Caring Adult Series: Mr. Blink

Johnny featured with some caring adults. Back,from left: CIS After School Coordinator Stacy Salters, KPS Principal Julie McDonald, KPS Teacher Chad Chambless.
Johnny featured with some caring adults. Back,from left: CIS After School Coordinator Stacy Salters, KPS Principal Julie McDonald, KPS Teacher Chad Chambless.

If you follow our blog, you know that CIS has been asking caring adults to think back to when they were young and in school and recall that caring adult they felt especially connected to. Maybe it was in elementary school, or perhaps it was middle or high school. Who is that special person, that, even after all these years, they still carry within their hearts?

Members of the CIS team at Edison Environmental Science Academy were up to the challenge and in the weeks to come, we’ll find out who their caring adults are as we will publish each of their letters.

Today, we are excited to share a letter written by one member of the passionate, talented, and dedicated team who infuse Edison Environmental Science Academy with hope, love, and learning.


Dear Mr. Blink,

Many people do not believe I was ever a shy person.  Thirty six years ago, you had that shy 7th grader in your social studies classroom and on your volleyball team.  My brother was a star football player at the high school, breaking all sorts of records.  I was known as “Dean’s little sister” or “little Sharick.”  I was 12, trying to figure out who I was, what I stood for, and who my friends were.

Honestly, I don’t remember you doing anything particularly special just for me, but you made me feel special, gave me my own voice and always called me by my first name.  You allowed me to be a typical 7th grade girl – moody and well, a 7th grade girl.   You would talk about choosing friends wisely and being true to yourself.  As an adult and an educator, I now see that you took every advantage of “teachable moments.” By the time I started 8th grade, I was a new person, no longer as shy, knowing who I was (at least as much as a teenager can), and chose my friends wisely.  Most of my best friends are friends of 30+ years!

Thank you for taking this shy, 12 year old under your wing and allowing me to fly.  You were an integral part of my decision to become a teacher.  I hope I have made a difference in my students’ lives just as you have mine.

Thank you so much,

Julie (Sharick) McDonald, M.A.

Edison Environmental Science Academy
Kalamazoo Public Schools

Who is your Mr. Blink? If you are up to the challenge of reflecting on and writing a letter to your caring adult, email it to me at and we just might publish it!

And, if you haven’t yet had a chance to read the Story of Success within our freshly published annual report, take a few minutes to learn how KPS Principal Julie McDonald, her fabulous teaching staff, CIS staff, and other caring adults are helping Johnny succeed. Hint: To address the needs of the whole child, it often takes more than one person, one organization or resource. Johnny identifies a number of caring adults that have empowered him and gives a special shout out to: The Kalamazoo Promise®, Friday Food Packs (made possible thanks to Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes), First Day Shoe Fund, the Edison School Based Health Center (staffed by Family Health Center), Open Roads, and WMU College of Aviation.  These last two resources are offered as part of CIS After School Programming funded through the Michigan Department of Education, 21st Century Community Learning Centers.


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!