The Importance of After School Programs

This article was featured in our CIS Connections newsletter, The Double Issue. You can find the full publication here.

For the past 13 years, CIS of Kalamazoo has helped students succeed in school through 21st Century Community Learning Centers and currently serves 750 students in 15 after school sites—11 elementary and 4 middle school sites. CIS After School is available thanks to the support of federal dollars awarded through the Michigan Department of Education, 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

The federal budget for 2017-18 (which begins October 1, 2017) proposed by the President completely eliminates funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers. This would eliminate critical academic and social supports for our kids, families and community. 21st Century Community Learning Centers are a key part of helping students graduate from high school ready for college or a career and able to utilize the gift of The Kalamazoo Promise. Over the past 11 years, the graduation rate for KPS students has increased, in part because of the added learning readiness and learning support services afforded by the 21st Century CLC programs provided by CIS and its community partners.

Over the years, thousands of Kalamazoo Public Schools students have told this community how important it is to extend their learning day. Our children have written letters to public officials and stakeholders, visited City Hall and shared with their Mayor and City Commissioners the importance of extending the learning day through after school programs. They’ve made artwork, read essays, and held neighborhood marches to raise grown-ups’ awareness about the need for after school and summer learning opportunities.

The CIS Board has heard our children and is taking every action possible to advocate for continued funding of regular after school and summer programs through 21st Century Community Learning Centers. If you share this concern, you can speak up on behalf of the hundreds of students who benefit from approximately 440 extra hours of learning support per year. Our public officials (listed below) have an important job to consider these needs and the opinions of individuals who live in their communities. Help them understand what you think should happen.

Jenee McDaniel: One of Many Afterschool Professionals We Hold in Our Heart

Did you know that it’s Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week? Did you know that, throughout the U.S., an estimated 10.2 million children participate in afterschool programs each year? Did you know that for the past 13 years, CIS of Kalamazoo has helped students succeed in school through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers and currently serves 750 students in 15 after school sites—11 elementary and 4 middle school sites? CIS After School is available thanks to the support of federal dollars awarded through the Michigan Department of Education, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers.*

Thanks to all of our wonderful Afterschool Professionals. Whether you are a CIS After School Coordinator, a Youth Development Worker, an Instructional Lead, an Evening Custodian, Bus Driver, Food Service Worker, a CIS Volunteer or Partner supporting our kids in one of the 15 after school sites, we thank you for extending our reach as a community into after school hours. None of us could not do this work without the support of Kalamazoo Public Schools: the KPS Administration, Transportation, Food Service, and the many Principals and Teachers. Thank you for supporting us as we provide high quality programs that focus on student success.

One way to honor and lift up the great work being done with kids by all afterschool professionals is to shine the spotlight on one of our own. So today, we feature Jenee McDaniel. She’s been with Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) since 2010 and is the CIS After School Site Coordinator at Linden Grove Middle School.

A proud graduate of Kalamazoo Public Schools, Jenee attended Lakewood Elementary ( K-3 school that closed back in 2004), Edison, Milwood Middle, and graduated from Loy Norrix High School. Jenee moved to Detroit and obtained an associate’s degree at Wayne County Community College. She also lived in Cincinnati for a time. She moved back to Kalamazoo when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. We’re glad her mom’s doing great—and has been in remission for a long time now—and we’re glad Jenee chose to stick around Kalamazoo. Jenee continued to further her education, obtaining both her BSW and MSW in the School of Social Work at Western Michigan University.

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

                                                         POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned? 

I keep learning more and more about myself. Just how to be more in tune with what is really important, and sweating the small stuff less.

What are you currently reading?

I’m studying for my clinical licensing exam so I’m looking over materials that relate to theories, medication, best practice, that kind of stuff.

What is your favorite word right now?

I honestly don’t have a favorite word.

You’re the first person we’ve interviewed who hasn’t had a favorite word!

[Jenee’s teammate Tamiko Garrett has briefly entered the room.] What about, “Hey, boo?”

That is a go-to greeting that I use often. LOL.

What is something you love about Kalamazoo?

The Promise. I also like the stance that our mayor and the city commission have taken and the commitment to being a city of welcome to all. With the political climate the way it is right now, I love that the city is taking this stance.

Thinking back to your student years with the Kalamazoo Public Schools, who was one of your favorite teachers?

