CHILDREN SEEKING RELIEF FROM THE STORM

Imagine. You are one of the lucky ones.

You are in the direct path of a devastating hurricane and yet, even though you are frightened, cold, wet, and hungry you manage to reach a designated shelter. It’s sturdy and well stocked. There is room for you. Once inside, you aren’t sent back into the storm for blankets and pillows, food and water. Your needs for clean, dry clothes, toothpaste, and other hygiene products, can be met here.

Now imagine this. Someone says, Sorry you’re hungry, but if you want something to eat you’re going to have to leave the shelter and round something up yourself. Lost your shoes in the storm? Too bad. Yea, it’s a shame your pants are soaked but if you want something dry, you won’t find it here. No reliable transportation to the six locations you need to go to get what you need? Don’t know what to tell you. Despite the struggle it took to get here, with the hurricane barreling down, you abandon the shelter. Crazy, huh?

Yet, that’s exactly the position we put children and their families in when we don’t offer needed supports in the safe haven of schools. We shouldn’t expect teachers and other school staff to coordinate resources and supports. They already have one of the most important jobs in the world: educating our kids. We can’t necessarily expect parents, despite all the love they have for their children, to handle it alone, either. As one mother put it, “There is no worse feeling I’ve had as a parent than knowing my child has needs but I’m not in a position to help meet them all.”

We can’t expect students to thrive in school while enduring the often unpredictable storms of life, all the while attempting to navigate the adult-sized challenges blown into their path. They can’t turn on the Kid Channel, the one with someone standing in front of a fancy map and be expected to figure out how to seek refuge from Hurricane Poverty, Category 4 Homelessness, Tropical Storm Depression, or the rumbling shock waves felt for years from the Food Insecurity Earthquake.

Fortunately, for kids throughout 2,300 schools across the country—20 of those schools within the Kalamazoo Public School district—CIS is in the schools, standing with teachers, catching students in their time of need, and along with parents, a host of community partners and volunteers, lifting them up with a net of integrated student supports we’ve woven together (and continue to weave).

Just as planning and coordination is a vital part of any emergency response, so it is for CIS work. Thanks to Kalamazoo’s commitment to integrated student services, we work closely with Kalamazoo Public Schools and our community partners so that we can deliver the right resources, to the right kids, at the right times, right in the schools. It’s this collaborative preparedness that not only provides students and their families relief from the storm, but allows students to focus and learn from their teachers.

When our most vulnerable students succeed, we all do.

Four ways you can provide relief to Kalamazoo children today:

  1. Become a volunteer.
  2. Join the CIS team. We’re hiring for a number of positions!
  3. Donate to CIS of Kalamazoo.
  4. To those of you who have advocated for a restoration of full funding for 21st Century After School Programs, thank you! Your efforts have made a significant difference. A bi-partisan measure in the House restores a portion of the 2016-17 funding levels. Congress has until December 8, 2017 to adopt a compromise funding bill between the House and the Senate for 21st Century CLC’s. Your continued advocacy for the importance of federal funding to extend the learning day for our kids is needed until there is a final adopted budget. For more information and for information on public officials to contact, go here, to the first page of the 2017 Spring issue of CIS Connections.

If you missed our post a few weeks back on the recent storms our community and CIS family has been weathering, you can read it by going here.  

Back to School CIS-Style

It’s back to school for Kalamazoo Public School students. And back by popular demand is the post about what back to school means here at Communities In School…

 

Believing that the future of our community rests in our children who deserve caring adults to help them

Achieve their potential, academically, socially, and emotionally. Serving as a

Compass, a guide, an adult is placed intentionally on their path by a CIS Site Coordinator or After School Coordinator.

Kid-focused, we surround students with the supports they need.

 

The time is now. Every day, our donors, volunteers, school and community partners, and staff are

Opening the hearts & minds of children who are struggling and have given up or stopped believing in themselves,

 

Showing them a path to success in school, a path that allows them to pursue their dreams and passions….

