Do you do your best and try hard, too?

Last week, more than 420 guests attended the 11th annual CIS Champs Celebration, presented by Kalsec. Before guests even entered the Radisson’s Arcadia Ballroom, they were treated to a live performance by the Kalamazoo Kids In Tune Middle School Ensemble, under the direction of Ben Gudbrandson and sponsored by Warner Norcross + Judd. It was clear these young musicians had practiced and practiced as they performed at their best.

 

 

What about you? Do you do your best and try hard, too? That is one of the questions fourth graders from Woodward School for Technology and Research asked the grown-ups in the room. Kyla Clark, Isaac Dyer, Kiana Gill, Kieara Virgil, and Curtis Whitfield, representing their Woodward peers, recited “The Kalamazoo Poem” at Champs (their presence sponsored by Borgess). As part of Mrs. Calloway’s English class at Woodward, these KPS students were five of the 60 fourth graders from Mrs. Rice, Mrs. Polsco, and Mrs. Calloway’s classes who participated in poetry workshops facilitated by CIS. The poem also incorporates several lines written by students involved in the CIS After School Program at Milwood Elementary School. On April 7, 2018, “The Kalamazoo Poem” premiered at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts as part of the 5th Annual Kalamazoo Poetry Festival.

We share with you, this week, their poem and hope you’ll keep up with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids to discover the Champs experience. We’ll be publishing the two inspiring speeches given by representatives of the Class of 2018, Kanequewa Steward, Kalamazoo Central High School, and Dreon Smith, Loy Norrix High School. Over the coming weeks you’ll also be inspired (for the first time, or all over again!) by learning what each one of the eight award winners is doing to help kids stay in school and achieve in life.

Thanks to CIS volunteer Don Kingery and CIS youth development worker Nae Williams, you’ll also be able to see what guests saw (and missed!) through their photographic lens.

The Kalamazoo Poem

We love Kalamazoo.

All the wonderful places you can go,
like home, the Kalamazoo Public Library,
and all the schools.
I love going to school and learning.

Kalamazoo can be loving and caring,
even to people who aren’t always nice.

This big, wonderful city has all my friends in it.
In this city that is not too big and not too small
people can be themselves.
Did I mention I love the schools?
That teachers are teaching?

Kalamazoo does not have hurricanes.
Get this: it has a banana car!

My head feels like it will explode
because Kalamazoo is so cool.
I love the way people handle their biz.
I love the summer and wind.

My family is here. My friends.
My school. My teachers. Me!

Kalamazoo is the best city I’ve ever been to,
it’s our home, we have the Promise–and college is free!

You see, people here treat each other with kindness.

Kalamazoo can be so kind.

Kalamazoo gives presents and parties on cold, Christmas mornings.
It gives us teachers and tutors who help us with our work.

People say kind words. Someone says hi.
Students listen to their teacher.
We play together. We clean up. We get along.

When people are put down, Kalamazoo help them get back up.
We get together and help the homeless, the poor,
and those who are feeling sad.
We fix each other’s houses.

I wish everybody had a home
and that it never snowed.

Yes, there are things we wish were true about Kalamazoo.

We need more good jobs.
If only everything cost a penny!
I wish the river wasn’t polluted,
that I could see my dad.

I wish we always remembered to treat others
how we want to be treated.

I wish we had a robot.
If only rappers lived in Kalamazoo
and there was no such thing as the flu.

I wish Kalamazoo was 5,000 miles long and 5,000 miles wide.
I wish everybody-and I mean everybody-could be in my family.

I wish I could help everyone
and that we wouldn’t stop helping each other—
even when we don’t always get it right.

I wish that the power wouldn’t get shut off.
I wish everyone had a place to live and I had a bed of my own.
There should be a waterpark in the middle of town.

If only Kalamazoo was California. I miss my cousins.
I miss my mom. I worry and wonder where she is.
We need more bikes and shooting stars.

No shootings! There is a scared little street
that worries someone could get hurt today.
Will you keep me safe forever?
I dream I will become ….

A firefighter, a doctor, a teacher, an artist,
a football player, a wildlife technician…

Will you take care of me?
Help me learn today?
Be there when I grow up?
Will you do your best, like us, and try hard, too?

-a group poem by 4th graders of Woodward

At the conclusion of the poem, Kiana asked emcee, Dr. John Oliver, if they could introduce the next speaker. Dr. Oliver graciously agreed. Kyla then called Dr. Michael Rice to the stage and Curtis let everybody know that Dr. Rice is their superintendent. Kieara shared that “he likes poetry, just like us!” Isaac pointed out that every day, “and I mean every day—Dr. Rice does his best, and like us, he tries hard, too.”

