Our Fall 2018 CIS Connections newsletter is now available! Click below to get “back to the basics.”
While each school year brings changes, this year feels especially different. That’s because Liza Wolfe, a Kalamazoo icon, has retired. Since 1976, Liza Wolfe has launched the success of over 1,000 children by offering high quality preschool through Mrs. Wolfe’s Preschool. She transformed the basement of her Westnedge Hill home into a preschooler’s dream, complete with books, a slide, huge building blocks, dolls, art materials, and more. For 43 years she prepared kids to be the best future students and citizens they could be by teaching them how to listen and share, how to be patient and how to participate.
Mrs. Wolfe’s Preschool has been such a part of the beautiful and whimsical fabric of Kalamazoo. Even if you don’t have a child, grandchild, niece, or nephew who attended her school, you probably know of her. Each June, you might have seen Mrs. Wolfe and her friends marching through the streets of downtown.
Since the Do Dah Parade’s inception in 1985, Mrs. Wolfe, her students, parents, and on occasion, alumni, have joined in the fun, parading through the streets in zany outfits they’ve made. When the Kalamazoo Gazette asked Mrs. Wolfe why Do Dah? she said, “We do the parade because when I was little, I never got the chance to be in one but I could play in the street,” she said. “Now, kids can’t play in the street anymore but they sure can do a parade.”
Through the years, Liza Wolfe has also taught parents important lessons. For instance, she’s helped helicopter parents set down their hovering tendencies. Parents have always been welcome to visit during their child’s morning or afternoon session under one condition. “You must be a fly on the wall,” Mrs. Wolfe instructs parents at the start of the school year. She explains that when conflict arises it’s important to give children space to solve their own problems. Rush into solving the conflict or intervening for any reason, and you rob kids of the opportunity to learn.
While early childhood is “hot” right now, Liza Wolfe embraced it long before it was “a thing.” She’s been around long enough to see trends come and go. When it comes to ideas about how preschool should be taught, the importance of play in early childhood education programming has, at times, been undervalued in favor of direct instruction. Ever the champion for children and what they truly need, Mrs. Wolfe has protected and reinforced the role of play in her students’ early childhood development.
Fred Rogers pointed out that, “Play is really the work of childhood.” Mrs. Wolfe knows this and because she recognizes that play is the foundation of learning, she takes play seriously.
As with all high-quality preschool programs, she helps students answer their own questions through exploring different options, experimenting and engaging in conversation. She focused on basic building blocks, growing young people’s social and emotional skills, language and vocabulary, imagination and creativity. Her graduates, numbering in the thousands, have learned much from her. The behaviors they practiced over and over during their preschool years (repetitive practice has a tendency to instill habits), served them well in their elementary school years and beyond. From her, they have learned:
Hang up your coat.
Wait until everyone is served before you start eating.
Take only what you need.
Learn to wait your turn.
Co-operate with others.
Listen to stories.
It’s National Reading Month and a time when Kalamazoo Public Schools hosts literacy activities throughout the schools. We prepare ourselves by engaging in the annual ritual of asking: What are you reading? Here’s what some Communities In Schools (CIS) staff are reading…
I just finished Perfect Peace by Daniel Black which was an amazing story reflecting a mother’s desperate decision to acquire something she’d always wanted through methods that the rest of the world would see as imponderable. When the truth is revealed, a story of unconditional love, family, and sexuality is born. I am currently reading Evicted by Matthew Desmond, Second House from the Corner by Sadeqa Johnson, and Discerning the Voice of God by Priscilla Shirer.
-Stacy S. Jackson, CIS After School Coordinator, Edison Environmental Science Academy
[Note: As part of Reading Together, you can meet Pulitzer Prize winning author Matthew Desmond on Friday, March 16 at 7pm at Chenery. It’s free, but KPL would like you to first register here. ]
-Emily Kobza, Director of Development & Business Engagement
-Missy Best, Senior CIS Site Coordinator, Milwood Magnet School
With my four-year-old, I’m reading Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book. With my seven-year-old, I’m reading Kate DiCamillo’s Flora and Ulysses. With my (38-year-old) spouse, I’m reading a collection of poetry with authors that include Mary Oliver, Marilyn Chandler McEntyre, and Clare of Assisi, among others.
