Dropping In

“I’m here for the first time and I’m here to work. I want to get my C up to a B in math.”

“I’m here because my mom thinks that if I put in the extra effort during lunchtime, I’ll do better in school…I think she might be right.”

These are just what two of the more than 30 Milwood Magnet Middle School students have to say about the new Homework/Tutor Drop-In Lab in their school. Initiated this school year by CIS Site Coordinator Missy Best after “feedback from teachers, parents, and the students themselves” students may now drop in for help with homework during their Tuesday and Thursday lunchtimes (from 10:41 to 1:17).

“The response has been wonderful,” says Missy. “I’ve had parents dropping in to see how things are going and encouraging their student to take advantage of the lunchtime support. Students are coming to the lab because they are stuck and want help,” says Missy. “Others come because they want a quiet space to finish up their homework.”

Missy wanted to model the drop-in support after labs that many colleges offer. “It’s a great way to meet students’ needs and address parent and teachers hopes for wanting additional support for struggling students,” she says. So she spoke to Milwood Magnet principal Mark Tobolski about the idea and “he said, ‘Let’s try it.’ The principal has been very supportive of CIS and helped us get this lab up and running. He helped with key logistics, like figuring out how to get kids through the lunch line more quickly and how to do lunchtime passes for kids wanting to drop into the lab.”

Student holding a lunchtime pass.

Missy also credits CIS volunteers like Dr. Jim Zhu, professor of mathematics at Western Michigan University with successfully implementing the Homework/Tutor Drop-In Lab. [We popped a quiz on Dr. Zhu so stay tuned to Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids to see how he did. Hint: He totally passed.]

Dr. Zhu talking math.

When students drop into the lab they are choosing to surround themselves with a community of support. On this Tuesday in November, CIS volunteers Dr. Jim Zhu and Lynetta Carnes are both on hand to help. [Lynette, having just finished her regular volunteer time in Mrs. April Rocco’s classroom, stopped in for the first time. “It worked out today that I could stay a little longer and help out.”]

Lynette reviewing school work that student shares with her.

CIS after school coordinator and former math teacher Shannon Jones is there as well, working with a small group. “How lucky are our kids?” Missy says, a big smile on her face. “Shannon is terrific with the students.”

Shannon with a student.

Travis Guerrero, a CIS intern through WMU’s School of Social Work, is walking around and checking in with kids to see how they are doing.

“The kids are responding to the one-on-one immediate feedback,” he says. “Someone is at their side, able to let them know if they are doing it right or if they are on the wrong track. They can quickly adjust and that helps them get up to speed and where they need to be when they are back in the classroom.”

Missy (right) and Travis checking in with students.

Later, Michael Harrison, CIS Associate Director of Site Services drops in. He pulls up a chair and start talking math with a couple of young men.

The room is humming with learning. At moments, it is quiet enough to hear pencils scribbling. At other times, snatches of conversation can be overheard. Comments made by grownups, like:

What are you working on?
Can I help?
I want you to find your own answer.
Independent variables…
If I distributed biscuits to everyone at this table and…
What book are you reading?
If I brought in ten cookies and…
That one’s still gottcha, huh?
This is definitely right! Open the bracket and…..
Minus 52. Correct.
You are doing a linear equation!
Remember, you can only add terms that are similar…..
Perfect!
Yes, multiply this!
You are really picking this up. Excellent!

From left: Michael Harrison, Lynette Carnes, and Shannon Jones.

“Today was a great day,” says Missy. “We had a lot of students but we also had grownups to help. We need more volunteers, though! Our kids keep showing up. They are asking for this academic support and we need more volunteers who are willing to show up for kids.”

Can you help out? Just an hour a week can change a life. Our kids need you at Milwood Magnet Middle School and at 19 other CIS sites throughout the Kalamazoo Public Schools. To become a CIS volunteer, click here.

 

Requests for Proposals

We are currently looking for individuals and organizations to provide programs or services to elementary and/or secondary students in the 2017-18 CIS After School program. These programs should meet identified student needs and interests in the fields of:

Literacy (reading & writing)
Math
Social-emotional skills
Life skills
College and career exploration
Physical health
Performing arts
Visual arts
Healthy living
Sports
Science
Technology

 

We are issuing an RFP with the goal of finding the best enrichment programs and services for our students:

 

  1. To meet their identified needs and interests
  2. To fully utilize the limited funds/resources available
  3. To ensure that a broad array of organizations and individuals have the opportunity to submit a proposal
  4. 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 Alonzo Demand:

Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo
125 W. Exchange Place
Kalamazoo, MI 49007

Fx: 269.385.5806
Email: ademand@ciskalamazoo.org

You may also request a digital Word document that can be filled out electronically by emailing ademand@ciskalamazoo.org.

To receive earliest consideration, submit an original proposal and two (2) copies, following the format provided on subsequent pages 4-6, by October 13, 2017. You will receive notification of a final decision regarding your proposal via a letter.