In elementary school, when I went to Edison, my favorite teacher was my fourth grade teacher, Ms. Pulley. I believe she is still teaching or just retired from Spring Valley but she had been my teacher at Edison. I really connected with her. As an African American teacher, she looked and talked like my family and me. She was relatable, firm but fair, and you just knew that she cared. Not just that, but she would check up on me throughout my life; she’s the kind of person that remembers you after you’ve left and grown.

At Milwood Middle, it was my science teacher, Mr. Chuck Pearson. I’ve always liked science but the way he facilitated our class, he just made science so fun. In high school, my favorite teacher was Coach [Dob] Drake. I hated history and he taught history. The way he presented it, though, you couldn’t help but enjoy the class. He jumped on tables, things like that, and made it fun to learn. It was always a show and you always learned something. He was a good teacher. I never minded going to his class and I never once fell asleep. Still, today I hate history but I loved that class. Besides learning history, I learned something else from him: it’s the way things are presented that can make the difference.

Can you tell us something about yourself that people may be surprised to know?

I’m a sensitive person. Some people would find this really hard to believe!

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

My caring adult has been a combination of my mom, dad, and grandma. My mom was very structured and consistent. She may not have been a hugger, but she taught us how to be independent, responsible, accountable, and to maintain things. My grandma—she was a Southern woman and lived with my mom—she was business-like, and even though she had a lot of health issues, she taught me so many lessons and life skills, such as cooking, cleaning, self-respect, morals, and compassion. My dad did not live in the home with us but he was always just around the corner. Some would consider him more “street” but he was always available to us and always involved—which I consider a blessing—because that was not the case for so many around me growing up. He has always been about family. He was also the kind of dad who shows up for things. He came to all my school events, cheered the loudest, which was embarrassing then, but I appreciate it now. He was a man’s man, but I learned about feelings and emotions from him. He was affectionate, gave me compliments, told me he loved me, and it was always okay to not be okay.

Outside of my family, I would have to say Barb Howes has been that caring adult for me. School has always come easy to me but after getting my BSW, I was tired. I had a family situation that was going to require a lot and I didn’t want to go on to graduate school at the time. But because of Barb Howes, I did. She believed in me, knew I was capable, and expected nothing less from me.  Knowing all the obligations I had with family, she offered me a graduate assistantship and was an advisor, mentor, confidant, and still is one of the best people I have ever met.

Jenee, thank you for hanging out with us at Ask Me About About My 12,000 Kids! And thanks for your on-going committment to helping our kids learn and grow in an after school setting!

We continue to talk with Jenee in our recently released newsletter, CIS Connections. Jenee and her CIS site team member, CIS Site Coordinator Tamiko Garrett, share insights into what it takes to work together to help students stay in school and be successful.

*The federal budget for 2017-18  proposed by the President completely eliminates funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers. To learn more and find out what you can do to assure our kids can continue to learn in the after school hours, read the latest “Double” themed issue of CIS Connections.

 

 

Caring Adult Series: Mr. Blink

Johnny featured with some caring adults. Back,from left: CIS After School Coordinator Stacy Salters, KPS Principal Julie McDonald, KPS Teacher Chad Chambless.
Johnny featured with some caring adults. Back,from left: CIS After School Coordinator Stacy Salters, KPS Principal Julie McDonald, KPS Teacher Chad Chambless.

If you follow our blog, you know that CIS has been asking caring adults to think back to when they were young and in school and recall that caring adult they felt especially connected to. Maybe it was in elementary school, or perhaps it was middle or high school. Who is that special person, that, even after all these years, they still carry within their hearts?

Members of the CIS team at Edison Environmental Science Academy were up to the challenge and in the weeks to come, we’ll find out who their caring adults are as we will publish each of their letters.

Today, we are excited to share a letter written by one member of the passionate, talented, and dedicated team who infuse Edison Environmental Science Academy with hope, love, and learning.

 

Dear Mr. Blink,

Many people do not believe I was ever a shy person.  Thirty six years ago, you had that shy 7th grader in your social studies classroom and on your volleyball team.  My brother was a star football player at the high school, breaking all sorts of records.  I was known as “Dean’s little sister” or “little Sharick.”  I was 12, trying to figure out who I was, what I stood for, and who my friends were.

