Prevention Works: Strengthening Our Kids

From left: Director of Programs Lola Amos, Assistant Director Nicole Storteboom, Executive Director Danielle Sielatycki, Program Facilitator Lenye Tynes, CIS Site Coordinator Precious Miller, and Program Coordinator Katie MacDonald.

 

Today we highlight Prevention Works, honored with a 2017 Champ Award. The non-profit’s Champ award was sponsored by Borgess. CIS Board member Carolyn H. Williams presented the award.

A healthy start and a healthy future is one of the five basics that Communities In Schools believes every child needs and deserves in order to be the best student and the best person they can be. For more than a decade, CIS has turned to Prevention Works to help us create stronger, healthier students and families throughout the Kalamazoo Public Schools.

We count on Prevention Works to deliver evidence-based prevention programs that are both engaging and educational. They address substance abuse prevention, violence prevention, bullying, family life skills, parenting, sexual health and adolescent health, and they encourage young people and their families to make wise decisions and live healthy lives.

Spring Valley Center for Exploration students participating in Prevention Works program as part of CIS After School.

 

Hillside Middle School’s CIS Site Coordinator Precious Miller works closely with Prevention Works Program Director Lola Amos to connect just the right programs to the right students and classrooms. She says, “Prevention Works staff helps our students get in touch with what they’re dealing with at home and school—to put a language to what they’re experiencing. Students learn that it’s okay to share that information with those they trust, that we are here for them.”

Prevention Works at Hillside Middle School. From left: Program Facilitator Lenye Tynes, Director of Programs Lola Amos, KPS Principal Atiba McKissack, CIS Site Coordinator Precious Miller, and Prevention Works Program Coordinator Katie MacDonald.

When Prevention Works Katie McDonald and Lenye Tynes stepped into Hillside classrooms, lives changed. As one student said, “I’m not bullied anymore. They helped the bully and they helped me.” He says his grades have improved since he’s able to focus on learning and no longer worries about what will happen once he steps outside the school. “Prevention Works is an incredible resource for our students,” says Precious.

CIS Site Coordinator January Haulenbeek agrees. When she was looking to meet the needs of a group of Northglade Montessori Magnet School students—all boys, ranging from first through third grade—she turned to Prevention Works. “Sure enough,” January says, “they provided the perfect facilitator. As a recent college graduate and young professional, Matt quickly built rapport with the students. The boys looked forward to their weekly meetings with Matt. He inspired them to dream big. He helped them take responsibility for their futures by focusing them on decisions and choices they could control.”

Victoria, a seventh grader at Hillside has been a huge fan of Prevention Works since her elementary days. “Prevention Works teaches different things,” she explains, “like how to handle peer pressure and how to be responsible. They’ve taught us how to turn down alcohol and other substances. They’ve taught us how to communicate better.”

Ever since her site coordinator connected her to the Strengthening Families Program, Victoria notices the change in her own family. “We compromise more,” she says. “My mother and I went through all seven weeks and my sister and dad came twice with us. We all talk more as a family. We try and see things from each other’s point of view.”

Prevention Works, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

Carolyn H. Williams (at podium) presenting the Champ Award as representatives from Prevention Works look on. From left: Executive Director Danielle Sielatycki, Program Director Lola Amos, Assistant Director Nicole Storteboom, Board Member Lisa Salay, Program Facilitator Lenye Tynes, and Program Coordinator Katie MacDonald.
CIS board member Carolyn H. Williams looks on as Executive Director Danielle Sielatycki is congratulated by Borgess sponsor representative and Chief Development Officer of Borgess Foundation Tony McDonnell on Prevention Works 2017 Champ Award.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Von and Fran Washington: Stirring The Dreams and Imagination of Young People

Fran Washington (left) and Von Washington (center) joined by CIS board member Namita Sharma and WMU sponsor representative and CIS board member Bob Miller.

This year’s Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award, sponsored by Western Michigan University, has been awarded to Von and Fran Washington. At the 10th Annual Champs Celebration, CIS board member Namita Sharma presented the award to the couple. This prestigious award was established by the Communities In Schools Board back in 2010 to honor Diether’s extensive contributions to his adopted home of Kalamazoo and in particular, his service and genuine concern for the children and young people of our community. 

