That’s Me When I Used To Be A Grown Up

Volunteers (not all pictured) gathering to carry out First Saturday at the Kalamazoo Public Library. Every KPS secondary site in which CIS has a presence was represented by student volunteers and CIS staff who turned out for this February’s First Saturday @ KPL.
Volunteers (not all pictured) gathering to carry out First Saturday at the Kalamazoo Public Library. Every KPS secondary site in which CIS has a presence was represented by student volunteers and CIS staff who turned out for this February’s First Saturday @ KPL.

Volunteers (not all pictured) gathering to carry out First Saturday at the Kalamazoo Public Library. Every KPS secondary site in which CIS has a presence was represented by student volunteers and CIS staff who turned out for this February’s First Saturday @ KPL.

“That’s me when I used to be a grown up,” explained Donna Carroll’s grandson, 3 1/2 year old Malcolm, when he saw a picture of Malcolm X on the cover of a book his mom, Ursula, was reading.

How powerful when a child sees himself reflected in another, when we see ourselves in each other.

For many of our young people feeling like they’re part of a larger whole comes from a sense that they’re connected at the larger community level. But how can young people make this connection?

Volunteering is a great way to challenge ourselves and put ourselves on a path of meeting new people. For young people, it’s a chance to gain valuable experience, learn about themselves, interact with people they might not otherwise meet, and explore career interests.

Did you know that teens who volunteer are less likely to become pregnant or to use drugs, and are more likely to have positive academic, psychological, and occupational well-being?  According to Child Trends, other positive outcomes include development of greater respect for others, leadership skills, and an understanding of citizenship that can carry over into adulthood.

An opportunity for students to give back to peers and their communities is one of the five CIS basics.  Our young people are giving back every day. Here’s just one recent example.

Loy Norrix Senior Tiara Blair helps put event bracelet on one of the littlest partiicpants.
Loy Norrix Senior Tiara Blair helps put event bracelet on one of the littlest partiicpants.

In partnership with  the Kalamazoo Public Library, The Kalamazoo Promise® and New World Flood,  Communities In Schools hosted February’s First Saturday at the downtown Kalamazoo Public Library. Free and open to the public, the event welcomes families with their young children to enjoy stories, activities, guests, and door prizes. CIS partnered with the library last year to host one of their First Saturdays and it was a great experience for all involved. But Artrella Cohn, CIS Director of Secondary Sites (and lead for CIS  for organizing First Saturday events) felt something was missing: our older students. “This event,” she said, “is a perfect opportunity for students in our secondary schools to give back.” So, this year, the missing piece to the puzzle was complete. With support from CIS staff, AmeriCorps VISTAs,  wonderful KPL librarians, and New World Flood’s Todd “TJ” Duckett, thirteen middle and high school students volunteered. They ran five different literacy stations throughout the library: Read to Me, Scavenger Hunt, Spelling Bee, His & Her Story Station (writing their own stories), and Fantasy Station (which involved picking an item out of a basket to help build upon a collective story).

Artrella Cohn, CIS Secondary Site Director, reviews with volunteers how the literacy stations will work.
Artrella Cohn, CIS Secondary Site Director, reviews with volunteers how the literacy stations will work.

“Seeing the middle and high school students in action truly warmed my heart,” said Artrella Cohn, CIS Director of Secondary Sites and organizer of the First Saturday’s event. “The presence of the WMU Students added to the whole ‘reach back and give back’ message that I envisioned for this event. There were middle school students who were signing in, and with smiles on their faces asked, “There are 11th and 12th graders here to volunteer too?” I could visibly see our high school students—who are already mature young ladies—really jump into their role when they realized that there were older high school students and college students involved. Wearing WMU gear, Carmelita Foster and her team of college volunteers stood out in a real way for those of our students looking to successfully complete high school and obtain that Kalamazoo Promise®.”

“This event ran like a well-oiled machine because the youth volunteers knew where they fit. These young people took ownership of their stations,carried out fun learning activities and served as positive role models for the little ones.”

Todd Duckett, of New World Flood
Todd Duckett, of New World Flood

Colleen Marie Deswal, mother of one of those little ones wrote, “My son Teddy participated in his first story time! He volunteered and stated that the dog wiped his nose with the kleenex since that was his prop in the circle. I was shocked he understood what was going on and added to the story since he is only 2 1/2. Was an amazing moment in time. Glad you all are doing these types of events for the community. One reason I moved back to Kalamazoo is the wonderful community involvement.”