Thanks for asking one of my favorite questions!
-Angela Van Heest, CIS Site Coordinator, Parkwood Upjohn Elementary School
I’m reading Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff.
-Shannon Jones, CIS After School Coordinator Milwood Magnet School
I am currently reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio. I took my students to see the movie. They had such good discussions comparing and contrasting the book from the movie they encouraged me to read it.
-Phillip Hegwood, CIS After School Coordinator, Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts
I’m always reading several…
- Alexander Hamilton by Ron Chernow
- The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin
- Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
-Maggie Walters, CIS Success Coach, Loy Norrix High School
I’ve just started reading The Shack by Canadian author William P. Young. This was a favorite of my Mother’s. She had me buy extra copies a few years back, before she passed, so she could share them with others who also lived at her nursing home. I saw the movie when it came out and loved it.
-Kelly Cedarquist, CIS Site Coordinator, King-Westwood Elementary
I just finished The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. It’s the kind of book you can’t stop thinking about. I’m now reading Ordinary Light: A Memoir by poet Tracey K. Smith. The book was a finalist for the National Book Award in nonfiction. I also love reading work by local writers, so each night I’m reading one poem by Elizabeth Kerlikowske in Off the Wall: How Art Speaks and studying the accompanying painting by Mary Hatch. A stunning and fun book!
-Jennifer Clark, Special Projects & Initiatives
I have been reading books in the King Killer Chronicle series by Patrick Rothfuss. I am currently on the second book in the series, The Wise Man’s Fear. A couple books ago I read Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie which probably is the best book I have read in the last year. I highly recommend it.
-Jenna Cooperrider, CIS Success Coach, Kalamazoo Central High School
Our Native Bees: North America’s Endangered Pollinators and the Fight to Save Them by Paige Embry. Honey bees are frequently in the spotlight. I’m fascinated by them. I’m a beekeeper. Looming as an even larger concern are our native pollinators and native bees. Complex topic and simple steps that everyone can engage in.
Also reading The Bee: A Natural History by Noah Wilson-Rich. It’s that time of year to continue to educate myself, prepare, and network with other beekeepers before the first nectar becomes available. Great information.
-Maureen Cartmill, CIS Site Coordinator, Woods Lake Elementary: A Magnet Center for the Arts
My book club (The Lovely Ladies of Literature) is reading The Patternist series by Octavia Butler. We are on Book 1, Wild Seed. The interesting thing about the series is that she wrote them in the opposite order that you read them in. So, the last book that she wrote is the first book that you read. Also, there was a fifth book, but she shelved it because it didn’t really flow the way she had hoped for.
-Artrella Cohn, Senior Director of Community Engagement & Student Investment
I recently finished a fascinating, but tragic story called Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. It is a fictional story but is based on a little known historical event that took place between 1854 and 1929, where over 200,000 orphan children were sent across the Midwest by train to be placed with families, often to be used as free labor. It was excellent. I am presently reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. I learned of this author at Cara’s SEL [Social Emotional Learning] training and so far am really enjoying it!
–Joan Coopes, CIS Site Coordinator, Arcadia Elementary
The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan. It’s historical fiction. And this, from the NYT’s book review: A finalist for this year’s Man Booker Prize, The Narrow Road to the Deeper North portrays a singular episode of manic brutality: imperial Japan’s construction of the Thailand-Burma Death Railway in the early 1940s. The British had long investigated this route, but they deemed the jungle impenetrable. Once the Japanese captured Burma, though, its army needed a more efficient resupply route, and so the impossible became possible in just over a year by using some 300,000 people as disposable labor. Flanagan’s late father was a survivor of that atrocity, which took the lives of more than 12,000 Allied prisoners.
–Keely Novotny, CIS Site Coordinator, Edison Environmental Science Academy
I am usually reading three to four books at a time. I always have one book I listen to in the car, one I can pick up and put down easily, one I read before I go to sleep, and one I can’t put down. The car book at present is The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald. It is the story of a young woman from Sweden who loses her job in a bookstore and decides to visit her elderly pen pal in a dying town in Iowa, and what happens next.
