We can’t get enough of what you are reading! And a number of you can’t either! Some of you have even emailed and called and stopped us on the street to let us know how much you are enjoying this “What are you reading?” series. So we wondered, what are our wonderful partners up to in the world of books?
I’m reading Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad, by M.T. Anderson. It explores a dark and grim period in Russian history as experienced and expressed through the life and work of the famous composer. It was actually written as a book for teenagers, whom the author clearly regards as capable readers who can handle the real story. I highly recommend it as a captivating foray into a dense and difficult historical subject, especially as we grapple with deeply divided social and political beliefs in our own society.
Today we highlight Western Michigan University Medallion Scholars, one of seven school and community partners honored with a 2016 Champ Award. Their award was sponsored by Western Michigan University and CIS Board Member, Steve Denenfeld, presented the award.
In 2013, when Western Michigan University Medallion Scholars from Lee Honors College reflected on their education, they realized some of their toughest years were in middle school. They wished they’d had someone there for them academically and to help them navigate the social, emotional and sometimes choppy waters of middle school. So, for the past three years, once a week, these fourteen scholars from Lee Honors College have been doing just that for students at Milwood Magnet Middle School.
“The impact on students has been phenomenal,” says Tamiko Garrett, CIS Site Coordinator at Milwood. “Attendance has improved and students, once reluctant to do homework, now look forward to it. Scholars Travis, Marine, Leslie, Jake, Kelly, and Jenna have sparked students’ passion for learning.” On Tuesdays, students often stop by the CIS office to make sure Ana, Emily, Ben, or Elizabeth is coming. “I have math homework to do with Zach today, you know,” reminds Amarion, who, by the way, now wants to become an engineer like Zach.
These one-on-one relationships enhance these middle schoolers’ sense of who they are and what they can accomplish in school and life. Medallion Scholar Ed Ryan studies graphic design and works with Ben in the school’s animation club. They eat and then finish homework together. Ben, too, wants to be a graphic designer. Narisse Martin is in biomedical sciences, pursuing the path of a doctor. Her mentee, Brianna, wants to explore a career in science.
These and other successful matches don’t just happen. It takes behind-the-scenes coordination. Tamiko, as Site Coordinator, connects the right resources to the right kids at the right time. She credits Jane Baas, Associate Dean of Lee Honors College, with getting the program off to a strong start as she provided a profile of the Medallion Scholars, which included their academic majors. As Tamiko met with each of the middle school students, reflecting on their interests in communication, theatre, science, and music, this information proved invaluable in connecting the right middle schooler to the right scholar. Jane is a steady support for the Medallion Scholars and staying in close communication with CIS.
Milwood Magnet teachers are also part of the program’s success as teachers stay after school to give students that extra boost. Teachers like Ms. Zang and Ms. Hawkinson are always reaching out to the Site Coordinator, saying things like “Have them come down to my room this afternoon to discuss an assignment they can work on together.”
“We’re all behind the Medallion Scholars because they put students first,” says Tamiko. “We all count on them to be here each week and when one of them can’t make it, they let me know so I can prepare the student and identify another mentor to double up so that no student is left out.”
Tattiana says, “Giulia helps me with my homework. We play games—only when I finish my homework—and she is nice. She’s also funny, smart, kind, and helpful.” Natacia says, “I like spending time with Kylie. I can talk to her about things and I get help with my homework.” “Sami is great and awesome,” says Devy. “We do fun things. She helps me with my homework. When I try to get her to do my homework she won’t. She keeps encouraging me!!” Darius says, “Josh is cool. He helps me get my homework done, and I know it is correct. I look forward to coming to the CIS After School program, especially when I know Josh will be there.”
As these scholars graduate from college and their mentees advance to high school, the scholars have accomplished what they set out to do: sparking hope in the future leaders of Kalamazoo.
National Reading Month has us wondering, what are Communities In Schools (CIS) volunteers reading? To appease our curiosity, Kaitlin Martin, CIS Volunteer Services Coordinator asked them. Here’s what 26 of these wonderful folks who share their time and talents to benefit students throughout the Kalamazoo Public Schools had to say:
What a great idea! I’m an avid reader myself. I am currently reading Memories by Lang Leav. She is a talented poet my friend recommended to me and I adore her beautiful poetry.
I just finished The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy; good story. I don’t read a lot of books because I read a newspaper every day and subscribe to two magazines, and then there is all that mail, both snail and electronic. Also, I read stories off the Internet.
-Karen Tinklenberg, Lincoln International Studies School
-Kailee Smith, Northglade Montessori Magnet School & Prairie Ridge Elementary
I finished Orphan Train by Christine Baker-Kline a few weeks ago: interesting and heartbreaking novel based on true events between 1854-1929 depicting the lives of abandoned children from East Coast cities put on so-called orphan trains carrying thousands of them to the farmlands of the Midwest where their fates would be determined by pure luck; intermixed with a storyline set in modern day foster care.
I am now well into Americanahby Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a fascinating novel about immigration, American dreams, the power of first love, and the shifting meanings of skin color. A full immersion opportunity to think outside the American box.
-Mary Reaume, Prairie Ridge Elementary
I am always reading multiple books at a time. Currently, my books of choice are:
A series written by English author, Jacqueline Winspear. These books are set in England and France between WWI and WWII. They are historical mysteries. The main character is Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator. The storyline contains delightful characters, many of whom continue from book to book. Besides the plots being well developed and interesting, Winspear’s use of the very rich vocabulary of the English is fun to explore. My Kindle allows me to find word meaning and usage on the spot! The historical settings are well researched.
-Diana Spradling, Woods Lake Elementary
I received your email and thought it was an interesting project to list what CIS folks are reading. Right now, I am reading The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean by David Abulafia. It is a fascinating history of civilization as it developed on the Mediterranean from 22000 BC to the present. It will be interesting to see what others are reading.
Dead Wake by Erik Larson—about the sinking of the Lusitania. Strangers in the Bronx by Andrew O’Toole—about the transition from DiMaggio to Mantle in the Yankee dynasties. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough—about the development of the first successful airplane. A Man and His Ship by Steven Ujifusa—about the man who conceived and supervised the building of the ocean liner “United States.”
-Wayne Connor, Edison Environmental Science Academy