We may be stepping out of Black History Month into March, but many of our young people will continue to give back and make good choices, like choosing to give up their Saturday to volunteer. In giving back, they make history, and our future.

“I see myself in the future of these young people,” reflects Artrella. “It’s a beautiful cycle.”

Do you recognize yourself in our youth? If you do, despite what your mother told you, it’s okay* to point your finger. Point proudly at our young people and say, Yea, that’s me…when I used to be a grown up.

 

*sometimes

Partners on a Solid Footing

shoesToday’s post is written by Donna Carroll, Director of Health Initiatives. Heather Haigh, Executive Director of First Day Shoe Fund originally ran this piece in their Fall 2014 newsletter.

Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) and First Day Shoe Fund (FDSF) go back a long way. In early 2000 Valerie Denghel was a tutor at Edison Environmental Science Academy with CIS. Valerie noticed that many of the children she saw at the school didn’t have appropriate shoes for school. So Valerie began buying shoes for one child at a time. Valerie went from buying shoes for individual children to creating the First Day Shoe Fund. CIS has partnered with FDSF since its beginnings to help identify children in need of shoes and to create the infrastructure needed to get the shoes onto little feet.  In 2005 CIS and FDSF partnered to distribute 160 pairs of shoes. This Fall we worked together to distribute 1,654 pairs of new shoes to students.

Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo has been serving  students in Kalamazoo Public Schools since 2003.  Our mission is to surround students with a  community of support empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.  We are part of a nationwide network of passionate professionals  working in public schools to remove barriers that get in the way of student success, smoothing the path toward graduation.

We work to connect the right resources to the right students at the right time. CIS works closely with Kalamazoo Public Schools to reach those students most in need of services, many of whom live below the poverty level and face significant risk factors.

shoes2This year CIS will serve 20 Kalamazoo Public Schools, including 15 schools that will offer after school programming under 21st Century grants. We think of our site coordinators, who head up our site teams in the schools, as the bridge that connects community resources to students in the buildings. Site coordinators work to bring resources available to the whole student body (what we call Level One services) as well as having a caseload of between 50 and 75 students who receive more targeted services such as individual tutoring, mentoring or counseling, based on an assessment of the student’s needs. The site coordinator leads a team that might be made up of a VISTA, a social work intern or a health intern.

CIS values the partnership we have with First Day Shoe Fund. The FDSF focus – of providing new shoes to children in Kindergarten through third grade to ensure that children have both the physical comfort of correctly sized shoes and the sense of pride and belonging that comes with having appropriate footwear to start the new school year – meets a basic need. New shoes are one of the many pieces of the puzzle that fit together to help all of our children achieve the Promise.

Llamas In Pajamas Go To Med School

Today’s post is written by Donna Carroll, Director of Health Initiatives.

20140321-DSC_6072Pajama day at El Sol Elementary, complete with favorite stuffed animals, meets Mini-Medical School. It sounds crazy but that was the exciting combination that made Friday, March 24, a wonderful and memorable day at the school for students, teachers and guests.

El Sol students had a chance to get hands-on experience reading x-rays, cleaning (pretend) wounds, listening to heartbeats through stethoscopes, and peering into otoscopes to see the tympanic membrane, and who knows what else, in ears. They were able to talk to, learn from and examine medical residents from WMU Homer Stryker College of Medicine and medical students from MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine.

The medical students and residents hosted six stations, each devoted to a separate health area.  Students visited each of the six stations in groups. Their final stop: a station where each student donned a child-size white coat and stethoscope and was photographed as a future medical graduate. What a great opportunity for our students who can all take advantage of the Kalamazoo Promise®.

100_5120At one station devoted to bones, students had a chance to examine and read x-rays, and could also examine a model of the spine, feeling the small bumpy bones on the model and then feeling the same bones on their own spines. As well as learning about how to identify and repair a broken bone, students also learned about how to protect and strengthen their own bones so they can avoid breaks – by drinking milk, wearing a bike helmet, and wearing knee and elbow pads when skateboarding.

El Sol students also had a chance to show off their knowledge. One of the residents said he was impressed that a third grader knew where the smallest bone in the body can be found (in the ear, for those of us who aren’t so knowledgeable.)

20140321-DSC_6146Stephanie Walther, Communities In Schools Site Coordinator at El Sol, worked to schedule classrooms and ensure a smooth flow to the day. “The students really seemed to enjoy it and be engaged in what they were doing. They were learning and also having fun. The teachers were also very positive. One teacher said she hoped the Mini-Medical School will come back next year.”