Both Von Sr. and Fran Washington are educators, creators and professional performers, involved in the world theatre scene for years. For over 20 years, Von served as a theater professor and director of Western Michigan University’s Multicultural Theater program, retiring in 2010. Because his tenure overlapped with Diether’s time as University President and because of Diether’s deep appreciation of the arts, they developed a mutual respect and admiration.

Like Diether, this talented couple has a gift for poking holes in assumptions and challenging us to a truer, deeper understanding, always with an eye towards improving the lives of young people and improving the quality of life in Kalamazoo. Diether would be especially delighted that this year’s award goes to Fran and Von Washington.

This couple and their company, Washington Productions, provide an accurate and in-depth view of the African American experience through the performing arts. These two truth tellers extend the dialogue of race, culture, identity, and what it means to be American. By creating and bringing works to life that celebrate a variety of world views and not simply through the lens of the dominant culture, the Washingtons stir the dreams and imaginations of our young people. They have directly influenced thousands of young people and how they view themselves and the world around them. That is no small feat.

The Washingtons, giving an incredibly creative acceptance speech, one which, to the delight of the audience, showcased their storytelling talents.

 

For decades now, the Washingtons have known what research is now telling us: that a child’s sense of self and an understanding of their place in the world is linked with school attendance, graduation, and academic achievement, particularly for youth who are members of non-dominant racial/ethnic groups. Master storytellers, the Washingtons use their theater skills to conjure living moments from history for our youth. Moments that could easily have become forever lost, are lifted up and become wondrous, real, and exciting, right before children’s eyes. For many students, this is their first exposure to live theatre and the art of storytelling.

Education for the Arts Director, Bryan Zocher considers their presentations as the bedrock of EFA’s Arts For All school programming. He says, “By reaching 5,000-7,000 students annually over 20 years, Von and Fran may very well be the single, most powerful means of introducing African-American history and spreading a message of inclusivity and respect in our community.”

“Community leaders struggle every day to fill in gaps, gaps of every kind,” says their nominator, Mayor Bobby Hopewell. “As Mayor of Kalamazoo, in this city of promise, I stand in awe of Von and Fran Washingtons’ work as truth tellers and gap fillers, particularly when it comes to tackling history. They help all of our children learn and integrate the African American story into the American story.”

Just as Diether asked tough questions, always with the intent of challenging us to be the best we can be, the Washington’s work helps us challenge our assumptions and consider alternative, and too often overlooked, points of view. By making it their life’s work to tell stories that would otherwise go untold, the Washingtons break myths that limit understanding of who we are and feed truths to our young people—as well as those that are educating and nurturing them. Sharing a vision of the African American experience allows all of our youth—regardless of color—to fill that yawning gap of understanding and develop a bigger, truer identity of who they are and what it means to be an American.

Along with the limited edition art print of James Huff’s “(Harriet) Underground Railroad” (held by Von Jr., center), the Washingtons also received a special tribute from the State of Michigan.

Von and Fran Washington, we thank you for tirelessly sharing your passions and gifts with our kids and this community. Congratulations on being selected as this year’s recipients of the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence!

Champs Among Us

 

This past Wednesday, CIS board and staff had a fabulous time hosting the almost 400 people who gathered at the Radisson for the 10th Annual Champs event to honor community partners who share in the CIS vision— an engaged community where every child fulfills his or her promise— by actively putting forth time, energy, talent and resources to drive this vision to reality.

 

All in for kids, this year’s Champs are:

Evening Custodians: Mike Free, Ike Thurman, and Chalene Watson,

KPS Custodians of Milwood Magnet Middle School

Kalamazoo College Men’s Baseball Team, CIS Higher Learning Partner

Pfizer, CIS Business Partner

Prevention Works, CIS Nonprofit Partner

Rotary Club of Kalamazoo, CIS Service Club Partner

Susan Knox, CIS Volunteer

The CIS Board also honored Von and Fran Washington with the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award. This award is named for Western Michigan University President Emeritus Diether Haenicke. As educators, creators, and professional performers, this couple and their company, Washington Productions, use the performing arts to extend the dialogue of race, culture, identity, and what it means to be American. They gave an unforgettable acceptance speech that awed us all. We’ll feature the Washingtons next week.

