Kalamazoo Public Schools had a record-high graduation rate last year and the Superintendent let us know that Communities In Schools is a significant part of those encouraging results. Thank you for helping us to make those results a reality! This annual report shares our progress and asks you to invest again in our school-based approach.
The center page reflects the power of an entire community working collectively toward a common purpose. Through the CIS coordinated approach, the community is removing barriers and giving our kids the power of hope. Because of your investment, many more students have been able to take advantage of our great teachers and opportunities to develop their gifts.
Whatever part you played in surrounding our kids with a community of support, it mattered! Thank you.
Tim Light, CIS Board President
Pam Kingery, CIS Executive Director
Our list of gifts of kindness donors can be found here.
Thank you to the many individuals, groups, businesses, and other organizations who have provided in-kind support to CIS and the students we serve, 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 annual report.
Jememah A. Baker
David and Caroline Bartels
Scott and Wendy Bellow
Missy and John Best
Gerald and Lou Bogner
Borgess Professional Nurse Council
Breakfast Optimist Club of Kalamazoo
Ms. Nicole Butz
Donna Carroll and Fred McTaggart
Central City Parking
Greg and Linda Clarkin
Warren and Eugenié Cook
Todd and Ruth DeNooyer
Craig and Sarah DeNooyer
Rachel and Jeff DeNooyer
Ryan and Katie DeNooyer
Claire and Steve Echtinaw
Fifth Third Bank- Westwood Branch
First Congregational Church
First Presbyterian Church
First United Methodist Church
Flynn, Thiel, Boutell, & Tanis, P.C.
Ms. Edna Fry
Greater Kalamazoo Girls on the Run
Cynda and Jim Greenman
Hiemstra Optical Co
David W. Jackson
Junior League of Kalamazoo, Inc.
Kalamazoo College – Admissions Office
Kalamazoo County Association of Retired School Personnel
Kalamazoo Jeter’s Leaders Program
Kalamazoo Public Library
Kalamazoo Rotaract Club
Kalamazoo Valley Habitat for Humanity
Jeff and Wendy King
Kushner & Company
Nancy L. Laugeman
Little Sprout Children’s Boutique
Tony and Theresa McDonnell
Jeff and Jenni McGregor
Meijer – Westnedge Ave.
Mt. Zion Baptist Church
Marie Mustert and Lee Overbeck
Northeastern Baptist Church
Jason and Keely Novotny
Old National Bank
OptiMed Specialty Pharmacy
Oshtemo Area Churches (OAC)
Ed and Jan Overbeck
Ms. Beth Polso
Portage Chapel Hill United Methodist Church
Jennifer A. Rice
Bob and Jerri Sabo
Lynn and Charlene Scholl
Mr. Barry Schroeder
Senior Services – Helping Hands
Jody L. Sikkema
St. Joseph Catholic Church
Stuart Neighborhood Association
Jennifer M. Swan
Dr. Harold Swift
The Connable Office
Joshua and Logan Thomas
Noelle A. Todd
Westwood United Methodist Church
This list recognizes those who gave between July 1, 2015 – June 30, 2016. 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.
This article was featured in the latest issue of our newsletter, CIS Connections. Read the full issue here.
CIS Senior Site Coordinator Montrell Baker and CIS Success Coach O’Neal Ollie sat down with us to reflect on the work they do at Loy Norrix High School to help students stay in school and achieve in life.
What obstacles most threaten a student’s path to graduating on-time or at all?
Montrell: A lack of support systems. If they don’t have support at home, haven’t identified an adult that can guide them, it’s hard to be successful. They need support, an outlet. That’s what we are for those kids, and not just for school work. They also come to us about their home and life situations. We guide them in their decision-making process. We are there for them.
O’Neal: I’d agree. Students need a support system that allows them to be a student. This makes me think of a student we wanted to connect to after school supports but every time we pursued it, she refused. “I just can’t,” she said. Eventually, she told us, “I have to get home after school and open the door for my little brother and sister. I have to make sure they do their homework and cook them dinner.” Coming from a single-parent household, the student has significant responsibilities as her mom works long hours and doesn’t get home until evening.
So you’ve identified resources to support this young lady and yet, she’s busy being a support system for her younger siblings. How do you go about helping a student in this type of situation?
O’Neal: We come up with another game plan. We work around the student’s reality and put other supports in place. I’d also say that another barrier to graduation is normal stuff, like peer pressure. Students from both Norrix and Central spoke quite eloquently about this to our CIS board back in June.