CIS Think Summer! Students Visited by Special Guest

When you hear the White House has a bowling alley downstairs!

Students recently welcomed Congressman Fred Upton to their CIS Think Summer! program at Arcadia Elementary School. Like CIS After School (which serves 750 students in 15 after school sites throughout the Kalamazoo Public Schools),  CIS Think Summer! was in full swing this year (for both elementary and secondary students) thanks to the support of federal dollars awarded through the Michigan Department of Education, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers. CIS Think Summer! served 250 students in grades 1-9 from 15 Kalamazoo Public schools. It provided 24 days (144 hours) of programming designed to reduce summer learning loss and increase academic and enrichment opportunities.  Students participated in reading, writing and math programming, enrichment activities, college and career exploration, and experiential learning.

Congressman Upton visited the elementary summer site which was held this year at Arcadia Elementary School. Congressman Upton stepped into a fifth grade classroom and fielded a number of questions from the students. One of the highlights for students (and staff) was when one fifth grader asked “What’s fun to do there [at the White House]?” The students were amazed to learn that there is a bowling alley in the White House basement.

During his visit, the Congressman also saw Kalamazoo Kids in Tune (KKIT) in action, which is a partnership among The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, and Kalamazoo Public Schools. He saw individual sectional practices and was treated to a performance by the entire KKIT orchestra.

Congressman Upton, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit and see what our kids have been learning throughout these six weeks to combat the summer slide! Our students enjoyed learning about your career and all the things you do in Washington, D.C. that are connected to their lives back in Southwest Michigan. As you and many of our readers know, the federal budget for 2017-18 (which begins October 1, 2017) proposed by the President completely eliminates funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers. On behalf of our 12,000 + kids, thank you for supporting continued funding for the 21st CCLC Community Learning Centers which make critical extending learning possible for KPS students during the school year and summer. This kind of support will help them graduate, use The Kalamazoo Promise and have a great career too.

Note: Any reduction to the 21st Century Community Learning Centers would have significant impact for our kids not just here in Kalamazoo but throughout Michigan. An article that recently ran in MLive addresses this. You can read it here.

 

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.

 

 

Happy Birthday, Edwards Garment!

How many of us make it to our 150th Birthday? Well, Edwards Garment has, so instead of scrambling for 150 candles, we thought we’d light up the blog by sharing what a spark a business partner can be for students.

A CIS supporter since 2004, Edwards Garment is a business rich in Kalamazoo history, having been a part of the community since 1867 when the Rosebaum family began producing pants for men and boys out of the Rosebaum building. Did you know the name of the company is inspired by Edwards Street, the side street in downtown Kalamazoo which the old Rosenbaum building shares with Michigan Avenue?

Today, Edwards Garment is a leading specialty image apparel and uniform supplier for men’s and women’s clothing. Their headquarters are located on South 9th Street and they employ 185 individuals from the greater Kalamazoo area.

Partnerships, like any relationship, evolve over time. This year, Edwards Garment has expanded their reach by supporting students at Prairie Ridge Elementary School. The school’s CIS Site Coordinator, Carly Denny, says the students as well as the school staff deeply appreciate their involvement. “Their support is wonderful,” she says. “They have given us generous donations of backpacks and school supplies. They’ve provided our students with lots of winter apparel. CIS was also able to pass some of the overflow of larger sizes on to our high school students at Kalamazoo Central and Loy Norrix.”

Edwards Garment employees commit time and energy to building a stronger community in the areas that they reside. This year, the business has also joined forces with CIS partner, Big Brothers Big Sisters, A Community of Caring to become a Bigs in Schools. “Right now we have four ‘Bigs’ working with our students,” says Carly. “The Bigs have lunch with their “Littles” twice a month. They spend an hour together and work on specific goals with their Littles. The students adore the extra attention and really thrive with this support.”

We love how Edwards Garment continues to grow with us! A while back we interviewed Gary Schultz, President and CEO of Edwards Garment. If you missed that post (or want to refresh your memory) you can read about Gary and how Edwards Garment has kids covered by going here.

 

 

 

 

A Story of Success: The Gift of Achievement

dakarieon booth

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.

Make a gift to CIS today.

This story was featured in our 2015-16 Annual Report. Click here to read the full report. 

Keeping the Lights on for the CIS After School Program

cis-after-school-program-lights-on-afterschool-4Today millions of people throughout America are turning the lights on as part of the 17th annual Lights On Afterschool to emphasize the importance of keeping lights on and doors open for after school programs. National Lights On Afterschool Awareness Day is Thursday, October 20, 2016, and Kalamazoo Public School students will be doing their part to shed light on the need to invest in after school programs.

This week, elementary and secondary students who participate in Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) After School Programs are coming up with their own ways to shine the spotlight on quality after school support. Students are writing letters to public officials and stakeholders, making artwork, reading essays, and holding a neighborhood march to raise the public’s awareness about the need for after school opportunities.