Honestly, I don’t remember you doing anything particularly special just for me, but you made me feel special, gave me my own voice and always called me by my first name.  You allowed me to be a typical 7th grade girl – moody and well, a 7th grade girl.   You would talk about choosing friends wisely and being true to yourself.  As an adult and an educator, I now see that you took every advantage of “teachable moments.” By the time I started 8th grade, I was a new person, no longer as shy, knowing who I was (at least as much as a teenager can), and chose my friends wisely.  Most of my best friends are friends of 30+ years!

Thank you for taking this shy, 12 year old under your wing and allowing me to fly.  You were an integral part of my decision to become a teacher.  I hope I have made a difference in my students’ lives just as you have mine.

Thank you so much,

Julie (Sharick) McDonald, M.A.

Principal
Edison Environmental Science Academy
Kalamazoo Public Schools
 
 

Who is your Mr. Blink? If you are up to the challenge of reflecting on and writing a letter to your caring adult, email it to me at jclark@ciskalamazoo.org and we just might publish it!

And, if you haven’t yet had a chance to read the Story of Success within our freshly published annual report, take a few minutes to learn how KPS Principal Julie McDonald, her fabulous teaching staff, CIS staff, and other caring adults are helping Johnny succeed. Hint: To address the needs of the whole child, it often takes more than one person, one organization or resource. Johnny identifies a number of caring adults that have empowered him and gives a special shout out to: The Kalamazoo Promise®, Friday Food Packs (made possible thanks to Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes), First Day Shoe Fund, the Edison School Based Health Center (staffed by Family Health Center), Open Roads, and WMU College of Aviation.  These last two resources are offered as part of CIS After School Programming funded through the Michigan Department of Education, 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

 

Partners on a Solid Footing

shoesToday’s post is written by Donna Carroll, Director of Health Initiatives. Heather Haigh, Executive Director of First Day Shoe Fund originally ran this piece in their Fall 2014 newsletter.

Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) and First Day Shoe Fund (FDSF) go back a long way. In early 2000 Valerie Denghel was a tutor at Edison Environmental Science Academy with CIS. Valerie noticed that many of the children she saw at the school didn’t have appropriate shoes for school. So Valerie began buying shoes for one child at a time. Valerie went from buying shoes for individual children to creating the First Day Shoe Fund. CIS has 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.  In 2005 CIS and FDSF partnered to distribute 160 pairs of shoes. This Fall we worked together to distribute 1,654 pairs of new shoes to students.

Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo has been serving  students in Kalamazoo Public Schools since 2003.  Our mission is to surround students with a  community of support empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.  We are part of a nationwide network of passionate professionals  working in public schools to remove barriers that get in the way of student success, smoothing the path toward graduation.

We work to connect the right resources to the right students at the right time. CIS works closely with Kalamazoo Public Schools to reach those students most in need of services, many of whom live below the poverty level and face significant risk factors.

shoes2This year CIS will serve 20 Kalamazoo Public Schools, including 15 schools that will offer after school programming under 21st Century grants. We think of our site coordinators, who head up our site teams in the schools, as the bridge that connects community resources to students in the buildings. Site coordinators work to bring resources available to the whole student body (what we call Level One services) as well as having a caseload of between 50 and 75 students who receive more targeted services such as individual tutoring, mentoring or counseling, based on an assessment of the student’s needs. The site coordinator leads a team that might be made up of a VISTA, a social work intern or a health intern.

CIS values the partnership we have with First Day Shoe Fund. The FDSF focus – of providing new shoes to children in Kindergarten through third grade to ensure that children 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 new school year – meets a basic need. New shoes are one of the many pieces of the puzzle that fit together to help all of our children achieve the Promise.

Students Shine Light On After School In Kalamazoo

100_6497Did you know that throughout our nation, 15.1 million school-age children are alone and unsupervised in the hours after school? I knew it. But only because Melissa Holman shared that statistic with me. As the CIS Coordinator of Extended Learning, Melissa works behind the scenes with licensing, programming, and basically doing all-things-after-school for CIS. She says after school programming “gives kids a safe and supervised environment in which they have exposure to a broad range of things they might otherwise not have. It can be spending some time with a caring adult, a member of the community who provides academic support, or participating in an enrichment activity like karate or dance. It can be the safe space they need to complete homework, to make friends, to learn more about their strengths and talents.”

In conjunction with Lights On Afterschool events across the nation, Kalamazoo Public School students who participate in CIS afterschool programming—a resource available thanks to the support of the Michigan Department of Education (21st Century Community Learning Centers)—have once again been coming up with their own unique ways to shine the spotlight on quality, after school programming. Students have been busy researching and posting after school facts, creating public service announcements, working on posters, creating chants, a movie, and preparing to march through downtown.

