Do you do your best and try hard, too?

Last week, more than 420 guests attended the 11th annual CIS Champs Celebration, presented by Kalsec. Before guests even entered the Radisson’s Arcadia Ballroom, they were treated to a live performance by the Kalamazoo Kids In Tune Middle School Ensemble, under the direction of Ben Gudbrandson and sponsored by Warner Norcross + Judd. It was clear these young musicians had practiced and practiced as they performed at their best.

 

 

What about you? Do you do your best and try hard, too? That is one of the questions fourth graders from Woodward School for Technology and Research asked the grown-ups in the room. Kyla Clark, Isaac Dyer, Kiana Gill, Kieara Virgil, and Curtis Whitfield, representing their Woodward peers, recited “The Kalamazoo Poem” at Champs (their presence sponsored by Borgess). As part of Mrs. Calloway’s English class at Woodward, these KPS students were five of the 60 fourth graders from Mrs. Rice, Mrs. Polsco, and Mrs. Calloway’s classes who participated in poetry workshops facilitated by CIS. The poem also incorporates several lines written by students involved in the CIS After School Program at Milwood Elementary School. On April 7, 2018, “The Kalamazoo Poem” premiered at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts as part of the 5th Annual Kalamazoo Poetry Festival.

We share with you, this week, their poem and hope you’ll keep up with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids to discover the Champs experience. We’ll be publishing the two inspiring speeches given by representatives of the Class of 2018, Kanequewa Steward, Kalamazoo Central High School, and Dreon Smith, Loy Norrix High School. Over the coming weeks you’ll also be inspired (for the first time, or all over again!) by learning what each one of the eight award winners is doing to help kids stay in school and achieve in life.

Thanks to CIS volunteer Don Kingery and CIS youth development worker Nae Williams, you’ll also be able to see what guests saw (and missed!) through their photographic lens.

The Kalamazoo Poem

We love Kalamazoo.

All the wonderful places you can go,
like home, the Kalamazoo Public Library,
and all the schools.
I love going to school and learning.

Kalamazoo can be loving and caring,
even to people who aren’t always nice.

This big, wonderful city has all my friends in it.
In this city that is not too big and not too small
people can be themselves.
Did I mention I love the schools?
That teachers are teaching?

Kalamazoo does not have hurricanes.
Get this: it has a banana car!

My head feels like it will explode
because Kalamazoo is so cool.
I love the way people handle their biz.
I love the summer and wind.

My family is here. My friends.
My school. My teachers. Me!

Kalamazoo is the best city I’ve ever been to,
it’s our home, we have the Promise–and college is free!

You see, people here treat each other with kindness.

Kalamazoo can be so kind.

Kalamazoo gives presents and parties on cold, Christmas mornings.
It gives us teachers and tutors who help us with our work.

People say kind words. Someone says hi.
Students listen to their teacher.
We play together. We clean up. We get along.

When people are put down, Kalamazoo help them get back up.
We get together and help the homeless, the poor,
and those who are feeling sad.
We fix each other’s houses.

I wish everybody had a home
and that it never snowed.

Yes, there are things we wish were true about Kalamazoo.

We need more good jobs.
If only everything cost a penny!
I wish the river wasn’t polluted,
that I could see my dad.

I wish we always remembered to treat others
how we want to be treated.

I wish we had a robot.
If only rappers lived in Kalamazoo
and there was no such thing as the flu.

I wish Kalamazoo was 5,000 miles long and 5,000 miles wide.
I wish everybody-and I mean everybody-could be in my family.

I wish I could help everyone
and that we wouldn’t stop helping each other—
even when we don’t always get it right.

I wish that the power wouldn’t get shut off.
I wish everyone had a place to live and I had a bed of my own.
There should be a waterpark in the middle of town.

If only Kalamazoo was California. I miss my cousins.
I miss my mom. I worry and wonder where she is.
We need more bikes and shooting stars.

No shootings! There is a scared little street
that worries someone could get hurt today.
Will you keep me safe forever?
I dream I will become ….

A firefighter, a doctor, a teacher, an artist,
a football player, a wildlife technician…

Will you take care of me?
Help me learn today?
Be there when I grow up?
Will you do your best, like us, and try hard, too?

