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!

 

I am

marigoldHere is a lovely poem written by seven-year-old Sevati. She wrote this during the CIS Think Summer! program.* Sevati attends Woods Lake Elementary School: A Magnet Center for the Arts. She is also part of Kalamazoo Kids in Tune, a partnership among The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Kalamazoo Public Schools, and Communities In Schools. What a talented young lady!

 

 

 

I am

I am a seed
I wonder what I will be
I hear sounds
I see dirt in the ground
I want to be a beautiful flower
I am a sprout

I pretend I’m not there
I feel lonely when I don’t have friends
I touch my eyes
I worry I’m not going to grow
I cry when I’m sad
I am a stem

I understand I’m growing
I say I can be whatever I choose
I dream I’ll be a beautiful flower
I try not to cry when I’m sad
I hope I’m a flower
I am a beautiful flower

                      -Sevati

 

*CIS Think Summer! is funded by the Michigan Department of Education (21st Century Community Learning Centers).

The Beat of Summer

Writing poems during CIS Think Summer!
Writing poems during CIS Think Summer!

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.

Totally focused and bringing a new poem into the world!
Totally focused and bringing a new poem into the world!

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.

                                             -Sahriah Casey

 

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.

-Javan Harris

 

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.)

_______________, youth development worker with CIS, supporting students as they create poetry.
Miss Viri, youth development worker with CIS, supporting students as they create poetry.

Big Brothers Big Sisters, A Community of Caring

Today we highlight Big Brothers Big Sisters, A Community of Caring, one of seven school and community partners honored with a 2016 Champ Award. Their award was sponsored by BASIC and CIS board member James Ritsema presented the award.

BASIC & BBBS
From BBBS, accepting their Champ Award, right to left): Amy Kuchta, Chief Executive Officer, Carmen James, Match Support Specialist, and Ann Woolley, President-elect. They are joined (right to left) by Fritz Teutsch, President of BASIC, Mike Stoddard, Executive Vice President/Principal of BASIC and James Ritsema, Kalamazoo City Manager and CIS board member.

Strategic partnerships strengthen Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo’s ability to meet the needs of the over 9,000 young people we serve. To have the biggest impact on learning, CIS aligns with those who offer evidence-based approaches. Over a decade ago, when CIS Site Coordinators positioned within the Kalamazoo Public Schools began identifying students in need of mentoring, the choice was clear. CIS turned to Big Brothers Big Sisters, A Community of Caring.

Partnership, like a healthy marriage, demands commitment and energy. It’s an adventure that can take you further than going it alone. Amy Kuchta, Chief Executive Officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters says, “CIS is critical to us. We have a powerful partnership and are able to provide services directly to the kids that need them. CIS is the link that makes sure we are able to reach the kids who are in the greatest need of our services.”

Those services, whether it’s school-based mentoring, Bigs on Campus, or Bigs in Business, require a planned, coordinated effort to magnify outcomes for students. Artrella Cohn, CIS Director of Secondary Sites says, “Big Brothers Big Sisters staff are always available to work with us on barriers and challenges that naturally arise when implementing and expanding any program. We work together,” she says, “to improve processes to ensure students are being served at fullest capacity. Right now, we’re discussing how we can expand Bigs in Business to more schools next year.”

Local businesses, brought under the Bigs in Business umbrella, help reach more students than ever before. Big Brothers Big Sisters works in concert with CIS so that, twice a month, Kalamazoo Central High School students can take a van to Stryker, Loy Norrix High School students head to Kalamazoo Valley Community College and Stryker, while middle school students from Maple Street go to National Flavors. Students make connections beyond themselves, working one on one and in small groups with the employees-mentors. It widens their world. As CIS Site Coordinator Deborah Yarbrough puts it, “It’s highly motivating for students; we’re seeing them take more initiative and responsibility—whether it’s getting homework turned in or chores done at home.” CIS Success Coach Jenna Cooperrider agrees. At the start of the school year, she consulted with Deborah on a student who was failing school and at-risk of dropping out. “We connected him to Big Brothers Big Sisters and that,” says Jenna, “was his turning point. Today, he’s not just passing all of his classes, he’s getting A’s and B’s!”

CIS site teams throughout the Kalamazoo Public Schools engage in similar conversations for students. For those needing one of the CIS basics: a one-on-one relationship with a caring adult or a marketable skill to use upon graduation, they know they can count on Big Brothers Big Sisters to deliver.