20131021-_DSC4061Last year, more than eighty student representatives filled the Chamber of City Hall and shared with their commissioners the importance of extending the school day. “The afterschool program provides us with food, clothes, and other things we need,” said one fifth grader. “The afterschool program helps us stay away from drugs and off the streets. The staff help us with our homework and any issues we struggle with. The staff will do anything to make sure we are respectful, responsible, and safe so we can grow up to be anything we want to be and are treated equally. This helps us so we can do the same for others who need help and think they can’t find it.”

100_6490This year, through a variety of creative approaches—speech, dance, poetry—students are sharing the importance of having after school support in their lives and how they think it impacts the community. Thanks to the talented Ja’male Jordan, former CIS Youth Development Worker turned CIS Volunteer, some of their messages have been made into a short movie. Students, along with their parents will soon have a chance to watch Afterschool: The Movie on the big screen, downtown at the Alamo. In preparing for the project, students emphasized different aspects of after school which Melissa didn’t find surprising “because every child is special and has their own unique strengths and needs, so the benefits resonate differently for each student.”

One Woods Lake student who participates in the Kalamazoo Kids in Tune program (a joint partnership between the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Communities In Schools and Kalamazoo Public Schools) recognizes how “fortunate I am to be learning an instrument, a skill that will be with me the rest of my life.”

100_6491For many middle school students at Maple Street it’s the opportunity to get their homework completed. “Ms. Emily and her staff make sure I get my homework completed. No excuses!”

For an Arcadia student, after school is a chance to develop friendships. “You love your family but sometimes you just need to see your friends.”

Melissa says students “attend programming because they appreciate the support and supervision as well as the range of activities they get to do every day after school.” What keeps Melissa showing up day after day? ”Just seeing the impact,” she says with a smile. “We are literally changing lives. As a child, I had that happen for me when a caring adult changed my life. I want that for all of our kids in Kalamazoo.”

#LightsOnAfterschool

 

Students Tell Kalamazoo: “Keep the Lights On!”

20131021-_DSC4027Over 1,000 children throughout ten Kalamazoo Public School buildings benefited in the 2012/2013 school year from after school programming through Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo. This resource has been available thanks to the support of the Michigan Department of Education (21st Century Community Learning Centers). CIS is in the fifth year of this five year federal grant.

“Afterschool programs are vital to creating healthy outlets for students during this critical time of day, says Artrella Cohn, CIS Director of Secondary Sites. “We cannot expect young people to make healthy decisions in life such as attending school regularly and improving their academics when we are not willing to invest our time and resources to support them.”

In conjunction with Lights On Afterschool 2013 events across the nation, Kalamazoo Public School students who participate in CIS afterschool programming have been coming up with their own unique ways to shine the spotlight on quality, afterschool programming. Throughout October, students have been posting facts and research regarding afterschool programming, creating public service announcements, working on special projects with school personnel, and more.

20131021-_DSC3968And just this past Monday evening, close to 80 students, parents and CIS staff filled the Chamber of City Hall. The students present were representing all students from CIS afterschool sites: Edison Environmental Science Academy, Lincoln International Studies School, Milwood Elementary School, Washington Writers’ Academy, Woods Lake Elementary, Milwood Magnet Middle School, Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts, Linden Grove Middle School, Hillside Middle School and Loy Norrix High School. They came together at city hall to share with the Kalamazoo City Commission the importance of extending the learning day through afterschool programming. Commissioner Don Cooney, on behalf of the Kalamazoo City Commission and Mayor Bobby Hopewell, read aloud a proclamation announcing October as “Lights On Afterschool Month” in Kalamazoo and committed to engaging in activities that ensure that the lights stay on and the doors stay open for all children after school.

Surrounded by children and parents, Melissa Holman, the CIS Afterschool Program Coordinator accepted the proclamation. Reflecting upon the experience, Melissa says, “I was extremely proud of our students for having the courage to advocate for their after school programs to our public officials. I believe that we are helping to develop world changers, who will first start by creating a better community through after school programs.”

Sure enough, one by one, students stepped up to the microphone to speak to their elected officials.

“The afterschool program provides us with food, clothes, and other things we need,” fifth grader Antonio said before a packed audience. “The afterschool program helps us stay away from drugs and off the streets. The staff help us with our homework and any issues we struggle with. The staff will do anything to make sure we are respectful, responsible, and safe so we can grow up to be anything we want to be and treated equally. This helps us so we can do the same for others who need help and think they can’t find it.”

