Susan Knox: Doing Her Part to Create a Community of Hope

Today we highlight Susan Knox, honored with a 2017 Champ Award. Her Champ award was sponsored by Greenleaf Trust. CIS Board member and Kalamazoo Promise Board Member Dr. Janice M. Brown presented the award.

A child’s success in school and life often hinges on the opportunity to have a one-on-one relationship with a caring adult. It’s one of the five CIS basics, something every child needs and deserves. This relationship can make the difference between a student staying in school or becoming one of the 1.2 million students who drop out of school each year. Since the Fall of 2010, Susan Knox has been that caring adult for many of our high school students, particularly those struggling academically.

When Susan, a chemical engineer, retired from Pfizer, she sold her house and car, and moved downtown. “I wanted to start volunteering,” she said, “to contribute to something I felt passionate about. I picked up a pamphlet about volunteering and circled the ones I thought I could do.” We’re forever thankful she circled Communities In Schools.

Susan, on right, with CIS Site Coordinator Deborah Yarbrough.

She has been a CIS volunteer at Kalamazoo Central for seven years now. Regardless of the weather, she catches the city bus and week after week, year after year, shows up consistently for our kids. “Suzie’s passion to serve students goes far beyond what is expected of any volunteer,” says CIS Site Coordinator Deborah Yarbrough. “She’s willing to adjust her schedule to accommodate the needs of both our students and staff.

Her flexibility has allowed CIS to connect her with the students who need her most. She provides academic support to student one-on-one and in small groups. She’s worked with students during study hall, after school, and during the lunch hour. While she primarily focuses on math, she’s willing to tutor in other subjects. “No French or Spanish,” she says, “but I’ll give everything else a try.”

Susan and Kalamazoo Cental student taking a break from tutoring to smile.

Smart, compassionate and humble, Susan credits her success with students to the support she’s received along the way. “CIS gave me the training I needed to be successful. I learned how to do things and just as importantly, what not to do.” She refers to CIS Site Coordinator Deborah Yarbrough and CIS Success Coach Jenna Cooperrider as her “CIS bosses…They aren’t bossy, though,” she says. “Because they know the students so well, they give me insight into what the students need from me. They’re role models. I watch their interactions and it helps me figure out what I should do, what I should tolerate or not tolerate when it comes to behaviors. They coordinate with each other and give me the support I need so I can support the student.”

“Volunteering,” someone once said, “is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.” Through her rock solid and steady support, Susan is creating a community of hope, one in which all children can fulfill their promise.

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

Champs Among Us

 

This past Wednesday, CIS board and staff had a fabulous time hosting the almost 400 people who gathered at the Radisson for the 10th Annual Champs event to honor community partners who share in the CIS vision— an engaged community where every child fulfills his or her promise— by actively putting forth time, energy, talent and resources to drive this vision to reality.

 

All in for kids, this year’s Champs are:

Evening Custodians: Mike Free, Ike Thurman, and Chalene Watson,

KPS Custodians of Milwood Magnet Middle School

Kalamazoo College Men’s Baseball Team, CIS Higher Learning Partner

Pfizer, CIS Business Partner

Prevention Works, CIS Nonprofit Partner

Rotary Club of Kalamazoo, CIS Service Club Partner

Susan Knox, CIS Volunteer

The CIS Board also honored Von and Fran Washington with the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award. This award is named for Western Michigan University President Emeritus Diether Haenicke. As educators, creators, and professional performers, this couple and their company, Washington Productions, use the performing arts to extend the dialogue of race, culture, identity, and what it means to be American. They gave an unforgettable acceptance speech that awed us all. We’ll feature the Washingtons next week.

Special thanks to the event sponsors:

  • PNC,
  • Maestro,
  • Lawrence Productions,
  • BASIC,
  • Borgess,
  • Fifth Third,
  • Greenleaf Trust,
  • Miller-Davis Company,
  • Schupan & Sons,
  • TowerPinkster,
  • Warner Norcross & Judd,
  • Western Michigan University,
  • Bronson,
  • First National Bank of Michigan, and
  • Kreis Enderle Hudgins & Borsos.

As Von Washington Jr., Executive Director of Community Relations with the Kalamazoo Promise, and emcee who kept the event flowing said, “You are all champions for children!”

