Go vote and then read this post.

“Volunteering,” someone once said, “is the ultimate exercise in democracy.”

Why? Because when you choose to volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.

You join with others to help creating a community of hope, one in which all children can fulfill their promise. By giving just one hour a week of your time you help students in Kalamazoo Public Schools:

Stay and succeed in school
Improve in math or reading
Gain self-esteem and confidence
Have food for the weekend
Be ready for college and a career
Fulfill his or her Promise

Did you know that you are one of 43,000 community volunteers throughout the CIS network who, in 2016-2017, donated your time to 1.56 million students served by 131 affiliated organizations in 25 states and D.C.?

Thank you for casting your support of our 12,000+ children.

Interested in joining forces with our fabulous volunteers? You can change the life of a young person right here in your community by signing up today

Five Fun Fall Facts

Here’s a list of five fun fall facts to enjoy while you sip your pumpkin spice latte or other favorite fall beverage.

One.

This past September, the national organization of Communities In Schools welcomed NBA Hall of Famer Shaquille O’Neal as the newest member of its national board of directors. “Every kid, no matter where they’re from or how much money their parents make, deserves the opportunity to get a good education,” said O’Neal. “My education was critical to my success on and off the court. Being in school gave me self-discipline and showed me the importance of hard work. I always knew that when my playing days were over, nobody could take my education away from me.”  You can read more here.

Two.

Fall ushers in a number of opportunities for students to participate in sports. However, by middle school, 70 percent of students have dropped out of organized sports. The number one reason? It isn’t fun anymore. The good news is that there is a roadmap to fun. A study a few years back found that being a good sport, trying hardand positive coaching came in as the top three most important factors to having fun in youth sports. Winning ranks near the bottom (coming in at 48 out of 81 identified indicators of fun).

 

Three.

John Brandon, partner services coordinator for CIS of Kalamazoo shares this fact: “Fall is when most of our school supplies are donated, and what we receive during this time will be most of what we have to distribute throughout the school year.”

Four.

What does Michigan have in common with Alabama, New Mexico, Nevada, Idaho, Iowa, and Rhode Island? According to Candy Store.com, candy corn is our number one choice for Halloween candy. In Michigan, Starbursts ranks second, and Skittles third. To see the most popular Halloween candy state-by-state, check out their interactive U.S. map here. As long as we’re on this topic, did you know that candy corn hasn’t always been called candy corn? It was first called “Chicken Feed.” It came in a box with a rooster drawing and the tagline read: Something worth crowing for.

Five.

Here’s a fun fall fact worth crowing about: Communities In Schools is the nation’s largest provider of Integrated Student Supports. (To learn more about our unique model, go here.) That is a fun fact all year round!

 

Giving Up Recess to Give Back

Kids deserve a chance to give back. We must create environments for young people in which everyone’s gifts are nurtured, and service to others is both expected and rewarded.

This opportunity to give back to peers and community is one of five basic principles underlying the work we do at Communities In Schools (CIS). [You can learn more about the 5 CIS Basics here.] At the end of last school year, we met up with four students doing just that, giving back. Here’s their story.

Every Tuesday this past school year, when the Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes truck pulled up to Woodward School for Technology & Research, four volunteers were ready to help: Kensavion, Andrew, Dawon, and Lashaun.

Woodward students working hard and giving back.

These dedicated elementary students volunteered during their lunchtime and chose to give up recess (which they love!) to help with the food pantry.

Matthew Krieger, a Western Michigan University student working towards his Masters in Social Work, interned with CIS during the 2017/18 school year and provided the boys with guidance and direction. His favorite part of working with the boys? Seeing the look of pride that comes with mastering skills. “They have many skills now that they did not know before,” Matthew said. “Now they know to face food to the front, to place food with the same type, and to make room by consolidating items.”

These skills extend beyond organizing a pantry. “There is also a sense of group togetherness,” he noted.  “We are always working on vocalizing our needs in a clear way. I have seen improvements in their ability to express their feelings and needs to each other, which helps them to avoid conflict. I really enjoy seeing them use their words to communicate what they’re feeling.”

Ask any of the students why they volunteer and they will tell you, “Because it’s fun!”

Kensavion said he has looked forward to being part of the team that keeps the pantry up and running for his school. “Kids need food,” he said. Along with his three other peers, he has been part of the team that makes sure Woodward’s pantry is well-stocked.