The students then gifted Dr. Rice with a book, the completed works of Langston Hughes, signed by the fourth graders of Woodward.

What about you? Are you working hard for kids, too?

If you believe in our efforts to ensure that ALL kids stay in school and achieve in life, you can learn about volunteer opportunities here, or go here to learn more about other ways to support kids, or call us at 269.337.1601.

 

Trio of Custodians Going Above and Beyond For Kids

2017 Champs (from left): Ike Thurman, Chalene Watson, and Mike Free.

Today we highlight the Evening Custodians of Milwood Magnet Middle School. Mike Free, Ike Thurman, and Chalene Watson have been honored with a 2017 Champ Award. This trio’s Champ award was sponsored by TowerPinkster. CIS Board member and President and CEO of Maestro, Jen Randall, presented the award.

Trio on stage at the 2017 Champs Celebration.

When the school day ends, the work of these Champs is just beginning. Kalamazoo Public Schools has entrusted these three individuals with taking care of Milwood Magnet Middle School. Not only do Mike Free, Ike Thurman, and Chalene Watson embrace their work as evening custodians and care for the school building,” says CIS Site Coordinator Keith Platte, “they look out for the students who move through the halls.” He also notes that they see kids benefitting from the 500 healthy snacks we’re able to deliver each month thanks to our partnership with Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes. They clean every scrap of paper the kids leave behind and perform heroic raisin and applesauce clean-up for students who forget to properly dispose of their healthy snacks during the school day. We would literally be a mess without them!”

“They are the unsung heroes of the CIS After School Program,” says After School Coordinator Maggie Walters. “I would not have survived last school year without them. All three go above and beyond their regular duties to support the CIS mission. Friendly and helpful, they go out of their way to stop by and say hello to me, my staff, and the students. They are always ready with emergency supplies.”

“Our kids,” Maggie says, “love to create stuff and creating, by its very nature, is messy. So, for Cooking Club, they bring out the big rolling garbage cans for us, they find drop cloths for our Arts & Crafts, they provide cleaning sprays and paper towels—the good kind!—so we can clean up after ourselves.”

“And on those days when a student has been struggling, all three of them—at different times—have stepped in to help. Students seek them out because they are a beacon of light within the school; they provide a safe haven for our kids. They listen, give great advice, and are super encouraging. It’s not in their job description to assist with student behaviors, but when a caring adult is what’s required, they’re there for the kids.”

A vital part of the CIS mission, this trio of custodians creates an environment where the floors shine and the children do too.

Mr. Mike, Mr. Ike, and Ms. Chalene, as evening custodians of Milwood Magnet Middle School, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

(From left) CIS After School Coordinator Maggie Walters, KPS Custodians and Champs Ike Thurman, Chalene Watson, and Mike Free, and CIS Site Coordinator Keith Platte.

 

 

Duo Helps Students Succeed Every Day

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

What happens when you bring a Knight and Giant together? You get the powerhouse team of CIS Site Coordinator Tamiko Garrett and CIS After School Coordinator Jenee McDaniel. These two graduates of Kalamazoo Public Schools sat down with us to reflect on the work they do at Linden Grove Middle School to help students stay in school and achieve in life.

How do you two work together to provide cohesive, seamless support from daytime through after school to help students get and stay on track to graduation?

Tamiko: Jenee and I have open communication with each other. When we enroll students in CIS, we keep in mind whether the student would be best served with daytime or after school. It’s always about what is the best fit for the student and their family.

Jenee: We’re in constant communication, whether it’s on the phone, touching base in the morning, during the day, after school. We often re-evaluate situations and are always open to making adjustments to services or resources we have in place. To do this work well, you have to think out of the box. We do that. If we need to meet on a Sunday night to make something happen, so be it.

What qualities do you admire in each other that help you work so well together?

Tamiko: Jenee and I are opposite in so many ways and that makes us a good team. We play to each other’s strengths. Jenee is so genuine and I also admire her outspokenness. I observe, then choose my words.

What’s the easiest part about working together?

Jenee: We both have a good understanding of what needs to be done. There’s no competition between us. We can count on each other. I know that Tamiko’s not just checking off the boxes to get something done. She really cares and is knowledgeable about her job. I respect that.

What’s the most challenging aspect when it comes to collaborating?

Jenee: We’re here to do what we’re here to do. It helps that we collaborate on everything, from how we communicate, to our schedules, to how we’re going to best serve these students. We have a process that works well in this school.