A number of area legislators also stopped by and toured the Mini-Medical School. Senator Tonya Schuitmaker and Representatives Sean McCann and Margaret O’Brien had a chance to see the rich interaction between medical students and residents and enthusiastic elementary students who may one day walk in their shoes.

Thank you to the Michigan Osteopathic Association for the bringing the Mini-Medical School to El Sol and also to Dr. Joanne Baker who works so hard  to promote preventive medicine, health and physical fitness.

And those stylish pajamas and robes? One of the medical students said he wondered when he first arrived at the very casual attire. “I thought maybe it was how everyone dressed at the school.”

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What Are You Reading?

In anticipation of National Reading Month, we’re posting a series of emails that have recently flown between CIS staff. We did this last year and once again, it’s been fun to see what my colleagues are reading. We’ll begin with Artrella’s email that started it all…

A month from now (give or take a few days) Kalamazoo Public Schools will be kicking off its Literacy Month activities at the various schools (National Reading Month is March). I personally think that it is always fun to see the READ posters out at the sites and various KPS buildings when I am out. My curiosity leads me to ask the question…WHAT ARE YOU READING???  

I just received my book via Amazon today, which is a part of my Book Club (The Lovely Ladies of Literature). It is 32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter. Do share…

-Artrella M. Cohn, Director of Secondary Sites

 

I’m reading Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink. “In the tradition of the best investigative journalism, physician and reporter Sheri Fink reconstructs five days at the Memorial Medical Center and draws the reader into the lives of those who struggled mightily to survive and to maintain life amid chaos.” Challenging subject material, but excellent writing.

-Deb Faling, Director of Social Emotional Health Initiatives

 

I just got a box delivered from a friend living in India, and she sent me: Ayoni and Other Stories, a compilation of stories written by various Indian writers “who have focused on women’s issues…and altered the Telugu [Indian ethnic group] literary scene…. These stories deal with the dilemmas and problems faced by women, both on the physical and emotional levels.”

So far, I like how one of the writers captures one of my personal gestures, a blank stare, via writing by the usage of “…”. Tis awesome!!

-Haley A-bel, CIS Site Coordinator, Milwood Magnet Middle School

 

I’m reading Tenth of December, a collection of short stories by George Saunders and have recently finished A Woman in the Polar Night, by Christiane Ritter, the story of a year spent by a woman in a tiny hut on an island in the arctic circle which makes our recent Polar Vortex look like a walk in the park.

-Donna Carroll, Director of Health Initiatives

 

The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts. A classic introduction to Taoism I have read a few times and it’s always soothing for me.

-Emily Demorest, CIS Site Coordinator, Maple Street Magnet

 

I am reading Affirming Your Greatness Through The Power of Words by Burnette Clingman and Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath.

-Deborah Yarbrough, CIS Site Coordinator, Kalamazoo Central High School

 

I’ve just finished gorging myself with Fried Walleye and Cherry Pie: Midwestern Writers on Food, edited by Peggy Wolff. I’m on to the next course, a combination ofTell Me, poems by one of my favorite poets Kim Addonizio and Traveling Sprinkler, a novel by Nicholson Baker, one of the most uninhibited, funny writers I’ve ever read. Take page 96, for instance. I wanted to tell the Quakers about Debussy’s sunken cathedral. I kept formulating an opening in my head. “A little more than a hundred years ago, a composer named Claude Debussy wrote a piece for piano called ‘The Sunken Cathedral.’ He was a man with a big forehead who loved the sea.

-Jennifer Clark, Director of Community Relations

 

I just finished Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Just started a novel called The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally.

–Pam Kingery, Executive Director

 

I am reading Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women, by Melissa Harris Perry and just started the third book in the Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin. Yes, #nerdpoints.

-Kaitlin Martin, Volunteer Services Coordinator

 

I am currently reading one of this year’s “Reading Together” books: The American Way of Eating by Tracie McMillan. I also just finished reading a book called Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant.  It is a historical fiction on the Borgia family in Italy.

-Emily Kobza, Director of Development & Business Engagement

 

I am listening to Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin and just finished listening to MansfieldPark by Jane Austen. I just finished reading the first two books in the Divergent Seriesby Veronica Roth and am impatiently waiting for my daughters to finish the third.  At one point during reading the first book there were 3 book marks in it.  I love it when we all read the same book- The Newsome Girls Book Club!  It’s really great when we get my mom to join in, too!!

