Anyone who sets foot in a school knows that the role of a custodian is vital to the health and climate of a school. At Milwood Elementary School, students, their parents, along with KPS and CIS staff, and every community partner and volunteer who serves Milwood Elementary, is better because of Mike McCurdie. CIS Project Manager Missy Best says, “As Milwood’s wonderful custodial staff person, Mike has also really gone above and beyond to do things for CIS.”
Milwood’s CIS Site Coordinator, Dalanna Hoskins, agrees. She tells us Mike embraces his work as a custodian, going above and beyond to assure that the learning environment is ready every day for children. “Every now and then I bring him coffee, or free coffee coupons to let him know much we appreciate his help,” she says. And today, as guest blogger, Dalanna Hoskins shines the spotlight on one of her favorite custodian and tells us how other schools will soon benefit from Mike’s ingenuity.
“Mr. Mike” is what I call him. Before I even set foot in Milwood, Mr. Mike was supporting CIS staff, volunteers, and partners. For more than a decade, Mike McCurdie has served as custodian at Milwood Elementary School. Since the time of Renita Ellis (Milwood’s first CIS After School Coordinator) to now, we know we can count on Mr. Mike. Whenever I need help or assistance with access to the school or unlocking rooms or bringing in boxes of supplies –whether it’s clothes, backpacks, or other basic need items from CIS Kids’ Closet or items from one of our partners, like shoes from First Day Shoe Fund—Mr. Mike is always there to help me with getting these much needed resources into the school for our kids.
Most of you are probably familiar with the Friday Food pack program that exists throughout many of our CIS sites and made possible thanks to our partnership with Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes. It was first piloted right here at Milwood Elementary, back in 2003. We credit our steadfast partner, Milwood Christian Reformed Church, with helping us get this program off the ground. Mr. Mike, too.
From the beginning, he has always there, helping with the food pack deliveries. As the program expanded and the number of food packs grew, Mr. Mike grew tired of always using the huge flat beds for the food packs. They were big, heavy, and cumbersome to wheel around. He knew there just had to be a better way. When, due to renovations, we temporarily moved to the school building on South Westnedge, Mr. Mike realized that the flat beds were not going to work at all. So, he came up with the idea of using wooden scooters instead.
The dolly that Mike made:
And we have been using them ever since. In fact, it works so well that we are going to recreate his dolly for other CIS sites!
Partnerships, like most things in life, begin by putting one foot in front of the other. The first steps for Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) and First Day Shoe Fund (FDSF) go back to early 2000 when Valerie Denghel was a tutor at Edison Environmental Science Academy with CIS. Valerie noticed some children without appropriate shoes for school. So Valerie began buying shoes for one child at a time. Valerie went from buying shoes for individual children to taking a giant step and founding the First Day Shoe Fund.
First Day Shoe Fund, which believes that all children should start school on equal footing, is celebrating their ten year anniversary and we couldn’t be happier for this tremendous milestone.
“CIS is a crucial partner for what we do,” says John Curran, Executive Director of First Day Shoe Fund. “CIS staff go above and beyond to facilitate distribution of shoes to children in the schools. For ten years we’ve relied on this successful partnership to help us do what we do and we look forward to many more years of working together.”
CIS is proud to have partnered with FDSF since its beginnings to help identify children in need of shoes and to create the infrastructure needed to get the shoes onto little feet. Valerie Denghel recalls that first distribution “On that hot summer day in 2006,” when First Day Shoe Fund, with the support of Kalamazoo Public Schools, Communities In Schools, and Junior Women of Kalamazoo distributed 307 pairs of shoes to children who needed them. (You can read her full reflection by going here).
By the Fall of 2014, we were still in step as partners, distributing 1,654 pairs of new shoes to students. The nonprofit organization has gone on to create an even bigger footprint by expanding beyond Kalamazoo Public Elementary Schools and into Comstock Public Elementary Schools and Paramount Academy. John Curran notes that this past year, the organization provided 4,371 pair of shoes!