Special thanks to the event sponsors:

  • PNC,
  • Maestro,
  • Lawrence Productions,
  • BASIC,
  • Borgess,
  • Fifth Third,
  • Greenleaf Trust,
  • Miller-Davis Company,
  • Schupan & Sons,
  • TowerPinkster,
  • Warner Norcross & Judd,
  • Western Michigan University,
  • Bronson,
  • First National Bank of Michigan, and
  • Kreis Enderle Hudgins & Borsos.

As Von Washington Jr., Executive Director of Community Relations with the Kalamazoo Promise, and emcee who kept the event flowing said, “You are all champions for children!”

In addition to hearing brief, yet memorable remarks from Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice and CIS Board President Dr. Tim Light, guests were treated to a performance of “Glorious.” As many of you know, “Glorious” was conducted by Dr. Eric Barth, Kalamazoo Kids In Tune Curriculum Director.  (Kalamazoo Kids in Tune is a partnership of The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Kalamazoo Public Schools, and Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo.) The children were joined by soloist Christine Mason, a CIS Youth Development Worker at Woods Lake.  Kalamazoo Kids in Tune, along with students from Arcadia, El Sol, Spring Valley, Woods Lake and Woodward Elementary Schools and Kalamazoo Central High School, Maple Street and Milwood Magnet Middle Schools filled the ballroom with glorious sounds. Bravo to all involved in the performance (both in front of and behind the scenes)!

Curt Johnson, a senior at Kalamazoo Central High School, shared his CIS story—which we’ll be publishing here in the coming weeks —and lifted up the voices and needs of the more than 11,000 students that CIS serves throughout 20 Kalamazoo Public Schools. Thank you, Curt!

A special shout out to our CIS Site Teams, the CIS Site Coordinators, After School Coordinators, Youth Development Workers, VISTAs, and interns who provide the infrastructure to support the hundreds of marvelous volunteers and community partners who work to help children stay in school and achieve in life.

So, keep up with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids to discover the Champ experience. You’ll be able to read what our various presenters said about their efforts and thanks to CIS volunteer, Don Kingery, you’ll be able to see what guests saw (and missed!) through his photographic lens.

We think you’ll agree it’s not just a one day event!

Sitting at table, left to right: Namita Sharma, Carolyn H. Williams, Sid Williams, and Moses Walker

 

Honoré Salon

Miller-Davis
Honoré Salon owner and senior stylist Shawn Moskalik and stylist Mindy Meisner accepting Champ Award on behalf of Honoré Salon.

Today we highlight Honoré Salon, one of seven school and community partners honored with a 2016 Champ Award.  Their award was sponsored by Miller-Davis Company and CIS Board member Jen Randall presented the award.

Hairstylists are caretakers, friends, confidantes, and risk-bearers. In the business of trust, asking questions, listening, and bringing out the best in us, Honoré Salon bring these same qualities into their partnership with Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo. And just as an excellent stylist is unfazed by ever-changing styles and trends, Honoré, as our partner, adjusts as needs evolve.

Honore Salon owner Shawn Moskalik (center) with some of his Honore stylists at Champs.
Honoré Salon owner and senior stylist Shawn Moskalik (center) with some of his stylists at Champs.

Earlier this school year, on the streets of downtown Kalamazoo, Honoré owner and senior stylist Shaun Moskalik bumped into Emily Kobza, Director of Development for Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo. “How are things going?” he wanted to know. She updated him, mentioned CIS Kids’ Closets deodorant supply had dwindled dangerously low, and they parted ways. Later that afternoon a financial donation arrived, allowing CIS to purchase deodorant that could be distributed to CIS site teams.

