Doing What It Takes To Get Her Promise Back

IMG_2959When JacQuese Steele graduated from Loy Norrix High School in 2008, she headed off to Michigan State University, fully intending to use the gift of The Kalamazoo Promise® to obtain a degree.

Bonnie Terrentine, CIS After School Coordinator for Lincoln International Studies and former Kalamazoo Area Academic Achievement Program (KAAAP) staff  knew JacQuese as a young student at Chime Elementary, then Milwood Elementary, Milwood Magnet Middle School, and then Loy Norrix High School. “She was extremely bright,” recalls Bonnie. “Talented, too. Even when she faced obstacles, she kept on going. She’s very resilient, a pioneer, really, as she was the first in her family to head off to college. I remember she had really supportive grandparents. She was just a great kid.”

JacQuese recalls Ms. Terrentine fondly and says that when she was in fourth grade, the KAAAP mentor she was connected to, Carol McGlinn, changed her future. (Initiated in 1992 by the Kalamazoo Chamber of Commerce, KAAAP was later absorbed by CIS. It matched elementary students to a mentor committed to seeing the young person through high school graduation.)

JacQuese started doing better in school thanks to the tutoring support she received from her mentor. “I wouldn’t be able to read if it wasn’t for her [Ms. McGlinn]. She saved my reading life. She saved me.”

Yet, the transition from high school to college was challenging. “Going off to college was hard for me,” recalls JacQuese. “My family loved me. They were in support of me going and said, ‘Do it!’ but that was it. I needed someone to guide me. I needed help with the how. I realize nobody has a blueprint for you but when you go to college you need a game plan. I felt like I just got dropped off. ‘Do good,’ they told me. Okay, but how? What are the steps I need to take to get through college?”

A talented woman with a variety of interests, JacQuese found herself changing direction frequently and switching majors. While at Michigan State, she studied Communications, Interdisciplinary Arts and Humanities, Religious Studies, Social Work, and Theater.

It was at the start of her fifth year of college, her degree in sight, that things began to unravel. JacQuese’s grandfather, a great ally and whom she was very close to passed away on her first day back to school. To make matters worse, shortly thereafter, JacQuese was robbed. “My bank card was stolen and my entire bank account was wiped out. I was very depressed. I couldn’t pay the rent. I didn’t know what to do.” So, when a new opportunity arose, JacQuese dropped out of college and headed to Atlanta to “chase my singer-songwriter dream.” While JacQuese experienced some success with her musical career she ultimately determined “it ended up not being the opportunity for me that I thought it would be.” As she puts it, “The music industry, well, let’s just say snakes aren’t always low in the grass.”

Recently, JacQuese decided to return to Kalamazoo. Through Facebook, she connected with her former middle school math teacher, Diane Lang. They met for lunch, caught up, and talked about JacQuese’s future. Afterwards, with JacQuese’s blessing, Diane reached out to friend and Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, Pam Kingery. Was there a way for JacQuese to get her The Kalamazoo Promise back?

And before September faded into October, JacQuese, with Diane Lang at her side, met with Bob Jorth, Executive Director of The Kalamazoo Promise®. Thanks to Bob, JacQuese got the information she needed and is now doing what it takes—including making a recent trip to Michigan State University—to finish what she started.

JacQuese couldn’t ask for a better cheerleader at her side—and someone to help navigate the how questions all college students have—than Diane Lang.

“This kid has tons of talent and positive energy,” says Diane. “She just needs to finish up her degree. I’m proud of her.”

“This time, I’ll be going back to college,” says JacQuese, “just  a little wiser.”

 

Happy Birthday, Blog!

