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).

cis-after-school-program-lights-on-afterschool-9

cis-after-school-program-lights-on-afterschool-14

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.