The fabulous team at Honoré Salon, one of our 2016 Champ recipients.
This week we had our largest Champs celebration yet. With over 250 people attending, we celebrated people, organizations, and businesses who are going above and beyond to make a difference in our kids’ lives. Please keep an eye on our blog, Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids, in the coming weeks for more about each of our 2016 Champ recipients.
Event Spotlight – WMU Pediatric School of Medicine Visit
The Pediatric School of Medicine at Western Michigan University participated this year in a Call to Action put out by the American Academy of Pediatrics. The call was designed to promote awareness of childhood poverty and inspire those in the medical field to take a day and connect with community they serve. Med students visited Hillside Middle School and spoke with kids about pursuing careers in medicine. They also helped us with Kid’s Closet, organized the art room, and played with kids during their physical recreation time.
Thank you, WMU School of Medicine, for taking time out of your day to help students see potential career options for themselves!
It was great seeing the volunteers interact with the students throughout the time they were here! I received lots of positive feedback from teachers. One of my favorite moments of the day was overhearing an entire science classroom ask the volunteers question after question about becoming a doctor. Exposure to college and career paths naturally pushes students to ask questions, explore options and cultivate a drive for success. It also makes students’ dreams tangible and realistic, because they can see someone who is pursuing a path they also want to pursue. Events like this result in students feeling empowered to stay in school and achieve in life. The WMU School of Medicine Students are evidence of a community in Kalamazoo that wants to pour into the lives of our students. And this community support speaks volumes to our students.
–Precious Miller, CIS Site Coordinator at Hillside Middle School
The following events will be at Woodward School for Technology & Research
606 Stuart Ave.
Family Fun Day Carnival
We are welcoming families of Woodward students to join us for a day filled with games and activities. We are looking for 15 people to help with running activities, face painting, and setting up and coordinating games. The activities will be pre-planned; all we need from you your friendly spirit and a smile!
Field Day for grades 3-5
We’re seeking 15 volunteers to help run outside games in our expansive green space.
Field Day for grades K-2
We’re looking for 15 volunteers to help run outside games in our expansive green space.
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.
Training facilitated by CIS Volunteer Coordinator, Kaitlin Martin, and CIS After School Coordinator at El Sol, Bri Fonville.
Welcome 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 another member of the Communities In Schools site team at Hillside Middle School, Terra Mosqueda. Embarking on her second year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA with CIS, her work spans between Loy Norrix High School (three days a week) and Hillside (two days a week).
Terra grew up in Rockford, Michigan and it was college that brought her to Kalamazoo. She started at Western Michigan University studying Child and Family Development and then decided to change her focus. After taking some classes at Kalamazoo Valley Community College she decided to take a year off and try something else other than school.
“Being a VISTA has made me lean more towards social work,” Terra says. “School has always been my biggest obstacle. I didn’t try very hard in high school. And I want to work to make sure kids don’t go down my same path. Honestly, I never thought I’d be in a school again! But I really enjoy the relationships I’m making, especially with the students. Being a VISTA gives me opportunities to try new things. I get to talk to people I’ve never thought I’d have a chance to talk with by being in the schools.”
Like her other colleagues who are VISTAs with Communities In Schools, Terra helps nourish a college-going culture. To this end, she has planned college trips for Loy Norrix students and at Hillside she’s created a “college window” that she changes every few weeks.
She orders food from CIS partner Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes to keep the food pantry stocked. She makes sure CIS Kids’ Closet is organized and filled with essentials, like clothing, hygiene, and school supplies.
Alright, Terra: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.
What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?
It’s not so much something I’ve learned as something that I’ve opened up to. and that is that no two kids have the same learning style. If two kids are sitting next to each other and I show one how to do a math problem, that same approach may not work for the other student. I have to bend my mind and think of other ways to help that child. At the same time, this helps me in that I expand and come up with new ways of thinking.
What are you currently reading?
With a Pistol in his Hand by Americo Paredes. It is about Gregorio Cortez, a Mexican outlaw still known to this day. When Gregorio eventually dies, he does so in my great-grandfathers house; it’s mentioned in one of the chapters. It’s a really interesting read, and I get to learn a little more about what my great grandfather experienced in his life with his compadre, Gregorio Cortez.
What’s your favorite word right now?
Go. I always say “Go” to the kids as a way to encourage them to be in the right classroom, do their homework, and such. “Go” is both encouraging and demanding. It’s the best of both worlds!
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I’m really leaning towards social work. It’s so important to keep kids in good environments. I want to help them graduate with the Kalamazoo Promise and do what they want to accomplish in life.
Behind every successful student is a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?
My mom and dad, equally. My mom was the caring one and my dad helped me by pushing me. They had the good cop-bad cop thing going on and it worked well on me.
Thank you, Terra!
Are you or someone you know interested in becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA? The next group of AmeriCorps VISTA members will come on board in August. To find out more, go here.