-a group poem by 4th graders of Woodward

At the conclusion of the poem, Kiana asked emcee, Dr. John Oliver, if they could introduce the next speaker. Dr. Oliver graciously agreed. Kyla then called Dr. Michael Rice to the stage and Curtis let everybody know that Dr. Rice is their superintendent. Kieara shared that “he likes poetry, just like us!” Isaac pointed out that every day, “and I mean every day—Dr. Rice does his best, and like us, he tries hard, too.”

The students then gifted Dr. Rice with a book, the completed works of Langston Hughes, signed by the fourth graders of Woodward.

What about you? Are you working hard for kids, too?

If you believe in our efforts to ensure that ALL kids stay in school and achieve in life, you can learn about volunteer opportunities here, or go here to learn more about other ways to support kids, or call us at 269.337.1601.

 

Shop & Give Back

With your everyday purchases, you can help remove the barriers that can derail kids from success.  Here’s how!

Harding’s Community Rewards

Sign up for Harding’s Community Rewards, click “add community”, and choose Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo as your organization.  You can earn up to a 4% rebate on your monthly purchases that will support CIS.

Make sure you type in your phone number at check out. No card required.

Amazon Smile

Do you shop on Amazon?  Shop through AmazonSmile.  CIS will receive 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases.

Choose Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo as your favorite charitable organization and make your purchase through smile.amazon.com each time you shop.

D&W/SpartanNash

Send CIS your original store receipts from D&W or other participating SpartanNash stores to help us earn $1,000 through the Direct Your Dollars program.

You can mail or drop off your original receipts to our CIS office located in downtown Kalamazoo at 125 W. Exchange Place.

 

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

 

What is the world coming to?

If you stepped onto the campus of Western Michigan University this past weekend and peeked into the “Brown and Gold” room you would feel hopeful about the future.

On Saturday, about 75 Kalamazoo Public School students chose to spend part of their day participating in a “Courage to Create” poetry workshop. “Courage to Create” is just one of a number of fun and educational offerings students can participate in, along with families, as part of Kalamazoo’s annual MLK Day Celebration. We love celebrating the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. with young people.

“These kids are great!” said Elizabeth Kerlikowske, President of Friends of Poetry. She is right. Giants and Knights sat side by side, wrote poetry, and many shared their works aloud. The students were polite, kind, they took risks with their writing, and listened to each other. They set a good example for grownups!

What is the world is coming to? Love and goodness, for starters. Here are two terrific examples of what students created:

Love

Love smiles and embraces me with the biggest hug. “I love you!” she shouts as we go on with the day. As we walk along, she is just singing that one song, “All you need is love, love, love.” As corny as she is, you can’t help but smile because Love just gives you the warmest feeling.

As we are walking, we see a couple fighting, so of course, Love walks up to them and asks, “Oh, where is the Love? Isn’t Love stronger than anything else? You must embrace it!” To my surprise, the couple turns to each other with the biggest smiles. “I love you!” they shout.

I guess Love is really unexpected.

-Saquaya Baker, a junior at Kalamazoo Central High School

 

Goodness

I take Goodness with me wherever I go: to school, events, family functions, you name it. She is very popular! Her kindness makes others smile and want to be around her. She makes me a better person as well. When I have negative thoughts, she is always there to keep me in check because her motto is, “Do unto others as you want others to do unto you.” It’s a nice reminder every once in a while when I am in a bad mood.

However, Goodness isn’t always there to guide me. When I moved to Kalamazoo from Birmingham the beginning of my eleventh grade year, she left for some time. I think it was because I pushed her away. Anger and Depression took her place, but I did not want them there, so I asked her to be patient with me and come back because I could not get through my situation without her. To my great appreciation, she returned, all smiles, with the bright colors she loves to wear and the fantastic Dad jokes that can make anyone’s day just by hearing her laugh at them. We are the best of friends again and we are changing the world one smile and helping hand at a time.

-Sidney Washington, a senior at Kalamazoo Central High School

In the months to come, we’ll  publish a few more works created during this workshop, so keep up with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids.

 

As 2016 Comes to a Close

Thank you to all of you who have made a gift to Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo this year!  Your generous support is giving kids in our community the power of hope and the belief that they can succeed in school, graduate, and be prepared for life.

If you are planning a year-end gift to CIS, thank you!  We also want to make sure you know about some important dates to ensure your gift can be credited to 2016.

