Graduate Reflects on his Experience with CIS

Curt Johnson will soon start college. Having graduated from Kalamazoo Central High School this past spring, Curt reflected on his CIS experience at the 10th Annual Champ Celebration held this past April. Since then, a number of guests in attendance have asked us to publish it. Curt has graciously given permission for us to publish his remarks here, at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids.

While Curt gave the speech that follows, he did add additional comments at times. For instance, when he noticed Angelita Aguilar (a 2016 Champ—you can read about her here) in the sea of almost 400 people, he called her out and thanked her for her support through the years.

PNC was the Student Showcase Sponsor and when Curt finished his speech, Steve Powell, on behalf of PNC, presented Curt with an Apple iPad Pro as a gift to help him continue his education this fall as a Kalamazoo Promise scholar

Curt presented with PNC gift from Steve Powell.

Here’s Curt’s speech:

I’m happy to be able to share my story with you and my experience with Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo. CIS has helped me a lot. I first became involved with the CIS when I was in sixth grade at Milwood Magnet Middle School. During conferences, one of my teachers recommended CIS to my mom and me. For that, I am grateful. Ever since then, CIS has been like a home base for me throughout my education.

One of the reasons I thought CIS was a good fit for me was because moving into a new school would be a way to make friends and meet new people and find out more about myself. I’d recently moved to a new neighborhood, having been adopted into a new family when I was going into fifth grade.

The CIS After School program kept me busy after school. Staying busy is important for kids and teenagers; without extra-curricular activities kids begin to look for things to do that aren’t good for them and could end up getting them into trouble. We always did fun activities. I especially enjoyed going to the gym and eating snacks. We also did homework while we ate our snacks.

I gained a lot of new experiences through CIS. For instance, as part of the after school program, we had an opportunity to sign up for various activities throughout the week, so I was always busy. I was introduced to different cultures, various forms of dance, music, and even food. I also found my passion for music through CIS. This was during seventh and eighth grade and it was thanks to CIS partner Bangtown Productions. We probably made around 20 songs throughout the two-year span. I still have the CD’s we made.

Over the years, CIS has helped me with school. That help is especially fresh in my mind this year, as I’m a senior preparing to graduate and take advantage of the Kalamazoo Promise. I’ve appreciated the tutoring opportunities and the really helpful tutors that CIS has provided. It’s been great having WMU students help me with chemistry. These college students are going to school for engineering so they explain things, and get me through it.

Throughout my high school years at Kalamazoo Central, my CIS Site Coordinator, Ms. Yarbrough has taken me under her wing. She checks up with me regularly, making sure I’m staying on top of my academics. She also helps resolve problems and situations. Those situations can range from serious issues to just needing a granola bar so I can focus and get through the day. I want to give my site coordinator a shout out for always keeping my best interest in mind. She makes it clear what I need to do, what I should do, and if anything is wrong—let the problem be known—so we can fix it.

Curt, at Champs with CIS Site Coordinator Deborah Yarbrough.

I know that some kids have a hard time talking to adults, so having a CIS person like Ms. Yarbrough in their school—whose job is to be there and help you get through your school days so you can graduate—is important. As a high school student, the emotional support I’ve received from CIS helps me get through the school year. Kids deal with a lot of stress and people like Ms. Yarbrough and other CIS staff understand. This emotional support is important to so many kids—as you’ll often find many students lining up at the CIS door, waiting to talk with Ms. Yarbrough. Just like a lot of other kids, I don’t have to break down, because I have somebody I can talk to, somebody I can trust. Someone always make sure I say how I feel so it’s not affecting me during the school day.

As I reflect on my six years with CIS, I think what I’ll take away most from the experience is having gained friends, opportunities, met CIS staff and mentors and people I can turn to if I need help. Without the support and guidance from CIS, the chances of me walking the stage and receiving my diploma would have been very slim. I will be graduating this June and plan to attend Southwestern Michigan College. I’m interested in social work and theatre.

I would like to thank you for the opportunity to reflect on the years I’ve spent with Communities In Schools. I would also like to thank all the people I’ve met over these years of being involved with the program—the CIS staff, the partners, the volunteers—and to all the people who I haven’t met, who have given money, time, effort, and patience to helping all of us kids.

