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.

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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.)

Tuning Into Music And Possibilities

_DSC0518Today we highlight the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, honored this past spring at the sixth annual Champ Celebration.  (This is the fifth installment of a nine part series.)

At Woods Lake Elementary School: A Magnet Center for the Arts seventy-eight first through fifth graders are enrolled in the CIS After School Program (funded by the Michigan Department of Education, 21st Century Community Learning Centers.) Here, after school, they have a safe place to learn and grow, receive a hot meal, get homework help, and then, thanks to the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, tune into music and possibilities within themselves.

The children are literally surrounded by caring adults who repeat the same chorus: one of building resilience through the artful combination of mastery, unconditional acceptance, and high expectations. This song every child deserves to hear is on the lips of Liz Youker, Director of Education for the KSO, it’s in the steady beat of Jennifer Barliment and the KSO Board of Directors.

The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra’s love for music is transforming children and a school. It is a powerful change that overflows into the children’s home environment. As one mother tells us, “My daughter may be learning music but she’s also learning so much more. Like how to express her feelings better. I’ve noticed that, because of Kids in Tune, we communicate better as a family.”

_DSC0579Because Kids in Tune is a trio, a partnership between Kalamazoo Public Schools, Communities In Schools, and the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra it is impossible to pull an individual note out of a symphony and say, “Ah, this is it. This is the note that captures the success of Kids in Tune because, just like the orchestra, everyone has a part to play. Children are forging noble identities because of the actions of many: the Kalamazoo Public School teachers and Principal Mitch Hawkins who stay after school to watch their students perform. Because of the custodian who took vacation time to play her cello with the kids, the CIS Site Coordinator who moves between piano and cell phone calls with parents without missing a beat. Youth Development Workers moving effortlessly between homework help and violin or flute lessons. The Kids in Tune curriculum director who wields chalk by day at K College and a baton in the afternoon. The four KSO teacher artists who read children like they read music, having the wisdom to stop a lesson when a child is struggling to find out what is going on. Volunteers, Service Learning college students, and high school students…the notes go on.

The Kalamazoo Symphony’s commitment to this Kids in Tune partnership, their innate understanding that it takes practice and then more practice after that to get it right is an inspiration to us all.

Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, we thank you for helping students stay in school and achieve in life.

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Developing The Future Through Love

CIS Youth Development Worker, Justina Franklin, running a “hands on” craft project at Lincoln.
CIS Youth Development Worker, Justina Franklin, running a “hands on” craft project at Lincoln.

Today’s post comes from Bonnie Terrentine. Bonnie is the CIS Site Coordinator at Lincoln International Studies School. Her post sheds light on the vital role Youth Development Workers have in helping our children grow. These individuals are, like their title implies, working hard to develop the strengths and talents of our youth by involving and empowering students in their own development. Step into any after school program (these 21st Century Community Learning Centers, funded by the Michigan Department of Education, are running throughout ten Kalamazoo Public School buildings) and you will find them assisting students with academic and enrichment activities.

When I ask Justina Franklin why she does this work, she says simply, “I adore and love working with children. There is no better mission—nothing better than I can think of—for me to be doing.” We are fortunate to have someone as seasoned as Justina Franklin serving as a Youth Development Worker here at Lincoln. (She has been a director of after school programming and has also been a former enrichment partner with us through Dr. Carol Hogan’s Campus Kids program.)

Loving, giving, always concerned about what she can do better for kids, Justina Franklin is a mentor for kids and grown ups alike. That is because she gives from her heart. Parents adore her. Communication is important when it comes to our work at CIS and she helps in my role as Site Coordinator, by calling parents, writing letters to communicate how their child is doing. Parents love her for this. The kids love her, too because they know she loves them. As one child put it, “She tough, but she loves us.”

Various projects generated by Justina Franklin.
Various projects generated by Justina Franklin.

She tutors students throughout the day, comes up with incentive plans to help children take an active role in their learning. She never gives up on any kid, and always reminds them about the Kalamazoo Promise®. “It doesn’t come to you by just thinking about it,” I’ve overheard her say. “You have to work hard and learn to read and write and do your math. And then you will get the Kalamazoo Promise®.”

She serves as a leader with other after school staff, helping the team organize and prepare programming for the children. She has taken money out of her own pocket to decorate rooms and make them inviting for the children. She has helped develop a number of after school programs that really engage the kids. She runs a successful scrap book club for 15 children. She has created a cooking class to reinforce the math they are learning from their teachers during the school day. Within the cooking class, students measure, create, and apply their math skills in fun ways. She incorporates discussions about nutrition, portion size, table manners and etiquette. She is imparting to our children the building blocks that make them not just a successful student, but a future successful employee and productive member of our community.

A creative person with a lovely temperament, Justina Franklin is someone who serves as a role model—and not just for children. She challenges each of us to be all that we can be, for she is always thinking the best of people and encouraging them to do their best. She actively looks for every opportunity to help a child, seeing this not as “work” but as a privilege. This is what the business of a Youth Development worker is all about. This is what we should all be about: caring and developing the best in all of our youths. Just like Justina Franklin.

 

Lights On Or Lights Off? You Decide.

Last week, our CIS students—along with students who benefit from nearly 8,000 afterschool programs—called attention to the importance of out-of-school structured activities as part of a nation-wide advocacy event called, “Lights On Afterschool (LOA).“  LOA is a project of The Afterschool Alliance.

At all Kalamazoo Public middle schools and at Loy Norrix High School in which CIS 21stCentury programming is in place, student-planned events were held to explain why they find afterschool programming important. During parent teacher conferences at the middle schools, students reached out to parents and guests, explaining what they get out of afterschool programming and why it is important that it continue to be funded. These students—success stories in the flesh—manned information tables and collected signatures in support of afterschool programming nationwide. Our Loy Norrix participants collected 70 signatures during their parent-teacher conferences. In total, across the five secondary after school sites, students obtained over 400 signatures on their petition to support afterschool programming.

Kalamazoo Kids In Tune students at Woods Lake (a partnership we have with theKalamazoo Symphony Orchestra and Kalamazoo Public Schools) also recorded a song. Other projects and petitions will be coming out of the elementary sites over the next few days.

Here are a few facts about the need of afterschool programs nationwide:

  • 15.1 million children take care of themselves after the school day ends.
  • Just 8.4 million children are in afterschool programs—but the parents of another 18.5 million children say their children would participate in afterschool if a program were available.
  • A report on 21st Century Community Learning Centers (afterschool programs receiving federal funds) showed that 45% of all participants improved reading grades, and 41% improved math grades.
  • On school days, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. are peak times for juvenile crime and experimentation with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and sex.
  • Teens who don’t participate in afterschool programs are nearly three times more likely to skip classes than teens who do participate. They are also three times more likely to use marijuana or other drugs, and they are more likely to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, and engage in sexual activity.
  • Parents with children in afterschool programs are less stressed, have fewer unscheduled absences, and are more productive at work.

Thanks for helping us keep the lights on here in Kalamazoo.