2016 Champs Celebration

“I liked learning what businesses, teachers, your volunteers and partners are doing with you in the schools.” This was one of many comments guests made after attending Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) ninth annual Champs event at Cityscape. This year’s event was presented by PNC and Stryker. Over the next few months, we’ll be sharing more about each of the eight award winners (noted below).

Another guest said, “I love how you bookend your program with kids; couldn’t think of a better way to start than with Kids in Tune—those little kids were adorable—and end with a graduating Senior talking about her experience with CIS.”

Kid in Tune graduates who are now in middle school accompanied the younger singers.  They are living out one of the five CIS basics: an opportunity to give back.
Performing “Yes You Can”


“Those little kids” the guest referred to are first and second graders who hail from Woods Lake Elementary School and are part of the Kids in Tune Fundamentals Program. Kids in Tune is a partnership among The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra (a 2013 Champ), Kalamazoo Public Schools, and Communities In Schools. Conducted by Dr. Eric Barth, Kalamazoo Kids In Tune Curriculum Director, the students performed “Yes You Can” by Donnie McClurkin. The students were accompanied by Christine Mason, a Youth Development Worker for the past two years with CIS.

Closing out the evening was Doreisha Reed, graduating this year from Kalamazoo Central High School. She graciously shared her speech with us so we can share it with you in a future post.

Doreisha Reed, Kalamazoo Central High School, Class of 2016
Doreisha Reed, Kalamazoo Central High School, Class of 2016

Guests also had an opportunity to watch “Who We Are,” a music video created, produced, and performed by Milwood Magnet Middle School students in their CIS after school program, which is funded by the Michigan Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers grants. The students worked closely with 2012 Champ and partner, BANGTOWN Productions & Recordings.  The students received national recognition for this creation: their music video was chosen as the Video Spotlight winner of the Communities In Schools National Leadership Town Hall this year. You can watch it here.

In the weeks to come we’ll introduce you to the award winners who were in between these two marvelous “bookends,” people like Rosemary Gardiner, CEO of Family & Children Services. The CIS Board honored her with the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award.

Dr. Tim Light, President, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo Board with Rosemary Gardiner, CEO of Family & Children Services.

Tune into CW7 this Friday, May 27th at 4pm, to watch Rosemary and Pam Kingery, Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, on The Lori Moore Show. Then come back here on Tuesday and learn more about Rosemary Gardiner.

Congratulations to all of this year’s Champs:

Oshtemo Area Churches (OAC), CIS Faith-based Partner

Honoré Salon, CIS Business Partner

Big Brothers Big Sisters A Community of Caring, CIS Nonprofit Partner

Angelita Aguilar, Dean of Students, Kalamazoo Central High School

WMU Medallion Scholars, CIS Higher Learning Partner

Patrick Early, CIS Volunteer

Team Trailblazers, KPS Teachers, Maple Street Magnet Middle School

We also want to give a shout out to our CIS Site Teams, the CIS Site Coordinators, Youth Development Workers, VISTAs, and interns who provide the infrastructure to support the hundreds of marvelous volunteers and community partners who work through Communities In Schools to help children throughout Kalamazoo Public School stay in school and achieve in life.


Mother and Daughter Make a Great Team, Part Two

Jiselle-JO-11A few weeks back we highlighted Jiselle and Janelle Anderson, one of eight individuals and organizations honored  at the annual Champ Celebration. Since they make a great team we thought we’d share the acceptance speeches they each gave upon receiving their Champ award. Both speeches capture the beautiful spirits of this mother daughter duo.

We’ll lead off with Jiselle, a student at Lincoln International Studies School:Jiselle-DK-4-150x150

Hello everyone. Thank you for letting me and my family be here. It is such an honor for you to notice me as a leader. I just want to say thank you to Mr. Ohs for helping me with math and improving my grades. Also, I want to thank Girls on the Run and my coaches for helping me learn how to deal with hard situations and make healthy  choices. So I want to say thank you to CIS for making all this happen. Thank you.

Here is what Janelle said:

Jiselle-DK-8-150x150Good evening, everyone. I was extremely proud when I was told my daughter was going to be a Champ award recipient this year. Not surprised so much because that’s the kind of kid she is, but I was absolutely shocked when I was told that I would be receiving an award, also! I mean, I didn’t think I had done anything. I am just doing what a mom does: helping my daughter with her schooling, making sure she is healthy, well fed, warm enough on those cold mornings, and doing her homework everyday (even when she says she doesn’t have any), which, by the way, may be true but as my mother told me growing up, “You can always be studying something” or “work on your handwriting.” When your mother is a teacher you can expect to hear that kind of thing, which I thought my mother was. She really wasn’t, but she was always at school, filling in for my teacher, leading small groups of students, covering the front office and doing whatever her real job was. And doing all of that, she still somehow managed to bake the cookies or cupcakes for the bake sale that I volunteered her for and forgot to tell her about until the day before. But that’s my mom. She did it all.