Thank you.

Thank you, Curt! We’re excited for all that the future holds for you. You know where to find us! Stay in touch!

Did you catch Curt Johnson along with Deborah Yarbrough, CIS Site Coordinator at Kalamazoo Central High School, on The Lori Moore Show? You can watch it here.

 

Susan Knox: Doing Her Part to Create a Community of Hope

Today we highlight Susan Knox, honored with a 2017 Champ Award. Her Champ award was sponsored by Greenleaf Trust. CIS Board member and Kalamazoo Promise Board Member Dr. Janice M. Brown presented the award.

A child’s success in school and life often hinges on the opportunity to have a one-on-one relationship with a caring adult. It’s one of the five CIS basics, something every child needs and deserves. This relationship can make the difference between a student staying in school or becoming one of the 1.2 million students who drop out of school each year. Since the Fall of 2010, Susan Knox has been that caring adult for many of our high school students, particularly those struggling academically.

When Susan, a chemical engineer, retired from Pfizer, she sold her house and car, and moved downtown. “I wanted to start volunteering,” she said, “to contribute to something I felt passionate about. I picked up a pamphlet about volunteering and circled the ones I thought I could do.” We’re forever thankful she circled Communities In Schools.

Susan, on right, with CIS Site Coordinator Deborah Yarbrough.

She has been a CIS volunteer at Kalamazoo Central for seven years now. Regardless of the weather, she catches the city bus and week after week, year after year, shows up consistently for our kids. “Suzie’s passion to serve students goes far beyond what is expected of any volunteer,” says CIS Site Coordinator Deborah Yarbrough. “She’s willing to adjust her schedule to accommodate the needs of both our students and staff.

Her flexibility has allowed CIS to connect her with the students who need her most. She provides academic support to student one-on-one and in small groups. She’s worked with students during study hall, after school, and during the lunch hour. While she primarily focuses on math, she’s willing to tutor in other subjects. “No French or Spanish,” she says, “but I’ll give everything else a try.”

Susan and Kalamazoo Cental student taking a break from tutoring to smile.

Smart, compassionate and humble, Susan credits her success with students to the support she’s received along the way. “CIS gave me the training I needed to be successful. I learned how to do things and just as importantly, what not to do.” She refers to CIS Site Coordinator Deborah Yarbrough and CIS Success Coach Jenna Cooperrider as her “CIS bosses…They aren’t bossy, though,” she says. “Because they know the students so well, they give me insight into what the students need from me. They’re role models. I watch their interactions and it helps me figure out what I should do, what I should tolerate or not tolerate when it comes to behaviors. They coordinate with each other and give me the support I need so I can support the student.”

“Volunteering,” someone once said, “is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.” Through her rock solid and steady support, Susan is creating a community of hope, one in which all children can fulfill their promise.

Susan Knox, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

Kalamazoo College Men’s Baseball Team: A Winning Record With Kids

Today we highlight Kalamazoo College Men’s Baseball Team, honored with a 2017 Champ Award. The team’s Champ award was sponsored by Warner, Norcross & Judd. CIS Board member Darren Timmeney presented the award.

Tommy Lasorda once said, “There are three types of baseball players: Those who make it happen, those who watch it happen and those who wonder what happens.” The young men who make up the Kalamazoo College Baseball Team and choose to volunteer with CIS are the kind who make things happen.

Since January 2013, these players have been stepping up to the plate to support students at Edison Environmental Science Academy, both during the day and as part of the CIS after school program. Students and teachers alike look forward to the players coming each and every week. These young men can be counted on to be present and fully engaged with the students. Step into the school and you might find players serving as tutors, playground friends, and offering classroom support. After school, they might be sharing dinner, conversations, and participating in recess activities with students.

(From left) Assistant Coach/Recruiting Coordinator Jake VanAlten, Brent Yelton, Aaron Schwark, Jack Clark, Ian Kobernick, Jack Dynes, Head Coach Mike Ott, and Athletic Director Kristen Smith.