“There’s no rule that says businesses need to be engaged in their community,” says Emily. “But Shaun has a passion for giving back and that passion is a spark that spreads to his staff and clients. We can’t be everywhere advocating for our kids,” Emily points out. “We need the community to help.” Truly a beautiful partner, Honoré advocates for kids and for CIS in a variety of ways. They spread the word on their website, paint the CIS logo on their storefront window, they talk to clients as they cut and style their hair, creating opportunities for their clients and the community to be involved.

For two years in a row, Honoré has “rounded up for warmth,” collecting new winter wear including coats, hats, and gloves for CIS Kids’ Closet. In addition, they have raised over $2,000 so CIS could purchase even more Kids’ Closet items for students.

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Stylist Mindy Meisner sets down her scissors one day a week and volunteers at Woods Lake. CIS Site Coordinator Maureen Cartmill says Mindy is a treasure. “She has the perfect temperament for working with our students. She’s calm and patient. She’s absolutely charmed two of our kindergarteners and her third grader knows she has the coolest tutor in the school.”

Keely Novotny, as CIS Site Coordinator at Edison Environmental Science Academy sees the impact Honoré’s support has on student success. “When students feel their best, they do better academically. Honoré gets that. By working through Communities In Schools, Shaun and his business remove barriers not just for Edison students but for students at all 20 of our CIS sites.”

Honoré Salon, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

 

Big Brothers Big Sisters, A Community of Caring

Today we highlight Big Brothers Big Sisters, A Community of Caring, one of seven school and community partners honored with a 2016 Champ Award. Their award was sponsored by BASIC and CIS board member James Ritsema presented the award.

BASIC & BBBS
From BBBS, accepting their Champ Award, right to left): Amy Kuchta, Chief Executive Officer, Carmen James, Match Support Specialist, and Ann Woolley, President-elect. They are joined (right to left) by Fritz Teutsch, President of BASIC, Mike Stoddard, Executive Vice President/Principal of BASIC and James Ritsema, Kalamazoo City Manager and CIS board member.

Strategic partnerships strengthen Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo’s ability to meet the needs of the over 9,000 young people we serve. To have the biggest impact on learning, CIS aligns with those who offer evidence-based approaches. Over a decade ago, when CIS Site Coordinators positioned within the Kalamazoo Public Schools began identifying students in need of mentoring, the choice was clear. CIS turned to Big Brothers Big Sisters, A Community of Caring.

Partnership, like a healthy marriage, demands commitment and energy. It’s an adventure that can take you further than going it alone. Amy Kuchta, Chief Executive Officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters says, “CIS is critical to us. We have a powerful partnership and are able to provide services directly to the kids that need them. CIS is the link that makes sure we are able to reach the kids who are in the greatest need of our services.”

Those services, whether it’s school-based mentoring, Bigs on Campus, or Bigs in Business, require a planned, coordinated effort to magnify outcomes for students. Artrella Cohn, CIS Director of Secondary Sites says, “Big Brothers Big Sisters staff are always available to work with us on barriers and challenges that naturally arise when implementing and expanding any program. We work together,” she says, “to improve processes to ensure students are being served at fullest capacity. Right now, we’re discussing how we can expand Bigs in Business to more schools next year.”

Local businesses, brought under the Bigs in Business umbrella, help reach more students than ever before. Big Brothers Big Sisters works in concert with CIS so that, twice a month, Kalamazoo Central High School students can take a van to Stryker, Loy Norrix High School students head to Kalamazoo Valley Community College and Stryker, while middle school students from Maple Street go to National Flavors. Students make connections beyond themselves, working one on one and in small groups with the employees-mentors. It widens their world. As CIS Site Coordinator Deborah Yarbrough puts it, “It’s highly motivating for students; we’re seeing them take more initiative and responsibility—whether it’s getting homework turned in or chores done at home.” CIS Success Coach Jenna Cooperrider agrees. At the start of the school year, she consulted with Deborah on a student who was failing school and at-risk of dropping out. “We connected him to Big Brothers Big Sisters and that,” says Jenna, “was his turning point. Today, he’s not just passing all of his classes, he’s getting A’s and B’s!”

