Rotary Club of Kalamazoo: Living Out Service Above Self

Today we highlight Rotary Club of Kalamazoo, honored with a 2017 Champ Award. The team’s Champ award was sponsored by Miller-Davis. CIS Board member and Bronson Healthcare Vice President Terry Morrow presented the award.

Where to begin? We could go back to 1914, when this next Champ was born right here in Kalamazoo. But let’s just go back 17 years, when Communities In Schools first had the pleasure of partnering with The Rotary Club of Kalamazoo and seeing, first hand, Rotarians living out their club’s motto: Service above Self.

STRIVE working together at Hays Park.

It was in 2001 that Rotary kicked off its STRIVE program, in which Kalamazoo Central High School students are paired with a Rotarian who serves as a STRIVE mentor. Having this one-on-one relationship with a caring adult helps students at risk of dropping out, to stay in school and on track for graduation.

In 2015, Rotarians expanded its STRIVE program to Loy Norrix High School and also initiated a Career Connections program. A national survey released in 2014 by Achieve showed that approximately 50% of recent high school graduates reported gaps in preparation for life after high school. The Kalamazoo Rotary is working to bridge this gap. CIS Senior Site Coordinator Montrell Baker says that through Career Connections, juniors and seniors have the opportunity to meet and build relationships with Rotarians or other career professionals in Kalamazoo. “Connecting with these professionals and having a chance to interview them is a fun and exciting way to learn what it really means to work in the career that has captured their interest.

While supporting high school students, they haven’t forgotten about our elementary students. Because promoting literacy is one of the club’s goals, they joined forces with CIS as part of their Rotary Is For Reading Campaign. They know that research shows that students who read proficiently before fourth grade are far more likely to finish school and pursue higher education. So, for the past eight Aprils, they have worked with the school district and CIS to foster College Awareness Week, where Rotarians pair up and step into second grade classrooms throughout Kalamazoo Public Schools. Wearing college gear and armed with the book, I Know I Can, they promote literacy, a college-going culture, and inspire students to take advantage of the Kalamazoo Promise. Each student receives their own copy of the book, in which young animal characters share their dreams and career aspirations and commit to preparing for college. Each student also receives a bracelet inscribed with “I Know I Can” to remind them that they too must prepare for college, even as second graders.

Whether it’s reading to thousands of elementary students, adopting a CIS family for the holidays, or making personal and career connections with high school students, Rotarians are truly united in the ideal of Service above Self.

Rotary Club of Kalamazoo, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

 

 

Pfizer: All In For Kids

Today we highlight Pfizer, honored with a 2017 Champ Award. The team’s Champ award was sponsored by Schupan & Sons. CIS Board member and Humphrey Products President Dave Maurer presented the award.

Pfizer is committed to applying science to improve health and well-being at every stage of life. A global company with a local heart, Pfizer also works with CIS to ignite hope and help our young people become the prosperous citizens of tomorrow. As a CIS partner, they play an important role in supporting students on their path to using The Kalamazoo Promise®. From encouraging their employees to volunteer to providing career exploration opportunities, Pfizer is making it their business to ensure our children fulfill their promise.

When businesses go all in for kids, everyone profits.  A few years ago, in 2015, two Pfizer colleagues reached out to see if CIS would be interested in  working together on their Community Art project. Along with other community groups tapped by Pfizer, sixty-five students participating in the six-week CIS Think Summer! program, created artwork for Pfizer’s Global Supply facility on Portage Road. Organizers Julie Righter and Laura Martin said that collaborating with CIS on projects like this “is mutually beneficial to both Pfizer and the students.” The artwork, they say, “inspires our colleagues every day as we manufacture safe medicines for the community.”

The students’ art graces the walls of a company they could very well work for one day. That’s because Pfizer is helping students envision a future beyond high school by offering career exploration opportunities. Through hands-on activities developed by enthusiastic Pfizer colleagues, students explore science, technology, engineering, math, and skilled trades-related careers and learn about the education and training needed for these jobs. Through these career exploration opportunities, Pfizer plants seeds of hope, inspiring students to envision their future, perhaps even a future that includes a career with Pfizer.  

While there is much to admire about our partner, one of the qualities CIS staff appreciates most is how student-focused Pfizer is: They want to know what students are interested in and what they’re working on. They are receptive to input from staff and always seek feedback so they can continue to improve what they offer to students.

Pfizer’s commitment to excellence—to listening to the views of all people involved in health care decisions and using that to focus on improving the way they do business—readily translates into the work they do in the schools. For instance, when Pfizer site leader, Bob Betzig, attended the CIS Think Summer! celebration, he listened closely to a CIS Youth Development Worker—and a Promise scholar— who wondered how she could get an internship with Pfizer. The result of Bob’s listening? The local Pfizer site revived their internship program. And in 2016, when Pfizer returned to CIS Think Summer!—they came with their college interns and even “bigger and better” career exploration activities for students.