So now that I am a mother myself it only seems natural for me to be involved in what my children are doing. Coaching their teams when I can, finding and securing them whatever academic support they may need, being their biggest fan, and trying to afford them every single opportunity that I can. So working with CIS is a great fit for me. The CIS mission is practically identical to my philosophy for parenting: to surround my kids with a community of support, empowering them to not only stay in school but thrive in school and to achieve greatness in life.

Thank you all for recognizing my daughter and me. It is truly an honor. But honestly, receiving this award would not have been possible had it not been for my mother spending her life showing me what it is to be a great mother and role model, so mom, this is for you. I love you. Thank you.

Jiselle (front right) surrounded by a few of the loving adults who are part of her community of support.
Jiselle (front right) surrounded by a few of the loving adults who are part of her community of support.

If you missed the recent post about Jiselle and Janelle Anderson and their Champ award, you can read it here.

Mother and Daughter Make a Great Team

Jiselle (left) and Janelle Anderson at Champs

Today we highlight Jiselle and Janelle Anderson, one of eight individuals and organizations honored  at the annual Champ Celebration.  CIS Board Member Tony McDonnell, along with Laura Keiser, CIS Site Coordinator at King Westwood Elementary School, presented the award. 

Here are a few words that only begin to describe Jiselle and Janelle Anderson, our first ever mother-daughter duo to receive a Champ award: hard working, giving back, striving to help others, open, caring, friendly, leaders.

Let’s start with fourth grader Jiselle Anderson. Without a doubt, she has embraced the CIS mission, empowering herself to take full advantage of the community resources CIS offers at Lincoln International Studies School. For example, at the start of the school year, Jiselle recognized that she was struggling in math. “I needed to do something about it,” she said. So when her CIS Site Coordinator Shannon Fuller matched her up with retired math teacher and CIS volunteer Mr. Stephen Ohs, Jiselle embraced this support and readily gave up one day of recess each week to focus on improving her math skills.

“These days,” points out Shannon, “it takes a small army to raise a strong and healthy child…and Mr. Ohs is almost a small army in and of himself. Jiselle has taken advantage of his one-on-one tutoring support. She’s improved in math and feels more confident.”

CIS Volunteer Stephen Ohs with Jiselle and Janelle Anderson

Jiselle says, “I don’t count on my fingers anymore thanks to Mr. Ohs. He taught me some neat math tricks.” She is applying her new found success to reach out and help others. “I noticed one of my classmates struggling in math, just like I was,” she said, “I just helped them, the way Mr. Ohs helped me.”

Jiselle’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. Says her teacher, Mrs. Leah Beltran, “Jiselle takes responsibility for her actions. She exhibits terrific leadership skills and sets a wonderful example for the whole class. I truly enjoy having her in my class.” Math and Science Teacher Kendra Kasinger has similar observations. “Jiselle is a very hard working, dedicated student. She is a leader and likes to help others.”

This young leader is flourishing with an army of support: her mother, grandmother,KPS teachers and staff, CIS site team, volunteers like Mr. Ohs, and partners like Girls on the Run.

Her mother Janelle is a Champ in her own right. Mother, as many of you know, is a verb. An action verb. It’s not just who you are but more about what you do. When Jiselle researched Harriet Tubman, Janelle fully supported her daughter’s efforts and was at her side when Janelle shared Harriet Tubman’s biography live on the radio for Black History month. Janelle is there for her daughter, advocating, working closely with both CIS and KPS to assure her daughter has what she needs to be successful. A role model for her daughter, Janelle also makes it her mission to be there for other children as well. For the past three years, Janelle has used her organizational skills to help CIS support important partnerships like Girls on the Run. This year, she is volunteering as a Girls on the Run coach. In addition, Janelle volunteers in Mrs. Hannah and Mrs. LaPonsie’s third grade classrooms to support students in reading. We are especially grateful as Janelle recently took it upon herself to recruit another great CIS volunteer…her own mother, Sharon Wysinga. Sharon is now volunteering in Ms. Howe’s class, assisting students with reading.

“Giving back to the community runs in this family,” says CIS after school coordinatorBonnie Terrentine. “We now have three generations of strong, beautiful women—Jiselle, Janelle, and Sharon—making a difference for students through CIS at Lincoln Elementary.”

