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.!