While faithfully serving at Edison, some have gone on to extend support to students at other CIS sites. Phillip Hegwood, CIS After School Coordinator for Woodward School for Technology and Research, says that the two teammates supporting the Woodward students “show their passion and dedication to the students as much as if they were on the field practicing. They give 110% and the students always love when they come to volunteer.”

Edison’s CIS Site Coordinator Keely Novotny and After School Coordinator Stacy Jackson both say that it’s the team’s on-going commitment to building relationships, to mentoring and tutoring that is making a meaningful impact in the lives of the students.

The team’s head coach, Mike Ott, nurtures that sense of commitment, creating an environment in which the Hornets experience success as a team both on and off the field. Although the players maintain a full school schedule and admirable grade point averages, in addition to their baseball practices and games, they make it a priority in their busy schedules to connect with the KPS students. Some players have been that consistent presence since their freshman year and are now seniors, preparing to graduate.

Both school and CIS staff love how the students eagerly anticipate the arrival of the players. Even before the school bell rings to announce the start of day, it’s not uncommon to spot a first grader seeking out the CIS Site Coordinator and ask, “Mrs. Novotny, is Jack coming today?” Each time, she’ll say, “Yes, he’ll be here” and each time, he and all the other players prove her right.

Kalamazoo College Men’s Baseball Team, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

 

Prevention Works: Strengthening Our Kids

From left: Director of Programs Lola Amos, Assistant Director Nicole Storteboom, Executive Director Danielle Sielatycki, Program Facilitator Lenye Tynes, CIS Site Coordinator Precious Miller, and Program Coordinator Katie MacDonald.

 

Today we highlight Prevention Works, honored with a 2017 Champ Award. The non-profit’s Champ award was sponsored by Borgess. CIS Board member Carolyn H. Williams presented the award.

A healthy start and a healthy future is one of the five basics that Communities In Schools believes every child needs and deserves in order to be the best student and the best person they can be. For more than a decade, CIS has turned to Prevention Works to help us create stronger, healthier students and families throughout the Kalamazoo Public Schools.

We count on Prevention Works to deliver evidence-based prevention programs that are both engaging and educational. They address substance abuse prevention, violence prevention, bullying, family life skills, parenting, sexual health and adolescent health, and they encourage young people and their families to make wise decisions and live healthy lives.

Spring Valley Center for Exploration students participating in Prevention Works program as part of CIS After School.

 

Hillside Middle School’s CIS Site Coordinator Precious Miller works closely with Prevention Works Program Director Lola Amos to connect just the right programs to the right students and classrooms. She says, “Prevention Works staff helps our students get in touch with what they’re dealing with at home and school—to put a language to what they’re experiencing. Students learn that it’s okay to share that information with those they trust, that we are here for them.”

Prevention Works at Hillside Middle School. From left: Program Facilitator Lenye Tynes, Director of Programs Lola Amos, KPS Principal Atiba McKissack, CIS Site Coordinator Precious Miller, and Prevention Works Program Coordinator Katie MacDonald.

When Prevention Works Katie McDonald and Lenye Tynes stepped into Hillside classrooms, lives changed. As one student said, “I’m not bullied anymore. They helped the bully and they helped me.” He says his grades have improved since he’s able to focus on learning and no longer worries about what will happen once he steps outside the school. “Prevention Works is an incredible resource for our students,” says Precious.

CIS Site Coordinator January Haulenbeek agrees. When she was looking to meet the needs of a group of Northglade Montessori Magnet School students—all boys, ranging from first through third grade—she turned to Prevention Works. “Sure enough,” January says, “they provided the perfect facilitator. As a recent college graduate and young professional, Matt quickly built rapport with the students. The boys looked forward to their weekly meetings with Matt. He inspired them to dream big. He helped them take responsibility for their futures by focusing them on decisions and choices they could control.”

Victoria, a seventh grader at Hillside has been a huge fan of Prevention Works since her elementary days. “Prevention Works teaches different things,” she explains, “like how to handle peer pressure and how to be responsible. They’ve taught us how to turn down alcohol and other substances. They’ve taught us how to communicate better.”