Pfizer, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

 

Trio of Custodians Going Above and Beyond For Kids

2017 Champs (from left): Ike Thurman, Chalene Watson, and Mike Free.

Today we highlight the Evening Custodians of Milwood Magnet Middle School. Mike Free, Ike Thurman, and Chalene Watson have been honored with a 2017 Champ Award. This trio’s Champ award was sponsored by TowerPinkster. CIS Board member and President and CEO of Maestro, Jen Randall, presented the award.

Trio on stage at the 2017 Champs Celebration.

When the school day ends, the work of these Champs is just beginning. Kalamazoo Public Schools has entrusted these three individuals with taking care of Milwood Magnet Middle School. Not only do Mike Free, Ike Thurman, and Chalene Watson embrace their work as evening custodians and care for the school building,” says CIS Site Coordinator Keith Platte, “they look out for the students who move through the halls.” He also notes that they see kids benefitting from the 500 healthy snacks we’re able to deliver each month thanks to our partnership with Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes. They clean every scrap of paper the kids leave behind and perform heroic raisin and applesauce clean-up for students who forget to properly dispose of their healthy snacks during the school day. We would literally be a mess without them!”

“They are the unsung heroes of the CIS After School Program,” says After School Coordinator Maggie Walters. “I would not have survived last school year without them. All three go above and beyond their regular duties to support the CIS mission. Friendly and helpful, they go out of their way to stop by and say hello to me, my staff, and the students. They are always ready with emergency supplies.”

“Our kids,” Maggie says, “love to create stuff and creating, by its very nature, is messy. So, for Cooking Club, they bring out the big rolling garbage cans for us, they find drop cloths for our Arts & Crafts, they provide cleaning sprays and paper towels—the good kind!—so we can clean up after ourselves.”

“And on those days when a student has been struggling, all three of them—at different times—have stepped in to help. Students seek them out because they are a beacon of light within the school; they provide a safe haven for our kids. They listen, give great advice, and are super encouraging. It’s not in their job description to assist with student behaviors, but when a caring adult is what’s required, they’re there for the kids.”

A vital part of the CIS mission, this trio of custodians creates an environment where the floors shine and the children do too.

Mr. Mike, Mr. Ike, and Ms. Chalene, as evening custodians of Milwood Magnet Middle School, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

(From left) CIS After School Coordinator Maggie Walters, KPS Custodians and Champs Ike Thurman, Chalene Watson, and Mike Free, and CIS Site Coordinator Keith Platte.

 

 

Prevention Works: Strengthening Our Kids

From left: Director of Programs Lola Amos, Assistant Director Nicole Storteboom, Executive Director Danielle Sielatycki, Program Facilitator Lenye Tynes, CIS Site Coordinator Precious Miller, and Program Coordinator Katie MacDonald.

 

Today we highlight Prevention Works, honored with a 2017 Champ Award. The non-profit’s Champ award was sponsored by Borgess. CIS Board member Carolyn H. Williams presented the award.

A healthy start and a healthy future is one of the five basics that Communities In Schools believes every child needs and deserves in order to be the best student and the best person they can be. For more than a decade, CIS has turned to Prevention Works to help us create stronger, healthier students and families throughout the Kalamazoo Public Schools.

We count on Prevention Works to deliver evidence-based prevention programs that are both engaging and educational. They address substance abuse prevention, violence prevention, bullying, family life skills, parenting, sexual health and adolescent health, and they encourage young people and their families to make wise decisions and live healthy lives.

Spring Valley Center for Exploration students participating in Prevention Works program as part of CIS After School.

 

Hillside Middle School’s CIS Site Coordinator Precious Miller works closely with Prevention Works Program Director Lola Amos to connect just the right programs to the right students and classrooms. She says, “Prevention Works staff helps our students get in touch with what they’re dealing with at home and school—to put a language to what they’re experiencing. Students learn that it’s okay to share that information with those they trust, that we are here for them.”

Prevention Works at Hillside Middle School. From left: Program Facilitator Lenye Tynes, Director of Programs Lola Amos, KPS Principal Atiba McKissack, CIS Site Coordinator Precious Miller, and Prevention Works Program Coordinator Katie MacDonald.

When Prevention Works Katie McDonald and Lenye Tynes stepped into Hillside classrooms, lives changed. As one student said, “I’m not bullied anymore. They helped the bully and they helped me.” He says his grades have improved since he’s able to focus on learning and no longer worries about what will happen once he steps outside the school. “Prevention Works is an incredible resource for our students,” says Precious.

CIS Site Coordinator January Haulenbeek agrees. When she was looking to meet the needs of a group of Northglade Montessori Magnet School students—all boys, ranging from first through third grade—she turned to Prevention Works. “Sure enough,” January says, “they provided the perfect facilitator. As a recent college graduate and young professional, Matt quickly built rapport with the students. The boys looked forward to their weekly meetings with Matt. He inspired them to dream big. He helped them take responsibility for their futures by focusing them on decisions and choices they could control.”

Victoria, a seventh grader at Hillside has been a huge fan of Prevention Works since her elementary days. “Prevention Works teaches different things,” she explains, “like how to handle peer pressure and how to be responsible. They’ve taught us how to turn down alcohol and other substances. They’ve taught us how to communicate better.”