Over these past ten years, First Day Shoe Fund, their board, and volunteers have worked hard to help meet a basic need: shoes. CIS values the sustained commitment First Day Shoe Fund makes to children to ensure they have both the physical comfort of correctly sized shoes and the sense of pride and belonging that comes with having appropriate footwear to start the year on the right foot. New shoes are one of the important pieces of the puzzle that fit together to help all of our children achieve the Promise.
As John Brandon, Partner Services Coordinator for Communities In Schools puts it, “First Day Shoe Fund is an essential partner, working with us to address the needs of the whole child. Our CIS staff positioned within Kalamazoo Public Schools see children celebrating new shoes and showing up for school, not just the first day, but throughout the year thanks to First Day Shoe Fund.”
Let’s give a warm welcome to ten fresh, new faces who are beginning their internship with Communities In Schools, working within the Kalamazoo Public Schools. Fernando Davis, Dominique Jackson, Keelei Sage, Kaley Monroe, Suzie McNees, Jacob Nota, Alicia Clemens, Kayla Favia, January Haulenbeek, and Jacob Fuller all hail from Western Michigan University. They are working on their degrees (Bachelors and MSWs) in the School of Social Work, Interdisciplinary Health Services, and Family Studies.
Down the road, we’ll check in with two of them—both Kalamazoo Promise scholars—to see what they are learning, what if feels like to be giving back within the very school district they graduated from, and how they are helping students succeed in school. In the meantime, we popped a quiz on all ten of them and compiled their answers in no particular order. Keep reading to see how they did and what they love about Kalamazoo.
Alright, interns: pencils out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.
What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?
-Communities In Schools is larger than a local agency, which is awesome!
-I’ve learned who my CIS Site Coordinator is.
-Art therapy is an amazing way for people to express and heal—I am in an expressive arts class.
-I have started to learn more about policies because two of the four classes I am taking this semester are policy classes.
-I’ve learned that I can make it from Battle Creek to Kalamazoo in under 40 minutes. (I commute every day.)
-Ostriches lay the biggest eggs.
-I recently learned that turtle meat tastes different, depending on which part you eat. Some parts taste like chicken, turkey, ham, and so on.
-I have been learning about anxiety disorders and how they affect an individual, how to cope with it, and what the medications do to you.
-I recently learned how complex a policy is. I also learned that working for the government in policy has many positive benefits.
-Horses have a blind spot right in front of their heads. Horses that jump are actually jumping blind. Crazy!!
What are you currently reading (other than school-related)?
-It is a dream book. Why we have dreams and what they mean.
-The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
-Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Shumer and Game of Thrones
-Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
-After You (sequel to Me Before You)
-Twilight. I know it’s dorky.
-I am not currently reading anything. I’ve had a very busy past four months due to family needs.
-I’m about to start a book called, It’s Kind of a Funny Story. I read it a long time ago but want to read it again now that I’m older.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
-Kind and compassionate.
-A therapist and public speaker.
-A high school counselor.
-Either a school social worker or with foster care or child protective services.
-I would like to be an individual that changes lives. I would like to make a wonderful impact on many different lives.
-I want to be a school social worker.
-A social worker.
-A school social worker or maybe something in the mental health field.
-I’m not sure yet. All I know is I want to help people in some way, shape, or form.
What is your favorite word right now?
-Cheese. Cheese is my favorite food so every day I ask for cheese, whether it’s cheese fries, cheese dogs, mozzarella sticks, etc.
-Relaxing. I’ve been so busy, I’m ready to relax.
-Strive. I’m always striving to do my best in everything I do.
-Soi-disant, which means self-styled. (It’s my word of the day.)
-Onomatopoeia. It has been my favorite word since freshman English at Loy Norrix.
-Sassafrass, as in Sassafrass Tea. I learned about sassafrass from Blanford Nature Center, a place where I attended school.
-Movies. I like to watch lots of movies when all of my things are done.
What is one of your favorite things about Kalamazoo?
-The diversity and the closeness of the community even though it is a bigger city
-The community. Everyone works together.
-The people—love them!
-I love how friendly everyone is.
-I love the community and how there is always something to do.
–The variety of different things to do, such as the different festivals (Ribfest, Island Fest, etc.)