“There is a lot of food that comes off the truck,” explained Andrew, “and we get to take it out of the boxes and put it in the cabinets.”

“We help put food away and people come and get it because they are hungry,” said Dawon, “and then they won’t be hungry anymore and won’t be starving and can do better in class and do a good job.”

“So they can survive,” added Lashaun. He is right. Food is a basic, human need and in living out the CIS basic of giving back to peers and the community, these students have been doing all they can to make sure hungry students and families have what they need.

To learn more about how Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes partners with CIS in the schools to combat hunger, check out this conversation we had a few months back with Jennifer Johnson, Executive Director of Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes.  

 

Pop Quiz: Danyelle Brown

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 Danyelle Brown, a youth development worker (YDW) with Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo.

Danyelle got her start with CIS volunteering in the after school program at Northglade Montessori Magnet School. In January of 2018, Danielle was offered a position as a youth development worker. We were thrilled when she accepted!

Danyelle is from Detroit, Michigan and beginning her junior year at Western Michigan University, studying early childhood education.

“It’s amazing to get my feet wet with CIS and getting the opportunity to do what I’m going to be doing for the rest of my life!” Danyelle says.

[This interview took place during CIS Think Summer! You can find out more about Danyelle in the upcoming issue of CIS Connections.]

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

Pop Quiz

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned this summer?

I’ve learned patience. It’s definitely a process when it comes to behavior and meeting kids right where they are and working with them from that place that they are in.

Favorite word?

Reflection. I think that reflection is vital, especially working with children, it gives them an opportunity to acknowledge the things going on and, if necessary, can allow them to re-direct or correct themselves and move forward. With my kids, we do reflection every day, at the end of each day.

Reflection is an important skill to acquire, isn’t it?

Yes, it’s definitely a skill we need to teach. Sometimes, kids don’t even want to acknowledge the day that they’ve just had, but when they do, I find it modifies behavior, to say the least. Mistakes that they may have made are usually not made anymore.

What are you currently reading?

A really cool book! My kids and I just read Bigmama’s by Donald Crews. We all really enjoyed it. Just experiencing the joy they got out of reading that book got me excited in experiencing that with them!

What do you love about Kalamazoo?

Just one thing?

It can be more than one, if you’d like.

I love the environment of Kalamazoo and the people. It’s a very safe place. And a great place to raise a family, in my opinion. Though, I would prefer more shopping centers at the mall. That’s my only issue!

This city is not too big and not too small. It’s a good distance away from home. People here are so loving and friendly and I love that, since I’m a people-person. I’m accepted here, and appreciated.

What’s one of your favorite places in Kalamazoo?

My church, Mt. Zion Baptist Church. My pastor, Dr. Addis Moore, is so amazing. It’s a privilege to be able to sit under his great teaching. And everyone there is so loving.

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

I have so many loving people, and have been fortunate to have a great support system, so it’s hard to choose just one, but I’m going to say my mother, Kallee Brown. That woman is amazing! She’s showered me with so much love and wisdom. She is the reason that I’m the woman I am today. I don’t know where I’d be without her. She is my superwoman.

What makes her super?

She has so much love. And she’s a mother to everyone. To her nephews, to children that aren’t her children, and you experience that love with just one encounter with her. She is loving and kind to all.

Thank you, Danyelle, for hanging out with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids.

Our kids need more Youth Development Workers, enthusiastic individuals like Danyelle, to step up and serve after school (Monday through Thursday). If you or someone you know might be right for the job, go to CISKalamazoo.org and apply today!

Every child deserves a Mrs. Wolfe

While each school year brings changes, this year feels especially different. That’s because Liza Wolfe, a Kalamazoo icon, has retired. Since 1976, Liza Wolfe has launched the success of over 1,000 children by offering high quality preschool through Mrs. Wolfe’s Preschool. She transformed the basement of her Westnedge Hill home into a preschooler’s dream, complete with books, a slide, huge building blocks, dolls, art materials, and more. For 43 years she prepared kids to be the best future students and citizens they could be by teaching them how to listen and share, how to be patient and how to participate.

Mrs. Wolfe’s Preschool has been such a part of the beautiful and whimsical fabric of Kalamazoo. Even if you don’t have a child, grandchild, niece, or nephew who attended her school, you probably know of her. Each June, you might have seen Mrs. Wolfe and her friends marching through the streets of downtown.

