Here’s a list of five fun fall facts to enjoy while you sip your pumpkin spice latte or other favorite fall beverage.
This past September, the national organization of Communities In Schools welcomed NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal as the newest member of its national board of directors. “Every kid, no matter where they’re from or how much money their parents make, deserves the opportunity to get a good education,” said O’Neal. “My education was critical to my success on and off the court. Being in school gave me self-discipline and showed me the importance of hard work. I always knew that when my playing days were over, nobody could take my education away from me.” You can read more here.
Fall ushers in a number of opportunities for students to participate in sports. However, by middle school, 70 percent of students have dropped out of organized sports. The number one reason? It isn’t fun anymore. The good news is that there is a roadmap to fun. A study a few years back found that being a good sport, trying hardand positive coaching came in as the top three most important factors to having fun in youth sports. Winning ranks near the bottom (coming in at 48 out of 81 identified indicators of fun).
John Brandon, partner services coordinator for CIS of Kalamazoo shares this fact: “Fall is when most of our school supplies are donated, and what we receive during this time will be most of what we have to distribute throughout the school year.”
What does Michigan have in common with Alabama, New Mexico, Nevada, Idaho, Iowa, and Rhode Island? According to Candy Store.com, candy corn is our number one choice for Halloween candy. In Michigan, Starbursts ranks second, and Skittles third. To see the most popular Halloween candy state-by-state, check out their interactive U.S. map here. As long as we’re on this topic, did you know that candy corn hasn’t always been called candy corn? It was first called “Chicken Feed.” It came in a box with a rooster drawing and the tagline read: Something worth crowing for.
Here’s a fun fall fact worth crowing about: Communities In Schools is the nation’s largest provider of Integrated Student Supports. (To learn more about our unique model, go here.) That is a fun fact all year round!
“March Madness” is sweeping the country. So, let’s think about the way Communities In Schools does its work in terms of basketball.
All across the US, 164 CIS affiliates help to serve nearly 1.5 million students using the model of integrated student services, also referred to as ISS. Child Trends defines Integrated Student Services (ISS) as “a school-based approach to promoting students’ academic success by securing and coordinating supports that target academic and non-academic barriers to achievement.”
Here’s another way to think about it.
Imagine turning on the television and seeing a basketball court.
The game is about to start. It’s one-on-one. The announcer offers stats on each player. They are the same age and size. Both are loved by their parents and both have fabulous coaches who have the skills and knowledge to teach them all they need to know to be successful players. Both have the home court advantage. It should, the announcer predicts, be a close game.
From one end of the court, out jogs a smiling young child, sporting a crisp uniform and shoes so bright they dazzle. Under the watchful eye of her supportive team members, she begins to warm up. She appears healthy, rested. The camera pans to her bench, which is quite deep. There to support and assist her are her pediatrician, eye doctor, and dentist. Squeezed next to her parents are the grocery store clerk, her piano teacher, someone holding juice and healthy snacks, and someone else holding a duffle bag of extra uniforms, shoes, and other sundry items.
The cameras then pan to the bench across the way. In contrast, it is quite sparse, just a tired looking woman on the bench—the player’s mother.
The game is about to begin but the second player is nowhere to be…oh, wait, here she comes. She’s late. Unlike the first player, she doesn’t have an alarm clock or a bed. She and her mother have been sleeping on the couches and floors of friends for the last few months. Because she’s arrived late, she hasn’t had a chance to warm up. In worn shoes and ill-fitting jeans and shirt, she heads directly to center court. She isn’t moving comfortably, but given that this is the only outfit she has, she must make do.
The game begins. Within seconds, the first child scores. And then scores again. Each time the second child has possession of the ball, she turns it over. By half-time, the game is a blowout. As both players head to the locker room, the second child’s coach is asked, “What is wrong with your player? Why aren’t you coaching her better?”
“Unless something dramatically changes in the next half of the game,” the announcer intones, “she will never catch up.” Cut to commercial.
The second half begins. It feels like an entirely different game. It looks that way, too. The second child is running up and down the court in new shoes and a pair of shorts. She’s taking shots and making many of them. The coach and mother who have been constants at her side are now joined on the bench by others. What is going on?
During halftime, when the fans in the bleachers realized that cheering was no longer enough, they turned to each other and said, “We need to deepen that child’s bench to keep her in the game. We can see she needs things like shoes and clothes, but what else? What can we do to ensure her love of the game continues?”
The second player finished the game that evening. It’s a long season, though, and she has other needs to be addressed. But, with help from her community, her bench will deepen and she will receive the resources and support she needs, just like the first child, to play the rest of the games to the best of her ability.
Communities In School’s model of Integrated Student Services (ISS) is basically a community’s way of saying, “Hey, wait a minute; we need to do something differently for all of our children. Let’s join forces with the schools and assure that resources and supports are available to students so they can stay in school and be prepared to learn all they can from their teachers.”
The ISS model is the way in which our community has been choosing for over a decade to support our children within the Kalamazoo Public Schools. You are deepening the bench for students every time you make the decision to volunteer, partner, and/or donate to CIS, doing what it takes to ensure they stay in school and achieve in life. Integrated Student Services, paired with adequate and stable public school funding, is a game changer. Once policy makers recognize this and make decisions that reflect this as a priority for our children, we all win.