Jiselle and Janelle Anderson, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

Leroy: A Living Legacy of Love

Leroy Green, Behavior Specialist for Kalamazoo Public Schools and 2015 Champ Award winner.

Today we highlight Leroy Green, one of eight individuals and organizations honored  at the annual Champ Celebration.  CIS Board Member Susan Einspahr, along with Artrella Cohn, CIS Director of Secondary Sites, presented the award. 

When CIS was in its infancy, working in just six Kalamazoo Public Schools, this next Champ was at our side. As a behavior specialist for KPS, it wasn’t in Leroy Green’s job description to volunteer his time to help us engage parents through strategies such as hosting special family math night events. And yet, after a long day, Leroy was cooking up some mean spaghetti and serving it at family math nights.  His steady presence gave us credibility with both children and their families. He helped plant the seeds of success for an organization that would one day be in 20 KPS buildings. That was fourteen years ago.

Years even before that, when Dalanna Hoskins was a 3rd grade student at Woods Lake, she recalls one day in particular: “It was gym day. I loved gym. But I wasn’t going to be able to participate—I was wearing my church shoes and had forgotten my tennis shoes. I wasn’t one of Mr. Green’s kids—my behavior was great—but I went down to his office anyway.” She knocked on his door and immediately became one of his kids. “He dug around and gave me a pair of the ugliest tennis shoes I’ve ever seen. I wore size 2 and these were size 5. But I got to play in gym that day because of Mr. Green. He was CIS before there was CIS.”

It’s funny how the world works. Today, Leroy can be found at Milwood Elementary. In many ways, nothing has changed. Leroy is still committed to kids and families and helping students who need behavior support. He, like teachers, is often the first to identify additional needs that students have—something beyond behavior that is getting in the way of their learning. What’s different now, is that he doesn’t have to spend time cobbling together these resources. He turns to the CIS Site Coordinator in his building, Dalanna Hoskins, the very woman whose day he brightened all those years ago with an ugly pair of tennis shoes.

“He is exactly the same,” says Dalanna. “He still cares about kids and knows all of their names.” She, like all of us, is grateful to have him in our CIS family. Kids are the real winners because the community is providing resources through CIS, allowing Leroy to devote more of his time doing what he does best: building relationships with kids and their families to promote and grow positive behaviors.

At the end of a long school day, when he could be packing up to head home, Leroy has been known to get on the school bus with a student who has been struggling, to be a calming presence so that their next day will be a little better. “You learn a lot about where kids are coming from when you ride their bus routes,” Leroy says. He sees the whole child, knows a student’s life doesn’t stop when the last school bell rings. We also know this: You learn a lot about a man when you see him decade after decade showing up for kids. Whether you call him a Behavior Specialist, Bus Whisperer, or Spaghetti Wrangler, Leroy is first and foremost a specialist of the heart when it comes to kids and their families.

Leroy Green, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.


Bringing Japanese Culture to Kalamazoo Students

Michiko Yoshimoto, WMU Soga Japan Center’s outreach coordinator with Dr. Stephen Covell, Chair of WMU’s Department of Comparative Religion and founding director of the Soga Japan Center.

Today we highlight Western Michigan University Soga Japan Center. This CIS higher education partner was one of eight organizations and individuals honored at the annual Champ Celebration.  CIS Board Member Bob Miller, along with O’Neal Ollie, CIS Success Coach at Loy Norrix High School presented the award. 

Western Michigan University’s Soga Japan Centerpromotes Japan and Japanese culture to the wider community. Since 2013, the center has worked closely with CIS Volunteer services to enrich students’ understanding of Japanese culture throughout a number of schools. What began as a program offered to students in CIS Think Summer, grew into leading workshops at the CIS Leadership Transformation Summit and additional programming at Hillside and Milwood Magnet Middle Schools as well as Northglade, Spring Valley, and Northeastern elementary schools.

The center’s outreach coordinator Michiko Yoshimoto and her team of a dozen WMU student volunteers have a knack for tapping into students’ natural curiosity about the world. They expose students to a variety of activities such as: calligraphy, cuisine, traditional Japanese dress, martial arts, language, and origami. Students learn to sing Japanese pop songs, practice Japanese dancing and engage in discussions about the differences between traditional and modern Japanese society and culture, as well as the differences between Japanese and Chinese cultures.

Japanese Club at Northeastern Elementary School.
Japanese Club at Northeastern Elementary School.


