a student. You gave me an opportunity to excel in this world. Most importantly, you showed me the immense unconditional love you had for all your students.

I don’t know if I ever emphasized how thankful and grateful I am to have had you as a teacher during my most critical years of growing up. My morals, principles, and values that I carry with me, the understanding of what it means to be human, was instilled in me during my years as your student. For that, I am blessed to have had you in my life.

Thank you for being my educator and mentor. Thank you for everything. God bless you, Mrs. Dalton. I miss you very much.

Who is your Mrs. Dalton? If you are up to the challenge of reflecting on and writing a letter to your caring adult, email it to jclark@ciskalamazoo.org and we just might publish it!

Mr. Sindoni Responds!

Remember the November post written by CIS volunteer Shirley Freeman? The one that began:

Dear Mr. Sindoni,

I often tell the story of my 7th grade year. How I was kicked off every field trip that year – generally for being sassy and talking too much….(You can read the entire post here.)

Well, we are happy to report that the very teacher that Shirley credits with helping to turn her around is still out there. He read her post! Moved by what she had written, he reached out and shares the following:

Hi Shirley,

This was a pleasant surprise as I never thought that I’d be remembered 45 years after an incident. Anyway, this had to have occurred during my second or third year of teaching. We young and inexperienced teachers tried whatever seemed to work to correct student “bad habits” and/or “behavior problems.” One of my favorite things to do was to elevate the person or people into a responsible position (this works with grandkids too), and hope (sometimes guide) they do the task to the best of their ability. If it doesn’t succeed, shake hands and try something different at a later date, but what does succeed is the building of the relationship. Everybody wins in that case.

I’m pleased to have been a very tiny part of your life. I’ve always thought that Schalmont was good to me and I to Schalmont. After 33 years in the classroom, and about 25 of that in 7th grade, the school district for the first time in its history, offered a financial incentive for Tier I teachers, and the money people told me to take the offer.

My wife (of 45 years) and I presently split our living between New York and Florida, and I’m sure you can guess the seasons at each place.

Again, thank you for allowing me to be just that very tiny bit of your life. I guesstimate that I was there for about 5,000-6,000 others as well, and with a few I still remain in contact.

Ed Sindoni

What a great way to end our 2016 posts here at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids! It is good to know that your efforts make a difference. It may take 45 years to find out that the seeds you are planting now will take hold some day. Hang in there!

We thank you for hanging out with us here at the CIS blog. Stay warm and come on back and join us for a whole new year of posts, beginning Tuesday, January 10th, 2017.

A Letter to Mr. Sindoni

Shirley FreemanToday, we hear from CIS volunteer and Bookbug staff extraordinare, Shirley Freeman. As part of the Chapel Hill/Portage United Methodist Church initiative to help students attain the Kalamazoo Promise, Shirley began tutoring at Parkwood-Upjohn Elementary School. Ten years later, she’s still at it. Two years into her volunteer service, she received specialized training from SLD Read, a nonprofit community resource serving West Michigan. Through SLD Read’s training and on-going support, Shirley is able to provide individualized, one-to-one multisensory instruction in reading, writing and spelling for at-risk readers in first, second and third grades. 

Dear Mr. Sindoni,

I often tell the story of my 7th grade year. How I was kicked off every field trip that year – generally for being sassy and talking too much. I know part of it was that we had a new boy in school, Dave Tobey, and he was a bit older and more physically mature than most boys in my class. He was a bit of an instigator and I certainly didn’t resist going along. No one who knows me now can believe I was kicked off any field trip, let alone every one.

I always think of you when telling the story because at some point toward the end of 7th grade, you called me in and talked to me about my behavior. You said that I was “going off the deep end.” I’ll never forget it. And then, the best part – at the beginning of 8th grade, you asked Dawn and me to help with something. You trusted us with a position of responsibility. Thank you. I will always be grateful for your intervention and your trust.

Shirley Freeman

Shirley Freeman with studentimg_3245

Who is your Mr. Sindoni? If you are up to the challenge of reflecting on and writing a letter to your caring adult, email it to jclark@ciskalamazoo.org and we just might publish it!

Finding His Voice

LennyThis article about Lenny was featured in the latest issue of our newsletter, CIS Connections: Graduation Beginning with the End in Mind. You can read the full issue here.

Lenny Williams has always been soft spoken. “He’s wasn’t disruptive,” Gulnar Husain explains. “In fact, he was quite the opposite. Quiet and introverted, he had a habit of shutting down and being off-task. He didn’t listen or follow directions. His academics suffered because he just wasn’t applying himself. He is a very sweet boy but he just wasn’t living up to his potential.”

So when Lenny’s then kindergarten teacher, Michelle Hiller, referred him to CIS, one of the first things Gulnar Husain did was connect him with a tutor.

Lenny believes tutoring as well as a number of other supports have helped him move in a positive direction during his time at Arcadia Elementary School. “Ms. Gulnar gives me things that have helped me be better in school, things I need, like foodpacks, coats, shoes, boots, and gloves.” It’s these basic supports, along with tutoring, that have allowed Lenny to be ready to learn every day from the dedicated teachers he’s had throughout his elementary years.