Ever since her site coordinator connected her to the Strengthening Families Program, Victoria notices the change in her own family. “We compromise more,” she says. “My mother and I went through all seven weeks and my sister and dad came twice with us. We all talk more as a family. We try and see things from each other’s point of view.”

Prevention Works, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

Carolyn H. Williams (at podium) presenting the Champ Award as representatives from Prevention Works look on. From left: Executive Director Danielle Sielatycki, Program Director Lola Amos, Assistant Director Nicole Storteboom, Board Member Lisa Salay, Program Facilitator Lenye Tynes, and Program Coordinator Katie MacDonald.
CIS board member Carolyn H. Williams looks on as Executive Director Danielle Sielatycki is congratulated by Borgess sponsor representative and Chief Development Officer of Borgess Foundation Tony McDonnell on Prevention Works 2017 Champ Award.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Champs Among Us

 

This past Wednesday, CIS board and staff had a fabulous time hosting the almost 400 people who gathered at the Radisson for the 10th Annual Champs event to honor community partners who share in the CIS vision— an engaged community where every child fulfills his or her promise— by actively putting forth time, energy, talent and resources to drive this vision to reality.

 

All in for kids, this year’s Champs are:

Evening Custodians: Mike Free, Ike Thurman, and Chalene Watson,

KPS Custodians of Milwood Magnet Middle School

Kalamazoo College Men’s Baseball Team, CIS Higher Learning Partner

Pfizer, CIS Business Partner

Prevention Works, CIS Nonprofit Partner

Rotary Club of Kalamazoo, CIS Service Club Partner

Susan Knox, CIS Volunteer

The CIS Board also honored Von and Fran Washington with the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award. This award is named for Western Michigan University President Emeritus Diether Haenicke. As educators, creators, and professional performers, this couple and their company, Washington Productions, use the performing arts to extend the dialogue of race, culture, identity, and what it means to be American. They gave an unforgettable acceptance speech that awed us all. We’ll feature the Washingtons next week.

Special thanks to the event sponsors:

  • PNC,
  • Maestro,
  • Lawrence Productions,
  • BASIC,
  • Borgess,
  • Fifth Third,
  • Greenleaf Trust,
  • Miller-Davis Company,
  • Schupan & Sons,
  • TowerPinkster,
  • Warner Norcross & Judd,
  • Western Michigan University,
  • Bronson,
  • First National Bank of Michigan, and
  • Kreis Enderle Hudgins & Borsos.

As Von Washington Jr., Executive Director of Community Relations with the Kalamazoo Promise, and emcee who kept the event flowing said, “You are all champions for children!”

In addition to hearing brief, yet memorable remarks from Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice and CIS Board President Dr. Tim Light, guests were treated to a performance of “Glorious.” As many of you know, “Glorious” was conducted by Dr. Eric Barth, Kalamazoo Kids In Tune Curriculum Director.  (Kalamazoo Kids in Tune is a partnership of The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Kalamazoo Public Schools, and Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo.) The children were joined by soloist Christine Mason, a CIS Youth Development Worker at Woods Lake.  Kalamazoo Kids in Tune, along with students from Arcadia, El Sol, Spring Valley, Woods Lake and Woodward Elementary Schools and Kalamazoo Central High School, Maple Street and Milwood Magnet Middle Schools filled the ballroom with glorious sounds. Bravo to all involved in the performance (both in front of and behind the scenes)!

Curt Johnson, a senior at Kalamazoo Central High School, shared his CIS story—which we’ll be publishing here in the coming weeks —and lifted up the voices and needs of the more than 11,000 students that CIS serves throughout 20 Kalamazoo Public Schools. Thank you, Curt!

A special shout out to our CIS Site Teams, the CIS Site Coordinators, After School Coordinators, Youth Development Workers, VISTAs, and interns who provide the infrastructure to support the hundreds of marvelous volunteers and community partners who work to help children stay in school and achieve in life.

So, keep up with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids to discover the Champ experience. You’ll be able to read what our various presenters said about their efforts and thanks to CIS volunteer, Don Kingery, you’ll be able to see what guests saw (and missed!) through his photographic lens.

We think you’ll agree it’s not just a one day event!

