What Are CIS Partners Reading?

 

We can’t get enough of what you are reading! And a number of you can’t either! Some of you have even emailed and called and stopped us on the street to let us know how much you are enjoying this “What are you reading?” series. So we wondered, what are our wonderful partners up to in the world of books?

Here’s what a few of them said.

 

That was Then, This is Now by S.E. Hinton.

-Cate Jarvis, School Grief Support Counselor, Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan

 

I just started A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway and also just finished 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created by Charles Mann, which was a fascinating read on the consequences of early globalization.

-John Curran, Executive Director, First Day Shoe Fund

 

I just finished reading a novel written by William P. Young entitled The Shack. I love to read the book prior to seeing newly released movies. I just started reading a leadership book written Jon Gordon entitled The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy.

-Lola Amos, Director of Programs, Prevention Works

 

I’m reading Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad, by M.T. Anderson. It explores a dark and grim period in Russian history as experienced and expressed through the life and work of the famous composer. It was actually written as a book for teenagers, whom the author clearly regards as capable readers who can handle the real story. I highly recommend it as a captivating foray into a dense and difficult historical subject, especially as we grapple with deeply divided social and political beliefs in our own society.

Liz Youker, Vice President of Education and Community Partnerships, Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra

 

I am reading The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey.

-Julie Righter, Manager Operational Excellence, Pfizer Kalamazoo

 

I generally read several books at a time. I am currently reading The Power of the Other by Dr. Henry Cloud, Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker, and Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter.

-Sherry Thomas-Cloud, CEO, Family & Children Services

 

I am currently reading The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. It is a powerful novel that tells the story of a pre-Civil War slave named Cora. I’m also reading Kareem Abdul Jamar’s Writings on the Wall: Searching for a New Equality Beyond Black and White.

-Jane Baas, Associate Dean of WMU Lee Honors College (and coordinator of WMU Medallion Scholars who volunteer at Milwood Magnet Middle School)

 

I’m reading The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.

-Amy Kuchta, Chief Executive Officer, Big Brothers Big Sisters, A Community of Caring

 

I am participating in the Kalamazoo Public Library’s Community Read. The book is: Writings On the Wall authored by Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeldand. I am also honored to be facilitating one of the chapter discussions at the Douglass Community Associations Powell Branch Library. [Note: This Reading Together event with Von Washington Jr., Dick Shilts, and Beth Washington took place last night. A KPS student in attendance said it was “really good and made you think.”]

-Von Washington Jr., Executive Director of Community Relations, Kalamazoo Promise

 

Thanks for letting us know what you’ve been reading! And thanks, especially, for working with us to help kids stay in school and succeed in life!

Here at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids, we’re officially expanding March Reading Month into April. In a few weeks, you can learn what CIS board members are reading!

 

 

 

 

 

What do you love?

We know you love seeing kids succeed. We do too! What else do you love? We polled a few CIS partners, volunteers, and staff. Here is what they said:

 

 

 

I love the possibilities…as seen through my seven-year-old, her friends, and this community.

-Jennifer Johnson, Executive Director, Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes

 

The Great Lakes—all of them.

-John Brandon, CIS Partner Services Coordinator

 

What I love is lip gloss!

-Tamiko Garrett, CIS Site Coordinator at Linden Grove Middle School

 

I love seeing kids being happy.

-Amy Kuchta, Chief Executive Officer, Big Brothers Big Sisters, A Community of Caring

 

I love when students/staff/teachers tells me, “Thanks for all that you do!” Go CIS!

-Levi Soto, CIS Site Coordinator at El Sol Elementary School

 

If I had to choose one thing, it’d be the sound of children laughing and playing!

-Stacy S. Jackson, CIS After School Coordinator at Edison Environmental Science Academy

 

I love cooking. One of my favorite things to make is Zuni Café Chicken. You can find the recipe here.

-Amy Terzino, CIS Executive Assistant

 

I love Harry Potter audio books. There are two narrators and people get very heated about which one they prefer. I like listening to Jim Dale. He has a very calm voice which works better with narration. Stephen Fry does a good job with the character voices. But when I want to be calm and mindful, I just prefer Jim Dale’s soothing voice.