-The connectivity with community.
–Downtown. I love the events, restaurants, and all the activities to do downtown.
-The Kalamazoo Promise! And the diversity.
-Being away on my own and getting a good education.
Will you share with us something that has been on your mind lately (other than school-related)?
-Is it possible to go bald due to pulling out grey hairs?
-The new iphone. I have been interested in how “great” it is.
-My relationship with my aging animals/pets.
-Thinking about my family. We lost my grandfather last November, then my grandmother two weeks ago.
-At almost 22, I’ve made the decision to get closer with God and become more involved in the church.
-My trip to Virginia in November to visit my sister.
-My need to make time for self-care.
-How weird I think it is that I will be turning 22 years old soon.
-My trip that is coming up to Cedar Point with a few of my co-workers.
-How to grow a family business.
Behind every successful student is a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?
-My mom. No one has been as supportive of me as she has been and she motivates me to go for my dreams.
-My father has been my caring adult since the day I was born. Also, my loving mother.
-My mom and grandparents.
-My mother and father.
-My caring adult has been my mom. She’s always so supporting and encouraging.
-My mom, because she does a lot for me and is always there for me.
-My mom has always been my biggest cheerleader.
-Mom, for sure!
Recently, Precious Miller, Senior Site Coordinator at Hillside Middle School reminded us of this truth. She has been, like so many of our Communities In Schools site team members throughout 20 Kalamazoo Public School buildings, distributing school supplies to students who need them. Just the other day, she gave a student a binder. She didn’t think much more about it until she saw that same student moments later in the hallway. “Thank you again for the binder,” he said. “I feel perfect!” Precious noticed he had “the biggest smile on his face and seemed to be walking with pride.” Precious again told him, “You’re welcome” and wished him a good day. Later, she overheard him saying to a teacher, “I finally got a binder!” and noticed he continued to brag about his new item for school.
“In the day to day,” she says, “it’s good to remember how big of a difference we can make in a student’s self-esteem. Even if—to us—it is ‘just’ a binder.
Whether its erasers or paper, crayons and markers, scissors, glue, and backpacks, the list goes on. these ‘little’ supplies fuel our kids’ success. When our CIS staff hand out a school supply, the student knows the community cares, that you are behind them, cheering them on.
Thank you for helping our kids get off to a great start!
Borgess Nurse Council
First United Methodist Church
Flynn Thiel Boutell & Tanis
Junior League of Kalamazoo
Kalamazoo County Association of Retired School Personnel
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
Kalamazoo Public Library
Kushner & Company
Old National Bank
Stryker – Tax
Stryker Instruments – CXC
West Kalamazoo Christian Church
WMU Lee Honors College
Zion Lutheran Church
And numerous individuals like Pat, James, Martha, Noelle, Jennifer, Kelly, Ward, Joan, Andrea, & Katherine
We were able to catch a few of you in the act of dropping off the much needed school supplies:
We are currently looking for individuals and organizations to provide programs or services to elementary and/or secondary students in the 2016-17 CIS After School program. These programs should meet identified student needs and interests in the fields of:
Literacy (reading & writing)
We are issuing an RFP with the goal of finding the best enrichment programs and services for our students:
To meet their identified needs and interests
To fully utilize the limited funds/resources available
To ensure that a broad array of organizations and individuals have the opportunity to submit a proposal
To find providers who are committed to serving this community’s students, even after the grant that funds these programs concludes.
The Request for Proposal and Partnership Profile can be found below or through this link.
Proposals can be mailed, faxed, or emailed to Colleen Loc:
Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo
125 W. Exchange Place
Kalamazoo, MI 49007
To receive earliest consideration, submit an original proposal and two (2) copies, following the format provided on subsequent pages 4-6, by Wednesday, August 17, 2016. You will receive notification of a final decision regarding your proposal via a letter.
Students are packing a lot of fun and learning into these six weeks of their CIS Think Summer! program*. At the Prairie Ridge Elementary School site, Kalamazoo Kids in Tune (a partnership between Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo and Kalamazoo Public Schools) have been making music and more.