Recent data from America After 3PM, shows a vast unmet demand for after school programs nationwide. The study found that nationally for every one child who participates in an after school program, three children would be enrolled if a program were available to them. In Michigan, the majority of parents agree that after school programs excite children about learning. More work needs to be done to meet the need for after school programs that keep kids safe, inspire them to learn.

cis-after-school-program-lights-on-afterschool-8“Lights On Afterschool celebrates the remarkable work being done by students who attend the CIS After School Program as well as other after school programs throughout the nation,” says Dr. Linda Thompson, CIS Senior Director of Site Services. “It is a powerful reminder that after school programs offer a range of benefits to students and families. We must make sure that decision makers and other stakeholders are aware of the benefits after school programs provide and continue their support.”

CIS After School Programs extend the learning day Monday through Thursday in 15 KPS schools. A significant body of research demonstrates that students who regularly attend after school programs are more likely to improve their grades, tests scores and overall academic behavior. In the 2016/17 school year, CIS anticipates serving over 1,000 children during after school time.

CIS relies heavily on local resources and partnerships for its core work during the school day including placing CIS Site Coordinators within schools to identify needs and connect students to the right resources to remove barriers to school success. The CIS After School Program is available thanks to the support of federal dollars awarded through the Michigan Department of Education (21st Century Community Learning Centers).

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Pop Quiz: Montrell Baker  

img_6778Welcome back to the POP QUIZ! This is a regular, yet totally unexpected, feature where we ask students, parents, staff, our friends, and partners to answer a few questions about what they are learning, reading, and thinking about. Today we feature Montrell Baker. Now in his second year as CIS Site Coordinator for Loy Norrix High School, Montrell serves in the very school he graduated from in  2001! As a young student, Montrell attended Lincoln for kindergarten, Parkwood Upjohn from first through sixth grade, and then Milwood Magnet Middle School. Montrell went on to earn two Master Degrees from Western Michigan University, in Education Leadership and Sport Management. A proud KPS parent of eight-year-old Luke, Montrell works closely with his CIS site team at Loy Norrix to help students stay in school and achieve in life. As he puts it, “You won’t get rich working with youth, but the reward comes from seeing them grow and get better at something. That is payment in itself.”

Alright, Mr. Baker: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

I’ve been researching alkaline diets. I’m learning about consuming more green, leafy vegetables and limiting dairy products and meat consumption.

Favorite word?

I tend to use the word smooth a lot. It fits my personality because I’m quiet and laid back. That’s how I want life to be—smooth.  As in let’s have a smooth transition. Let’s have a smooth day today.

What are you currently reading?

I’m good at starting books but don’t always finish them. Right now I’m reading The 50th Law by 50 Cent. It’s based on a book written by Robert Greene, The 48 Laws of Power.

Will you finish this one?

I will. My sister got me the book. She’s a big reader and can usually find books that keep my attention.

You graduated from Loy Norrix High School. Thinking back to your years with the Kalamazoo Public Schools, who was one of your favorite teachers?

Three come to mind. Mr. [Derek] Wheaton was my second grade teacher at Parkwood. He was a great, great teacher.  I saw him recently during TJ Duckett’s Turkey Drive and he recognized me, even remembered my first and last name.

Mr. [Adam] Hosler was my math teacher at Norrix. He was knowledgeable, funny and allowed me to be myself in class. Math was my favorite subject. He’d write out his agenda and assignments for the week. When I’d finished all my work, he gave me more. He worked with me and kept my attention. He’s still teaching at Norrix.

Coach Chris Andrews—he’s now Portage Northern’s head baseball coach—he was one of my favorite coaches I’ve ever encountered. He knew how to relate with student athletes, knew how to discipline and keep us on track. We were 8-1 in football. Being a coach now [coaching his son’s team and having coached Linden Grove Middle School girls and boys hoops and football at Kalamazoo Central] I tailor my style after Coach Andrews.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

When I was a kid I wanted to be a head coach for varsity football. As I got older, that changed to athletic director/assistant principal.  Now as a Site Coordinator, I have the opportunity to serve in a  leadership capacity, supporting students by overseeing the supports and programs that come through our school-based program. I really enjoy working with the youth.

Behind every successful student is a caring adult. Who is your caring adult?

Two. My mom and my grandad. My mom she always instilled in my sister and me early on to be a leader and not a follower. Always give your best and work hard. Let your work speak for you. You don’t need to be much of a talker. Let your actions speak for you. My mom’s always there for moral support. When I was younger, she was there at 95% of my school and sporting events, cheering me on.

My grandfather, Les Owens, instilled discipline in me, taught me that once I start something I have to finish it. Don’t quit. Be a man of your word. Be a man of confidence. I looked up to him as a kid. He was a deacon in the church and he also coached rocket football. Growing up in Northside neighborhood, I’d see all types of people look up to him and come to him for help.

Thank you, Montrell!