Sitting at table, left to right: Namita Sharma, Carolyn H. Williams, Sid Williams, and Moses Walker

 

2016 Champs Celebration

“I liked learning what businesses, teachers, your volunteers and partners are doing with you in the schools.” This was one of many comments guests made after attending Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) ninth annual Champs event at Cityscape. This year’s event was presented by PNC and Stryker. Over the next few months, we’ll be sharing more about each of the eight award winners (noted below).

Another guest said, “I love how you bookend your program with kids; couldn’t think of a better way to start than with Kids in Tune—those little kids were adorable—and end with a graduating Senior talking about her experience with CIS.”

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Kid in Tune graduates who are now in middle school accompanied the younger singers.  They are living out one of the five CIS basics: an opportunity to give back.
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Performing “Yes You Can”

 

“Those little kids” the guest referred to are first and second graders who hail from Woods Lake Elementary School and are part of the Kids in Tune Fundamentals Program. Kids in Tune is a partnership among The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra (a 2013 Champ), Kalamazoo Public Schools, and Communities In Schools. Conducted by Dr. Eric Barth, Kalamazoo Kids In Tune Curriculum Director, the students performed “Yes You Can” by Donnie McClurkin. The students were accompanied by Christine Mason, a Youth Development Worker for the past two years with CIS.

Closing out the evening was Doreisha Reed, graduating this year from Kalamazoo Central High School. She graciously shared her speech with us so we can share it with you in a future post.

Doreisha Reed, Kalamazoo Central High School, Class of 2016
Doreisha Reed, Kalamazoo Central High School, Class of 2016

Guests also had an opportunity to watch “Who We Are,” a music video created, produced, and performed by Milwood Magnet Middle School students in their CIS after school program, which is funded by the Michigan Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers grants. The students worked closely with 2012 Champ and partner, BANGTOWN Productions & Recordings.  The students received national recognition for this creation: their music video was chosen as the Video Spotlight winner of the Communities In Schools National Leadership Town Hall this year. You can watch it here.

In the weeks to come we’ll introduce you to the award winners who were in between these two marvelous “bookends,” people like Rosemary Gardiner, CEO of Family & Children Services. The CIS Board honored her with the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award.

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Dr. Tim Light, President, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo Board with Rosemary Gardiner, CEO of Family & Children Services.

Tune into CW7 this Friday, May 27th at 4pm, to watch Rosemary and Pam Kingery, Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, on The Lori Moore Show. Then come back here on Tuesday and learn more about Rosemary Gardiner.

Congratulations to all of this year’s Champs:

Oshtemo Area Churches (OAC), CIS Faith-based Partner

Honoré Salon, CIS Business Partner

Big Brothers Big Sisters A Community of Caring, CIS Nonprofit Partner

Angelita Aguilar, Dean of Students, Kalamazoo Central High School

WMU Medallion Scholars, CIS Higher Learning Partner

Patrick Early, CIS Volunteer

Team Trailblazers, KPS Teachers, Maple Street Magnet Middle School

We also want to give a shout out to our CIS Site Teams, the CIS Site Coordinators, Youth Development Workers, VISTAs, and interns who provide the infrastructure to support the hundreds of marvelous volunteers and community partners who work through Communities In Schools to help children throughout Kalamazoo Public School stay in school and achieve in life.

 

Little Sprout: Planting Seeds of Success

Owner/Founder of Little Sprout Children’s Boutique accepting Champs award from CIS Board member Steve Powell and CIS Site Coordinator Maureen Cartmill.
Owner/Founder of Little Sprout Children’s Boutique accepting Champs award from CIS Board member Steve Powell and CIS Site Coordinator Maureen Cartmill.

Today we highlight Little Sprout Children’s Boutique. This CIS business partner was one of eight organizations and individuals honored  at the annual Champ Celebration.  CIS Board Member Steve Powell, along with Maureen Cartmill, CIS Site Coordinator at Woods Lake Elementary: A Magnet Center for the Arts, presented the award. 

 

In the United States, there are approximately 28 million small businesses. Over half of the country’s working population works in a small business, and small businesses have generated over 65% of the net new jobs since 1965. So it’s safe to say that small businesses are a powerful part of our community. Today, we honor one small business for impacting our community in a different way.