Big Brothers Big Sisters, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

Representing Big Brothers Big Sisters at Champs (left to right) Cindy Schrauben, Communications Manager, Amy Kuchta, Chief Executive Officer, and Ann Woolley, President-elect.
Representing Big Brothers Big Sisters at Champs (left to right) Cindy Schrauben, Communications Manager, Amy Kuchta, Chief Executive Officer, and Ann Woolley, President-elect.

Western Michigan University Medallion Scholars

CIS Board Members Bob Miller, Associate Vice President of WMU (left) and Stephen Denefeld, Lewis, Reed & Allen, P.C. (right) congratulate WMU Medallion Scholars. Representing the Scholars, (left to right) Josh Ayerdi, Kylie Dennis, Marine Boillet, and Ed Ryan.
CIS Board Members Bob Miller, Associate Vice President of WMU (left) and Stephen Denenfeld, Lewis, Reed & Allen, P.C. (right) congratulate WMU Medallion Scholars. Representing the Scholars, (left to right) Josh Ayerdi, Kylie Dennis, Marine Boillet, and Ed Ryan.

Today we highlight Western Michigan University Medallion Scholars, one of seven school and community partners honored with a 2016 Champ Award. Their award was sponsored by Western Michigan University and CIS Board Member, Steve Denenfeld, presented the award.

In 2013, when Western Michigan University Medallion Scholars from Lee Honors College reflected on their education, they realized some of their toughest years were in middle school. They wished they’d had someone there for them academically and to help them navigate the social, emotional and sometimes choppy waters of middle school. So, for the past three years, once a week, these fourteen scholars from Lee Honors College have been doing just that for students at Milwood Magnet Middle School.

“The impact on students has been phenomenal,” says Tamiko Garrett, CIS Site Coordinator at Milwood. “Attendance has improved and students, once reluctant to do homework, now look forward to it. Scholars Travis, Marine, Leslie, Jake, Kelly, and Jenna have sparked students’ passion for learning.” On Tuesdays, students often stop by the CIS office to make sure Ana, Emily, Ben, or Elizabeth is coming. “I have math homework to do with Zach today, you know,” reminds Amarion, who, by the way, now wants to become an engineer like Zach.

These one-on-one relationships enhance these middle schoolers’ sense of who they are and what they can accomplish in school and life. Medallion Scholar Ed Ryan studies graphic design and works with Ben in the school’s animation club. They eat and then finish homework together. Ben, too, wants to be a graphic designer. Narisse Martin is in biomedical sciences, pursuing the path of a doctor. Her mentee, Brianna, wants to explore a career in science.

A few of the WMU Medallion Scholars with some of their Milwood Magnet Middle School students
A few of the WMU Medallion Scholars with some of the Milwood Magnet Middle School students.

These and other successful matches don’t just happen. It takes behind-the-scenes coordination. Tamiko, as Site Coordinator, connects the right resources to the right kids at the right time. She credits Jane Baas, Associate Dean of Lee Honors College, with getting the program off to a strong start as she provided a profile of the Medallion Scholars, which included their academic majors. As Tamiko met with each of the middle school students, reflecting on their interests in communication, theatre, science, and music, this information proved invaluable in connecting the right middle schooler to the right scholar. Jane is a steady support for the Medallion Scholars and staying in close communication with CIS.

From left: Josh Ayerdi, Kylie Dennis, Jane Baas, Marine Boillet, and Ed Ryan
(From left) Josh Ayerdi, Kylie Dennis, Jane Baas, Marine Boillet, and Ed Ryan.

Milwood Magnet teachers are also part of the program’s success as teachers stay after school to give students that extra boost. Teachers like Ms. Zang and Ms. Hawkinson are always reaching out to the Site Coordinator, saying things like “Have them come down to my room this afternoon to discuss an assignment they can work on together.”

“We’re all behind the Medallion Scholars because they put students first,” says Tamiko. “We all count on them to be here each week and when one of them can’t make it, they let me know so I can prepare the student and identify another mentor to double up so that no student is left out.”

Tattiana says, “Giulia helps me with my homework. We play games—only when I finish my homework—and she is nice. She’s also funny, smart, kind, and helpful.”  Natacia says, “I like spending time with Kylie. I can talk to her about things and I get help with my homework.”  “Sami is great and awesome,” says Devy. “We do fun things.  She helps me with my homework.  When I try to get her to do my homework she won’t.  She keeps encouraging me!!” Darius says, “Josh is cool.  He helps me get my homework done, and I know it is correct.  I look forward to coming to the CIS After School program, especially when I know Josh will be there.”

As these scholars graduate from college and their mentees advance to high school, the scholars have accomplished what they set out to do: sparking hope in the future leaders of Kalamazoo.

