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.

Every Site Coordinator Needs A Site Coordinator

Today, we highlight the work of Jay Gross.  Jay was honored this past May at the seventh annual Champ celebration. CIS Board Member Jim Ritsema, along with Derek Miller, CIS Site Coordinator at Northglade Montessori Magnet School, presented the award. 

20140506-DSC_7627We’ll let you in on a saying we have at CIS. Every Site Coordinator needs a Site Coordinator. And Emily Demorest, CIS Site Coordinator at Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts, has hers in this next Champ.

“We wouldn’t be able to accomplish what we have out at Maple Street if it wasn’t for Jay Gross,” she says. “Last year, when I was a new Site Coordinator, he took me under his wing. He oriented me to the building, took time he didn’t have to help me learn who was who, who did what, and suggested the best avenues for getting things done.”

As the Home School Community Liaison for Kalamazoo Public Schools at Maple Street, Jay embodies the spirit of collaboration, showing what we can accomplish when we work together. So when Communities In Schools proposed doing a College Night last year as a way to promote a College Going Culture at the middle school—it was Jay who was one of the first to step up, supporting not just with words, but actions. “If Jay had not been in the picture,” points out Emily, “this event would not have been the success it was, nor would we have considered doing it again this year. Both times, Jay helped handle communications, advertising and promotion of the event internally and externally.” It took CIS and KPS, working in concert, to host the sixteen representatives from higher learning institutions.

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From Left: Jim Ritsema, Derek Miller, Jay Gross

Jay’s low key and calm-under-pressure approach can be counted on when it comes to our kids. When a student reached out to the Site Coordinator and she realized immediate care was required and that, for safety reasons, it would take more than one adult, Emily did not hesitate to turn to Jay. He jumped into action, providing the transportation necessary, allowing the CIS Site Coordinator to focus her attention fully on the student.

Jay can be counted on, whether it is as an ambassador for CIS, successfully implementing a college night, or joining with us in a student’s moment of need.

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

Derek Keeps Kids On The Move

cis-pedometers1-150x150Today’s post is written by Donna Carroll, Director of Health Initiatives. It appeared in Go! Team Go! an internal publication generated by Melissa Holman, After School Program Coordinator. We thought it was too good to keep to ourselves and so we’re sharing it here with you.

Walking to Brazil may seem like a tall order but when 60 students pool their foot power, it just might be possible. Northglade Montessori Site Coordinator Derek Miller has students walking to distant places, a few steps at a time. To get his new Level 1 activity off the ground Derek ordered 60 pedometers that are assigned to fourth and fifth grade students. Students have a goal of logging 3,000 steps per day.

“This encourages kids to get more exercise,” says Derek, “which is part of being healthy, but it’s also about exercising kids brains.” Northglade students keep track of how many steps they walk over time, with lots of opportunities for using math skills. Steps can be added, converted into yards and miles, and charted on graphs. Then geography is added to the mix as students consult maps to see how far an individual student might have travelled over a period of weeks or months, and how far the total miles walked by Northglade students would stretch – to Chicago, Atlanta, perhaps Mexico City? Students get passports where they can track distances from one world city to another and learn some basic facts about other nations.

Derek is not just talking the talk. He’s walking the walk, wearing his pedometer and tracking his own steps. Last Thursday he had logged over 4,000 steps by mid-afternoon.

Derek and VISTA Donielle Hetrick are walking with students at lunchtime, in the halls and on the playground, depending on the weather.

The project was developed by Northglade’s Health Committee that includes the school staff, parents and CIS.