Little Sprout Children’s Boutique, Kalamazoo’s first specialty children’s clothing store, was opened by Jeanine Seabold in 2010.

Jeanine Seabold, Owner/Founder of Little Sprout Children’s Boutique
Jeanine Seabold, Owner/Founder of Little Sprout Children’s Boutique

During the summer of 2012, Jeanine had an idea to stage a children’s fashion show with the proceeds benefiting a local nonprofit who worked with children. Supporting the CIS Kids’ Closet seemed like the perfect fit for helping local kids and Jeanine’s business.

While this could have been a “one and done” partnership, Jeanine reached out to CIS the next summer with yet another idea: encouraging customers to donate school supplies for the CIS Kids’ Closet.  Customers would receive a discount for their donation of school supplies and Jeanine generously offered to also donate a percentage of her anniversary sales to benefit CIS.  Little Sprout has continued this partnership every year since then.

Jeanine-outside-her-storeWith half of all new businesses closing within their first five years, it would be easy for Little Sprout to focus solely on its own success.  However, Jeanine sees success of local businesses and education as intertwined, saying, “Over the years, the critical role education plays in our economic success has become more and more apparent to me. Good, strong school systems encourage people to settle in our region because industries are more apt to locate in areas that are attractive to potential employees. Also, a well-educated population tends to spark community activism and involvement. It’s important that all local businesses in our community recognize the importance of our educational system and work with educators to seek ways to improve it. That’s why we, at Little Sprout, feel it is imperative to support organizations such as CIS, who help to ensure that ALL of our communities’ children are receiving the best opportunities.”

Little Sprout Children’s Boutique, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

Click here to watch Jeanine Seabold, Owner/Founder of Little Sprout Children’s Boutique  and Emily Kobza, CIS Director of Development and Business Engagement on The Lori Moore Show.

Radiant Church

20140506-DSC_7611Today we celebrate the work of Radiant Church. An emerging faith based partner with CIS, Radiant was honored this past May at the seventh annual Champ Celebration. CIS Board Member Dr. Randall Eberts along with Jen DeWaele, CIS Site Coordinator at Woodward School for Technology and Research, presented the award.

When volunteers from Radiant Church plan on giving, they think BIG…so big that their BIG Give Winterfest at Edison Environmental Science Academy involved over 250 volunteers who created a special holiday experience for the elementary students. The centerpiece of the event was a free shopping spree that gave every student a new winter coat, hat, boots, and gloves. No detail was left to chance.

The night before the event, a semi-trailer truck full of merchandise and department store racks pulled up to the school. Volunteers literally decked the halls, creating a winter wonderland to greet the students the next morning. They transformed the gym into a department store with separate sections for boys and girls. Each child was assigned a personal shopper to assist them with finding just the right winter wardrobe. At lunchtime, students were treated to pizza and holiday songs. The teachers were not left out. They enjoyed a special lunch and each received a holiday gift bag. Every child left school that day with a shopping bag filled with beautiful winterwear. But they left with much more than that—a feeling that despite the polar vortex we all endured this past winter, they were cared for by their community.

100_4402Radiant’s warmth spread beyond the walls of Edison and entered Woodward School for Technology and Research, providing winterwear for many more students. Jen DeWaele, CIS Site Coordinator at Woodward, said “We were simply overwhelmed by the generosity of Radiant Church. They were so genuine, not to mention super organized. In addition to providing coats, boots, hats, and mittens for the students, they cooked a delicious, homemade meal for teachers and staff, welcoming and serving them over the course of the afternoon.”

Radiant Church also helped make sure students got off to a great school year by providing mountains of school supplies. CIS Site Coordinators throughout were able to make sure that all students were able to start the new school year with the tools they needed to be successful.

What Radiant Church provides is more than the material things many of our students need for school success. It is the abundant spirit that their volunteers generously impart to our children that is the true gift.

Radiant Church, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

 

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If you didn’t get the chance to read the blog post, “A Gift of Warmth for Edison” by Donna Carroll, Director of Health Initiatives for CIS, then do yourself a favor and read it now. It really captures the beautiful work of Radiant Church in our schools.