CIS site teams throughout the Kalamazoo Public Schools engage in similar conversations for students. For those needing one of the CIS basics: a one-on-one relationship with a caring adult or a marketable skill to use upon graduation, they know they can count on Big Brothers Big Sisters to deliver.

Big Brothers Big Sisters, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

Representing Big Brothers Big Sisters at Champs (left to right) Cindy Schrauben, Communications Manager, Amy Kuchta, Chief Executive Officer, and Ann Woolley, President-elect.
Representing Big Brothers Big Sisters at Champs (left to right) Cindy Schrauben, Communications Manager, Amy Kuchta, Chief Executive Officer, and Ann Woolley, President-elect.

Gracias, Pat Early

Pat Early Champ Presentation 5-31-16s (15 of 29)
Larry Lueth, CEO of First National Bank of Michigan (right) presenting CIS volunteer Pat Early with his Champ Award. CIS Site Coordinator Laura Keiser (left) and several MLK students are all smiles.

Today we highlight Pat Early, one of seven school and community partners honored with a 2016 Champ Award. His award was sponsored by First National Bank of Michigan and CIS Board member Carol McGlinn announced his award at the Champ event. Since Pat was unable to attend the celebration as he was out of the country, upon his return he was presented with his Champ award at King-Westwood Elementary School.

MLK student congratulates Pat Early on his award as First National Bank of Michigan's CEO Larry Lueth and CIS Site Coordinator Laura Keiser look on.
MLK student congratulates Pat Early on his award as another MLK student, First National Bank of Michigan’s CEO Larry Lueth and CIS Site Coordinator Laura Keiser look on.

For the past three years, Pat Early has been volunteering with Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo at King-Westwood Elementary. A retired Chemical Production Coordinator for Pfizer, he tutors several hours a week. “He’s such a valuable member of our team,” says CIS Site Coordinator Laura Keiser. “I can connect him with all different kinds of kids who have various academic needs. He doesn’t back away from a challenge, and trust me, some of the kids have tested him!”

Because the students know their tutor genuinely enjoys and cares about them, they look forward to learning with Pat each week. Pat also hosts a monthly science club with fourth graders. His goal is to make science fun and hands-on. Recently, the students made lava lamps using Alka-Seltzer tablets. His demonstrations spark questions that naturally emerge as the students experience wonder.

It should come, then, as no surprise that CIS Volunteer Coordinator Kaitlin Martin turned to Pat for help with piloting Water Wizards—a collaboration between the Kalamazoo County Drain Commissioner’s OfficeKalamazoo River Cleanup Coalition, and Communities In Schools. Pat immediately hopped on board. Using the portable model Drain Commissioner Patricia Crowley purchased, Pat teaches students about water cycles and conservation.

Most recently, Pat has worked to bring in the “Birds of Prey show and tell” from the Kalamazoo Nature Center. It’s no wonder Site Coordinator Laura Keiser and her King-Westwood team are thrilled to have Pat Early on their team!

Pat couldn’t attend the celebration so we’ll close with a letter he wrote:

Buenas Noches,

Missing the Champs celebration disappoints me. Celebrating the work done by volunteers, staff and teachers reminds us to strive for the ultimate reward:  successful students. Laura Keiser, CIS Site Coordinator at King-Westwood School, gives me strategies and support to be a more effective CIS volunteer. Thank you, Laura.

I look forward to working with the students so that they learn their lessons and grow as individuals.

I am in Buenos Aires, Argentina celebrating with my daughter. She is completing a five month study abroad program through Western Michigan University. She plans to continue on to medical school. Her journey started with a curiosity to learn. She has added hours of hard work to the curiosity to be successful.

I look forward to returning to King-Westwood next week to help other students on their journey.

Gracias por el reconocimiento, (thanks for the recognition).

Adios,

Pat

Pat Early, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

Checking out Pat's Champ Award! The Champ statues are created by local artist, Jon Reeves.
Checking out Pat’s Champ Award! The Champ statues are created by local artist, Jon Reeves.