Montrell: Yes, and sometimes it’s the lack of basic needs, like pencils and backpacks. Students will come down to CIS and say, “My teacher sent me here because I don’t have a notebook.”
O’Neal: Or clothing. Some kids will tell you, “I need a shirt.” But other students—you know they have a need—but we can’t always come right out and say, “Hey, I know you need clean clothes.”
So how do you handle those situations?
Montrell: I usually start with conversation. [O’Neal nods.] Let them know all we have to offer. Towards the end of our conversation, I’ll say something like, “So then, you got everything you need?” It opens the door for them and often the student will say, “You got clothes, right? Can I get a sweatshirt, because I’m cold coming to school in the morning?” After that, they feel more open to coming for assistance.
O’Neal: It’s all about developing those relationships.
In your experience, how do CIS and the school work together to help students get and stay on track to graduation?
O’Neal: CIS connects the services, and in some cases the actual materials, that allow students to focus on being a student and learn from their teachers. My job description is to remove the barriers to graduation.
Montrell: That is a lot of it. Touching on what we just discussed—about the basics—teachers should not be expected to, nor do they have the budgets to, provide everything students need. They don’t have an abundance of notebooks and other class supplies lying around. With CIS in the school, when they see a student with a need, whatever it is, they can say, “Go to CIS.” Teachers are great at referring. Who better to know that a student is struggling in reading or doing poorly in class because they can’t see? Teachers know when students need glasses and that we have a vision fund. They reach out to us all the time for a wide range of needs. I tell them to send the student to me. Then, I explain the process to the student and get them glasses, a tutor, or help meet whatever needs he or she has.
O’Neal: Administration also plays an important role. Our Principal, Mr. Rodney Prewitt, is well aware of CIS and that we can connect students to what they need, whether it’s dental support, glasses, clothes, tutors, you name it. Assistant Principal Kelly Hinga provides great support as well. She is knowledgeable about CIS, a terrific advocate, and supports us so we can be successful for kids.
This article was featured in the latest issue of our newsletter, CIS Connections. Read the full issue here.
Five graduating seniors, Quinntonia, Zion, Arrion, LaStarra, and Dorian participated in a panel discussion at the CIS Board Meeting in June. All five Kalamazoo Public School students are headed to college. Here are a few insights and hard-earned wisdom they shared.
“What am I most proud of? Accepting help. I like to be independent, and I couldn’t be because of my situation. I’m proud I could accept help from CIS.”
“I liked being able to run down to [CIS Site Coordinator] Ms. Yarbrough. She always let me know where I was and what I needed to do to stay on track. Working with CIS and all my teachers, I was able to turn myself around.”
“Without CIS, school would have been way, way harder. All the support you receive makes you feel good and want to graduate and be something in life.”
“I’m looking forward to college and putting to use what [CIS Site Coordinator] Mr. Baker and [CIS Success Coach] Mr. Ollie taught me—and making my own success plan.”
What would be your advice to help students succeed in school and use the Kalamazoo Promise?
“Find a support system and keep believing in yourself.”
“Talk more about possible futures and careers. By having a better understanding of what the future could look like, it helps students set their goals.”
What barriers did you encounter to attending school and performing academically?
“I’m a last-minute kind of person… and I’d forget to turn stuff in. CIS helped get me organized.”
“I talked too much and got distracted. I was terrible my first year. Mr. Ollie helped me get it together.”
Students shared how the decision to focus in on school impacted friendships.
“I lost friends. But you only need a few good friends, even just one friend who strives for the same success.”
“When you get serious about school, you can end up bringing your friends along. They start thinking, ‘Maybe I should start getting serious, too’ and you can get on track together and get your diploma.”
“I lost friends too, but I gained new friends and we helped each other in class. Also, losing a friendship doesn’t mean you can’t gain it back.”
How can CIS be better?
“Help more students who are struggling.” –Resounding response from all panel members.
This article about Lenny was featured in the latest issue of our newsletter, CIS Connections: Graduation Beginning with the End in Mind. You can read the full issue here.
Lenny Williams has always been soft spoken. “He’s wasn’t disruptive,” Gulnar Husain explains. “In fact, he was quite the opposite. Quiet and introverted, he had a habit of shutting down and being off-task. He didn’t listen or follow directions. His academics suffered because he just wasn’t applying himself. He is a very sweet boy but he just wasn’t living up to his potential.”