WMU Medallion Scholars, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

 

Poetry Fuels Young Minds

We can’t let April slip by without a nod to poetry. Whether a student is reading and writing poetry in April or December, poetry enhances literacy, builds community, aids in creative problem solving, and fosters social-emotional resilience. Students who have disengaged from learning because of problems outside of the classroom can often be re-engaged through poetry.

On the heels of the hugely successful Kalamazoo Poetry Festival, it’s clear poetry is alive and well throughout the city (and beyond). Here now are six reasons we know poetry is fueling the minds of some of our 12,000+ students, who are tapping into this ancient art form to learn about themselves and the world around them.

1. CIS AmeriCorps VISTA Nicholas Baxter believes in the power of poetry. He shares his talent and passion for poetry within the Kalamazoo Public Schools, running a poetry workshop at Arcadia Elementary School. Every Thursday, budding poets spend their lunchtime reading, writing, and learning about poetry. Here is Nicholas with (left to right) Roziya Rustamova, Aceanna Williams, Nabaa Eyddan, and Reem Ahmed.

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2.  If you didn’t get the chance to read Tristan Pierce’s poem, “Time Waits 4 No Man!” then head over to CIS Connections and read it now because, as this Parkwood student reminds us, time waits for no one.

3.  As a CIS volunteer, I recently had the pleasure of stepping into Woods Lake Elementary: A Magnet Center for the Arts and offering a poetry lesson to Mrs. Shannon Parlato’s third graders. I couldn’t help but think of Mrs. Parlato as a literacy warrior. 

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Like all great teachers, she sets clear boundaries for her students while maintaining a sense of fun and fueling their desire to learn. Every one of her students actively participated in the poetry workshop and wrote at least one poem. Woods Lake’s CIS Site Coordinator Maureen Cartmill, impressed with the students’ creativity, said, “Poetry really brings home how important and enriching vocabulary can be.”                                                                   

4.  This past March, 30 Kalamazoo Public School students read their original poems at Chenery Auditorium as part of the inaugural Spoken Word Middle School Poetry event. Superintendent Michael Rice noted that, by sharing their poems that evening, students offered the audience “a sense of who they are and how they are going to have an impact on their world.” You can read more about the event and watch the performances by going here.

5.  Friends of Poetry, an almost 40-year old organization which promotes the reading and writing of poetry throughout the greater Kalamazoo area, is gobbling up poems students throughout the area sent for consideration in their annual “Poems That Ate Our Ears” contest. While winners haven’t been announced yet, we can’t help but think of what Hillside Middle School Principal McKissack said upon reflecting on Hillside’s strong showing at the second annual MLK “Courage to Create” Celebration.

Principal McKissack out at WMU with Hillside students and staff

A number of his students made it to the semi-finalist round, read their work at Western Michigan University and took a number of top prizes in the poetry competition. He was proud, “not of the winning part, but I was overjoyed by the hard work they put into getting there—the reading, studying, the questions they asked. They didn’t give up.”

Young people, through poetry, are putting their voice out into the world. That’s a brave, beautiful, and winning act in itself.

6.  Consider this group poem, written by Mrs. Shannon Parlato’s third grade students:

Recipe for Success

First, take twenty dabs of sleep and let gently rest.

Then take food and water and pour it into a cup.

Add a lifetime of teachers for a heaping harvest

of education so that we can use the Promise

to get the career we love.

After a good long day, roll up in a blanket.

Dream of what we’ve accomplished.

An Hour A Week: April 2016

March was National Reading Month. We asked our volunteers what they were reading. Check out our blog, Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids, to take a look at the responses!

Event Spotlight – Math-A-Lon

IMG_4104On March 30th 3-5th grade students from Edison Environmental Science Academy, Lincoln International Studies School, Milwood Elementary, Spring Valley Center for Exploration, Washington Writers’ Academy, and Woods Lake Elementary: A Magnet Center for the Arts participated in the first Math-A-Lon, a partnership with Kalamazoo Public Schools. Students competed at the Kalamazoo Public Library for several hours, solving math puzzles and equations to determine who took home the gold trophy.

The following teams placed at the event:

1st- Lincoln International Studies School

2nd- Edison Environmental Science Academy

3rd- Spring Valley Center for Exploration

Congrats to students and staff for participating in such a wonderful event!

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Volunteer Backpack

Volunteer Opportunity

Dia del Niño

El Sol Elementary

604 W Vine St

April 29th

8:30am – 4pm

Dia del Niño is a Mexican holiday, celebrated since 1925, which focuses on the importance of loving, accepting and appreciating children. We need 10 volunteers to assist teachers with hands-on projects going on throughout the day. Lower grade teachers will need the most assistance. Volunteers should dress comfortable, be flexible, and know that this is the funniest day of the year.