One of the main ingredients of this successful partnership is Michiko herself. She has a long history of volunteer work. She joined International Workcamp in 1997 and went on to plant trees at a Cambodian orphanage, teach English to children in Thailand, and build a donkey fence in Rome. And now, through CIS, she shares her passion for and appreciation of culture with our children. “Michiko has a kind and open spirit,” says CIS Volunteer Coordinator Kaitlin Martin. “She is always asking, ‘What more can I do to help? Which additional schools can we service?’

Michiko’s sense of curiosity is contagious. When she introduced students at Hillside to calligraphy, they introduced her to writing hip hop lyrics. “American culture,” says Michiko, “is fascinating to me, and I learn a lot from students.”

This reciprocity is at the core of the Soga Japan Center. The mutual relationship of learning is part of the philosophy that sustains our work at CIS and enriches our children.

Michitoshi Soga Japan Center, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.



Walking Their Talk

CIS Board Member Rex Bell congratulating representatives of Stryker employees Megan Bland (center) and Heather Maurer on their Champs award.
CIS Board Member Rex Bell congratulating representatives of Stryker employees Megan Bland (center) and Heather Maurer on their Champs award.

Today we highlight Stryker®Employees. This CIS business partner was one of eight organizations and individuals honored  at the annual Champ Celebration.  CIS Board Member Steve Powell, along with Maureen Cartmill, CIS Site Coordinator at Woods Lake Elementary: A Magnet Center for the Arts, presented the award. 

The Employees at Stryker Instruments have been supporting local students in a number of ways over the past several years. As part of the Stryker “Amazing Race” event in the fall of 2013, Stryker employees raced around the City of Kalamazoo to collect school supplies, which were donated to CIS Kids’ Closet. Kids’ Closet provides items of new clothing, school supplies, and personal care items to students in CIS supported KPS buildings.

School-supplies-from-Stryker1-300x225We had the good fortune of meeting one Stryker employee in particular at the Amazing Race event, Quay Eady. Quay made a commitment to volunteer for the 2013-14 academic year at Milwood Elementary School. During that time she tutored and mentored several 4th grade girls in the CIS After School program every Tuesday and Thursday. On average, she gave 4-5 hours of her time each week. She also volunteered at several school events, serving dinner to families at the Family Movie Night, and supporting the end of school picnic for CIS after school students at Milham Park.

This past fall, the employees in the Stryker Instruments Service Call Center took on a challenge of collecting 500 school supplies for the CIS Kids’ Closet. They met and exceeded their goal. These supplies were then distributed by CIS site teams to students who needed them. Around this same time, CIS was approached by Service Operations Leader Greg McCormick with a very generous offer: a group of 8-10 Stryker employees committing to volunteer for an entire year with CIS. When asked how they wanted to volunteer their time, Greg replied, “we’ll do whatever you want us to do.” Greg has been leading “Champions for Change,” a group of twelve employees who want to have a positive impact on students in Kalamazoo.  They help students with their homework in the CIS after school programs at both Milwood  and El Sol Elementary Schools. Every Wednesday, volunteers from the group arrive ready and willing to help students with solving math problems, learning spelling words, or reading a book.

Stryker-employees-collecting-for-ClS-Kids-ClosetAnd if that wasn’t enough, twice a month nine CIS students fromKalamazoo Central High Schooltake a van to Strkyer as part of the Bigs in Business program done in partnership with Big Brothers Big Sisters.

One of the five CIS basics is that every child needs and deserves a marketable skill to use upon graduation. “Stryker employees, through Bigs in Business, exposes students who would not otherwise have this opportunity,” points out Deborah Yarbrough, CIS Site Coordinator at Kalamazoo Central. “The students really look forward to this. These ninth graders are making connections beyond themselves by working one on one and in small groups with the employees. It’s motivating them. They are taking more initiative and responsibility—whether it’s getting homework turned in or chores done at home.”

Over the course of getting to know these men and women who are partnering with CIS in numerous ways, we couldn’t help but notice how Stryker employees, in their service to students, live out the very values that are core to their business: Integrity: We do what’s right. Accountability: We do what we say. People: We grow talent. Performance: We deliver. What a great message this sends to our young people.

Stryker® Employees, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

Click here to watch Alisandra Rizzolo and Megan Bland on The Lori Moore Show. Both are Stryker employees and  part of the Champions for Change volunteer group at Milwood Elementary.

Little Sprout: Planting Seeds of Success

Owner/Founder of Little Sprout Children’s Boutique accepting Champs award from CIS Board member Steve Powell and CIS Site Coordinator Maureen Cartmill.
Owner/Founder of Little Sprout Children’s Boutique accepting Champs award from CIS Board member Steve Powell and CIS Site Coordinator Maureen Cartmill.

