POP QUIZ: Sheldon Turner

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 Sheldon Turner who will soon begin his fourth year with CIS as a youth development worker at Prairie Ridge Elementary School. Youth Development Workers, as their title implies, work hard to develop the strengths and talents of our youth by involving and empowering students in their own development. Like Sheldon, these enthusiastic caring adults are passionate about helping Kalamazoo Public School students succeed in school and in life. Students often refer to Sheldon and others in this important role as “coach.”

Thoughtful, gentle, and passionate about helping kids succeed, Sheldon says it was music that brought him from Muskegon, Michigan to Kalamazoo. As both the minister of music and music director at Renaissance Church of God in Christ in Grand Rapids, Sheldon is also all in for kids. In July, we had a chance to catch up with him while he was working at CIS Think Summer, held this year at Arcadia Elementary School.

Alright, Sheldon: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

POP QUIZ

In talking with Briasha, one of the students in CIS Think Summer, she identified you–Coach Sheldon–as one of the caring adults who is helping her succeed. What do you think about that?

Briasha is a great kid. We have so many great kids in the program.

How is CIS Think Summer going?

The program is going really well and the kids are learning a lot. We just had a visit from Pfizer and that was really great for the kids. They loved it. Some of them really wanted to be basketball players and now they are like, You know, I can actually have a career with Pfizer! It has opened them up to thinking, I can be more than one thing. I can be a basketball player and be a scientist, too. It’s always good to have a plan B, C, and D!

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

I’m learning from my job with CIS that kids engage better with kids and, given the chance, can naturally problem-solve together. That can be better than for me to come in and try to problem solve for them. I’ve seen it where, if students weren’t friends in the beginning, they’ll become friends by the end. I just need to let them work it out–that’s huge for me because I have a tendency to want to solve their problems for them. But it’s important to give them the opportunity to do this for themselves.

What are you currently reading?

Right now, along with the students, I’m reading a book called Long Shot by Mike Lupica. It’s about a kid and his team and how teamwork basically makes the dream work; that you can’t do things on your own.

What is your favorite word right now?

My favorite word right now is actually the “word of the week” here at CIS. This week’s word is confidence. And you know, focusing in on a word is fun and helps not just the kids, but the staff too! Confidence is about believing you can actually achieve things that you have planned. You can also think of it in terms of making it a goal to maintain confidences.

What is something you love about Kalamazoo?

I love the atmosphere of the entire town. I can go places and not feel you, know, like I’m being watched or something. Kalamazoo is just such a friendly city…the atmosphere, the people, the kids. Everything about this place is just amazing.

Behind every successful person is a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?

One of the caring adults in my life would have to be Stacy Jackson. She’s looked out for me year after year. She knows that I’m a hard worker, she knows that I love the kids, and she is part of the reason why I’m here helping with CIS Think Summer. I look at her as a mother figure.

She recognizes my work ethic and how well I work with the kids and engage with them to help them develop into what they’re not only good at doing, but also, what they’re meant to be.

Sheldon, thank you for hanging out with us at Ask Me About About My 12,000 Kids!

Our kids need more youth development workers, enthusiastic individuals like Sheldon, to step up and serve in an after school setting (Monday through Thursday) this school year. If you or someone you know might be right for the job, go here.

CIS Think Summer! Students Visited by Special Guest

When you hear the White House has a bowling alley downstairs!

Students recently welcomed Congressman Fred Upton to their CIS Think Summer! program at Arcadia Elementary School. Like CIS After School (which serves 750 students in 15 after school sites throughout the Kalamazoo Public Schools),  CIS Think Summer! was in full swing this year (for both elementary and secondary students) thanks to the support of federal dollars awarded through the Michigan Department of Education, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers. CIS Think Summer! served 250 students in grades 1-9 from 15 Kalamazoo Public schools. It provided 24 days (144 hours) of programming designed to reduce summer learning loss and increase academic and enrichment opportunities.  Students participated in reading, writing and math programming, enrichment activities, college and career exploration, and experiential learning.

Congressman Upton visited the elementary summer site which was held this year at Arcadia Elementary School. Congressman Upton stepped into a fifth grade classroom and fielded a number of questions from the students. One of the highlights for students (and staff) was when one fifth grader asked “What’s fun to do there [at the White House]?” The students were amazed to learn that there is a bowling alley in the White House basement.