In addition to hearing brief, yet memorable remarks from Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice and CIS Board President Dr. Tim Light, guests were treated to a performance of “Glorious.” As many of you know, “Glorious” was conducted by Dr. Eric Barth, Kalamazoo Kids In Tune Curriculum Director.  (Kalamazoo Kids in Tune is a partnership of The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Kalamazoo Public Schools, and Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo.) The children were joined by soloist Christine Mason, a CIS Youth Development Worker at Woods Lake.  Kalamazoo Kids in Tune, along with students from Arcadia, El Sol, Spring Valley, Woods Lake and Woodward Elementary Schools and Kalamazoo Central High School, Maple Street and Milwood Magnet Middle Schools filled the ballroom with glorious sounds. Bravo to all involved in the performance (both in front of and behind the scenes)!

Curt Johnson, a senior at Kalamazoo Central High School, shared his CIS story—which we’ll be publishing here in the coming weeks —and lifted up the voices and needs of the more than 11,000 students that CIS serves throughout 20 Kalamazoo Public Schools. Thank you, Curt!

A special shout out to our CIS Site Teams, the CIS Site Coordinators, After School Coordinators, Youth Development Workers, VISTAs, and interns who provide the infrastructure to support the hundreds of marvelous volunteers and community partners who work to help children stay in school and achieve in life.

So, keep up with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids to discover the Champ experience. You’ll be able to read what our various presenters said about their efforts and thanks to CIS volunteer, Don Kingery, you’ll be able to see what guests saw (and missed!) through his photographic lens.

We think you’ll agree it’s not just a one day event!

Sitting at table, left to right: Namita Sharma, Carolyn H. Williams, Sid Williams, and Moses Walker

 

Rosemary Gardiner: A Gifted Story Teller

This year’s Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award, sponsored by Greenleaf Trust, was presented to Rosemary Gardiner. This prestigious award was established by the Communities In Schools Board back in 2010 to honor Diether’s extensive contributions to his adopted home of Kalamazoo and in particular, his service and genuine concern for the children and young people of our community. A former board member of CIS, Diether cherished teaching and learning at all levels and wanted all young people to have the gift of an excellent education and perhaps more importantly, the joy of life-long curiosity and learning.

Rosemary Gardiner (left) with Annie Johnston Henn of Greenleaf Trust.
Rosemary Gardiner (left) with Annie Henn of Greenleaf Trust.

Diether Haenicke was a man of many interests and talents.  He was equally passionate about fulfilling his responsibilities as Western Michigan University President as he was about being a mentor in the KAAAP Program. There is no doubt many of us can tell a story or two about Diether’s expectations for excellence—whether applied to himself or to those around him.  Among his highest ideals, was how we as individuals or as a community should care for our children. He would be especially proud that this award is going to this year’s recipient, Rosemary Gardiner, a devout champion of children.20160517-_DSC8177

Rosemary has served in many roles at Family & Children Services, starting as a social worker more than forty years ago. Prior to her eight-year stint as the Chief Executive Officer of the agency, she served as Public Relations Director and Development Director. She has dedicated her professional talents to Family & Children Services and has mentored and molded hundreds of young social workers. She has led the agency’s efforts in being innovative in developing or adopting new strategies for improving the lives of children while setting a high bar for stewardship. Among the areas most appreciated by Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, is her long-standing commitment to social-emotional support services delivered in school settings.

The common thread throughout her time and varied titles and accomplishments is one of the most cherished and valued roles she could possibly play—that of the wise and well-respected storyteller. Rosemary has created success in whatever she has taken on because she understands the stories of children and is able to tell them so skillfully to the rest of us. Whether telling us of the profound importance of being a foster parent or the sorrow of childhood trauma, Rosemary can make us understand. Whether showing us the unexpected healing that the most challenged human spirit can accomplish or the forever wound a grieving parent must survive, Rosemary can make us understand. Through imparting the critical stories of children, Rosemary can create an advocate from a casual observer. The way in which she shares these truths, changes us all.

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Dr. Tim Light, President, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo Board with Rosemary Gardiner.

In naming Rosemary Gardiner as the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence recipient for 2016, we have created a new category of excellence—excellence in telling the story of children and excellence in helping us to understand and to care. In native Pueblo culture, the role of the storyteller is an old and honored one. And so, as a symbol of her Diether Haenicke Award from the Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo Board, Rosemary was given a small piece of art, entitled “The Storyteller.” It was created by a Pueblo Native American artist. These small sculptures/figurines are created by many different Pueblo artists and reflect the esteem given to the wise and respected storytellers of the culture.  She was also given a book explaining the tradition.

We thank Rosemary for her long and faithful service to the children and families of our community and for continuing to tell their stories.

Rosemary receiving a special tribute from the State of Michigan.
Rosemary receiving a special tribute from the State of Michigan.

Rosemary Gardiner and Pam Kingery sat down with Lori Moore last week on The Lori Moore Show. You can watch it here.