  • Checks must be dated and postmarked by December 31, 2016.
  • Credit card donations should be made online by 11:59 PM on December 31, 2016.
  • If you wish to drop off your gift, please note that the CIS office will be closed beginning Friday, December 23 and will re-open on Tuesday, January 3.

If your employer matches your donations, please be sure to send us any matching gift form to be completed.  You can check our website to see if your employer may offer this benefit.

If you have any questions or need help making your gift, please call (269) 337-1601, ext 205 for more information.

From all of us at CIS, we want to wish you and your family happy holidays. Thank you for investing in kids! 

 

It’s Never Okay

When it comes to distracted driving, young people are texting and talking behind the wheel like never before. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fatalities involving young drivers between the ages of 15-20 increased 10% in 2015. Traffic crashes are the leading cause of death for American teens. Today in the United States, 11 teens will die as a result of texting while driving.

We’re proud that two of our CIS partners—AT&T and State Farm®—have both been leaders and are at the forefront in helping combat this growing epidemic.

To keep young people safe, AT&T launched their “It Can Wait” campaign back in 2010. AT&T’s message is simple: Don’t text while you drive. They created an online virtual simulator to show how just a glance or quick response can prove deadly. To date, over 12 million people have taken the pledge to never drive distracted. You and your teen can also take the pledge by going here.

State Farm® has a Teen Driver Safety Website filled with free tools, tips, and resources designed to help teens and their parents throughout the learning-to-drive process. They also conducted a recent survey this past July. They found that over 80 percent of teen drivers (ages 16-19) have chosen to be distracted by their phones when they’re driving. Teens who have their own car were significantly more likely to participate in distracting behaviors while driving than were those who share the family car. To read State Farm’s full report, go here.

Steer your kids and young drivers in the right direction by educating them to never drive distracted. One fun way you can do this (while having free cider and donuts) is to stop down this Saturday, November 19th from 10am-12pm at Mayor’s Riverfront Park near downtown Kalamazoo. Bronson Trauma Services and the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety (KDPS) are hosting a distracted driving mock trauma simulation. West Michigan Air Care will be landing their helicopter (weather permitting), and LIFE EMS will provide a rescue simulation.

KDPS will be hosting a fire prevention event alongside the mock trauma simulation. Several exciting displays and simulations will be on site for education about fire prevention and safety, including an interactive smoke house, fire sprinkler demonstrations, a bomb squad truck, fire engines and ambulances.

Keeping the Lights on for the CIS After School Program

cis-after-school-program-lights-on-afterschool-4Today millions of people throughout America are turning the lights on as part of the 17th annual Lights On Afterschool to emphasize the importance of keeping lights on and doors open for after school programs. National Lights On Afterschool Awareness Day is Thursday, October 20, 2016, and Kalamazoo Public School students will be doing their part to shed light on the need to invest in after school programs.

This week, elementary and secondary students who participate in Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) After School Programs are coming up with their own ways to shine the spotlight on quality after school support. Students are writing letters to public officials and stakeholders, making artwork, reading essays, and holding a neighborhood march to raise the public’s awareness about the need for after school opportunities.

Recent data from America After 3PM, shows a vast unmet demand for after school programs nationwide. The study found that nationally for every one child who participates in an after school program, three children would be enrolled if a program were available to them. In Michigan, the majority of parents agree that after school programs excite children about learning. More work needs to be done to meet the need for after school programs that keep kids safe, inspire them to learn.

cis-after-school-program-lights-on-afterschool-8“Lights On Afterschool celebrates the remarkable work being done by students who attend the CIS After School Program as well as other after school programs throughout the nation,” says Dr. Linda Thompson, CIS Senior Director of Site Services. “It is a powerful reminder that after school programs offer a range of benefits to students and families. We must make sure that decision makers and other stakeholders are aware of the benefits after school programs provide and continue their support.”

CIS After School Programs extend the learning day Monday through Thursday in 15 KPS schools. A significant body of research demonstrates that students who regularly attend after school programs are more likely to improve their grades, tests scores and overall academic behavior. In the 2016/17 school year, CIS anticipates serving over 1,000 children during after school time.

CIS relies heavily on local resources and partnerships for its core work during the school day including placing CIS Site Coordinators within schools to identify needs and connect students to the right resources to remove barriers to school success. The CIS After School Program is available thanks to the support of federal dollars awarded through the Michigan Department of Education (21st Century Community Learning Centers).

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