During his visit, the Congressman also saw Kalamazoo Kids in Tune (KKIT) in action, which is a partnership among The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, and Kalamazoo Public Schools. He saw individual sectional practices and was treated to a performance by the entire KKIT orchestra.

Congressman Upton, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to visit and see what our kids have been learning throughout these six weeks to combat the summer slide! Our students enjoyed learning about your career and all the things you do in Washington, D.C. that are connected to their lives back in Southwest Michigan. As you and many of our readers know, the federal budget for 2017-18 (which begins October 1, 2017) proposed by the President completely eliminates funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers. On behalf of our 12,000 + kids, thank you for supporting continued funding for the 21st CCLC Community Learning Centers which make critical extending learning possible for KPS students during the school year and summer. This kind of support will help them graduate, use The Kalamazoo Promise and have a great career too.

Note: Any reduction to the 21st Century Community Learning Centers would have significant impact for our kids not just here in Kalamazoo but throughout Michigan. An article that recently ran in MLive addresses this. You can read it here.

 

Pfizer: All In For Kids

Today we highlight Pfizer, honored with a 2017 Champ Award. The team’s Champ award was sponsored by Schupan & Sons. CIS Board member and Humphrey Products President Dave Maurer presented the award.

Pfizer is committed to applying science to improve health and well-being at every stage of life. A global company with a local heart, Pfizer also works with CIS to ignite hope and help our young people become the prosperous citizens of tomorrow. As a CIS partner, they play an important role in supporting students on their path to using The Kalamazoo Promise®. From encouraging their employees to volunteer to providing career exploration opportunities, Pfizer is making it their business to ensure our children fulfill their promise.

When businesses go all in for kids, everyone profits.  A few years ago, in 2015, two Pfizer colleagues reached out to see if CIS would be interested in  working together on their Community Art project. Along with other community groups tapped by Pfizer, sixty-five students participating in the six-week CIS Think Summer! program, created artwork for Pfizer’s Global Supply facility on Portage Road. Organizers Julie Righter and Laura Martin said that collaborating with CIS on projects like this “is mutually beneficial to both Pfizer and the students.” The artwork, they say, “inspires our colleagues every day as we manufacture safe medicines for the community.”

The students’ art graces the walls of a company they could very well work for one day. That’s because Pfizer is helping students envision a future beyond high school by offering career exploration opportunities. Through hands-on activities developed by enthusiastic Pfizer colleagues, students explore science, technology, engineering, math, and skilled trades-related careers and learn about the education and training needed for these jobs. Through these career exploration opportunities, Pfizer plants seeds of hope, inspiring students to envision their future, perhaps even a future that includes a career with Pfizer.  

While there is much to admire about our partner, one of the qualities CIS staff appreciates most is how student-focused Pfizer is: They want to know what students are interested in and what they’re working on. They are receptive to input from staff and always seek feedback so they can continue to improve what they offer to students.

Pfizer’s commitment to excellence—to listening to the views of all people involved in health care decisions and using that to focus on improving the way they do business—readily translates into the work they do in the schools. For instance, when Pfizer site leader, Bob Betzig, attended the CIS Think Summer! celebration, he listened closely to a CIS Youth Development Worker—and a Promise scholar— who wondered how she could get an internship with Pfizer. The result of Bob’s listening? The local Pfizer site revived their internship program. And in 2016, when Pfizer returned to CIS Think Summer!—they came with their college interns and even “bigger and better” career exploration activities for students.

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

 

Pop Quiz: David Hamilton

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 David Hamilton. A former youth development worker with Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS), at the start of the school year David began serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA with CIS at Kalamazoo Central and Washington Writers Academy. Originally from Detroit, David graduated from Cass Tech High School and has just completed his studies in health administration at Western Michigan University, graduating with his bachelor’s this Spring. David is also featured in the most recent CIS Connections, with the “Double” theme. You can read the full issue here.

Alright, David: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

That in Kalamazoo, in general, kids struggle here, too. Coming from Detroit, it took me by surprise and feels a bit ironic. We have this great thing, the Kalamazoo Promise, yet not every kid is in the right state to receive and take advantage of it. Through my work with Communities In Schools I’ve learned there are many other underlying issues that can get in the way.

Such as?

There are many factors, but homelessness is a big deal, hunger, and other basic needs. CIS does a very good job of getting those resources so they can be break down those barriers that students face on a daily basis, whatever those students may need to alleviates some of those challenges.

Favorite word?