Oshtemo Area Churches: One is as big as it gets

(From left) Carolyn H. Williams, Tony McDonnell, and representatives of OAC, Simon Tuin and Eli Bast.
(From left) CIS Board Member Carolyn H. Williams, Chief Development Officer of Borgess Foundation Tony McDonnell, and representatives of OAC, Simon Tuin and Eliza Bast.

Today we highlight Oshtemo Area Churches, one of seven school and community partners honored with a 2016 Champ Award.  Their award was sponsored by Borgess and CIS Board member Carolyn H. Williams presented the award.

_MG_4541Imagine, a number of churches individually supporting one school, independent of each other. Good things are getting done. The support is greatly appreciated. But now, picture this: six churches of various denominations coming together as one in partnership with Communities In Schools to serve the students, families, faculty, and staff of Prairie Ridge Elementary School. That’s exactly what happened and that decision was a game changer.

As Principal Karen Spencer puts it, “When these six churches: Heritage Christian, Centerpointe, Lifespring, Voyage, Lighthouse, and Oshtemo United Methodist chose to work together, to create a team, on behalf of our children—that support multiplied exponentially.

These six churches, known together as the Oshtemo Area Churches, meet monthly with CIS Site Coordinator Carly Denny and CIS After School Coordinator Alexis Arocho to discuss both academic and nonacademic barriers to student success. “OAC,” they say, “is sensitive to the needs of the entire school family and works closely with CIS to align and integrate a student support strategy. Even outside of these meetings,” say Carly and Alexis, “OAC can be counted on to communicate, brainstorm, and troubleshoot, as necessary.”

In various combinations and forms, these six churches have become part of the fabric of the school. We’ve found that six equals one and one is as big as it gets. What does the power of one look like? Here’s a glimpse:

_MG_4520– Nearly one half of all our CIS volunteers at Prairie Ridge found out about how they could help through Oshtemo Area Churches. OAC has recruited and funneled through CIS, committed and caring adults to tutor students on a daily basis.

-OAC reinforces the importance of literacy through tutoring support and supporting the school’s “Books to Bikes” reading initiative—providing new bicycles raffled off to students who read the most in February.

-More students are ready to learn so they can receive the full benefit of the excellent teachers at Prairie Ridge Elementary School. Students, who once arrived late to school or not at all, arrive on time because they have the winter apparel they need. On Mondays, students arrive focused and ready to learn because members from the churches took time to distribute Friday Foodpacks. And they work with our 2008 Champ, Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes, to purchase enough food for more than 75 Prairie Ridge families, providing 4 days of food on a monthly basis.

-Family involvement is nurtured. Students celebrate with their home and school families during Thanksgiving Family Night and Back to School Bashes, organized, run, and led by the OAC.

-From one, an “Impact Group” was born. Composed of CIS and Kids Hope volunteers working within the school, the group meets weekly to encourage each other and plan events, such as this year’s “Harvest Party” and last year’s CIS after school “End of the Year Picnic.”

_MG_4530-Six as one can wrap their arms around an entire school. Each grade level within the school has been adopted by one of the churches, encouraging the classes with small notes and gifts. That reach can extend beyond the school and into the home. So, for instance, children, who might otherwise have had nothing to open for Christmas, had a present to open that morning.

-Teachers are provided with needed school supplies. Teachers and staff within the school feel appreciated and cared for in small and big ways. The OAC pooled together their money and catered lunch from Taco Bob’s!

While it can be tempting to go it alone, OAC sets a shining example for us all:  when grownups set aside differences—denominational or otherwise—and literally come together as one through CIS, it’s the students who benefit.

As Principal Karen Spencer says, “Every day—every hour—I turn around and see the evidence of the care and concern OAC has shared with our children…OAC is now a part of our culture and part of who we are. We are eternally grateful.”