Next in line are Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland and Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmakerby Jennifer Chiaverni, both historical fiction.

-Debra Newsome, Finance Coordinator

 

Wild Things by Dave Eggers!! Check him out if you haven’t; he’s fantastic.

-Jen DeWaele, CIS Site Coordinator, Woodward School for Technology and Research

 

America’s Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines by Gail Collins. I highly recommend!

-Abby Nappier, Director of Volunteer Services

 

I’m reading A Dance with Dragons, the 5th book in the Fire and Ice/Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin. They’re amazing – you guys should just stop reading your current books and switch to these.  🙂

-Donielle Hetrick, CIS Site Coordinator, Woods Lake

 

Currently reading Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind by Jocelyn Glei. Great book for learning how to work smarter and find creativity even when you have no time or energy for it.

P.S. I love seeing what everyone is reading.

-Korrine Wojcik, CIS Site Coordinator, Milwood Elementary

P.P.S. We hope you also loved reading what we are reading. We’d love to hear what you are reading. Let us know! We may just publish what are readers are reading in the near future.

 

A Gift Of Warmth For Edison

Donna Carroll, Julie McDonald, Emily Kobza
Donna Carroll, Julie McDonald, Emily Kobza

Today’s lovely post is written by Donna Carroll, Director of Health Initiatives for CIS.

If Edison School looked like a department store last Friday it was not by chance. Over 250 volunteers from the Radiant Church in Richland magically transformed the school on Thursday evening, decorating hallways with giant icicles and candy canes, and transforming the gym into a store with racks filled with clothes, mirrors and tables. They weren’t setting up for a movie shoot, but for the Big Give Winter Fest, an enormously generous giveaway that would allow every Edison child to shop for a warm winter coat, hat, gloves and boots. The only thing missing was the cash register because this shopping experience was paid for by the over $70,000 in donations collected by the congregation at Radiant.

100_4384As individual classes lined up to shop they were entertained by Santa and his elves and could take turns hula hooping to burn off some of their excitement. As each student reached the store they were paired with a personal shopper who assisted them with their selections. Communities In Schools assistant site coordinator Christina Czuhajewski had laid some of the important ground work in the weeks before the event, contacting over 400 parents to fill out cards with the students’ sizes. So the shoppers were able to work from those cards and take the student to a rack filled with coats in the right size. All the student had to do was pick the style and color of his or her choice. Floor length mirrors gave students a chance to try on their coat and see if it was the right one. After the important coat selection had been made it was on to find matching hats, gloves and boots. When all selections were made they were put into large shopping bags for delivery to classrooms.

100_4336Radiant volunteers worked their holiday magic in other areas of the school as well. They provided pizza for students who were treated to holiday songs by a talented duo who got students to join in both words and actions to Rudolph, Frosty and other holiday favorites. Then it was on to the library where classes had hot chocolate and decorated cookies (which quickly disappeared), and then made reindeers from candy canes, pipe cleaners and other supplies. Each station was manned by Radiant volunteers, all wearing their light blue t-shirts and sunny smiles. As one volunteer said, “This is so much fun. Just seeing the smiles on the faces of the students makes it all worth while.”

“The school and teachers are so appreciative” said Principal Julie McDonald. “It’s such a generous gift to our students, to know that they will all have what they need for this cold weather.”

 

 

Monica (left) and Chelsea, just two of the over 200 volunteers from Radiant Church who worked hard to make the Big Give Winter Fest fabulous. Thank you, Radiant Church!
Monica (left) and Chelsea, just two of the over 200 volunteers from Radiant Church who worked hard to make the Big Give Winter Fest fabulous. Thank you, Radiant Church!

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Happy Birthday, Blog!

