This issue of CIS Connections filled with doubles as in twins, dynamic duos, day and after school support, school and community working together. Read the full issue here.
So, don’t worry if you’re seeing double, because you are seeing double. Your support of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) extends our reach into 20 Kalamazoo Public School buildings, leverages the work of staff, volunteers, school and community partners, amplifying our efforts to overcome the barriers that derail kids, giving them hope and the belief they can succeed in school, graduate and be prepared for life.
No one organization can serve the needs of over 11,000 students. We work with you and the community to ignite hope in thousands of kids. Be on the look-out for nine of our over 70 CIS partners mentioned throughout the newsletter. Okay, so nine is more than double but we think this issue is so double-y delicious and informative, you’ll want to read it twice!
For eighth grader DeKarieon, the CIS support he’s received over the past three years at Hillside Middle School has done more than put him on the road to success in school and life. He’s also giving back by assisting other students and connecting them to CIS so they can get on track too.
“CIS has helped me with school,” he says. “I’m doing better academically. It’s helped me adjust my attitude and control my anger.” Upon meeting this calm and steady young man, it’s hard to imagine that behavior could have gotten in the way of his academics, but it did. “I would get in a couple of fights here and there,” explains DeKarieon. “My attitude, my anger, it just got in the way and I’d always be off.”
What made the difference? Getting connected to CIS. “Especially [CIS After School Coordinator] Ms. Katherine. She helped me mellow out…And then I could focus and get my homework done. I left for a while,” admits DeKarieon, as his desire to play sports conflicted with the after school support. “But then my grades started slipping again. I really want to get past high school and so I decided to come back…people like [CIS Youth Development Workers] Ms. Jay and Mr. Alex, they really helped me understand my homework and keep me focused.”
Through CIS, DeKarieon has learned to tap into his strengths to help him calm himself down and focus. “I’ll read a book, draw, or write.” DeKarieon notices a positive difference but says he isn’t yet where he wants to be. As he puts it, “I’m only half-way there.”
DeKarieon’s hard work is not going unnoticed. Ms. Jessica Jeffrey, who has been his science teacher for the past two years notes, “DeKarieon is a wonderful, polite, hard-working student. He has shown much growth and maturity in the time that I have known him. I am very proud of his accomplishments and I look forward to seeing all of the wonderful things he will do in the years to come!”
Precious Miller, CIS Site Coordinator at Hillside says, “DeKarieon is a true leader. He’s brought in several of his peers to my office. Some are in need of school supplies or some other basic need, others need snacks and some kind of support. He also advocates for students he thinks could benefit from the CIS After School Program.”
CIS After School Coordinator Katherine agrees. “He shines,” she says. “If he sees a student going off the rails, especially the younger ones, he speaks up. He’ll say, ‘Come on guys. Quiet down and listen.’ DeKarieon really is a leader. He is a kind person. He’s sensitive to other people’s feelings, and he reaches out to them.”
Empowered to succeed, thanks to the combined investment of his school, a supportive family, and the community working through CIS, DeKarieon’s future looks bright. Upon graduating from high school, DeKarieon is looking forward to taking advantage of The Kalamazoo Promise. He loves to write and tell stories and one day hopes to become a published author. He plans to attend Western Michigan University and study journalism.
If this is what “half-way there” looks like—striving to be his best as a student, exploring his gifts as an artist, writer, and musician, and helping others along the way—we can’t wait to see what it looks like when DeKarieon reaches the finish line!
All of the great work you’ve been reading about is made possible by people like you who volunteer and partner with or donate to CIS. Please invest in local students and be a part of more success stories like DaKarieon’s.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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.”