Unlike basketball, the beauty of integrated student services is that both “teams” can win and move on when their needs are being met. With their communities’ help, each can make it to the “Sweet 16” and the “Final Four.” Every student can win the sweetest prize of all: a high school diploma.
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 John Brandon.
John grew up on the east side of Michigan, in Lexington, about 20 minutes north of Port Huron. John came to Kalamazoo to attend Western Michigan University and graduated with a degree in history. In 2014, he joined CIS as an AmeriCorps VISTA worker, supporting both Milwood Magnet Middle School and Kalamazoo Central High School. John now supports all 20 CIS sites in his role as partner services coordinator, a position he’s held for a little more than two years.
Alright, John Brandon: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.
How would you describe your position as partner services coordinator?
I work as a representative of CIS with many of our partner organizations. I look over the day-to-day nuts and bolts of the partnerships, making sure services are running smoothly within the CIS model.
Part of your responsibilities also include overseeing Kids’ Closet. If you could use no more than five words to describe Kids’ Closet, what would say? Go!
Clothes. Hygiene items. School supplies.
But I have to say more because those five words don’t fully fit or complete the description of Kids’ Closet. CIS is able to distribute the basic needs items I mentioned and more to students thanks to the community. We collect and store items, we operate the distribution and delivery of these items to the schools, but it is the community that is 100% providing this resource to our kids.
We couldn’t operate Kids’ Closet without the support of community donations or the volunteers. Take Sally Stevens, for example. She volunteers five hours every week to helping with Kids’ Closet. Our kids really benefit from her organizational skills and dedication. Without her, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish one fifth of what we currently do when it comes to getting kids the basics they need. We’re able to do as much as we do because of volunteers like Sally.
What item do you find the hardest to keep in stock?
Adult sizes of [new] clothing items, like adult-sized sweatpants, especially in small and medium sizes.
What item(s) have been big in demand from school sites this year?
School supplies of all varieties. Notebooks, mechanical pencils, pocket folders, dry erase markers—all the elementary kids have a white board to do math on but they need replacement markers from time to time. That’s a new thing for us this year, the dry erase markers. We also have had many requests for sweatpants for all ages and underwear at the elementary level. This winter, boots, coats, and shoes have been in high demand, as have items like deodorant and feminine supplies. Basically, while the list of what we have in stock is long, the demand for these items is especially high. Fortunately, people in our community are good about donating them!
Also, what we need depends on the time of year. For instance, at the start of year we do great with school supplies, but towards the end of the school year, we’re in need of more of these supplies, like pocket folders, notebooks, and mechanical pencils, because the kids have already gone through them. [To see the most current list of needed items, check out the Kids’ Closet wish list here.]
What is your most favorite item you have in your closet?
Probably this sweater I’m wearing. See, it even has orange elbow pads.
You look like a history professor.
[John laughs.] I do pay attention to history. I read history books frequently and listen to a history podcast.
Podcasts are really a thing now, aren’t they? Any particular podcast you listen to?
Hardcore History. It is done by Dan Carlin and one of the more prominent history podcasts out there. Most podcasts last a half hour or so. This podcast comes in at six hours. You can’t listen to it all at once. He takes a topic in history and elaborates on it. You listen and think and then you listen some more.
Kalamazoo has such a unique collection of people. I’m from a small town, so it feels like a big city to me, but without being too big. I love all the historical buildings. It’s also hip.
I live in the Vine neighborhood. Just this weekend, I was thinking how I’m so lucky I can walk to a record store or a fancy sandwich shop or a pub. I like the mingling of small businesses along with residential areas. Those are the biggest hits for me when it comes to what I love about Kalamazoo. Oh, and of course that Kalamazoo is not too far from the lake!
Any favorite places?
I am a big fan of Fourth Coast Cafe. Also, the Lillian Anderson Arboretum which is just outside of town and owned by Kalamazoo College. I enjoy the nature trails winding through the pine trees planted in rows, off to either side. It’s a good spot. There are so many good spots and that’s why the city of Kalamazoo is so great. I learned that we even have a cat cafe!
You can bring your cat?
No. It’s called Kzoo Cat Cafe and they work with Kalamazoo Animal Rescue. Debi Newsome [CIS Senior Director for Finance, Human Resources and Administration] told me about it. You pay twelve dollars and can hang out, play with cats, drink coffee and tea, and have some snacks. The cats are all adoptable through the rescue center.
What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?
I attended a conference on foster children. I got the opportunity to listen to and speak with people whose focus is entirely foster children. In being exposed to an area of advocacy I had no real prior knowledge on, it was eye-opening. I’m constantly learning how little I really know about people’s struggles in this world.
Behind every successful person is a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?
For me, that would be my parents. Both of them. They’ve been role models for me in being a good adult. They’ve always done a good job of balancing, encouraging me to be who I am but also having a realistic view of what is possible. I’ve turned into a well-rounded person thanks to them, though. I didn’t always appreciate how awesome they are until I got older.
Thank you, John, for hanging out with us at Ask Me About My 12,000+ Kids.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Today’s guest blogger is Jessica Smith, Western Michigan University MSW Intern at Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo.
My 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: