Team Trailblazers

Front row, from left) Team Trailblazers ______, Elizabeth Weaver, Ryan Tonneson. Back row, from left) CIS Site Coordinator Emily Demorest, Jamie Miller, CIS After School Coordinator Jen Nitz, Team Trailblazer Laura Ruelas. Not pictured, Carol Offerman.
Front row, from left: Lindsay Wilson, Elizabeth Weaver, Ryan Toennessen. Back row, from left: Emily Demorest (CIS Site Coordinator), Jamie Miller, Jen Nitz (CIS After School Coordinator), Laura Ruelas. Not pictured, Carol Offerman.

Today we highlight Team Trailblazers, one of seven school and community partners honored with a 2016 Champ Award.  Team Trailblazers’ Champ award was sponsored by Molina Healthcare of Michigan and CIS Board member Steve Powell presented the award.

William Butler Yeats wrote, Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire. Each school day, Team Trailblazers comes bearing torches to Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts. Jamie Miller, Carol Offerman, Laura Ruelas, Ryan Toennessen Elizabeth Weaver, and Lindsay Wilson are a passionate team led by English teacher Jamie Miller. On behalf of their seventh grade students, they have forged a well-worn path to the Communities In Schools office.

CIS Site Coordinator Emily Demorest and After School Coordinator Jen Nitz both point out that the majority of students they work with are also on Team Trailblazers. It’s not a coincidence, they say. Anytime there is an issue with a student, be it academic concerns, basic needs, or emotional support, Jamie Miller—whom they refer to as “the glue that holds us all together”—quickly makes CIS staff aware so they can work together to support the student and remove barriers to learning. Working as a cohesive team, they’ve supported students confronted with homelessness, domestic violence, struggling with food insecurity, mental health issues, hygiene concerns, among other barriers to learning.

“They know their kids really well,” say Emily and Jen. “And they know what kids need to be successful both inside and outside the classroom. So they make sure to reach out to CIS so we can connect students to the resources they need. Or, in cases where a student is already receiving resources through CIS, they might make a suggestion that helps us do our job better.”

Trailblazers invites the CIS team to participate in parent meetings and special classroom projects. And when Lenise Williams, Lead Youth Development Worker reviews students’ progress on their homework assignments, Trailblazers provides homework packets. And, after a full day of teaching, they can often be found volunteering and offering guidance to students during the after school program.

If this weren’t enough, Team Trailblazers hosted Peer Mediation student leaders. They contributed to CIS’ efforts to support Maple Street families over the holidays and Trailblazer students collected and donated over $200 towards gifts and winter wear. And when new initiatives arise, a Trailblazers’ member is often first to blaze a fresh trail to the CIS office. Recently, when one of Mr. Toennessen’s students couldn’t stop talking about the garden club he popped in and said, “Tell me more about this . How can I help?”

Kids don’t care what team grownups are on—whether it’s CIS or KPS or day or after school. What they see at Maple Street is one team, on the same page, refusing to let them fall through the cracks. And, even though the school year is winding to a close, the Trailblazers only burn brighter.

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

(From left) Emily Demorest, Laura Ruelas, Maple Street Principal Dr. Jeff Boggan, Jamie Miller, and Ryan Toennessen.
(From left) Elizabeth Weaver, Emily Demorest, Laura Ruelas, Maple Street Principal Dr. Jeff Boggan, Jamie Miller, and Ryan Toennessen.

 

                             

 

Maple Street’s Duo: Emily Demorest and Jen Nitz

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.

On a drizzly day in late March, we were out at Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts. CIS Site Coordinator Emily Demorest and CIS After School Coordinator Jen Nitz were both on hand so we thought we’d pop our quiz on them. These two passionate and talented women work closely with the Maple Street team, including teachers, staff, and the principal to help students succeed in school and life.

Alright, Emily Demorest and Jen Nitz: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

Emily: I learned that the Michigan State Board of Education has just put forth new guidelines that would allow transgender students to have greater recognition of their gender identity. [Emily has since written a blog post about this and you can read it by going here.]

Jen N: What have I learned? My mom just went to the Maldives, which is a Muslim country. What she learned from her time and now what I’ve learned from her is that Maldivians are very accepting and loving. They come to people with compassion. This is in sharp contrast with what is presented in the media these days, with the bomb that just went off in Brussels. That Malldivian message—approaching others with compassion and love—needs to be heard. That is what they, and we all want, for humanity. People really can be good in the face of bad.

 

Favorite word right now?

Jen N: Extrapolate. I’m the queen of extrapolating information from people.

Emily: You are also the queen of the power pose. That’s a technique that falls under that mindfulness umbrella.