One year ago we launched this blog: Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids. There were over 181 million blogs when we began and there are probably more than that now. The blogosphere is bloated with lots of blogs (say this sentence 10 times). So thank you, dear readers, for choosing to read this blog. To celebrate our year together, I’ve made a delicious chocolate cheesecake (recipe can be found here) and if you want a slice, stop down to our office today. We’ll be offering them on a first come, first serve basis.) In addition, we’re whooping it up by sharing 17 blogtoids* about our one-year-old blog:

  1. In one year, we offered up 53 posts; that’s basically a fresh post every Tuesday.
  2.  Donna Carroll and I welcomed 11 guest bloggers, composed of CIS staff, board, and partners. Thank you Emily, Artrella, Bethany, Melissa, James, Dom, Sandy, Pam, Bonnie, Kaitlin, and Carly for contributing your voice to this blog. Thanks to all the kids, parents, school and community partners who shared their thoughts with us. We’re looking forward to hearing more from you as well as new voices this school year.
  3.  Over half of our 53 posts have highlighted individuals or entities in this community. If all our 12,000 plus kids are going to succeed in school and life, it’s going to take a lot of committed adults working together.
  4.  All 18 of the Kalamazoo Public School buildings that have CIS (we’re in 19 schools this new year, having most recently added Woodward School for Technology & Research) have been mentioned at least once in one or more posts. We love the Kalamazoo Public Schools!
  5. We named names. And we won’t stop. We’ll continue to tell you who is making a difference for kids through CIS.
  6.  You’re smarter because of this blog. You’ve read topics here ranging from literacy, mentoring, resiliency, and music. You’ve discovered what dental care and food have to do with academic success. You’ve read impressive phrases (thanks to guest blogger like CIS board member and partner Dom Pullo) such as “students mixed chemicals that created a chemiluminscent reaction…”
  7.  Three of our posts caught the attention of National CIS. Woo, hoo!
  8.  Most cried over blog post: Open Letter to A Father Who Will Never Read This.
  9.  Funniest post: Don’t Name Your Blog “The Blog.”
  10.  Post that received the most response from teachers and other school staff: Cast Your Vote for Kids.
  11.  Post that featured our hairiest school volunteers: Kaitlin Martin’s Paws for Stories.
  12.  Hardest post to write: Engineers of the Heart.
  13.  Funnest post to write: Six and a Half Things to Do While We’re Away.
  14.  Most fashionable post: Threads.
  15.  Post that featured one of our favorite student interviews: Pop Quiz: Lincoln International Studies Student.
  16.  Hardest thing about blogging? Coming up with a title for each post that is provocative without being too provocative. It needs to be something catchy that will make you want to read more than just the title.
  17. Most rewarding thing about blogging? Seeing and sharing CIS in action—with you, the partners, volunteers, donors, parents, staff, and learning about the wonderful students who are empowered because of your support.

We have only begun to introduce you to some of your 12,000 kids and the hundreds of caring adults who are helping to raise them. Stay with us this year and continue to get a behind the scenes glimpse of CIS in action. At Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids you will continue to meet the talented teachers, hard working principals, and dedicated community volunteers, partners, and CIS staff who are empowering our children to succeed. We look forward to turning two with you.

*A blogtoid is a term I made up just for this post. (I hope this makes you feel special!) A blogtoid is a fact or deeply held opinion about a blog.

Birthday Candles

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.

Seeing Between The Lines

“To eliminate disparities, we must know enough (research); do enough (deliver the outcomes); care enough (commitment); and persevere enough (don’t get discouraged).” 

-David Satcher, Director, Morehouse School of Medicine and Former Surgeon General

Last week I attended a lecture on Health Inequality. Dr. Brian K. Gibbs, Assistant Professor in the Department of Medicine from Johns Hopkins School of Medicine challenged the audience to believe differently. Dr. Gibbs talked about what it means to “believe what you see” versus “see what you believe.”

It got me thinking about a research project I learned about years ago, about how experience shapes our perceptions and perceptions shape our experiences. Researchers created two environments for newborn kittens. One batch was raised in space composed entirely of horizontal lines, the other group was raised in space made up of only vertical lines. Eventually, the researchers exposed the kittens to a line that they had not experienced. Turns out, the horizontally raised cats didn’t see vertical lines and, likewise, the vertically raised cats didn’t see horizontal lines. The kittens were “blind” to what they had not experienced.

I happened to be sitting between Linda Vail, Director & Health Officer for Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services, and my CIS colleague, Donna Carroll, two women who have helped shape how I see the world, particularly when it comes to thinking about children’s health. The room, I noticed, was peppered with other women whom I admire, such as Alison Geist, Director of Mary Jane Underwood Stryker Institute for Service-Learning and Ineke Way, Associate Professor in the WMU School of Social Work. These women I have come to know through my work with CIS. Each, in their own way, works hard to make our world a better, more equitable place. They know, they do, and they care. This slice of the planet is a little more healthy because of them. I am a better person for knowing them.

Who or what helps you see the world? Both as it is and can be? Do you know what your blind spots are?