Connecting the right services, to the right kids, at the right time, CIS restores

Hope in the lives of children and their families. Together, we are working to

Open doors of possibilities students can walk through to greet the

Opportunities they need to succeed in school and life and

Live out their Promise.

 

Passionate about student success? CIS is hiring. Join our team today! To learn more, go here.

TWO Shining Stars: Diamond and Dominique Mahone

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

CIS is a wonderful program. My kids have been with it for years and they just love the one-on-one interaction that they receive. As a full-time working mother, CIS has been a godsend and had such tremendous impact on my kids. They have been taught major leadership skills, learned how to communicate with adults, and built relationships—all skills that they can take with them and help them thrive when they become young adults. Along with what they are being taught at home, I believe CIS keeps them grounded and on the right track—not leaving any room for an idle mind, which can lead to trouble. I just love this program. Go CIS!

—Andrea Mahone, mother of Diamond and Dominique

Earlier in the year, we had a chance to sit down with Diamond and Dominique Mahone, fifth graders at King-Westwood Elementary School. These twins, once struggling with attendance, have overcome barriers and transformed into the shining stars they are meant to be. Their grades have soared thanks to their own hard work and the combined efforts of great teachers, CIS and the array of coordinated supports they receive through the community, and their loving family.
“The Mahones really value their time together as a family,” says the twins’ CIS Site Coordinator Laura Keiser. “It takes parents working with us to help kids get the most out of opportunities we offer. Their mom does whatever it takes…whether it’s filling out the necessary paperwork or taking the whole family to enjoy time together at a K-Wings game [thanks to anonymous donors for providing tickets to CIS students and families]. She embraces all we offer because she knows these resources and experiences will help her children be successful in school.” As a result, the twins “attendance is awesome this year, their behavior is focused and they are learning like never before.”

The twins each find that different aspects of CIS have helped improve their academics, behavior, and attendance. For Diamond, it’s “school supplies and clothes and my tutor, Ms. Rosalie. I’ve been working with her since third grade. She helps me with my math and she motivates me to come to school.” Diamond is also looking forward to being matched with an in-school mentor as part of the Bigs in Schools program of Big Brothers Big Sisters, A Community of Caring. [At the time of this interview, she had just been matched with Cassandra and was looking forward to their time together.]

“At CIS, we’re the tools,” explains Laura. “Diamond is the handy person who uses the tools. Last year she came to me and said, ‘I need to work with Ms. Rosalie again.’ She knew what tool she needed. She took the necessary paperwork and returned it the next day, signed. Diamond gives up her lunch and recess two days a week to work on academics with her tutor. This kid is going places. She’s quiet but determined.”

Dominique is going places too, just in a more boisterous manner. “He’s quite gregarious,” says Laura. “He’s very social and outgoing. What I really appreciate about him is that, like his sister, he perseveres and goes after what he wants. I don’t want to say he nags me but he’s good at reminding. Just today he wanted to know about his Bigs in Schools mentor, ‘Is everything set up with my Big Sister Jasmine?’ he asked.

Of the tools that help Dominique, CIS Volunteer Mr. Early tops his list. “He helps me in lots of math stuff. He’s really helped me with angles. And point symmetry. That’s when you just turn a shape upside down and it looks the same. I learned that with Mr. Early.” Other resources he appreciates and says have helped him be “the smart and funny kid I am today” include shoes [in partnership with First Day Shoe Fund], Friday Food packs [in partnership with Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes], Literacy Buddies [supported by State Farm & the Greg Jennings Foundation], and the
CIS Think Summer! program.

When it comes to improving attendance, the twins agree: the attendance club has helped. Dominique explains. “You get a folder and you color in days that you’re in school and you can get prizes from the CIS office. Ms. Emily [WMU School of Social Work intern] helps us stay on track. She helps me and other students with our attendance and always asks if we need anything.”

The twins also agree that King-Westwood Elementary School is a great place to learn and grow. Because of the support they receive, Diamond and Dominique are empowered to be their true, shining selves.