So when Lenny’s then kindergarten teacher, Michelle Hiller, referred him to CIS, one of the first things Gulnar Husain did was connect him with a tutor.
Lenny believes tutoring as well as a number of other supports have helped him move in a positive direction during his time at Arcadia Elementary School. “Ms. Gulnar gives me things that have helped me be better in school, things I need, like foodpacks, coats, shoes, boots, and gloves.” It’s these basic supports, along with tutoring, that have allowed Lenny to be ready to learn every day from the dedicated teachers he’s had throughout his elementary years.
Ask Lenny who his favorite teacher is and he can’t pick just one. He’ll tick them off one by one, from kindergarten to fifth grade, but try and nail him down to one or two and he can’t do it. “Arcadia just has really good teachers,” he explains.
A loving family and great teachers, along with community support funneled through CIS is helping Lenny realize his potential. “He’s really blossomed and he has confidence now,” says Cindy Kesterke, Lenny’s former America Reads tutor. “It’s great to see and I’m excited for his future.”
“You think I’m persistent?” Gulnar laughs. “Lenny is one of the most persistent people I know. That’s because he’s anxious to learn. Always polite with his requests, this persistence extends beyond himself. He’ll even stop by the CIS office and advocate for his younger brothers to also receive CIS support. Because of the tremendous support he’s received from the school and the community, Lenny came to the decision that he needed to turn things around. Once he decided he wanted to do better, things naturally began to fall into place.”
Lenny describes it this way: “I just thought I should get better grades, so I started behaving myself. I used to always get referrals for not listening. I decided for myself to work hard and get good grades.”
Lenny’s looking forward to attending middle school and building on what he learned at Arcadia. “I’m going to do good and them I’m going to college,” he says.
“1.2 million students drop out of school every year. These students will cost taxpayers roughly $292,000 each, as they’re more likely to need community assistance.” -Communities In Schools 2016 National Impact Report
Keeping students in school and on track for graduation is serious business. Researchers Katherine Larson and Russell Rumberger have found that for students who are struggling and at risk of dropping out “interventions must be intensive, comprehensive, coordinated, and sustained. Anything less is naïve and will sow only marginal results.”
With your support, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo surrounds students in 20 Kalamazoo Public Schools with whatever it takes so they can start strong and keep moving forward. In Kalamazoo Public Schools, things are moving in the right direction. The four-year district-wide graduation rate for 2015 was 71%. It was 69% in 2014 and 65% in 2013. For the four years ending in 2015, the dropout rate was 12.7%, the lowest rate since 2008. We still have work to do and with your continued support, CIS will overcome the barriers that derail kids, giving them hope and the belief they can succeed in school, graduate and be prepared for life.
So as we embark on a new school year, let’s take to heart the words of Dr. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and “begin with the end in mind.”
The fabulous team at Honoré Salon, one of our 2016 Champ recipients.
This week we had our largest Champs celebration yet. With over 250 people attending, we celebrated people, organizations, and businesses who are going above and beyond to make a difference in our kids’ lives. Please keep an eye on our blog, Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids, in the coming weeks for more about each of our 2016 Champ recipients.
Event Spotlight – WMU Pediatric School of Medicine Visit
The Pediatric School of Medicine at Western Michigan University participated this year in a Call to Action put out by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The call was designed to promote awareness of childhood poverty and inspire those in the medical field to take a day and connect with community they serve. Med students visited Hillside Middle School and spoke with kids about pursuing careers in medicine. They also helped us with Kid’s Closet, organized the art room, and played with kids during their physical recreation time.
Thank you, WMU School of Medicine, for taking time out of your day to help students see potential career options for themselves!
It was great seeing the volunteers interact with the students throughout the time they were here! I received lots of positive feedback from teachers. One of my favorite moments of the day was overhearing an entire science classroom ask the volunteers question after question about becoming a doctor. Exposure to college and career paths naturally pushes students to ask questions, explore options and cultivate a drive for success. It also makes students’ dreams tangible and realistic, because they can see someone who is pursuing a path they also want to pursue. Events like this result in students feeling empowered to stay in school and achieve in life. The WMU School of Medicine Students are evidence of a community in Kalamazoo that wants to pour into the lives of our students. And this community support speaks volumes to our students.