Tamiko: So when we get our enrollment list—kids with a strategic needs in attendance, behavior, or academics who could possibly benefit from CIS support to become proficient in one or more of the areas—we sit down with our Principal, Craig McCane and Ms. Mahannah of the Student Services team. They know the kids and their input is invaluable. After we’ve worked out a game plan, Jenee and I lead mini “lunch & learns” with the students. We explain CIS, the various resources, and how that support looks in the day and after school. It’s not just an adult- or parent- driven process: “you’re going to do this!” but kids are involved from the beginning. Because they feel a sense of ownership from the start, they’re more invested and stick with the program. Linden Grove Middle School makes it easy to collaborate, from Principal McCane, to the teachers and staff, to the school secretaries, Heather Morrison and Linda Farrell, and the custodian, Michael Watson.

Jenee: The school has made us feel like we’re a part of their team, so it’s easy for us to be a team with each other and do our jobs. We both regularly check and monitor students’ progress and grades. Students do better when they know someone is going to supply their needs and hold them accountable. For students to graduate, a lot of pieces must come together. First off, basic needs must be met. It’s that whole Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Tamiko, in her role as Site Coordinator, provides a lot of that, tapping CIS Kids’ Closet. It’s the simplest things that can be a deal breaker and keep a student from graduating. It’s cold out and they don’t have a coat. They need a snack, a shirt, a feminine hygiene product. The students know they can come to CIS to get those things. They know that the community is providing this support, that somebody has their back and cares. They aren’t a number because they know ‘somebody is thinking about me.’

What has CIS at Linden Grove been doing to impact social emotional learning (SEL), one of six CIS program goals for the year?

Tamiko: Right now, we have Hospice doing an eight week grief and loss group. Hospice is an awesome partner. Usually, when you think of Hospice you think of someone dying, but there are many types of losses and Hospice helps our kids deal with them—separation of parents, divorce, witnessing the death of a loved one, or whatever form loss takes, period. Sometime, all our kids can think about is their loss. Cate, the therapist is helping them gain coping skills so they can focus on their academics.

Jenee: After school, we have a girls’ group, “I Am Beautiful” as well as “Young Men Overcoming Barriers.” We come up with a game plan, activities, and question starters for each of the groups. Say the activity is doing facials, then questions asked might be, What do people see in you? What do you see in yourself? Soon enough, someone asks if the group can talk about being two-faced and so friendships and other real issues like that get explored.

We help the kids do this in a safe forum. We’ve used movies and TV clips as well as correlating music with feelings. What’s your family’s song? If you had to write the sound track of your life, what would it be? The students connect with these approaches so it allows for conversations and reflections around a whole range of topics: non-traditional family situations, dating situations, who is your safe person to talk to, race, and cultural acceptance. Each day, we have a plan and an idea of what we want to accomplish and the kids roll it in a new direction and take it elsewhere. It’s real cool and that’s how it should be.

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.

Keeping the Lights on for the CIS After School Program

cis-after-school-program-lights-on-afterschool-4Today millions of people throughout America are turning the lights on as part of the 17th annual Lights On Afterschool to emphasize the importance of keeping lights on and doors open for after school programs. National Lights On Afterschool Awareness Day is Thursday, October 20, 2016, and Kalamazoo Public School students will be doing their part to shed light on the need to invest in after school programs.

This week, elementary and secondary students who participate in Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) After School Programs are coming up with their own ways to shine the spotlight on quality after school support. Students are writing letters to public officials and stakeholders, making artwork, reading essays, and holding a neighborhood march to raise the public’s awareness about the need for after school opportunities.

Recent data from America After 3PM, shows a vast unmet demand for after school programs nationwide. The study found that nationally for every one child who participates in an after school program, three children would be enrolled if a program were available to them. In Michigan, the majority of parents agree that after school programs excite children about learning. More work needs to be done to meet the need for after school programs that keep kids safe, inspire them to learn.

cis-after-school-program-lights-on-afterschool-8“Lights On Afterschool celebrates the remarkable work being done by students who attend the CIS After School Program as well as other after school programs throughout the nation,” says Dr. Linda Thompson, CIS Senior Director of Site Services. “It is a powerful reminder that after school programs offer a range of benefits to students and families. We must make sure that decision makers and other stakeholders are aware of the benefits after school programs provide and continue their support.”

CIS After School Programs extend the learning day Monday through Thursday in 15 KPS schools. A significant body of research demonstrates that students who regularly attend after school programs are more likely to improve their grades, tests scores and overall academic behavior. In the 2016/17 school year, CIS anticipates serving over 1,000 children during after school time.