In the weeks to come, we’ll introduce you to Fred Myles and Precious Miller, two more CIS team members from Hillside. In the meantime, if you missed the post about Principal McKissack, you can read it by clicking here. You can read about Katherine Williamson, Hillside’s CIS After School Coordinator, by going here. To learn about Nicholas Keen, Youth Development Worker at Hillside, go here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
On 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!
Dia del Niño
El Sol Elementary
604 W Vine St
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 email@example.com to sign up or call 269-568-1153
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 firstname.lastname@example.org to register.
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 email@example.com or 269-337-1601 x205. For more information, go to our website.
This week, we’d like you to meet Rex. Rex turned five years old in March. He is starting t-ball this spring, loves inventing things, and when we talked to him prior to his birthday – he was hoping his birthday cake was going to be chocolate with vanilla frosting and a Star Wars theme.
While we don’t keep stats on this kind of thing, we have a hunch that Rex might be our youngest CIS donor ever. With support from his mom, Noelle, Rex decided to ask his birthday party guests to consider bringing donations to the CIS Kids’ Closet as his birthday gifts. Rex thought it would be good to help others and it seemed like a natural extension of the donation of food he made to Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes at Thanksgiving.
When we asked Rex why it was good to help others, he said, “just because.” We couldn’t agree more. There doesn’t need to be any specific reason to help others – it’s good to give back “just because.” Rex has a great role model in his mom. Noelle has shared her time through CIS as a volunteer at Parkwood-Upjohn Elementary.
We recently asked our staff, board, and volunteers what they have been reading lately, so we thought it would be fun to find out what Rex was reading. His latest reads: Rosie Revere the Engineer and Iggy Peck the Architect.
Thank you Rex for inspiring us to give back “just because!”
National Reading Month has us wondering, what are Communities In Schools (CIS) volunteers reading? To appease our curiosity, Kaitlin Martin, CIS Volunteer Services Coordinator asked them. Here’s what 26 of these wonderful folks who share their time and talents to benefit students throughout the Kalamazoo Public Schools had to say:
What a great idea! I’m an avid reader myself. I am currently reading Memories by Lang Leav. She is a talented poet my friend recommended to me and I adore her beautiful poetry.
I just finished The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy; good story. I don’t read a lot of books because I read a newspaper every day and subscribe to two magazines, and then there is all that mail, both snail and electronic. Also, I read stories off the Internet.
-Karen Tinklenberg, Lincoln International Studies School
-Kailee Smith, Northglade Montessori Magnet School & Prairie Ridge Elementary
I finished Orphan Train by Christine Baker-Kline a few weeks ago: interesting and heartbreaking novel based on true events between 1854-1929 depicting the lives of abandoned children from East Coast cities put on so-called orphan trains carrying thousands of them to the farmlands of the Midwest where their fates would be determined by pure luck; intermixed with a storyline set in modern day foster care.
I am now well into Americanahby Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a fascinating novel about immigration, American dreams, the power of first love, and the shifting meanings of skin color. A full immersion opportunity to think outside the American box.
-Mary Reaume, Prairie Ridge Elementary
I am always reading multiple books at a time. Currently, my books of choice are:
A series written by English author, Jacqueline Winspear. These books are set in England and France between WWI and WWII. They are historical mysteries. The main character is Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator. The storyline contains delightful characters, many of whom continue from book to book. Besides the plots being well developed and interesting, Winspear’s use of the very rich vocabulary of the English is fun to explore. My Kindle allows me to find word meaning and usage on the spot! The historical settings are well researched.
-Diana Spradling, Woods Lake Elementary
I received your email and thought it was an interesting project to list what CIS folks are reading. Right now, I am reading The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean by David Abulafia. It is a fascinating history of civilization as it developed on the Mediterranean from 22000 BC to the present. It will be interesting to see what others are reading.
Dead Wake by Erik Larson—about the sinking of the Lusitania. Strangers in the Bronx by Andrew O’Toole—about the transition from DiMaggio to Mantle in the Yankee dynasties. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough—about the development of the first successful airplane. A Man and His Ship by Steven Ujifusa—about the man who conceived and supervised the building of the ocean liner “United States.”
-Wayne Connor, Edison Environmental Science Academy
Pat Early is in his third year volunteering with students at King-Westwood. I met with Pat at Water Street Coffee Joint for a brief interview.
Volunteer Services: Has volunteering always been a part of your life?
Pat: Yes. It starts with my parents. I helped my dad take supplies from the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) to Fort Custer as a kid. My mom was involved with church activities-I hooked up with the Red Cross at fourteen to send care boxes to soldiers in Vietnam. As an adult, I worked for Loaves & Fishes seven years, but there are many people I help just on my own, without an organization. Volunteering has always been a part of me in one way or another, and I try to instill [the love of it] in others-you’d be surprised what you get out of volunteering. What a reward, after retiring, to give back.
VS: What type of activities do you lead with students? What’s your interest in those activities?