Want to know who some of their dedicated teachers are or what colleges the twins plan to attend? Their favorite school subjects? To learn more, hop over to the CIS blog, Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids, and check out their answers to the pop quiz we gave them.

Diamond and Dominique Mahone

Duo Helps Students Succeed Every Day

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

What happens when you bring a Knight and Giant together? You get the powerhouse team of CIS Site Coordinator Tamiko Garrett and CIS After School Coordinator Jenee McDaniel. These two graduates of Kalamazoo Public Schools sat down with us to reflect on the work they do at Linden Grove Middle School to help students stay in school and achieve in life.

How do you two work together to provide cohesive, seamless support from daytime through after school to help students get and stay on track to graduation?

Tamiko: Jenee and I have open communication with each other. When we enroll students in CIS, we keep in mind whether the student would be best served with daytime or after school. It’s always about what is the best fit for the student and their family.

Jenee: We’re in constant communication, whether it’s on the phone, touching base in the morning, during the day, after school. We often re-evaluate situations and are always open to making adjustments to services or resources we have in place. To do this work well, you have to think out of the box. We do that. If we need to meet on a Sunday night to make something happen, so be it.

What qualities do you admire in each other that help you work so well together?

Tamiko: Jenee and I are opposite in so many ways and that makes us a good team. We play to each other’s strengths. Jenee is so genuine and I also admire her outspokenness. I observe, then choose my words.

What’s the easiest part about working together?

Jenee: We both have a good understanding of what needs to be done. There’s no competition between us. We can count on each other. I know that Tamiko’s not just checking off the boxes to get something done. She really cares and is knowledgeable about her job. I respect that.

What’s the most challenging aspect when it comes to collaborating?

Jenee: We’re here to do what we’re here to do. It helps that we collaborate on everything, from how we communicate, to our schedules, to how we’re going to best serve these students. We have a process that works well in this school.

Tamiko: So when we get our enrollment list—kids with a strategic needs in attendance, behavior, or academics who could possibly benefit from CIS support to become proficient in one or more of the areas—we sit down with our Principal, Craig McCane and Ms. Mahannah of the Student Services team. They know the kids and their input is invaluable. After we’ve worked out a game plan, Jenee and I lead mini “lunch & learns” with the students. We explain CIS, the various resources, and how that support looks in the day and after school. It’s not just an adult- or parent- driven process: “you’re going to do this!” but kids are involved from the beginning. Because they feel a sense of ownership from the start, they’re more invested and stick with the program. Linden Grove Middle School makes it easy to collaborate, from Principal McCane, to the teachers and staff, to the school secretaries, Heather Morrison and Linda Farrell, and the custodian, Michael Watson.

Jenee: The school has made us feel like we’re a part of their team, so it’s easy for us to be a team with each other and do our jobs. We both regularly check and monitor students’ progress and grades. Students do better when they know someone is going to supply their needs and hold them accountable. For students to graduate, a lot of pieces must come together. First off, basic needs must be met. It’s that whole Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Tamiko, in her role as Site Coordinator, provides a lot of that, tapping CIS Kids’ Closet. It’s the simplest things that can be a deal breaker and keep a student from graduating. It’s cold out and they don’t have a coat. They need a snack, a shirt, a feminine hygiene product. The students know they can come to CIS to get those things. They know that the community is providing this support, that somebody has their back and cares. They aren’t a number because they know ‘somebody is thinking about me.’

What has CIS at Linden Grove been doing to impact social emotional learning (SEL), one of six CIS program goals for the year?

Tamiko: Right now, we have Hospice doing an eight week grief and loss group. Hospice is an awesome partner. Usually, when you think of Hospice you think of someone dying, but there are many types of losses and Hospice helps our kids deal with them—separation of parents, divorce, witnessing the death of a loved one, or whatever form loss takes, period. Sometime, all our kids can think about is their loss. Cate, the therapist is helping them gain coping skills so they can focus on their academics.