Right now it’s serendipitous. I feel like a lot of things that have come about in my life are serendipitous. I try and see them as opportunities and take advantage of them.

What are you currently reading?

The Last Dropout by Bill Milliken. It’s a book that I have found to be very informative on the causes of the pressing issue that students face. It also speaks to chronic absenteeism. [David talks more about this in the latest CIS Connections.]

What is something people may be surprised to know about you?

I have a huge interest in roller skating. I’ve been to Ohio and Atlanta. I’m going to Benton Harbor. I literally skate every Tuesday. You can get into Roller World for only a dollar.

Skating is a really big culture. We enrolled in a 100 day class called Starting Gate at Western. It’s a small incubator class that helps students develop their entrepreneurial ideas. And, of course, ours is to develop a skating rink in Kalamazoo.

We?

My twin, my companion in life. We enrolled in the class together after we started skating this past summer. We’ve got surprisingly good at it.We made the right decision, taking that class, it’s been beneficial. We’re looking for a location so kids don’t have to worry about transportation. We want to offer a positive, fun, clean environment for kids. Skating is something you have to be introduced to; you don’t generally seek it out. You can dance, ballroom dance, and hustle on skates. It’s fun.

David (on left) with brother Daniel

What’s the best part about being a twin?

The companionship and the support we get from each other. Obviously, we’re so close in age so we can relate to things together and they happen to be a family member.

What’s the hardest part?

When you don’t see eye-to-eye. It’s hard to disagree with a family member. I am the oldest, and he needs to learn his own lessons. I can’t forewarn him and that can be hard.

You’re the oldest?

Technically. By five minutes. At times we’ll do something and it will make me remember I’m the oldest. For instance, both of us chose to join the fraternity. I tested the ground waters first and laid the foundation. Then I asked him what he thought about it and he said, If you think it’s going to be beneficial, I’ll do it.

You’re a busy college student. How did you come to work with Communities In Schools?

I was looking for an internship for the summer and I wanted something that would help me hone my skills in administration and mentoring kids. I wanted to do AmeriCorps VISTA. I applied but I missed the deadline. So I applied to be a youth development worker for CIS Think Summer. It was one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences I’ve had in my life. I learned so much. I had so much support: from the other youth development workers, [CIS Site Coordinator] Ms. Yarbrough, and Ms. Artrella. I worked closely with twelve students and they were respectful and looked up to me.

I ended up applying again for VISTA, attended the August 23rd VISTA training and began my VISTA work at the start of school year. My time is divided between Kalamazoo Central and Washington Writers Academy.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I’m looking to pursue my masters in counseling psychology. Ultimately, I want to end up in administration in higher education.

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

My parents. Until recently, I’ve taken for granted having a two-parent household. I see the support they give each other and all they’ve instilled things in me. If one wasn’t there, I don’t know how I would have turned out. I’ve benefited from the kindness and the nurturing of my mother as well as the sternness and motivation of my dad and his “go get it” drive. I like that. They complement each other and one doesn’t overpower the other.

Thank you, David!

 

Pop Quiz: Precious Miller

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. During the last week of school, a beautiful June day, we sat down with Precious Miller, who was wrapping up her first year as the Communities In Schools Site Coordinator at Hillside Middle School.

FB_IMG_1467148577246 (2)In 2010, Precious interned with CIS at Kalamazoo Central High School. She later served as a Youth Development Worker for the 2011 CIS Think Summer! program. With her Bachelors and Masters in Social Work from Western Michigan University, Precious served as a case manager with Casemanagement of Michigan before rejoining the CIS team in October 2015, this time as a CIS Site Coordinator for Hillside Middle School. This past January, Precious and her husband (and former CIS Site Coordinator), Derek Miller, welcomed their son, Kai, into the world.

As we were about to spring this quiz on Precious, Shania Armstrong, a sixth grader looking forward to CIS Think Summer!, popped into Ms. Miller’s office. When she learned her site coordinator was being interviewed for the blog, she had this to say: “She’s an awesome person. She’s nice and I like her a lot. She makes me smile. Since I’ve met her, she’s been building up my confidence…”

Alright, Ms. Miller: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

I’m learning how to balance caring for my kids at school and caring for my son at home.

What’s the secret?

Leaving school at school and being present in the moment. I practice mindfulness. When I’m with Kai, I catch myself thinking about the kids and all I need to do at school, and then it’s flip-flopped when I’m with the students. So, I remind myself to stay in the moment.