Jen N: [To demonstrate, Jen stands up, places hands on hips.]It’s a grounding pose that calms. I use it to help calm and focus kids. They love doing it.

Emily: You used it just yesterday with that student who came in with anxiety.

Jen N: That’s right. I showed him the power pose, he did it with me, taking deep breathes. He quit hyperventiling and calmed to where we were then able to talk about what was going on for him. Doing the pose—being able to calm himself—helped him achieve a sense of personal power. He left calm, and went back to class.

Emily: My favorite word is multiverse. I recently went to see Neil Degrasse Tyson when he was in town.

Jen N: I wanted to see him! Was it good?

Emil: Really good. So multiverse is this idea in physics that in the universe there are multiple universes occurring at the same time.

Jen N: So, like for instance, our alter egos are meeting right now at another Maple Street Magnet School? Wow. You really love science, don’t you, Emily?

Emily: I do!

Jen N: As long I don’t have to convert joules to kilojoules in chemistry, science is fun.

 

What are you currently reading?

Emily: I’m studying for my social work clinical exam/license. I’m currently reading the Complete Guide to the National Social Work Exam.

Jen N: I’m reading How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk.

 

What are you learning from the book, Jen?

Jen N: Have kindness and empathy. I have short patience and I need to be better with that. I always want to come at kids in a positive, supportive manner.

 

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Jen N: A world traveler. I want to experience different cultures. I’m interested in anthropology. I’m interested in people and want to see how they live.

Emily: Honestly, this may seem super cheesy but I love being a CIS Site Coordinator. This is 100% what I want to be doing.

Jen N: But if someone plunked you down and said you could be anything, wouldn’t you want to travel? Who doesn’t want to travel?

Emily: I’ve traveled. I spent time in South Africa. I got there and realized it wasn’t my community. You can only do so much when it’s not your own community. Here, [Emily waves her hands around the school] this is my community. I can make a real difference here.

 

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

Emily: Adeline Sichterman. She was my neighbor when I was growing up in Paw Paw. She was this extremely cool and eccentric English teacher who had lived in Japan for a long time. She took me to Barnes & Noble and bought me books. She took me to plays. She taught me that it’s okay to be smart and weird. Later, when I grew up, she even did the flowers for my wedding!

Jen N: For sure my parents, both of them. They both work to educate and help people. They help the underdog. Their example taught me cultural sensitivity and that you can’t judge others. You must take every person that comes at you as they are, no matter what.

 

You two make a great team. You’re both funny and deep.

Emily: Funny but deep, I like that.

Jen N.: Just so we’re not funny and peripheral.

 

Thank you, Emily and Jen N.!

 

A Safe Place to Learn and Grow

A safe place to learn and grow. This is one of five CIS basics that we believe every child needs and deserves. Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo Site Coordinator and today’s guest blogger, Emily Demorest, works closely with other CIS staff, the Kalamazoo Public Schools, volunteers, and community partners to create a safe and nurturing learning environment for all children. Here now is Emily’s open letter and reaction to a recent draft statement put forth by the Michigan State Board of Education.

 

I applaud the Michigan Department of Education for their bold step to support the rights and safety of LGBTQ youth in Michigan public schools. The State Board of Education’s Statement and Guidance on Safe and Supportive Learning Environments for LGBTQ Students is a crucial step in ensuring all students in the state receive the education they deserve. We are tasked with supporting all students regardless of our personal feelings regarding individual identity issues.

Any LGBTQ students can share stories of marginalization or open hostility because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. At a time when young people are most vulnerable in their personal development, youth are experiencing issues with bullying, physical harassment, and difficulties accessing safe use of a toilet during the school day. Most are careful to share their true identities even with those they trust. As a CIS Site Coordinator, I work daily with students facing these challenges. All these young people want is to be safe and supported in their learning environment.

Students who do not feel that school is a safe and supportive environment have worse educational outcomes. According to research published by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network in 2013, LGBTQ students who perceive a hostile school climate are three times as likely to miss school and twice as likely to report a lack of interest in pursuing post high school education. Tragically, over half of students experiencing discrimination and harassment at school do not report the abuse due to feeling that exposing their identity to school staff will lead to further problems.

Do not all children deserve equal opportunities to quality education?

The full report is available by going here. Members of the public who wish to comment on the guidelines have until April 11th to express their support before the vote on May 10th.

 

 

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.

20140506-DSC_7684
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.

RSVP: Your Invitation To Volunteer

RSVP Senior ServicesToday, we highlight the work of RSVP through Senior Services Southwest Michigan.  RSVP was recently honored at the seventh annual Champ celebration.  CIS Board Member Steve Powell, along with Emily Demorest, CIS Site Coordinator at Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts, presented the award. 