Contact Mimi Leake at nleake0901@gmail.com to sign up or call 269-568-1153

 

Upcoming Training

Cultural Competency: Diversity & Inclusion

Saturday, May 21st, 9-11:30am

First Congregational Church

345 W. Michigan Ave.

Explore how our biases shape and impact the relationships we have with the students we serve. Learn how to build empowering and student-led relationships by gaining a more comprehensive understanding of barriers students face.

Contact Kaitlin Martin at kmartin@ciskalamazoo.org to register.

 

Kids’ Closet

Kids’ Closet currently has a need for the following new items:

  • Underwear – children and adult sizes
  • Sweatpants – children and adult sizes
  • Shorts – children and adult sizes
  • Deodorant – men’s and women’s
  • Hand/body lotion – unscented/unisex
  • Feminine hygiene items

To make a donation, please contact Emily Kobza at ekobza@ciskalamazoo.org or 269-337-1601 x205. For more information, go to our website.

See the full version of our volunteer newsletter, An Hour A Week.

Pop Quiz: The XY-Zone!

XY Zone Training_DK_25Welcome 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 share the answers of two men, Robert Bachicha and Albino Quinones, who live and breathe the XY-Zone, which supports and guides adolescent males as they journey into manhood. These men are passionate about what they do. And for good reason: the young men who have participated in the XY-Zone have  improved in grades, attendance or behavior; they have decreased risky behaviors, increased volunteerism, leadership, and their future aspirations.

Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo staff who work in secondary schools were trained in the XY-Zone leadership and peer support curriculum. XY-Zone Senior Coordinator Robert Bachicha (who developed the curriculum) and XY-Zone Coordinator Albino Quinones, both of Communities In Schools of Central Texas, did the training. We gave our Texan colleagues a warm Kalamazoo welcome and then popped this quiz on them.

Alright, XY-Zone Men: pencils out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

 

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

Albino-Every year, I’m constantly reminded how much kids want to be cared for.

Robert-How resilient kids can be. I recently met a boy who lost a good friend to gang violence. He’s been dealing with the grief and loss in positive ways and is now reaching out to other boys and getting them out of gang violence and drugs.

 

What are you currently reading?

Albino-Triathlete Magazine.

Robert-A number of books on leadership. I try and find as many current and past leaders and read up on them. It’s important if I’m going to try and teach leadership to young men it’s important that I’m learning and always reflecting on what makes a great leader.

 

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Albino-A great father. My wife is a program manager with CIS. We don’t have kids yet, but soon, I hope.

Robert-I want to develop skills beyond what I have today. I want to design other programs that reach youth that we’re not reaching today—like incarcerated youth. I see this as a next step.

 

What is your favorite word right now?

Albino-Reaching out. That’s one of our Five R’s we focus on. The other R’s are Respect, Responsibility, Relationships, and Role Modeling. The X-Y Zone activities our young men engage in revolve around these Five R’s, whether it’s a service learning project, an enrichment activity, or a leadership opportunity.

Robert-Love and brotherhood. Out of a sense of brotherhood and love, the boys, more and more in our programs, are seeing that deeper and more intimate relationships are possible with each other. And once they experience that, they hang on for that. Even some of our very hardest to reach boys are expressing themselves and that is a miracle. To see a boy who’ve never hugged anybody before—not even a family member—now hugging other boys and smiling, feeling joy in his life for the first time…I tell you, boys don’t lie. That smile on his face tells you he’s doing better. There’s your success. What better evaluation do you need than that?

 

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

Albino-My uncle. At one point in high school I had a .8 GPA, no number in front of that point! I ended up graduating with a 2.2. I didn’t give up because my uncle was there for me and really helped me see the big picture.

Robert-The principal at my high school. He got me back in school after I dropped out. If it hadn’t be for that man caring and reaching out to me, getting me back in school, the XYZone wouldn’t exist today.

 

Robert, one final question. Can you tell us how you came to develop the XY-Zone?

Robert-When I was a boy I didn’t have a support system, direction or support. It wasn’t until I got into my 30’s that I began reflecting on my life. How do I—we as men—learn how to be intimate and support each other? Around this same time I was hired by CIS, and things really started coming together. The XY-Zone really grew out of my own need and figuring out how to fill that need as a grown man and be a role model and share that understanding and process with other young men.

 

Thank you both!

If you’re interested in learning more about the XY-Zone, go here.

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