Jenee: After school, we have a girls’ group, “I Am Beautiful” as well as “Young Men Overcoming Barriers.” We come up with a game plan, activities, and question starters for each of the groups. Say the activity is doing facials, then questions asked might be, What do people see in you? What do you see in yourself? Soon enough, someone asks if the group can talk about being two-faced and so friendships and other real issues like that get explored.

We help the kids do this in a safe forum. We’ve used movies and TV clips as well as correlating music with feelings. What’s your family’s song? If you had to write the sound track of your life, what would it be? The students connect with these approaches so it allows for conversations and reflections around a whole range of topics: non-traditional family situations, dating situations, who is your safe person to talk to, race, and cultural acceptance. Each day, we have a plan and an idea of what we want to accomplish and the kids roll it in a new direction and take it elsewhere. It’s real cool and that’s how it should be.

Introduction To Mindfulness: How It Helps Students

Today’s guest blogger is Jessica Smith, Western Michigan University MSW Intern at Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo. 

Jessica-300x300My name is Jessica Smith, I am an MSW (Masters of Social Work) intern at Parkwood-Upjohn Elementary through Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo. I graduated from Ferris State University in May 2014 with a Bachelor of Social Work and a Bachelor of Science in Technical and Professional Communication. I am pursuing my School of Social Work certificate and I will be graduating with my MSW in April 2016.

Since I began my internship with CIS, I was invited by Deb Faling of CIS to help run a mindfulness group at Woods Lake Elementary School, which hosts the after school program, Kids In Tune.

Prior to helping run the mindfulness groups, I was not aware of just how useful mindfulness can be in helping with concentration, focus, managing emotions and creating a more peaceful environment. I’ve practiced it myself and have noticed it has a positive effect on my thoughts and feelings.

What exactly is mindfulness and how does it help students?

Mindfulness is defined as, “maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.” (Source: http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/topic/mindfulness/definition)

Many students in the mindfulness group have expressed positive feelings about the activity. Students have said they feel more “calm” and “relaxed” as a result of practicing mindful behaviors and mindfulness-oriented activities.

I’ve observed that students in the mindfulness group are indeed calmer, more aware of their feelings, their environment and demonstrate compassion towards themselves and others. They have demonstrated more patience and appear to be more “present” in the exact moment they are in.

I will be writing a series on mindful activities the students of the mindfulness group at Kids In Tune have been doing all year long:

Upcoming topics of mindful activities:

• Mindful breathing
• Mindful seeing
• Mindful hearing
• Mindful walking
• Mindful eating

My first post in the series will be about mindful breathing, which will be published in the upcoming weeks. Check out “Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids” for the latest on CIS news and events.

Pop Quiz: Dominique Edwards

2015-01-23 11.03.39 %282%29
Dominique Edwards (right) with Artrella Cohn, CIS Director of Secondary Sites

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 Dominique Edwards, a 2014 graduate of Kalamazoo Central High School. A CIS alumni and former board member of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, Dominique is currently attending Southwestern Michigan College and took time out of her busy schedule to participate in the three-day CIS Leadership Town Hall in New Orleans. She made Kalamazoo proud—serving on the Mission Possible: Communities In Schools Alumni panel.

We popped this quiz on Dominique while she was in the New Orleans airport waiting for Delta 1603 to arrive and take her back to Kalamazoo. Alright, Dominique: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned? 

I’ve learned that you can have fun as long as you are responsible. You must be responsible for yourself.

What are you currently reading?

My favorite book of all time is Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. I’m reading a lot of psychology and sociology books right now. English too.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A CIS Site Coordinator. I think I finally found my niche. I love what a site coordinator does. They are the extended family that is with you throughout your school day and they care enough to know and help you after the school day has ended.

What is your favorite word right now?

Barbados. I love the letter b. It’s so smooth and there are two b’s in Barbados. Barbados. It’s just fun to say.