Communities In Schools has been fortunate to reap the skills and wisdom of the many senior volunteers that have come to us over the last eleven years, courtesy of RSVP Senior Services. RSVP, Your Invitation to Volunteer, is a national service program of the Senior Corps that recruits adults 55 and better into service throughout our community. The partnership between RSVP Senior Services and Communities In Schools began in 2003 and since then, we have learned we can count on the leadership of the twoTracys. Tracie Wheeler, Director for RSVP of Senior Services and Traci Furman, Special Projects Coordinator for RSVP work seamlessly to recruit RSVP volunteers which enables CIS to place these reliable individuals at elementary and secondary buildings, tutoring, mentoring and inspiring our young people.

Jayne BaumerHere are a few snapshots of some of the committed volunteers the two Tracys have brought us:

Retired from 31 years of teaching, Barb Gillespie can be found at Woods Lake helping after school with Kalamazoo Kids in Tune, a program done in partnership among the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Kalamazoo Public Schools, and Communities In Schools. There she is learning violin alongside first graders. “I enjoy making my own music and it is important,” she says, “to always have a purpose in life.” She volunteers as part of the “Live To Give” lifestyle that she espouses. “Volunteering helps me feel complete at the end of the day,” she says.
Kevin Lavender Jr, CIS Site Coordinator at Hillside Middle School says this of RSVP volunteer, Charlie Anderson: “Mr. Charlie is part of the CIS and KPS family at Hillside. Mr. Charlie finds ways to relate to students and does a great job supporting CIS staff with student engagement in activities and group discussions. It’s really cool to see an elder in our community reach out to the youth and be intentional about building relationships with them and helping them explore the possibilities in life. I think every school should have a Mr. Charlie!”

IMG_9413In fact, thanks to RSVP most of our schools do have a Mr. Charlie although they may be known as Marti Terpstra, Dick Glass, Jeanne Church, and countless others who impart a passion for life long learning. In a sense, every RSVP volunteer is, for our children, a living, breathing lesson on how to live. In the last two years alone, RSVP has provided us with 29 volunteers and they have served in 11 CIS school sites as well as volunteering for office support, helping with Friday Food Packs, and special literacy events. That translates into 2,451 hours of service.

RSVP Senior Services, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life. 

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.

 

KZOO Spartans: Scoring Big For Students

_DSC0785College football season has started so it seems only fitting that we should wrap up our 2013 Champ series with the KZOO Spartans.  (Not that we have any favorite teams – we are fans of all colleges and universities!)  We should point out that the KZOO Spartans were at it again this summer – surpassing what they did last year and raising funds to provide 64 middle school students with a new backpack stuffed with school supplies.  And, just this morning,  we learned that, thanks to the continued efforts of KZOO Spartans, our CIS Site Coordinators will be able to deliver 60 additional new backpacks to students.  Talk about touchdowns! Thanks KZOO Spartans!

It all started with a golf tournament and the idea to ask golfers to make a donation so backpacks filled with school supplies could be given to middle school students in the fall.

IMG_0810Thanks to the members of the KZOO Spartans — a group of Michigan State University alumni & friends in Kalamazoo County– 50 middle school students started their school year with one of these well stocked backpacks. The power of new backpacks and school supplies can not be underestimated. Emily Demorest, CIS Site Coordinator at Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts recalls a new student who had recently started attending the CIS afterschool program (funded through 21st Century). During homework time, she came upon him sitting by himself, his head down, resting on a drawstring bag that had a long rip in the side. The student confided to her that he had bad grades. He shared his struggle to keep his things organized and how he often lost his assignments. She gave him one of the new backpacks filled with school supplies. Together, they sat down and carefully organized all the items. “I love to see him in the hallway,” she says, “carrying his black backpack stuffed with classroom materials. He loves coming to school where he now has a cool matching backpack just like all the other kids.” For him, a backpack thoughtfully filled with supplies has helped him stay on track.
2012 KZOO Spartans Softball TeamThe KZOO Spartans have continued to meet our students’ basic needs by supporting the CIS Kids’ Closet program – helping to ensure children have the clothing, school supplies, and personal care products they need to allow them to attend school in comfort and dignity.

Additionally, alumni members have helped to foster a college-going culture by participating in CIS events like Ready, Set, College! and College Night at Maple Street Magnet School.

It is not surprising that the Latin noun, alumnus, is derived from the verb “alere” which means to nourish. For that is just what this alumni group is doing. Nourishing the next generation of college going children by providing some of the basics all children need so that they can focus on succeeding in school. Go Green! Go White!

KZOO Spartans, we thank you for helping students stay in school and achieve in life.