Favorite word right now?

I’m going to go with awesome because I hear it at least twice a day and I say it 10,000 times a day. If I see two kids skipping class, I say, “I see two awesome kids going to class.” And they do.

What are you currently reading?

I’m just about to start reading In a Rocket Made of Ice by Gail Gutradt. My VISTA, Terra, gave it to me. It’s about children growing up with AIDS. I understand that AmeriCorps ties into it, servicing a community that needs advocacy.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I want to be a community changer, starting with one student at a time. My work doesn’t stop—whether I’m here or not. It can happen at the grocery store, the park, anywhere, and I’ll see kids that need a little reminder that they’re awesome.

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

Diane McKinney. She was my inspiration when I attended Creston High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She was the school social worker. I remember going to her office every day at lunch. And while I didn’t need anything in particular, I remember I just wanted to be with her. I loved how she nurtured my becoming a woman and I can’t even articulate how she did it. It was really her presence that spoke to me. I love how she cared for me.

I can’t help but think about that young woman, Shania, and what she had to say about you. Here you are now, giving back in a manner similar to Ms. McKinney.

I had no idea I did that for Shania. Like so many kids, she just needs a little bit of hope in realizing who she is.

Thank you, Precious!

Over this past school year, we’ve introduced you to members of the wonderful CIS Site Team at Hillside. We kicked it off with Principal McKissack. If you missed the post, you can find it here. Read about CIS After School Coordinator Katherine Williamson here and CIS AmeriCorps VISTA Terra Mosqueda here. Former Youth Development Workers Nicholas Keen and Fred Myles were also featured. Nicholas won’t be returning in the new school year as he has relocated to Hawaii to accept a teaching position, and Fred’s business has really taken off. Good for them, but our loss! While we and our kids will miss them both, we wish them all the best.

Hillside and other schools need energetic and enthusiastic youth development workers to serve in an after school setting (Monday through Thursday). Help us recruit for kids! If you or someone you know might be right for the job, go here.

The Beat of Summer

Writing poems during CIS Think Summer!
Writing poems during CIS Think Summer!

Students are packing a lot of fun and learning into these six weeks of their CIS Think Summer! program*. At the Prairie Ridge Elementary School site, Kalamazoo Kids in Tune (a partnership between Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo and Kalamazoo Public Schools) have been making music and more.

Totally focused and bringing a new poem into the world!
Totally focused and bringing a new poem into the world!

If you visited the summer program during the last week in July and stepped into the “Italy” group, rising 5th-7th graders, you would have overheard student conversations like this:

“Is poetry considered art or is it academics?”
“It’s academic because we’re learning about it during our academic time.”
“Yea, we talked about adjectives and abstract nouns.”
“I think poetry is art. It makes me feel inside like when I do art.”
“It feels a little bit like music, too.”
“I think it’s both.”

What do you think? You can ponder this question as you read two new poems created by Sahriah and Javan. These KIT students, along with the rest of their classmates, created poems inspired by Jo Harjo’s poem, “She had some horses.” These are just two examples of the tremendous student work being done at all levels throughout CIS Think Summer!

We played some music

She played some songs.
He played his instrument that was out of tune.
She played her songs that were sounding good.
I played Barber of Seville that didn’t sound as good.

Sahriah played some orchestra music.

Gabby played in a concert with Mozart.
Ann played conga with Nathan.
Zach played the blues that sounded happy.

LaMeeka played some cello music.
Naomi played some flute music with Nyareve.
Miyah played some clarinet songs with Javon.

This was the same music.

                                             -Sahriah Casey

 

I played some fragile chords of truth

I played some frantic tunes of beauty.
He played applause in dreams that were tired.
She played a measure of music that was colorful.
He played cute keys that were full of courage.

She played some waltz music.

I played instruments with care.
I played colorful measures with amazement.
He played music that moved us.

He played some chords.
She played some concert music that changed the world.
She played some beautiful tunes from the waltz.

This was the same waltz.

-Javan Harris

 

Cheers to all the youth development workers, site coordinators, VISTAs, volunteers, and school and community partners who are working together to provide the best CIS Think Summer! yet! Cheers to horses, poetry, and music, too!

*The CIS Think Summer! program is funded by the Michigan Department of Education (21st Century Community Learning Centers.)

_______________, youth development worker with CIS, supporting students as they create poetry.
Miss Viri, youth development worker with CIS, supporting students as they create poetry.