Leasia Posey, a 7th grader at Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts, said, “I have been in Communities In Schools afterschool program since elementary school at Washington Writers Academy.  I think the afterschool program is amazing because of the staff, the clubs, and the transportation home.” Leasia told Commissioners that her favorite clubs are art, drama, and gardening.

Tiara Blair
Tiara Blair

Loy Norrix High School student Tiara Blair spoke up as well, “Communities In School has made a huge difference in my life. It has helped me to maintain my grade point average at a 3.7 average.” [Applause errupted in the chamber.] “Not only has it helped me with my academic studies but also with community building and networking. Communities In Schools connects me with a lot of resources, such as dental, vision, and food pack services. Also, because of CIS, I am provided a room with materials and the needed space to complete my homework. I appreciate the team staff that are hired here, they really take the time to help me succeed in my education.”

Rather than citing a bunch of research demonstrating that students who regularly attend afterschool programs are more likely to improve their grades, tests scores and overall academic behavior (there is a lot of it!), we’ll let Shediah, a fifth grader from Milwood Elementary School wrap up this post. Here, in her own words:

What Does the CIS Afterschool Program Mean to Me?

To me, afterschool program means to always be loved and helped. Afterschool program is a place that I can let my feelings go and be myself. I will always be safe and cared about.

To me, afterschool program is a place I can go to and calm down. I know I can always go the CIS staff when I need help. I can always be comforted when I’m going through a hard time.

When my [Site Coordinator] Ms. Abby left, I was very sad. After a while she came upstairs and comforted me. So did all of my classmates and my teachers.

I still miss Ms. Abby but Ms. Korrine who has taken her place is really nice. CIS is still fun.

Check out the inspiring City Hall photos (taken by Don Kingery) on our facebook album.

If you missed any of the WWMT coverage that aired on these recent events, not to worry. Just check out the following links:

What CIS Executive Director, Pam Kingery says about afterschool programming can be found here.

Students speaking out for afterschool programming during city commission meeting can be found here.

20131021-_DSC4061

KZOO Spartans: Scoring Big For Students

_DSC0785College football season has started so it seems only fitting that we should wrap up our 2013 Champ series with the KZOO Spartans.  (Not that we have any favorite teams – we are fans of all colleges and universities!)  We should point out that the KZOO Spartans were at it again this summer – surpassing what they did last year and raising funds to provide 64 middle school students with a new backpack stuffed with school supplies.  And, just this morning,  we learned that, thanks to the continued efforts of KZOO Spartans, our CIS Site Coordinators will be able to deliver 60 additional new backpacks to students.  Talk about touchdowns! Thanks KZOO Spartans!

It all started with a golf tournament and the idea to ask golfers to make a donation so backpacks filled with school supplies could be given to middle school students in the fall.

IMG_0810Thanks to the members of the KZOO Spartans — a group of Michigan State University alumni & friends in Kalamazoo County– 50 middle school students started their school year with one of these well stocked backpacks. The power of new backpacks and school supplies can not be underestimated. Emily Demorest, CIS Site Coordinator at Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts recalls a new student who had recently started attending the CIS afterschool program (funded through 21st Century). During homework time, she came upon him sitting by himself, his head down, resting on a drawstring bag that had a long rip in the side. The student confided to her that he had bad grades. He shared his struggle to keep his things organized and how he often lost his assignments. She gave him one of the new backpacks filled with school supplies. Together, they sat down and carefully organized all the items. “I love to see him in the hallway,” she says, “carrying his black backpack stuffed with classroom materials. He loves coming to school where he now has a cool matching backpack just like all the other kids.” For him, a backpack thoughtfully filled with supplies has helped him stay on track.
2012 KZOO Spartans Softball TeamThe KZOO Spartans have continued to meet our students’ basic needs by supporting the CIS Kids’ Closet program – helping to ensure children have the clothing, school supplies, and personal care products they need to allow them to attend school in comfort and dignity.

Additionally, alumni members have helped to foster a college-going culture by participating in CIS events like Ready, Set, College! and College Night at Maple Street Magnet School.

It is not surprising that the Latin noun, alumnus, is derived from the verb “alere” which means to nourish. For that is just what this alumni group is doing. Nourishing the next generation of college going children by providing some of the basics all children need so that they can focus on succeeding in school. Go Green! Go White!