The pick up/put down book is often short stories or essays. Currently it is Spoiled Brats, a book of short stories by Simon Rich. The summary on the back of the book starts out with “Twenty years ago, Barney the Dinosaur told the nation’s children they were special. We’re still paying the price. From “one of the funniest writers working today (review from Rolling Stone) comes a collection of stories culled from the front lines of the millennial culture wars.” I have only read the first story in which the narrator is a guinea pig living in a second grade classroom.
My bedtime book is from the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley, The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place. Flavia is an eleven-year-old girl growing up in England in the 1950s. She is fascinated with chemistry and uses her extensive knowledge of poisons and decay to help the local inspector solve murders. This is the ninth book in the series.
And, finally, the book I can’t put down is Need to Know by Karen Cleveland. The protagonist is Vivian who works for the CIA who, while trying to find out more about a Russian handler and the agents he handles, finds information that threatens everything that matters to her. I read the first chapter of this book online in an email I get about books. The sender takes the first chapter of a book and breaks it into five segments and sends each segment daily for a week. At the end of the week, this one got me….
-Barbara Worgess, Project Manager of School Based Health Initiative
Keep up with us at Ask Me About My 12,000+ Kids and you’ll soon find out what our volunteers have been reading!
Thank you to the many individuals, groups, businesses, and other organizations who provided in-kind support to CIS and the students we served last school year, including donations of items to the CIS Kids’ Closet! These are in addition to those who made financial gifts, which can be found in our 2016-17 Annual Report.
Steve and Marlene Denenfeld
Daphney L. Dotson
Maureen Loughlin-Cartmill and Bill Cartmill
Ward F. McDonough
Erin E. Peruchietti
Jennifer A. Rice
Sue Scott and Larry Fuerst
Sally J. Stevens
Logan and J.B. Thomas
Noelle A. Todd
Borgess Professional Nurse Council
Breakfast Optimist Club of Kalamazoo
Coca Cola Bottling Co
Community of Christ Church
First Day Shoe Fund
First United Methodist Church
Flynn, Thiel, Boutell, & Tanis, P.C.
Gale’s True Value Hardware
Global Clinical Connections
Heritage Christian Reformed Church
Junior League of Kalamazoo
Kalamazoo County Association of Retired School Personnel
Kalamazoo Deacons Conference
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
Kalamazoo Public Library
Kalamazoo Public Schools
Kalamazoo Rotaract Club
Kalamazoo Strength and Conditioning
Kalamazoo Valley Habitat for Humanity
Kushner & Company
Mt. Zion Baptist Church
Northwest United Methodist Church
Oshtemo Area Churches
Old National Bank
Parkview Hills Community
Petals & Postings
Helping Hands, Helping People – Senior Services
Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Inc.
St. Catherine of Siena Church
St. Joseph Catholic Church
St. Michael’s Lutheran Church
Stryker Instruments- CXC
Stuart Neighborhood Association
The River Church
TRiO Future Educator Success Program
Two Men & a Truck
Westwood United Methodist Church
WMU Lee Honor’s College
This list recognizes those who gave between July 1, 2016 – June 30, 2017. We make every effort to recognize our donors accurately. If we have omitted you or made a mistake in listing you, we need to know! Please accept our apologies for any oversights and contact us via phone at 269.337.1601 or email Emily Kobza at email@example.com with the corrected information for future publications.
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 Dalanna Hoskins. Her history with Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) began in 2009 when she served for three years as the CIS Assistant Site Coordinator for Washington Writers Academy. Hoskins returned in 2014 as CIS Site Coordinator at Milwood Elementary School. She also serves as a community broker for the Arcadia Institute helping young students and teenagers with developmental disabilities figure out their life goals and get them connected to their community, with emphasis on inclusion. She says, “I love my work with both CIS and Arcadia. I really learn a lot from the kids.”
A proud graduate of Kalamazoo Public Schools, Dalanna attended several KPS elementary schools and it was during her time at Woods Lake she met Mr. Leroy Green, a 2015 CIS Champ. [You can read more about that here.] After graduating from Loy Norrix High School Dalanna attended The College of Wooster in Ohio, graduating with a degree in black studies. She then decided to “explore my more creative side and check out the fun route” and obtained a fashion design degree from Ursuline College.