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

My mom. My parent got divorced when I was six. My dad is a fantastic guy and is there when I need him. But I grew up in a single parent home and so my mom was the dominant force in my life and made sure I was taken care of. She went off to be a truck driver for a while but she made sure my brother and I were taken care of.

Another caring adult is Ms. Trella.  A lot of the doors that opened for me wouldn’t have been opened if it weren’t for her. Doors like the Leadership Conference—Ms. Trella put my name in for that—and to be part of the CIS campaign launch party to talk about my experiences. So many things, like, one-on-one tutoring, performing poetry in a talent showcase, a five session career workshop, being part of the Principal’s Bookclub with Mr. Washington. We read the Hunger Games series and we also went to King-Westwood and read to kindergarteners. Being a Literacy Buddy and a mentee with the PRO team.

That is a wide range of activities.

It was a domino effect. Once I got involved with CIS, one opportunity after another presented itself. I would have gone to college but I wouldn’t have enjoyed it that much and I would have dropped out after one semester. All those experiences CIS provided helped me in growing up. And now I get to go to a community college that has dorms and that is awesome.

Any advice you have for students?  

Hone your studying skills in high school so you can carry those with you into college. I also have to say that even though I didn’t feel like I was a leader, I was. So, don’t fight your leadership quality. Go for it. And don’t be afraid to put yourself outside of the box.

That’s exactly what you did this whole week. You were on the Mission Possible: Communities In Schools Alumni panel and spoke from the heart before over three hundred people. That is stepping outside of the box and really putting yourself out there.

Yes. Socially, I tend to be shy. Just attending this conference was outside the box for me. I wonder what if they don’t want to talk to me. But I pushed myself. Hi, my name is Dominique, I’d say. And I shook their hand and it went from there. It all turned out great.

Singing Loudly And Proudly Of Unsung Heroes

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Kalamazoo at 2015 Unsung Heroes Awards in New Orleans, LA. Also pictured, Bill Milliken, Founder and Vice Chairman of Communities In Schools, Inc. (left) and Dan Cardinali, President of Communities In Schools, Inc. (third from right at back).

Question: What does Texas, Georgia, New Mexico, Kansas, and California have in common with Kalamazoo, Michigan?

Answer: They have CIS Site Coordinators and public schools who have just received the prestigious Unsung Heroes Awards.

The Unsung Heroes Awards annually honor CIS site coordinators, and schools and communities that partner with Communities In Schools to change the picture of education in America. CIS site coordinators work in more than 2,200 K-12 public schools serving 1.3 million young people and their families every year. Together, site coordinators, schools and communities keep kids in school, and this award recognizes those that are doing whatever it takes to eliminate barriers and never giving up, on anyone.

(From left) CIS Site Coordinator Martha Serio, CIS Director of Elementary Sites Elyse Brey, Spring Valley Center for Exploration Principal William Hawkins, KPS School Board President Patti Scholler-Barber.
(From left) CIS Site Coordinator Martha Serio, CIS Director of Elementary Sites Elyse Brey, Spring Valley Center for Exploration Principal William Hawkins, KPS School Board President Patti Scholler-Barber.

Last year, you may recall, Kalamazoo was one of four communities in the country given a “Community of Excellence” award by National CIS. This year, Kalamazoo won in two areas!

Martha Serio, CIS Site Coordinator at Spring Valley Center for Exploration for the past nine years, is one of five individuals to receive an Unsung Hero Award.

“I am truly honored, humbled and grateful to be receiving this award,” said Serio. “I love being a Site Coordinator for Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo. I am able to connect students with over 40 fabulous volunteers and community partners they need to succeed because of the support I receive from my Principal, Mr. William Hawkins and the Spring Valley teachers, staff, parents, and CIS staff. Here at Spring Valley, we are all a team.”Martha Serio, CIS Site Coordinator at Spring Valley Center for Exploration for the past nine years, is one of five individuals to receive an Unsung Hero Award.

Arcadia Elementary School, committed to the CIS model for more than 13 years, was one of four sites honored in the school category by the national Communities In Schools’ network. The award highlights successful implementation of the proven site coordinator model in a partner school.