Oshtemo Area Churches, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

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Western Michigan University Medallion Scholars

CIS Board Members Bob Miller, Associate Vice President of WMU (left) and Stephen Denefeld, Lewis, Reed & Allen, P.C. (right) congratulate WMU Medallion Scholars. Representing the Scholars, (left to right) Josh Ayerdi, Kylie Dennis, Marine Boillet, and Ed Ryan.
CIS Board Members Bob Miller, Associate Vice President of WMU (left) and Stephen Denenfeld, Lewis, Reed & Allen, P.C. (right) congratulate WMU Medallion Scholars. Representing the Scholars, (left to right) Josh Ayerdi, Kylie Dennis, Marine Boillet, and Ed Ryan.

Today we highlight Western Michigan University Medallion Scholars, one of seven school and community partners honored with a 2016 Champ Award. Their award was sponsored by Western Michigan University and CIS Board Member, Steve Denenfeld, presented the award.

In 2013, when Western Michigan University Medallion Scholars from Lee Honors College reflected on their education, they realized some of their toughest years were in middle school. They wished they’d had someone there for them academically and to help them navigate the social, emotional and sometimes choppy waters of middle school. So, for the past three years, once a week, these fourteen scholars from Lee Honors College have been doing just that for students at Milwood Magnet Middle School.

“The impact on students has been phenomenal,” says Tamiko Garrett, CIS Site Coordinator at Milwood. “Attendance has improved and students, once reluctant to do homework, now look forward to it. Scholars Travis, Marine, Leslie, Jake, Kelly, and Jenna have sparked students’ passion for learning.” On Tuesdays, students often stop by the CIS office to make sure Ana, Emily, Ben, or Elizabeth is coming. “I have math homework to do with Zach today, you know,” reminds Amarion, who, by the way, now wants to become an engineer like Zach.

These one-on-one relationships enhance these middle schoolers’ sense of who they are and what they can accomplish in school and life. Medallion Scholar Ed Ryan studies graphic design and works with Ben in the school’s animation club. They eat and then finish homework together. Ben, too, wants to be a graphic designer. Narisse Martin is in biomedical sciences, pursuing the path of a doctor. Her mentee, Brianna, wants to explore a career in science.

A few of the WMU Medallion Scholars with some of their Milwood Magnet Middle School students
A few of the WMU Medallion Scholars with some of the Milwood Magnet Middle School students.

These and other successful matches don’t just happen. It takes behind-the-scenes coordination. Tamiko, as Site Coordinator, connects the right resources to the right kids at the right time. She credits Jane Baas, Associate Dean of Lee Honors College, with getting the program off to a strong start as she provided a profile of the Medallion Scholars, which included their academic majors. As Tamiko met with each of the middle school students, reflecting on their interests in communication, theatre, science, and music, this information proved invaluable in connecting the right middle schooler to the right scholar. Jane is a steady support for the Medallion Scholars and staying in close communication with CIS.

From left: Josh Ayerdi, Kylie Dennis, Jane Baas, Marine Boillet, and Ed Ryan
(From left) Josh Ayerdi, Kylie Dennis, Jane Baas, Marine Boillet, and Ed Ryan.

Milwood Magnet teachers are also part of the program’s success as teachers stay after school to give students that extra boost. Teachers like Ms. Zang and Ms. Hawkinson are always reaching out to the Site Coordinator, saying things like “Have them come down to my room this afternoon to discuss an assignment they can work on together.”

“We’re all behind the Medallion Scholars because they put students first,” says Tamiko. “We all count on them to be here each week and when one of them can’t make it, they let me know so I can prepare the student and identify another mentor to double up so that no student is left out.”

Tattiana says, “Giulia helps me with my homework. We play games—only when I finish my homework—and she is nice. She’s also funny, smart, kind, and helpful.”  Natacia says, “I like spending time with Kylie. I can talk to her about things and I get help with my homework.”  “Sami is great and awesome,” says Devy. “We do fun things.  She helps me with my homework.  When I try to get her to do my homework she won’t.  She keeps encouraging me!!” Darius says, “Josh is cool.  He helps me get my homework done, and I know it is correct.  I look forward to coming to the CIS After School program, especially when I know Josh will be there.”

As these scholars graduate from college and their mentees advance to high school, the scholars have accomplished what they set out to do: sparking hope in the future leaders of Kalamazoo.

WMU Medallion Scholars, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.