Ever since her site coordinator connected her to the Strengthening Families Program, Victoria notices the change in her own family. “We compromise more,” she says. “My mother and I went through all seven weeks and my sister and dad came twice with us. We all talk more as a family. We try and see things from each other’s point of view.”

Prevention Works, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

Carolyn H. Williams (at podium) presenting the Champ Award as representatives from Prevention Works look on. From left: Executive Director Danielle Sielatycki, Program Director Lola Amos, Assistant Director Nicole Storteboom, Board Member Lisa Salay, Program Facilitator Lenye Tynes, and Program Coordinator Katie MacDonald.
CIS board member Carolyn H. Williams looks on as Executive Director Danielle Sielatycki is congratulated by Borgess sponsor representative and Chief Development Officer of Borgess Foundation Tony McDonnell on Prevention Works 2017 Champ Award.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Hamilton: Doing Double Duty

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.”

David & Daniel Hamilton
David Hamilton (left) with his twin brother, Daniel, as children.
David-and-Daniel
Now as an adult, David (left) is an AmeriCoprs VISTA member with CIS.

TWO Shining Stars: Diamond and Dominique Mahone

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.

Diamond and Dominique Mahone

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

 

Volunteers In Service To America

Today is Mayor and County Recognition Day for National Service. Some of you might recall helping Mayor Bobby Hopewell kick off the first ever day of recognition back on April 9, 2013. That morning, as Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo staff and AmeriCorps VISTA gathered on the steps of City Hall, we were excited to partner with Mayor Hopewell, the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), The Spirit of Kalamazoo, and New World Flood and its founder, Todd “TJ” Duckett. We celebrated college spirit and gathered college gear for students in Kalamazoo Public Schools. A friendly competition quickly ensued to see which Michigan public college or university could offer up the largest number of contributions during this one hour only event. As community members and downtown business folks like Jen Ward, owner of The Station, visited City Hall to drop off donations, the excitement grew.

We can’t recall which college or university won that day. It doesn’t matter as the real winner that day was our kids. And our 12,000+ kids continue to be the ultimate beneficiaries of VISTA support throughout the Kalamazoo Public Schools.

As the nation’s mayors and county officials increasingly turn to national service as a cost-effective strategy to address local challenges, it’s worrying that the the President’s budget proposal calls for the elimination of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), which administers AmeriCorps. It’s distressing that this vital federal agency that helps millions of Americans improve the lives of their fellow citizens through service is on the chopping block. (In 2015, the Corporation for National and Community Service leveraged an additional $1.26 billion dollars in outside resources to increase their nationwide impact. That’s even more than the federal investment.)

(Some of our current and former VISTAs, from left to right) Pamela Tate, Brenda Morris, Nicholas Baxter, Katie Pearson, Abby Schulze, Terra Mosqueda, Donielle Hetrick, Stephen Brewer, Stacy Salters, Samantha Pennington, and David Hamilton.

Kalamazoo AmeriCorps VISTA members, past and present, we thank you for helping expand CIS’s capacity to meet student and school needs. Thank you for being part of the solution to help students stay in school and achieve in life!

Did you know that VISTAs commit to a full-time year of service and receive a stipend which is set just above the poverty level? In addition to the stipend, VISTAs are eligible to receive an educational award at the completion of their year of service. Each VISTA is assigned to work as part of a CIS site team in two schools. CIS is grateful to those past and present VISTAs who have chosen to serve their country through AmeriCorps. Currently, CIS has five citizens serving as Volunteers In Service To America (VISTAS) throughout the Kalamazoo Public Schools. If you see them, take a minute and thank them for their service:

Pamela Tate, Brenda Morris, Samantha Pennington, Stephen Brewer, and David Hamilton.

Over the years, our VISTA’s have worked closely with their CIS Site teams in a variety of ways. Click on the links below to find out how VISTAS working with CIS make a difference in the Kalamazoo Public Schools.

Our VISTAS…

are silent giants in the school. Former VISTA Laura Longwell reflected on her service at El Sol Elementary School and Hillside Middle School. You can read it here.

work with CIS partner Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes to keep food pantries stocked and support Friday Food Backpacks.

help organize CIS Kids’ Closet to make sure kids have the basics like clothing, hygiene, and school supplies, so they can focus on learning.

promote a college-going culture throughout the Kalamazoo Public Schools.

make memories, working through the summer months with CIS Think Summer to prevent summer slide and assure that students have a safe summer filled with fun and learning.

share talents and passions. Nicholas Baxter, who recently completed his AmeriCorps VISTA service, spent his Thursday lunchtime supporting Arcadia students interested in reading, writing, and learning about poetry.

get kids off to a great start. VISTAS helping CIS organize the pencils, notebooks, backpacks, and many supplies local businesses, faith-based groups, service organizations, and community members generously donate so kids start the school year with the basics they need to succeed.

…and more.

Thank you VISTAS (past and present) and thank you, Corporation for National and Community Service, for your support!

(And if you’d like to check out some fun photos and news coverage from Kalamazoo’s 2013 Recognition Day for National Service, click here.)