KZOO Spartans, we thank you for helping students stay in school and achieve in life.

 

Got Learning?

Tiara (left). Her mom and sister attended the CIS Think Summer! bash and watched her perform with her dance club.
Tiara (left). Her mom and sister attended the CIS Think Summer! bash and watched her perform with her dance club.

What have you been learning this summer?

Have you improved your math and reading skills? Have you learned to sing, cook, dance, play the cello, discovered who you are, and perhaps, more importantly, gained a glimpse of who you might become?

You’d likely answer ‘yes’ to most of the above questions if you were like one our 200 students involved in the six week CIS Think Summer! program that ended last week.

The students had an opportunity this past Thursday to celebrate and share with friends and family members just what they had been learning in their elementary, secondary or Kalamazoo Kids in Tune summer program.

Recarte Lockhart stopped down to see what all the fuss was about. “My nephew has been having a wonderful time this summer with CIS. He doesn’t like to miss a day of this program!”

Mrs. Cobb, whose daughter Rickelle will be a 7th grader in Kalamazoo Public Schools is “pleased to see how CIS has promoted college and career development. I appreciate how the staff get the students to think for themselves, to problem solve and to address important issues like bullying…CIS is reinforcing, promoting the important lessons we, as parents, are teaching at home. For some kids, I know, this is an introduction for them. For others, like my daughter, it is reinforcing those important skills and ideas they need to know to be successful.”

“I’m really grateful for this experience,” her daughter Rickelle says. “I’ve learned more about subjects like math and English—and it’s been fun! Our coaches are the best; they lay out the lessons in fun ways, through games and playing. Plus, they really know how to connect with kids and can handle anything that comes up with us. CIS chose really good people to help us. I’m glad they hired coaches like Miss MacKenzie, Miss Angelica, and Coach Asia. They really helped me this summer.”

100_3773Deshani Raines, who will be attending 7th grade at Hillside this fall expresses similar sentiments. “CIS Think Summer inspired me to do more things than I normally would over the summer and to learn more than I already know—in a fun way. Coaches taught me to do what’s expected and to learn right from wrong. They were all great.”

For Jazel O’Neal, another up and coming 7th grader, this summer experience was an opportunity to explore one of her passions: singing. “I learned how to be a better singer because of CIS. They even made arrangements so I could perform at the Black Arts Festival. The coaches were really nice and encouraging. They are not judgemental at all. Thanks to CIS, more people have gotten to hear my voice. I like that.”

For older students like Tiara Blair, who has been involved with CIS for three years and will be entering 11th grade at Loy Norrix High School this fall, summer has been an opportunity to give back to younger students.

Tiara, a friendly, poised and self-assured young woman, helped sixth graders in the area of fashion and dance. Cynthia Cooper, Tiara’s mother, points out that her daughter was in a good position to help out because of the experiences and opportunities she has received through CIS. “This is my daughter’s third year participating in CIS and I’ve seen how it’s helped her make friends and positively impact her self esteem.”

“My favorite part this summer,” says Tiara, “was working with the younger kids and helping them figure out how to solve their problems. Like, who took my pencil? It may not seem like a big thing, but kids need to figure out the small problems if they want to solve bigger one’s later.”

CIS Think Summer! secondary students dressing for success before their mock interviews.
CIS Think Summer! secondary students dressing for success before their mock interviews.

Just how has being a part of CIS’s summer experience changed Tiara? “Helping these kids has got me thinking: I can see myself now becoming a teacher.” Along the way, Tiara has benefited from a number of great KPS teachers. A few of her favorites? Loy Norrix English teacher Ms. Kelly Stetten, Milwood Middle School’s Math teacher Mr. James Roth and Mrs. Rana Findling who taught Tiara the ins and outs of video production. Teachers, Tiara and her mother both agree, who go above and beyond their job description.

CIS is proud to be working with and within the Kalamazoo Public Schools. We greatly appreciate our coaches, school and community partners, volunteers, and parents who  work with CIS—no matter what the season—to do what it takes for kids to be successful in school and life. We are especially grateful to all the wonderful kids who (even though they may have had some fun along the way) have worked incredibly hard this summer, and are not just avoiding the summer slide, but are climbing mountains, inspiring us all to greater heights.

(If you didn’t get a chance to check out the “CIS Think Summer” celebration video posted on our facebook page, you can check it out here.)