CIS relies heavily on local resources and partnerships for its core work during the school day including placing CIS Site Coordinators within schools to identify needs and connect students to the right resources to remove barriers to school success. The CIS After School Program is available thanks to the support of federal dollars awarded through the Michigan Department of Education (21st Century Community Learning Centers).

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Western Michigan University Medallion Scholars

CIS Board Members Bob Miller, Associate Vice President of WMU (left) and Stephen Denefeld, Lewis, Reed & Allen, P.C. (right) congratulate WMU Medallion Scholars. Representing the Scholars, (left to right) Josh Ayerdi, Kylie Dennis, Marine Boillet, and Ed Ryan.
CIS Board Members Bob Miller, Associate Vice President of WMU (left) and Stephen Denenfeld, Lewis, Reed & Allen, P.C. (right) congratulate WMU Medallion Scholars. Representing the Scholars, (left to right) Josh Ayerdi, Kylie Dennis, Marine Boillet, and Ed Ryan.

Today we highlight Western Michigan University Medallion Scholars, one of seven school and community partners honored with a 2016 Champ Award. Their award was sponsored by Western Michigan University and CIS Board Member, Steve Denenfeld, presented the award.

In 2013, when Western Michigan University Medallion Scholars from Lee Honors College reflected on their education, they realized some of their toughest years were in middle school. They wished they’d had someone there for them academically and to help them navigate the social, emotional and sometimes choppy waters of middle school. So, for the past three years, once a week, these fourteen scholars from Lee Honors College have been doing just that for students at Milwood Magnet Middle School.

“The impact on students has been phenomenal,” says Tamiko Garrett, CIS Site Coordinator at Milwood. “Attendance has improved and students, once reluctant to do homework, now look forward to it. Scholars Travis, Marine, Leslie, Jake, Kelly, and Jenna have sparked students’ passion for learning.” On Tuesdays, students often stop by the CIS office to make sure Ana, Emily, Ben, or Elizabeth is coming. “I have math homework to do with Zach today, you know,” reminds Amarion, who, by the way, now wants to become an engineer like Zach.

These one-on-one relationships enhance these middle schoolers’ sense of who they are and what they can accomplish in school and life. Medallion Scholar Ed Ryan studies graphic design and works with Ben in the school’s animation club. They eat and then finish homework together. Ben, too, wants to be a graphic designer. Narisse Martin is in biomedical sciences, pursuing the path of a doctor. Her mentee, Brianna, wants to explore a career in science.

A few of the WMU Medallion Scholars with some of their Milwood Magnet Middle School students
A few of the WMU Medallion Scholars with some of the Milwood Magnet Middle School students.

These and other successful matches don’t just happen. It takes behind-the-scenes coordination. Tamiko, as Site Coordinator, connects the right resources to the right kids at the right time. She credits Jane Baas, Associate Dean of Lee Honors College, with getting the program off to a strong start as she provided a profile of the Medallion Scholars, which included their academic majors. As Tamiko met with each of the middle school students, reflecting on their interests in communication, theatre, science, and music, this information proved invaluable in connecting the right middle schooler to the right scholar. Jane is a steady support for the Medallion Scholars and staying in close communication with CIS.

From left: Josh Ayerdi, Kylie Dennis, Jane Baas, Marine Boillet, and Ed Ryan
(From left) Josh Ayerdi, Kylie Dennis, Jane Baas, Marine Boillet, and Ed Ryan.

Milwood Magnet teachers are also part of the program’s success as teachers stay after school to give students that extra boost. Teachers like Ms. Zang and Ms. Hawkinson are always reaching out to the Site Coordinator, saying things like “Have them come down to my room this afternoon to discuss an assignment they can work on together.”

“We’re all behind the Medallion Scholars because they put students first,” says Tamiko. “We all count on them to be here each week and when one of them can’t make it, they let me know so I can prepare the student and identify another mentor to double up so that no student is left out.”

Tattiana says, “Giulia helps me with my homework. We play games—only when I finish my homework—and she is nice. She’s also funny, smart, kind, and helpful.”  Natacia says, “I like spending time with Kylie. I can talk to her about things and I get help with my homework.”  “Sami is great and awesome,” says Devy. “We do fun things.  She helps me with my homework.  When I try to get her to do my homework she won’t.  She keeps encouraging me!!” Darius says, “Josh is cool.  He helps me get my homework done, and I know it is correct.  I look forward to coming to the CIS After School program, especially when I know Josh will be there.”

As these scholars graduate from college and their mentees advance to high school, the scholars have accomplished what they set out to do: sparking hope in the future leaders of Kalamazoo.

WMU Medallion Scholars, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.