–Precious Miller, CIS Site Coordinator at Hillside Middle School
The following events will be at Woodward School for Technology & Research
606 Stuart Ave.
Family Fun Day Carnival
We are welcoming families of Woodward students to join us for a day filled with games and activities. We are looking for 15 people to help with running activities, face painting, and setting up and coordinating games. The activities will be pre-planned; all we need from you your friendly spirit and a smile!
Field Day for grades 3-5
We’re seeking 15 volunteers to help run outside games in our expansive green space.
Field Day for grades K-2
We’re looking for 15 volunteers to help run outside games in our expansive green space.
Explore how our biases shape and impact the relationships we have with the students we serve. Learn how to build empowering and student-led relationships by gaining a more comprehensive understanding of barriers students face.
Training facilitated by CIS Volunteer Coordinator, Kaitlin Martin, and CIS After School Coordinator at El Sol, Bri Fonville.
Dareon Martin, in his quiet voice says, “Everybody has their own story. I went through stuff when I was younger. I needed somebody. I was fortunate to have some people in my life that cared and now I want to be one of those people for someone else.”
Without a doubt, Dareon is one of those caring people. A 2015 graduate of Loy Norrix High School, he is a young man who is giving back. Hired upon graduation by the YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo, Dareon is supporting young people by helping them with homework, reading with them, engaging in activities, and more.
“Being a Literacy Buddy* while I was at Loy Norrix helped me get this job,” he says. “I gained the skills I needed to help me work with kids.” Literacy Buddies pairs high school students with elementary students to serve as positive role models and offer one-on-one support to motivate success.
Dareon plans to soon tap into The Kalamazoo Promise and attend Kalamazoo Valley Community College. He wants to explore a wide variety of his interests, ranging from culinary arts, to dance, music, and the criminal justice system.
Things haven’t come easily for Dareon. He could have easily given up and become a negative statistic, but he didn’t. Dareon’s personal mantra is: keep moving on…no matter what.
“I wouldn’t have graduated high school on time if it wasn’t for Communities In Schools, that’s for sure,” says Dareon. “I probably would have ended up on the streets doing something I shouldn’t have been doing.” Reflecting further, he says, “I just didn’t care about school. It wasn’t until about the end of my freshman year of high school that it all hit. Everybody else around me was caring about me and how I was doing. It hit me that I needed to start caring about myself.”
And just who were those people who paved the way for Dareon? Dareon points to a host of people, like his sixth grade teacher at Edison Environmental Science Academy. “Ms. [Erika] Adams, she helped me through a lot of stuff.” [Ms. Adams now goes by Mrs. Zavasky and is still teaching at Edison.] And in 2008, Dareon was matched with Dan Hinkle, a mentor through Big Brothers Big Sisters, A Community of Caring. “Dan Hinkle, he’s a great man. He’s always been there for me. He still is.”
“I was an immature kid,” Dareon says matter-of-factly. “And when I got to high school, I was fighting and getting into trouble. I didn’t care about school. It was just bad.” Meeting the polite, well-mannered man that Dareon is today, it’s hard to imagine him otherwise. What changed and helped get him on track to graduate from high school?
“I’d say the people in CIS helped focus me. I visited the CIS office every day. They also gave me somewhere to go after school where I could get my homework done. Ms. Jenee [McDaniel], Mr. Charles [McCall Lipsey], Ms. Rola [Emmanuel], Mr. Ja’male [Jordan], Ms. Shayla [Jones], and Ms. Elnora [Talbert]….they all helped me a lot. Coach too.”
The coach Dareon is referring to is CIS Success Coach O’Neal Ollie. “Dareon is a natural leader,” says Ollie. “And despite the obstacles, he doesn’t give up.” Together, they mapped out a plan tailored for Dareon’s success. “It’s really more of a game plan or road map,” says Ollie. “It helps make the impossible seem possible.”
Kalamazoo Public Schools recognized the gains Dareon made and in his senior year, Dareon was selected by Principal Prewitt to represent Loy Norrix at the NAACP Freedom Fund Banquet.
It’s Dareon’s positive attitude, grit and perseverance that fuels him forward. Were it not for all the caring adults in Dareon’s life, he says his story would have turned out differently. “I probably wouldn’t be here talking to you today, that’s for sure. And CIS, you guys saved my future.”
All of the great work you’ve been reading about is made possible by people like you who volunteer with or donate to CIS. Please invest in local kids and be a part of more success stories like Dareon’s.