-Carly Denny, CIS Site Coordinator at Prairie Ridge Elementary School

 

I love my life.

-Tracie Hall, CIS Finance Coordinator

 

Walking in the woods on a fresh, fall day.

-Sally Stevens, CIS Volunteer

 

I love talking with former students about their progress in life.

-Von Washington Jr., Executive Director, Community Relations

 

I love my first cup of coffee on Saturday morning.

-Jenna Cooperrider, CIS Success Coach at Kalamazoo Central High School

 

I love seeing parents beam with pride while taking smartphone videos of their young musician at Kids In Tune.

-Liz Youker, Vice President, Education and Community Partnerships, Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra

 

Besides coffee, I love when children ask other children, “Are you alright?” It shows the building of empathy and caring.

-Aisha Coulson-Walters, CIS Site Coordinator at Parkwood Upjohn Elementary School

 

Lake Michigan and the bike trails that can get you there from Kalamazoo.

-John Curran, Executive Director, First Day Shoe Fund

 

Stand-up comedy!

-Deondra Ramsey, CIS After School Coordinator for Washington Writers Academy

 

Singing. I was a voice performance major in college.

-Nicky Aiello, CIS Volunteer and Development Coordinator

 

Thanks for sharing! We love hearing what you love. We especially love all the support you and our Ask Us About Our 12,000 Kids readers show Kalamazoo Public School students by sharing your time, talents, and financial gifts with Communities In Schools. Thank you for working with us to help students stay in school and achieve in life.

 

 

 

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.

Pop Quiz: Amy Kuchta

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.

January is National Mentoring Month and today we feature Amy Kuchta, Chief Executive Officer of Big Brothers Big Sisters. Whether it’s school-based mentoring or working together on initiatives like Bigs in Business, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo have been working together for over a decade to serve students in the Kalamazoo Public Schools. Amy has been involved in both sides of the partnership, having left Big Brothers in 2009 to serve as director of elementary sites for three years and then returned to Big Brothers Big Sisters in 2012 to serve as CEO. “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 needs of our services.”

Did you know that Big Brothers Big Sisters serves five counties and there are over 200 children waiting to be matched with a mentor? Amy says this number stays fairly steady as once a child is matched, another is then added to the waiting list. Think you might want to be a Big Sister, Big Brother, Big Couple, or Big Family? Click here for more information.

Amy Kuchta
Amy Kuchta

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

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned? 

This may sound geeky but I like looking at our program data, reflecting on 2015, and thinking about what we can do to improve in 2016.

What one thing did you learn in pouring over the data?

We expanded some of our programs. This made it more flexible for mentors and because of this we were able to serve more middle school and high school students. Traditionally, when people come in they want to be paired with an elementary student. People assume middle and high school students don’t want mentors—which isn’t the case at all. They want to be connected with caring adults, too.

What are you currently reading?

I’m re-reading a book by Barbara Ehrenreich called Nickel and Dimed. I love that book! I read it every couple years. I find it fascinating. Her book provides a striking picture of the challenges many individuals with minimum wage jobs face, that struggle to get by day to day.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I see myself here for a long time. I love what I do and the impact we’re having on the kids we serve.

What did you want to be when you were little?

[Amy laughs.] A Supreme Court Justice or President of the United States.

You’d be good at either, but were glad you’re here in Kalamazoo. Tell us something more about you.

Hmmm. I do read a lot of books about list of post-apocalyptic fiction. I find them intriguing—all the survival scenarios. I guess I like books that focus on ways people creatively figure out ways to survive in challenging circumstances.

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

I had a teacher in sixth grade named Mr. Pierce. My father had died about a year before and Mr. Pierce really took me under his wing and looked out for me. He made sure I had everything I needed, including emotional support, to get through a tough time.

As you know, it’s Mentoring month. We hear that word a lot, mentoring. How do you define mentoring?

I’d say that mentoring is a consistent and caring relationship between two people. At Big Brothers Big Sisters, we call them ‘Bigs’ and ‘Littles’ but we know there is an impact on both.

Thank you, Amy!