Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo welcomes the ninth president of Western Michigan University, Dr. Edward Montgomery, who began his tenure one week ago.
Western Michigan University partners with Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) throughout 20 Kalamazoo Public schools to help kids stay in school and achieve in life. Here are just a few ways WMU has worked with CIS and the Kalamazoo Public Schools to support our 12,000+ kids:
We look forward to our continued partnership with WMU and what the future will bring with Dr. Montgomery at the helm.
Dr. Montgomery earned a bachelor’s degree from Pennsylvania State University and both master’s and doctoral degrees in economics from Harvard University. He comes to WMU from Georgetown University where he served as professor of economics and dean of the McCourt School of Public Policy since 2010. No stranger to Kalamazoo, he has coauthored research with CIS Board Member Randall Eberts of the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research—not to mention that his son is a recent WMU grad!
You can learn more about WMU’s new president, Dr. Edward Montgomery, by clicking on the links below:
Have you read the new anthology, Immigration and Justice For Our Neighbors? If not, you may want to add it to your summer reading list. Published by Celery City Books, the anthology includes the work of a number of Kalamazoo Public School students from Arcadia Elementary School. Poems by Reem Ahmed, Nour Abdullah, Hala Alhasan, Nada Alhasnawi, Faris Bukhader, Nabaa Eyddan, Lisbet Lopez, Taema Qwam-Alden, Roziya Rustamova, Abdullah Tayara, and Ritika Verma are woven throughout the anthology. These fourth and fifth graders are published alongside prominent poets and writers from Michigan and beyond.
If you want to read a book on immigration policy, then this isn’t the book for you. However, if you are a neighbor, have a neighbor, or are interested in exploring the theme of immigration and what kids have to say about it, this 116 page anthology is for you.
Here are nine things you may not know about this anthology project:
What readers are saying.
CIS friend and community advocate Deborah Droppers says, “I applaud the anthology of essays and poems found in Immigration and Justice For Our Neighbors. The anthology uses the written word to encourage thoughtful discourse on the challenges that each of our communities face while celebrating the amazing things that happen organically when people believe in the power of conversation between neighbors that are close and beyond our picket fences.”
Retired KPS teacher Carol Hodges says this: “Opening this anthology in the middle, I find a child’s poetic love letter to the country of Iraq juxtaposed against the complex musings of an American man teaching English to Arabs in the Mideast. Then there is the story of a Nigerian woman named Rejoice who fears being deported. How different is her modern-day experience from the 1919 steerage voyage of the young British woman leaving shame and servitude behind?This volume is thin but it is far from an easy read. You’ll need time to ponder.”
The people behind the pages.
Were it not for the support of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo and the Kalamazoo Public Schools, the children’s voices might not have been heard. A shout out to Arcadia Elementary School teachers Debora Gant, Holly Bishop, Erin Young, and Donna Judd for the opportunity to work with such wonderful students. Also, Donia Ali and Grace Gheen are two shining stars at Arcadia who are part of the fabulous Kalamazoo Public Schools Bilingual/English as a Second Language (ESL) Program. They were instrumental to the success of this project in so many ways.
It’s in the bag.
The anthology is now part of Kalamazoo Public Library’s impressive list of books available as a Book Club in a Bag. Karen Trout, Reading Together coordinator for the Kalamazoo Public Library says, “KPL’s 2016 social justice resolution includes the statement: KPL values compassion and champions everyone’s right to be welcome in a safe environment in the library and in the wider community. Adding this title to our Book Club in a Bag collection–and encouraging local dialogue about the issue of immigration–is a perfect way to put this institutional commitment into action.” Book Club in a Bag is open to all Kalamazoo Public Library district resident cardholders.
At a reading at the stunning sculpture gardens of Roan and Black in Saugatuck, award-winning Michigan poet Jack Ridl talked about the project and helped the voices of the children reach an even wider audience. Ridl contributed three of his own poems to the anthology.
Students got a lot out of this anthology project.
The Arcadia fourth and fifth graders wrote poems, some for the first time. Their work was published and they have had opportunities to read their work to others, at home, school, on the Kalamazoo College campus, and at Bookbug. They’ve read alongside well-known Michigan poets and writers like Buddy Hannah, Elizabeth Kerlikowske, Hedy Habra, Lynn Pattison, Kit Almy, Phillip Sterling, Marion Boyer, and Alison Swan. They’ve even been approached by audience members asking the students to autograph their copy of the anthology and have graciously done so. (Kudos to Arcadia Principal Greg Socha for all his support of this project, including his wise suggestion of giving students the opportunity to practice their signatures in advance of readings!)
Student are giving back to the community.
One can’t help but think that the students have given more than they have received. Like the other contributors, the children donated their work and all proceeds benefit Justice For Our Neighbors in Kalamazoo, a legal clinic for immigrants.
Also, their words make grown ups think! As one reader said, “I know immigration has been a hot topic but it didn’t really hit home until I read the children’s ‘Dear Country’ poems.” Similar sentiments have been shared by other readers. A reader who attended the June Bookbug event said, “I’m humbled by the bravery of these children. I can’t imagine the courage it takes to read before a group of people, let alone leave one’s country and then read so beautifully in a brand new language. How many of us could do that? I don’t know if I could!”
Jennifer Clark, co-editor of the anthology, works on special projects and initiatives for CIS and worked with the students on this anthology project as a CIS volunteer, offering workshops at Arcadia Elementary School. She can’t sing the praises enough of the CIS staff at Arcadia. Thanks to Caitlin Bales and Rachel DeNooyer for all their support! CIS volunteer Cindy Hadley also worked behind the scenes, escorting students to and from the poetry workshops. Go, Cindy!
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.
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 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.
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 byTowerPinkster. CIS Board member and President and CEO of Maestro, Jen Randall, presented the award.
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.
Today we highlight Prevention Works, honored with a 2017 Champ Award. The non-profit’s Champ award was sponsored byBorgess. 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.”
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.
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.
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.