One year ago we launched this blog: Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids. There were over 181 million blogs when we began and there are probably more than that now. The blogosphere is bloated with lots of blogs (say this sentence 10 times). So thank you, dear readers, for choosing to read this blog. To celebrate our year together, I’ve made a delicious chocolate cheesecake (recipe can be found here) and if you want a slice, stop down to our office today. We’ll be offering them on a first come, first serve basis.) In addition, we’re whooping it up by sharing 17 blogtoids* about our one-year-old blog:

  1. In one year, we offered up 53 posts; that’s basically a fresh post every Tuesday.
  2.  Donna Carroll and I welcomed 11 guest bloggers, composed of CIS staff, board, and partners. Thank you Emily, Artrella, Bethany, Melissa, James, Dom, Sandy, Pam, Bonnie, Kaitlin, and Carly for contributing your voice to this blog. Thanks to all the kids, parents, school and community partners who shared their thoughts with us. We’re looking forward to hearing more from you as well as new voices this school year.
  3.  Over half of our 53 posts have highlighted individuals or entities in this community. If all our 12,000 plus kids are going to succeed in school and life, it’s going to take a lot of committed adults working together.
  4.  All 18 of the Kalamazoo Public School buildings that have CIS (we’re in 19 schools this new year, having most recently added Woodward School for Technology & Research) have been mentioned at least once in one or more posts. We love the Kalamazoo Public Schools!
  5. We named names. And we won’t stop. We’ll continue to tell you who is making a difference for kids through CIS.
  6.  You’re smarter because of this blog. You’ve read topics here ranging from literacy, mentoring, resiliency, and music. You’ve discovered what dental care and food have to do with academic success. You’ve read impressive phrases (thanks to guest blogger like CIS board member and partner Dom Pullo) such as “students mixed chemicals that created a chemiluminscent reaction…”
  7.  Three of our posts caught the attention of National CIS. Woo, hoo!
  8.  Most cried over blog post: Open Letter to A Father Who Will Never Read This.
  9.  Funniest post: Don’t Name Your Blog “The Blog.”
  10.  Post that received the most response from teachers and other school staff: Cast Your Vote for Kids.
  11.  Post that featured our hairiest school volunteers: Kaitlin Martin’s Paws for Stories.
  12.  Hardest post to write: Engineers of the Heart.
  13.  Funnest post to write: Six and a Half Things to Do While We’re Away.
  14.  Most fashionable post: Threads.
  15.  Post that featured one of our favorite student interviews: Pop Quiz: Lincoln International Studies Student.
  16.  Hardest thing about blogging? Coming up with a title for each post that is provocative without being too provocative. It needs to be something catchy that will make you want to read more than just the title.
  17. Most rewarding thing about blogging? Seeing and sharing CIS in action—with you, the partners, volunteers, donors, parents, staff, and learning about the wonderful students who are empowered because of your support.

We have only begun to introduce you to some of your 12,000 kids and the hundreds of caring adults who are helping to raise them. Stay with us this year and continue to get a behind the scenes glimpse of CIS in action. At Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids you will continue to meet the talented teachers, hard working principals, and dedicated community volunteers, partners, and CIS staff who are empowering our children to succeed. We look forward to turning two with you.

*A blogtoid is a term I made up just for this post. (I hope this makes you feel special!) A blogtoid is a fact or deeply held opinion about a blog.

Birthday Candles

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.

 

Pop Quiz: Lincoln International Studies Student

Bonnie and StudentWelcome 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 nine-year old Trinity Thomas. She is a third grader at Lincoln International Studies.

Alright, Trinity: pencils out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

Actually, I’ve learned something very interesting. It’s called algebra. But it’s really pre-algebra. And it’s really easy. [What’s easy about  it?] You can take away stuff and put numbers in and use pawns and cubes that have numbers on them. It’s easy because my teacher helps me with it. Oh, and we’re finding patterns and working on multiplication, and addition and subtraction.

What are you currently reading?

I’m onto the Babymouse books [by Jennifer Holm and Matthew Holm]. I’m readingBabymouse Puppy Love right now and I’ll read it all the way to the end. MostBabymouse books have 91 pages! The first time I started reading these Babymousebooks I was in love.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A fashion designer—because I like designing dresses. [Do you sew?] No. I design them on paper. I make dresses that are strapless so they are really good for summer. And they have hearts.

Student readingWhat is your favorite word right now?