(From left) CIS Site Coordinator Gulnar Husain, CIS Director of Elementary Sites Elyse Brey, Arcadia Principal Greg Socha, KPS School Board President Patti Scholler-Barber.
(From left) CIS Site Coordinator Gulnar Husain, CIS Director of Elementary Sites Elyse Brey, Arcadia Principal Greg Socha, KPS School Board President Patti Scholler-Barber.

“Arcadia Elementary School is a shining example of what can happen when we work together for kids. This award is shared by all of us—The Kalamazoo Public Schools, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, our volunteers, partners, and donors—all dedicated to meeting students’ needs,” said Pam Kingery executive director, CIS of Kalamazoo. “Along with the talented KPS teachers, staff, and administrators, we will continue working with the community to serve the students at Arcadia as well as students in the nineteen additional KPS schools that CIS is in.”  You can watch the Arcadia video by clicking here.

In addition, Dominique Edwards, a Kalamazoo Central High School graduate and former CIS Board member, attended the three-day CIS Leadership Town Hall and also made Kalamazoo proud—serving on the Mission Possible: Communities In Schools Alumni panel. Keep reading Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids and you’ll learn what she is up to. (We had a chance to pop our “pop quiz” on her as she waited in the New Orleans airport for her flight home.)

In Times of Grief And Loss, Hospice Is There

boy-984313Genuine, compassionate, and flexible. These words only begin to capture our partner, Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan. Thanks to its work with Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, hundreds and hundreds of Kalamazoo Public School students have benefited from its school-based grief groups. Since 2006, Hospice Board members, administrators and therapists have been committed to providing students with a grief counselor who is highly skilled at engaging students from diverse backgrounds who are grieving due to terminal illness or death of a loved one, loss of their home, divorce, incarceration or foster care.

This school-based service, which will touch almost 100 students this school year, offers hope and better ways of coping with the losses they have experienced. One student, struggling with the death of her mother, saw her grades drop to the point she felt paralyzed with grief and hopelessness. “I didn’t care about anything,” she said. “I gave up easily…I wasn’t doing my work and was behind on credits.” She took what she saw as her only available option and dropped out of high school. She almost became a statistic. Almost.

KPS staff did a great job of convincing this young woman to return to school and to get connected with CIS. The school’s CIS Site Coordinator connected her with a grief & loss group offered by Hospice. The student credited the work she did in the weekly groups with therapist Cate Jarvis with helping her get back on track to graduate. As the oldest child in a parentless family, she recognized that the best way to honor her mother’s memory is to make sure that her little brothers and sisters attend school regularly and do their homework so they too can graduate and take advantage of The Kalamazoo Promise®.

It’s a fact: healthier children make better students—including emotional health as well as physical health. Research proves that addressing children’s health needs is associated with positive school outcomes. When students’ health needs are met, studies find increases in academic achievement, decreases in incidence of problem behaviors, improvement in the relationships that surround each child, and positive changes in school and classroom climates.

lonely-928656But access to these needed services is often an obstacle. When it comes to the delivery of health services—or any of the critical resources our partners provide—location matters. Transportation is often a barrier for many of the students served through CIS. Keeping appointments outside of the school setting can pose a hardship for families. School-based health services are a growing trend throughout the country. Approximately 75% of children who receive some type of mental health service receive it in schools.

We are grateful to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan and to all of our partners who work with us, investing their time, expertise, and resources to change the landscape of healthcare delivery for our children.

We continue to be thankful for the Kalamazoo Public Schools. It is through their home and heart that many of these vital student needs are identified.

Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan guides and supports individuals (and their caregivers) coping with illness, aging, dying, and loss by providing an array of supports and services, grief support like Journeys, a free program for children and teens which is offered at their Oakland Centre facility (2255 West Centre Avenue in Portage). If you know a child or a teenager who is hurting because of the death of a loved one, Journeys can help. To find out more, go here.