Heading off to Do Dah

Since the Do Dah Parade’s inception in 1985, Mrs. Wolfe, her students, parents, and on occasion, alumni, have joined in the fun, parading through the streets in zany outfits they’ve made. When the Kalamazoo Gazette asked Mrs. Wolfe why Do Dah? she said, “We do the parade because when I was little, I never got the chance to be in one but I could play in the street,” she said. “Now, kids can’t play in the street anymore but they sure can do a parade.”

Mrs. Wolfe as “Keeper of Tales” in Do Dah, 2011

Through the years, Liza Wolfe has also taught parents important lessons. For instance, she’s helped helicopter parents set down their hovering tendencies. Parents have always been welcome to visit during their child’s morning or afternoon session under one condition. “You must be a fly on the wall,” Mrs. Wolfe instructs parents at the start of the school year. She explains that when conflict arises it’s important to give children space to solve their own problems. Rush into solving the conflict or intervening for any reason, and you rob kids of the opportunity to learn.

While early childhood is “hot” right now, Liza Wolfe embraced it long before it was “a thing.”  She’s been around long enough to see trends come and go. When it comes to ideas about how preschool should be taught, the importance of play in early childhood education programming has, at times, been undervalued in favor of direct instruction. Ever the champion for children and what they truly need, Mrs. Wolfe has protected and reinforced the role of play in her students’ early childhood development.

Fred Rogers pointed out that, “Play is really the work of childhood.” Mrs. Wolfe knows this and because she recognizes that play is the foundation of learning, she takes play seriously.

Mrs. Wolfe takes a break from sorting books.

As with all high-quality preschool programs, she helps students answer their own questions through exploring different options, experimenting and engaging in conversation. She focused on basic building blocks, growing young people’s social and emotional skills, language and vocabulary, imagination and creativity. Her graduates, numbering in the thousands, have learned much from her. The behaviors they practiced over and over during their preschool years (repetitive practice has a tendency to instill habits), served them well in their elementary school years and beyond. From her, they have learned:

Hang up your coat.
Wait until everyone is served before you start eating.
Take only what you need.
Learn to wait your turn.
Follow instructions.
Co-operate with others.
Listen to stories.
Work together.
And more.

Imagine what the world could be like if everyone had a Mrs. Wolfe. We might all be better at listening to each other and cooperating for the better of all.

 

Read this post on reading

Summer is slipping away. Have you had a chance to read as much as you hoped? If you hurry, you still have time to snag a book from The New York Times summer reading list. You can find the list here.

For summer and beyond, don’t forget to turn to local sources for inspiration:

–Visit the library! Before you do, it can be fun to learn what Kalamazoo Public Library staff are reading and recommending. Just go to their Staff Picks: Books.

–Visit one of our fabulous independent bookstores: Kazoo Books, Michigan News Agency, and Bookbug / this is a bookstore. Bookbug / this is a bookstore staff also regularly post what they are reading. Here’s what Shirley Freeman (who also volunteers with CIS!) has been reading.

–Read The Cyberlibrarian Reads, a wonderful blog by Miriam Downey, a retired librarian who is also a proud KPS grandparent. Miriam, who also co-edited the anthology Immigration and Justice For Our Neighbors, (a project we blogged about here last year and includes works by students from Arcadia Elementary School) read The Journey by Francesca Sanna at the anthology launch to the grownups and kids in attendance. In one of her more recent posts, she blogs about reading Sanna’s beautifully illustrated new book, Me and My Fear, with her granddaughter. You can read her post here.

–Ask your neighbor, your kid, your friends what they are reading! We asked a couple CIS board members and here’s what they said:

I’m reading a few books at the moment. Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, Elizabeth Sherrill, and John Sherrill, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson, and A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman.  -Dominic Pullo

Just finished Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. Very interesting!  -Susan Einspahr

I am reading Love Does by Bob Goff. -Sara L. Williams

Happy reading!

 

Stacy Jackson and Her Many Moms

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 Stacy Jackson.

A graduate of the Kalamazoo Public Schools (Loy Norrix, Class of 1991), Stacy went on to graduate from Davenport University with a degree in accounting. Stacy’s CIS career began in 2011 when she gave a year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA, working at Loy Norrix and Kalamazoo Central High School. After that, she moved into the role of CIS after school site coordinator at Edison Environmental Science Academy. Since 2013, she has also served as the elementary site coordinator for CIS Think Summer.