That would be design. Because it gets me in the ready-to-design-stuff mood. At home, whenever my mom says, “Make stuff and design your dresses!” I get out the pencil and paper she gave me and start designing them. [Did you know that some of our older students are designing clothes and are working towards a realfashion show with Western Michigan University students?] I didn’t know that but that’s something I’ll want to do when I’m older, too. Definitely!

Will you share with us something that has been on your mind lately?

That would be singing the song “Do Re Me” because I like the song. And singing Michael Jackson’s “Rockin’ in the Tree Top.” [In a lovely singing voice, Trinity breaks into song, singing her rendition of “Rockin’ Robin.”] I think about that song a lot. It’s catchy, you know?

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

My mom. She’s nice. She turns my frown upside down. My mom helps remind me about important things and helps me with my homework. And the best thing about her? She makes me feel better when I’m sick because she always knows the best thing to do.

Trinity went on to identify other caring adults in her life, including: CIS Site Coordinator, Mrs. [Bonnie] Terrentine, CIS Site Coordinator, Mrs. [Justina] Franklin, Youth Development Worker, and her third grade teacher, Ms. [Sara] Hannah.

Trinity, thanks for taking time out to talk with us!

You are welcome!

A Shout Out To Secretaries

Secretaries make the world go ‘round. If you are a parent, volunteer, or partner with us you know that the secretary is often the first face you encounter upon entering a school building. The role of the secretary is key not only to the overall functioning of a school, but to the success of our community partnerships and volunteer efforts. Toall administrative professionals sprinkled throughout theKalamazoo Public Schools, thank you for all you do. You help us surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.

Given that Wednesday is Administrative Professionals Day in the United States, here are what a few of our Site Coordinators have to say about their schools’ secretaries:

A huge thank you to Clar Pillsbury and Cherie Buell, two women who work tirelessly for all of us at Lincoln International Studies School. Their job position and responsibilities are enormous. I appreciate all of their hard work and sacrifices they make for me and the rest of the staff here. Thanks so much for what you have done and continue to do for staff, students, and families!!!!

-Bonnie Terrentine, CIS Site Coordinator, Lincoln International Studies School

Julie Davis is kind, compassionate and her patience has no limits…when all the phone lines are ringing simultaneously, a deadline for a report has to be met, a sick child has to be taken care of, a dose of medicine, ice pack, or band aid has to be given to a student, visitors have to be greeted, or a teacher’s question has to be answered, Julie is there to take care of everyone’s needs. It would be understandable if she lost her cool, but she doesn’t! She remains calm and composed and has the uncanny ability to keep everything under control. She is an invaluable asset to Arcadia and my job as a Site Coordinator.

-Gulnar Husain, CIS Site Coordinator,  Arcadia Elementary School

Pam Storher knows everybody and everything. She is sweet, caring and loves the kids. She goes above and beyond. The same can be said for Joy VandePol, my   go-to-person for attendance. She and Pam are always busy but they never make me feel like I’m bothering them.

-Larry Manley, Jr. CIS Site Coordinator at Washington Writers’ Academy

At Edison Environmental Science Academy, Mrs. Carol Stoeffler is the glue that holds us all together! She works compassionately in serving not only the students at Edison but the staff also! She is AMAZING in dealing with parents and students! Mrs. Carol is an AWESOME representation of all the staff at Edison and I am grateful to have had an opportunity to know and work with her!

-Stacy Salters, CIS Site Coordinator ot Edison Environmental Science Academy

Yvonne Steffler is so wonderful and patient with the students at Milwood. She takes care of business and always has a smile for the kids! We want to thank Yvonne for all of her hard work!

-Abigail Nappier, CIS Site Coordinator, Milwood Elementary School

Sheri Ferrari and Ann Campbell not only keep this building running smoothly, but they greet our volunteers, partners, and children with a smile. I can depend on them to funnel new volunteers to me.  Their support of CIS helps make Parkwood a more caring community.

Jody Sikkema, CIS Site Coordinator, Parkwood Upjohn Elementary School