Today we highlight Little Sprout Children’s Boutique. This CIS business partner was one of eight organizations and individuals honored  at the annual Champ Celebration.  CIS Board Member Steve Powell, along with Maureen Cartmill, CIS Site Coordinator at Woods Lake Elementary: A Magnet Center for the Arts, presented the award. 


In the United States, there are approximately 28 million small businesses. Over half of the country’s working population works in a small business, and small businesses have generated over 65% of the net new jobs since 1965. So it’s safe to say that small businesses are a powerful part of our community. Today, we honor one small business for impacting our community in a different way.

Little Sprout Children’s Boutique, Kalamazoo’s first specialty children’s clothing store, was opened by Jeanine Seabold in 2010.

Jeanine Seabold, Owner/Founder of Little Sprout Children’s Boutique
Jeanine Seabold, Owner/Founder of Little Sprout Children’s Boutique

During the summer of 2012, Jeanine had an idea to stage a children’s fashion show with the proceeds benefiting a local nonprofit who worked with children. Supporting the CIS Kids’ Closet seemed like the perfect fit for helping local kids and Jeanine’s business.

While this could have been a “one and done” partnership, Jeanine reached out to CIS the next summer with yet another idea: encouraging customers to donate school supplies for the CIS Kids’ Closet.  Customers would receive a discount for their donation of school supplies and Jeanine generously offered to also donate a percentage of her anniversary sales to benefit CIS.  Little Sprout has continued this partnership every year since then.

Jeanine-outside-her-storeWith half of all new businesses closing within their first five years, it would be easy for Little Sprout to focus solely on its own success.  However, Jeanine sees success of local businesses and education as intertwined, saying, “Over the years, the critical role education plays in our economic success has become more and more apparent to me. Good, strong school systems encourage people to settle in our region because industries are more apt to locate in areas that are attractive to potential employees. Also, a well-educated population tends to spark community activism and involvement. It’s important that all local businesses in our community recognize the importance of our educational system and work with educators to seek ways to improve it. That’s why we, at Little Sprout, feel it is imperative to support organizations such as CIS, who help to ensure that ALL of our communities’ children are receiving the best opportunities.”

Little Sprout Children’s Boutique, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

Click here to watch Jeanine Seabold, Owner/Founder of Little Sprout Children’s Boutique  and Emily Kobza, CIS Director of Development and Business Engagement on The Lori Moore Show.

To My Dear CIS Family

Antasia Fareed (left) with her CIS Site Coordinator Elnora Talbert at Champs 2015
Antasia Fareed (left) with her CIS Site Coordinator Elnora Talbert at Champs 2015

To My Dear CIS Family,

One of the highlights at our recent Champs event: the closing remarks offered by Antasia Fareed. On behalf of students served by Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS), Antasia thanked everyone for their support. “Whether you know it or not,” she told the audience, “you are part of my CIS family.” She spoke from her heart, moving the crowd to tears and receiving a standing ovation. A number of you who were present requested we print her speech here at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids. Antasia spoke without a written script but she agreed to try and capture the essence of what she shared with the audience.  Indeed, we all felt embraced by this daughter of CIS and hope you will too when you read what she has to say.

Dear CIS Family,

Hi. My name is Antasia Fareed. I am a Loy Norrix High School student. I am an 11thgrader, soon to be a senior. I have been working with CIS for about 11 years. What would I do without them?

When I needed clothes, they provided them. When I needed food, they gave that to me as well. I am so blessed to have this opportunity to have a second family. Like family, they provide for me. They give me a smile when I’m not confident in myself. I have been in this program since second grade and look what came out—a beautiful, confident woman.Antasia-at-podium-241x300

I never thought I could get this far but CIShas pushed me. When my grades slipped, they helped me bring them back up. That’s the main reason why I’m standing here before you with a 3.2 GPA. I never believed I could do it, but I did.

CIS means a lot to me. CIS grows children and I’m proof. To me, the “C” in CIS means carry, the “I” is improvement, and the “S” is society. As students, we want to carry ourselves with dignity. We should be prepared to help improve things when they are messed up, and I believe we will become equals as a society.

CIS has made me powerful and helped me become a leader. That’s why I will be an ambassador for Kalamazoo as I have been awarded a scholarship that will allow me to travel to our sister city in Japan for ten days this summer. That’s a great leadership opportunity. Mrs. Elnora, my CIS Site Coordinator, pushed me to get my stuff in as she believed that I could get the scholarship. And I did. I may have only known her for just one year, but it feels like forever. We always see eye to eye. I’m her helper and she’s mine. I always tell her to stop and breathe.

I’m just so glad that CIS was there for me and will continue to be there for me.

Thank you.