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

Pop Quiz

Diane Lang taught you math during your middle school years and is clearly one of your favorite teachers. In your letter to her that we published several years back as part of our “Caring Adult” series, you wrote: You showed me that hard things (algebra) don’t always have to be hard. [Click here to read the entire letter.] Name another Kalamazoo Public Schools teacher who impacted you.

Mr. Bill Arney, my 9th grade Social Studies teacher at Loy Norrix High School helped me through the 9th grade career aptitude test. I took it and tested for social work. We talked about the potential outcome, and knowing my personality, said that I probably should go with my second pick, which was accounting. I’m sure he’d be pleasantly surprised that I figured out how I ended up doing both.

Favorite word?

That’s an interesting question. I say, I know, right? I say that phrase a lot. It’s a quick way to show empathy but since that’s not one word, I’ll say: smile. I like to walk past people and say, Smile! I do that with kids, too. It can give them an opportunity to tell me why they aren’t smiling. I think there is power in a smile.

Can you talk a little bit about being a CIS after school coordinator?

Stacy (left) at Edison with Principal Julie McDonald

Persistence comes to mind, because it is key. We must persist and we must help kids persist. It’s sometimes too easy for grownups to give up on kids if they have given up on themselves. I think of CIS as a vehicle through which we can help students, be there and show them we’re not giving up on them. When kids really feel that someone has their back, they stick with it and can push themselves to a place—both student and person-wise—farther than they can imagine. We just need to be there and not give up on them.

This makes me think of the time one of my after school kids was refusing to go to class. In talking with him, it quickly became clear that he wasn’t acting up just to be naughty. There’s always a reason behind behavior. Sure enough, he admitted he’d acted up the day before with a guest teacher. He knew he’d let his teacher down and that she was probably going to be disappointed with him. He didn’t want to face all that.

I told him, Ms. B is still going to love you, but you have to own your stuff. We discussed how, when you make mistakes, you need to own up to your behavior. People will still love you, Ms. B will still love you, but it’s important to own your stuff. Now get into class! And he did.
That’s another phrase I like to say. Own your stuff!

There are both good and negative consequences to behavior. If you are going to accept the good, you also have to accept the bad. In my role as after school coordinator, that is a part of what I’m always doing, with both students and CIS staff. I want to provide a safe space for kids to be after school and to have access to academic supports, and to be surrounded by people that care. I mother everyone. I’m the mother of everyone! [Stacy laughs.]

Sheldon Turner agrees! I remember last summer when we interviewed him for this blog [you can read his interview here] he described you as a mother figure.

I love Sheldon!

Any favorite places?

Studio Grill of course! I also love the greenery of Kalamazoo and all the many parks we have here. I like beach areas and really enjoy being by the water. Water is my favorite element.

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

I’m working on my spiritual growth. In Discerning the Voice of God, Priscilla Shirer talks about body, mind, and spirit; how God leads through our conscience to help us make decisions.

My pastor always says we have moral compass inside us, that the Holy Spirit dwells in us, yet, until recently, I’ve thought of my conscience and God as two distinct, different things. But I’m seeing that the Holy Spirit is guiding our conscience, helping us make more Christ-like decisions so we can be out there doing the work that is needed in this world.

What are you currently reading?

I just started the Second House from the Corner by Sadeqa Johnson. I joined my first book club this year and we’re reading some crazy books! Who thinks up this crazy stuff, these incredible story lines?

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

My mom. She is a strong woman and as a single mom raised me and my brother—we were 17 years apart. I also was fortunate to have a family and community of support. In addition to my mom, my Aunt and three of my mother’s best friends helped raise me and I give credit to each of them for the different pieces of me. One of my mother’s best friends, Ms. Willie Mae Lee, showed me how to be sassy.

You definitely know how to rock sassy!

[Stacy laughs.] Mrs. Barbara Loftin gave me humility and gentleness. My Aunt Iris Salters taught me the power of education. Ms. Bobbie Ryan worked in the unions most of her life and taught me to fight for injustice. And within all of that, my mom-mom encouraged me to be me, to not be anybody outside of who I am.

I owe a lot to all my moms, and the many others who have provided and continue to provide influence, but especially my mom-mom, Ms. Mabel Salters. She’s no nonsense, she’s a conqueror, and she’s everything I want to be.

Thank you, Stacy, for hanging out with us at Ask Me About My 12,000+ Kids.