If you visited the summer program during the last week in July and stepped into the “Italy” group, rising 5th-7th graders, you would have overheard student conversations like this:
“Is poetry considered art or is it academics?”
“It’s academic because we’re learning about it during our academic time.”
“Yea, we talked about adjectives and abstract nouns.”
“I think poetry is art. It makes me feel inside like when I do art.”
“It feels a little bit like music, too.”
“I think it’s both.”
What do you think? You can ponder this question as you read two new poems created by Sahriah and Javan. These KIT students, along with the rest of their classmates, created poems inspired by Jo Harjo’s poem, “She had some horses.” These are just two examples of the tremendous student work being done at all levels throughout CIS Think Summer!
We played some music
She played some songs.
He played his instrument that was out of tune.
She played her songs that were sounding good.
I played Barber of Seville that didn’t sound as good.
Sahriah played some orchestra music.
Gabby played in a concert with Mozart.
Ann played conga with Nathan.
Zach played the blues that sounded happy.
LaMeeka played some cello music.
Naomi played some flute music with Nyareve.
Miyah played some clarinet songs with Javon.
This was the same music.
I played some fragile chords of truth
I played some frantic tunes of beauty.
He played applause in dreams that were tired.
She played a measure of music that was colorful.
He played cute keys that were full of courage.
She played some waltz music.
I played instruments with care.
I played colorful measures with amazement.
He played music that moved us.
He played some chords.
She played some concert music that changed the world.
She played some beautiful tunes from the waltz.
This was the same waltz.
Cheers to all the youth development workers, site coordinators, VISTAs, volunteers, and school and community partners who are working together to provide the best CIS Think Summer! yet! Cheers to horses, poetry, and music, too!
*The CIS Think Summer! program is funded by the Michigan Department of Education (21st Century Community Learning Centers.)
Today we highlight Honoré Salon, one of seven school and community partners honored with a 2016 Champ Award. Their award was sponsored by Miller-Davis Company and CIS Board member Jen Randall presented the award.
Hairstylists are caretakers, friends, confidantes, and risk-bearers. In the business of trust, asking questions, listening, and bringing out the best in us, Honoré Salon bring these same qualities into their partnership with Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo. And just as an excellent stylist is unfazed by ever-changing styles and trends, Honoré, as our partner, adjusts as needs evolve.
Earlier this school year, on the streets of downtown Kalamazoo, Honoré owner and senior stylist Shaun Moskalik bumped into Emily Kobza, Director of Development for Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo. “How are things going?” he wanted to know. She updated him, mentioned CIS Kids’ Closets deodorant supply had dwindled dangerously low, and they parted ways. Later that afternoon a financial donation arrived, allowing CIS to purchase deodorant that could be distributed to CIS site teams.
“There’s no rule that says businesses need to be engaged in their community,” says Emily. “But Shaun has a passion for giving back and that passion is a spark that spreads to his staff and clients. We can’t be everywhere advocating for our kids,” Emily points out. “We need the community to help.” Truly a beautiful partner, Honoré advocates for kids and for CIS in a variety of ways. They spread the word on their website, paint the CIS logo on their storefront window, they talk to clients as they cut and style their hair, creating opportunities for their clients and the community to be involved.
For two years in a row, Honoré has “rounded up for warmth,” collecting new winter wear including coats, hats, and gloves for CIS Kids’ Closet. In addition, they have raised over $2,000 so CIS could purchase even more Kids’ Closet items for students.
Stylist Mindy Meisner sets down her scissors one day a week and volunteers at Woods Lake. CIS Site Coordinator Maureen Cartmill says Mindy is a treasure. “She has the perfect temperament for working with our students. She’s calm and patient. She’s absolutely charmed two of our kindergarteners and her third grader knows she has the coolest tutor in the school.”
Keely Novotny, as CIS Site Coordinator at Edison Environmental Science Academy sees the impact Honoré’s support has on student success. “When students feel their best, they do better academically. Honoré gets that. By working through Communities In Schools, Shaun and his business remove barriers not just for Edison students but for students at all 20 of our CIS sites.”
Honoré Salon, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.