Pat: The number one thing is to make sure students show up to school every day. I tell them how much I enjoy having them there, how important it is. Encourage kids to read read read. I run a monthly science club with 4th graders. They have 2-3 terms to learn and 1 principle to understand. Those are the takeaways. The goal is to make science fun and hands-on. Recently, we made lava lamps. The base in Alka-Seltzer tablets, reacting to water, and giving off carbon gas, was the principle. Density was one of the terms. Water Wizards, a prototype and curriculum purchased by Pat Crowley, the Kalamazoo Country Drain Commissioner, is another program I run. I just worked to bring in the Birds of Prey show and tell from the Nature Center (see above). The kid’s loved that!
VS: What’s your interest in science?
Pat: I worked at Pfizer for 35 years, so there’s that. But I come from the philosophy that the Earth doesn’t belong to us, we belong to the Earth. I feel strongly about showing up and lending support-at the very least listening and being informed. It’s our job to actively take care of our environment. It probably came out of the hippie movement to care about the planet. That logic sunk into me! (laughs).
VS: What is a challenge you’ve faced?
Pat: I’ve grown and learned how to not do the work for the kids, but to help them do their own work and accept that we might get less work done but they’re learning. I’m getting better at encouraging them to take ownership over their own learning.
VS: What is the most rewarding aspect of volunteering for you?
Pat: The pay! The pay is the kid’s look forward to being with me, and I look forward to being with them. We care about each other. They share their concerns with me, and their joy. We have a relationship where there’s a give and take. I give credit to everyone involved-CIS and school staff, the cafeteria staff and playground helpers; they encourage the kids every day and encourage me just by witnessing it. Raising kids is a daunting task, but it pays off big time.
“Pat is truly committed to supporting students! Not only does he tutor several hours a week, he is a rare tutor who can connect with all different kinds of students. He doesn’t back away from any challenge, and trust me, some of these kids have tested him! He genuinely enjoys and cares about each student, and that makes them look forward to learning with Pat each week. Pat makes learning exciting for his students by bringing his own passions and interests to the table. He hosts monthly science lessons, engaging students in fun and meaningful curriculum that really helps kids understand and connect with the world around them. We are thrilled to have Pat Early join our team for the 3rd year in a row!” –Laura Keiser, CIS Site Coordinator at King-Westwood Elementary
Thank you, Pat! For everything you do for students and everything you bring to Communities In Schools. We are so grateful to have you as one of our all-star volunteers.
Today we highlight Leroy Green, one of eight individuals and organizations honored at the annual Champ Celebration. CIS Board Member Susan Einspahr, along with Artrella Cohn, CIS Director of Secondary Sites, presented the award.
When CIS was in its infancy, working in just six Kalamazoo Public Schools, this next Champ was at our side. As a behavior specialist for KPS, it wasn’t in Leroy Green’s job description to volunteer his time to help us engage parents through strategies such as hosting special family math night events. And yet, after a long day, Leroy was cooking up some mean spaghetti and serving it at family math nights. His steady presence gave us credibility with both children and their families. He helped plant the seeds of success for an organization that would one day be in 20 KPS buildings. That was fourteen years ago.
Years even before that, when Dalanna Hoskins was a 3rd grade student at Woods Lake, she recalls one day in particular: “It was gym day. I loved gym. But I wasn’t going to be able to participate—I was wearing my church shoes and had forgotten my tennis shoes. I wasn’t one of Mr. Green’s kids—my behavior was great—but I went down to his office anyway.” She knocked on his door and immediately became one of his kids. “He dug around and gave me a pair of the ugliest tennis shoes I’ve ever seen. I wore size 2 and these were size 5. But I got to play in gym that day because of Mr. Green. He was CIS before there was CIS.”
It’s funny how the world works. Today, Leroy can be found at Milwood Elementary. In many ways, nothing has changed. Leroy is still committed to kids and families and helping students who need behavior support. He, like teachers, is often the first to identify additional needs that students have—something beyond behavior that is getting in the way of their learning. What’s different now, is that he doesn’t have to spend time cobbling together these resources. He turns to the CIS Site Coordinator in his building, Dalanna Hoskins, the very woman whose day he brightened all those years ago with an ugly pair of tennis shoes.
“He is exactly the same,” says Dalanna. “He still cares about kids and knows all of their names.” She, like all of us, is grateful to have him in our CIS family. Kids are the real winners because the community is providing resources through CIS, allowing Leroy to devote more of his time doing what he does best: building relationships with kids and their families to promote and grow positive behaviors.
At the end of a long school day, when he could be packing up to head home, Leroy has been known to get on the school bus with a student who has been struggling, to be a calming presence so that their next day will be a little better. “You learn a lot about where kids are coming from when you ride their bus routes,” Leroy says. He sees the whole child, knows a student’s life doesn’t stop when the last school bell rings. We also know this: You learn a lot about a man when you see him decade after decade showing up for kids. Whether you call him a Behavior Specialist, Bus Whisperer, or Spaghetti Wrangler, Leroy is first and foremost a specialist of the heart when it comes to kids and their families.
Leroy Green, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.