Alright, Dalanna: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.
Definitely my second grade teachers at Northglade Elementary—Mr. Bushhouse and Mr. Chuck Pearson. We had great times! At Halloween, they dressed up as the Blues Brothers. We put on plays, once a month it seemed. We also made a cookbook and I still have that cookbook.
My favorite teachers in middle school were Ms. Diane Lang and Ms. Dales. They both were math teachers and took time with us and made sure that we understood. Patience is something that I’ve always appreciated. Also, Paul Rothi who taught us social studies.
One of my favorite teachers at Loy Norrix was Barbara Felkel, my Latin teacher. She made Latin fun. I still remember basic Latin principles because of her teaching.
So, what’s a basic Latin principle?
Sum, es, est, sumus, estis, sunt. Which is: I am, you are, he/she/it is, we are, you all are, they are.
What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?
I have learned about the importance of process and living in the moment. As a person who wants to just get things done, sometimes it’s hard for me to ‘stop and smell the roses’ but I have learned that I just need to enjoy it, enjoy the process on the way to my destination, instead of worrying about the destination itself.
What are you currently reading?
God’s Armor Bearer by Terry Nance and The LQ Solution by Dr. Keith Johnson. LQ stands for leadership quotient to the teaches you how to become a better leader. I’m reading both these books through my church.
What’s one way you are learning to be a better leader?
Looking at a problem and finding a solution instead of capitalizing on the problem. Okay, so there’s a problem. It’s good to identify it but now what are some solutions to the problem? Instead of taking the victim mentality and asking Why me? a leader would say Why not me? What is a solution?
What is your favorite word right now?
What is something you love about Kalamazoo?
I love that Kalamazoo is very rich in resources and understanding. People from Kalamazoo are very giving and service-oriented.
Behind every successful person is a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?
Both of my parents. My mother and my father have given me the foundation that I have and now I just build on that.
Dalanna, thank you for hanging out with us at Ask Me About About My 12,000 Kids!
This article was featured in our CIS Connections newsletter, The Double Issue. You can find the full publication here.
David Hamilton is studying health administration at Western Michigan University and, along with his twin brother, Daniel, will graduate this spring. As an AmeriCorps VISTA member with Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo at Kalamazoo Central High School and Washington Writers’ Academy, David is focused on promoting a college-going culture.
At Kalamazoo Central, David has also been working on improving attendance among ninth graders who are chronically absent. He says, “The school and CIS work together to remove barriers to attendance. We’ve named the program ‘All Giants Present.’” David has been researching what works and says that “while there may be many root issues, it comes down to accountability and community support.”
One of the strategies he’s implementing is incentive cards. “They are more like ‘we miss you’ cards and they are signed by other students. Geared towards accountability, these cards let the absent student know their absence is noticed and that they are missed.”
This article was featured in our CIS Connections newsletter, The Double Issue. You can find the full publication here.
Congratulations to CIS volunteer Mary Aldrich who, along with her husband, Scott, has recently been awarded the prestigious Andrus Award for Community Service. Given annually, this award is named for AARP founder Ethel Percy Andrus. Mary has volunteered with CIS for the past four years as a Senior Services RSVP member. In addition to her fine volunteer work at Spring Valley Center for Exploration, she and her husband are involved in many other volunteer efforts throughout the community. They’ve clearly doubled up to extend their reach and make a difference in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and elsewhere.
“Mary has become a part of the Spring Valley family,” notes Spring Valley’s CIS Site Coordinator Martha Serio. “She not only tutors our students, but she is there for them when they need a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear.”
KPS Teacher Jaime Hall says that “Ms. Mary has not only improved students’ confidence in themselves, but in their learning as well. She has worked with students in both math and reading. Many students have shown an improvement in their reading and math abilities after receiving one-on-one time with her. Ms. Mary is very thorough; she does her “homework” and comes in each week with new ideas and tools to help kids learn to the best of their ability…Ms. Mary is amazing. I am grateful for her each and every day, and I know that my students are as well.”
You can change the life of a young person by volunteering. To find out more, visit our website,
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.