Ask Lenny who his favorite teacher is and he can’t pick just one. He’ll tick them off one by one, from kindergarten to fifth grade, but try and nail him down to one or two and he can’t do it. “Arcadia just has really good teachers,” he explains.

Cindy, America Reads Tutor, with Gulnar Husain and Lenny.
Cindy, America Reads Tutor, with Gulnar Husain and Lenny.

A loving family and great teachers, along with community support funneled through CIS is helping Lenny realize his potential. “He’s really blossomed and he has confidence now,” says Cindy Kesterke, Lenny’s former America Reads tutor. “It’s great to see and I’m excited for his future.”

“You think I’m persistent?” Gulnar laughs. “Lenny is one of the most persistent people I know. That’s because he’s anxious to learn. Always polite with his requests, this persistence extends beyond himself. He’ll even stop by the CIS office and advocate for his younger brothers to also receive CIS support. Because of the tremendous support he’s received from the school and the community, Lenny came to the decision that he needed to turn things around. Once he decided he wanted to do better, things naturally began to fall into place.”

Lenny describes it this way: “I just thought I should get better grades, so I started behaving myself. I used to always get referrals for not listening. I decided for myself to work hard and get good grades.”

Lenny’s looking forward to attending middle school and building on what he learned at Arcadia. “I’m going to do good and them I’m going to college,” he says.

Read more in our in our newsletter, CIS Connections: Graduation, Beginning with the End in Mind.
Read more in our in our newsletter, CIS Connections: Graduation, Beginning with the End in Mind.

 

Caring Adult: A Letter to Mrs. Benton

If you follow our blog, you know that CIS has been asking caring adults to think back to when they were young and in school and recall that caring adult they felt especially connected to. Today, we publish a letter written by CIS Director of Secondary Sites, Artrella Cohn. A proud graduate of the Kalamazoo Public Schools, Artrella’s poignant letter reminds us that school staff and teachers touch our lives and inspire us, stay with us even after we’ve left their classrooms and school buildings behind.

My Dear Mrs. Benton,

I want to start this letter by saying, “Thank you.” You have carved out a special place in my heart forever. I am almost certain that you have no clue the impact that you have had on my life and the endless stream of HOPE that you poured into me as an impressionable youth. You truly have no clue!

Your spirit and your smile alone has helped me through some difficult times (the image of your smile lives within my heart). Even as an adult who has carved a place in the hearts and lives of the youth of this generation, your care and concern for me remains in my thoughts.

Thank you so much!

Trella

Loy Norrix High School, Class of ‘99

Pictured below: Artrella with Mrs. Benton…back in the day when she was attending Loy Norrix. And below that, with her caring adult years all these years later! Mrs. Susan Benton is still supporting students in the Kalamazoo Public Schools as a Guidance Counselor at Loy Norrix High School.

Artrella with Mrs. Benton...back in the day!

IMG_8217

Who is your Mrs. Benton? If you are up to the challenge of reflecting on and writing a letter to your caring adult, email it to me, Jennifer Clark, at jclark@ciskalamazoo.org and we just might publish it!

Dearest Ms. Dodge

What better way to start the New Year than to reflect on that special person, that, even after all these years, you still carry within your heart? If you follow our blog, you know that Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo has been asking caring adults to think back to when they were young and in school and recall that caring adult they felt especially connected to.

Today, we share a touching letter written by Carly Denny, CIS Site Coordinator and one member of the passionate and dedicated team at Prairie Ridge Elementary School. Carly Denny began her career as an AmeriCorps VISTA with CIS last school year, using her creative talents to support the college going culture within Northeastern Elementary School and Spring Valley Center for Exploration. In her new role as a Site Coordinator, she says this: “We have amazing partners and volunteers—most of the volunteers come from the surrounding Oshtemo churches. They are pro-active and often reach out to CIS and ask, ‘What can we do to help?’ The Prairie Ridge community, the teachers, and staff all support each other in every decision they make. It’s very obvious they care about each and every student here.”

Here’s Carly’s letter.

Dearest Ms. Dodge,

Even though it has been a long time since I have seen you, I still think about you often. As my very first teacher, you are the one that I have compared all future educators to. I was only two and a half when I  enrolled into preschool, much younger than my fellow classmates, yet you made me feel safe in an undiscovered environment and just as capable as the other students. Throughout my preschool experience you cultivated my curiosity and challenged me to be my best little self. Most importantly, you gave me my first taste of learning, which is something I continue to crave, even as I journey my way through grad school. I am not sure I will ever be able to properly thank you for being such an inspirational teacher and special person in my life. You helped shape the person I have become and for that I am forever grateful.

Love,

Carly Denny

Future CIS Site Coordinator Carla Denny with her inspirational teacher Ms. Dodge
Future CIS Site Coordinator Carla Denny with her inspirational teacher Ms. Dodge

 

Carly on her first day of preschool.
Carly on her first day of preschool.

Who is your Ms. Dodge? If you are up to the challenge of reflecting on and writing a letter to your caring adult, email it to me at jclark@ciskalamazoo.org and we just might publish it!