High School Graduate: CIS Lifted Me Up

Kanequewa Steward graduated from Kalamazoo Central High School this past spring, Last month, she reflected on her CIS experience at the 11thAnnual Champ Celebration. Kanequewa has graciously given permission for us to publish her remarks here, at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids.

PNC was the Student Spotlight Sponsor and Steve Powell, on behalf of PNC, presented Kanequewa with an Apple iPad Pro as a gift to help her continue her education this fall as a Kalamazoo Promise scholar

 

Good evening, everyone. When writing this speech, I didn’t know where I should start. I have so many memories and was conflicted on what I wanted to bring up first. Has anyone ever felt so alone it made you want to give up on everything? You just thought, “I can’t do anything right. No one loves me, so why am I here? Do I matter? Who would miss me? We all have been there once in our lives, right? Well, I know I’ve struggled with this multiple times that it’s not even funny. Now I know, everyone’s like, “Where is she going with this?” Well, I’ll tell you…

It all started in the 6th grade when I got connected to CIS and started attending the CIS after school program. My sister and I used to go after school all the time. Mr. [Kevin] Lavender—he was our CIS site coordinator—was the best. He always helped me when I needed it. Made sure I kept my grades up, and he was a person I could confide in at such a young age.

Yeah, I know you’re all like, “How could a middle-schooler know what was so good for her at the time?” Well, it goes like this. “I was struggling with letting my anger out on other people. I knew I had a big heart, but I was always afraid to show it. But being part of Communities In Schools gave me an outlet. I could come and have fun, get help on homework. I could even cry when I needed to.

Now, going into high school I thought my CIS years were over and that was the end, not yet knowing they had summer programs, and most importantly, Mrs. Yarbrough. Taking part in CIS Think Summer opened up many doors for me. I met so many people that cared about me, they were always making sure I was okay, and that I had what I needed. It’s something I wish I could continue to do now.

Okay, so do we all remember when I asked my question about feeling helpless and what not? Well, in 10th grade I went down a bumpy road. My heart was broken and I was starting to lose hope and faith. It was at the point to where I self-harmed at least twice a day. I knew why I felt this way, but then again, I didn’t. I was only 15. Why should I feel such pain? I always thought my past was my fault. So it ate me up inside. I didn’t want to live, saw was no reason for it, until I met Mrs. [Deborah] Yarbrough.

Now some of you may ask, “Who is that? What do she do?” And that’s why I’m going to tell you.

Mrs. Yarbrough is the CIS Site Coordinator at Kalamazoo Central High School. I went to her office one day and I cried. I cried so hard I couldn’t see—and she let me. She held me and she told me it was going to be okay. She isn’t someone who says stuff to make you feel better. She said it because she knows how it feels; when you just need a break from the world. And she allows you the time to get that. While I was dealing with so much, Mrs. Yarbrough went out of her way to provide me with services. And boy, did they help! From group therapy, to one-on-one therapy. She provided the best help there was. Not only did she help me then, but also when I lost some friends in a tragic incidence I knew exactly where to go to: her. She’s always known how to help me get by; and I thank her for that.

Communities In Schools has saved my life. CIS has provided me with hope, lifted me up when I was down, and gave me so many resources I couldn’t have gotten on my own. And, at this moment, being a part of CIS has helped me deal with the death of a friend who’s been a friend since third grade.

So, here I am. Without CIS support, I would be somewhere, not knowing what to do for myself or if I should even live. This program created many opportunities and I’m thankful to have had you with me through my journey.

I want to thank everyone that helped me and guided me. It wasn’t easy, but guess what? We did it! I’ve graduated from Kalamazoo Central and have been accepted into Adrian College! And it’s not the end, but the beginning to a new life, a happy and healthy life. Again, thank you for having the faith I didn’t have. I couldn’t have done it without you guys.

 

Two Shining Students: Diamond and Dominique Mahone

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. Today we feature twins, Diamond and Dominique Mahone.

Both students are fifth graders at King Westwood Elementary School and featured in our upcoming CIS Connections. In fact, they are the inspiration behind the newsletter’s theme: Double! We’re thankful to their school’s CIS Site Coordinator Laura Keiser for introducing us to these two young people who, because of their hard work, are succeeding in school. With support from their home and school family, and in concert with the community working through CIS, the twins attendance, behavior, and academics are on track as they prepare for middle school next year. “Diamond and Dominique are both unique and kind individuals,” notes Laura. “It’s wonderful to see how nice they are to each other. They compliment each other. Often, you see them walking around, arms casually resting around the other one’s shoulders.”

Earlier in the school year, we quizzed them separately and have combined their responses below. Alright, Diamond and Dominique: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

Diamond:  How to multiply decimals. My math teacher, Ms. Sankarsingh, taught me.

Dominique: I’ve learned a lot of things, like more about how to write in cursive. I’m really bad at it but I’m getting better. We did it in third and fourth, and now we’re working on it again.

Favorite word?

Diamond: Basketball. I play it at the Boys & Girls Club. I’ve been playing since I was two years old.

Dominique: Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

What are you currently reading?

Diamond: A book about a fire that happens in Detroit.  I think it’s part of the Titanic series.

Dominique: Amulet, Book 7 and it’s called Firelight.

Favorite subject?

Diamond: Math and reading. Ms. Ghastin is my reading teacher.

Dominique: Math, gym, and library. Ms. Cruz-Davis is my math teacher. Ms. Melvin teaches gym and Ms. Langsam is the librarian and we check out two books per week.

What’s the best part about being a twin?

Diamond: We get to play together.

Dominique: Having someone to play with all the time.

What’s the hardest part?

Diamond: When we have to share things.

Dominique: Fighting. We fight about lots of petty things, like the remote to the TV.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Diamond: A WNBA player.

Dominique: A doctor and a professional football player and maybe a soccer player and maybe a vet. I love animals. As a doctor, I might work with kids.

Upon graduating from high school, what colleges are you considering?

Diamond: Possibly Western.

Dominique: Kalamazoo College and then I might move to Florida for the hot weather.

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

Diamond: My mom. When I get bad grades, I can’t go anywhere until I do my homework.  Ms. Pierce, too. We check in with each other every day at school. She’s helped me with my behavior in the classroom.

Dominique: Ms. Laura and my parents. My parents help me with a lot of things. Like homework, spelling, and a whole lot of other things. Ms. Laura finds tutors for me to help me get A’s. She’s also generous and nice and kind. And she helps other people a lot in the school. If it’s a parent that’s visiting, she helps them. She might give them directions or something. If it’s a kid that needs something, she helps them get it. So like, I’m going to Sherman Lake next week and I need a sleeping bag and she’s getting one for me. [Turns to Ms. Laura as she walks in the door.] You’re getting me a sleeping bag, right? [Laura smiles and says, “I’ve got it Dominique. Don’t you worry.]

Thank you, Diamond and Dominique!

Dominique working with his CIS tutor, Pat Early. Dominique credits his tutor and others with helping him succeed in school. Be on the lookout for the upcoming CIS newsletter to learn more about the twins and the many caring adults in their lives.
Here is Diamond with one of her caring adults, CIS tutor Rosalie Novara.