Gracias, Pat Early

Pat Early Champ Presentation 5-31-16s (15 of 29)
Larry Lueth, CEO of First National Bank of Michigan (right) presenting CIS volunteer Pat Early with his Champ Award. CIS Site Coordinator Laura Keiser (left) and several MLK students are all smiles.

Today we highlight Pat Early, one of seven school and community partners honored with a 2016 Champ Award. His award was sponsored by First National Bank of Michigan and CIS Board member Carol McGlinn announced his award at the Champ event. Since Pat was unable to attend the celebration as he was out of the country, upon his return he was presented with his Champ award at King-Westwood Elementary School.

MLK student congratulates Pat Early on his award as First National Bank of Michigan's CEO Larry Lueth and CIS Site Coordinator Laura Keiser look on.
MLK student congratulates Pat Early on his award as another MLK student, First National Bank of Michigan’s CEO Larry Lueth and CIS Site Coordinator Laura Keiser look on.

For the past three years, Pat Early has been volunteering with Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo at King-Westwood Elementary. A retired Chemical Production Coordinator for Pfizer, he tutors several hours a week. “He’s such a valuable member of our team,” says CIS Site Coordinator Laura Keiser. “I can connect him with all different kinds of kids who have various academic needs. He doesn’t back away from a challenge, and trust me, some of the kids have tested him!”

Because the students know their tutor genuinely enjoys and cares about them, they look forward to learning with Pat each week. Pat also hosts a monthly science club with fourth graders. His goal is to make science fun and hands-on. Recently, the students made lava lamps using Alka-Seltzer tablets. His demonstrations spark questions that naturally emerge as the students experience wonder.

It should come, then, as no surprise that CIS Volunteer Coordinator Kaitlin Martin turned to Pat for help with piloting Water Wizards—a collaboration between the Kalamazoo County Drain Commissioner’s OfficeKalamazoo River Cleanup Coalition, and Communities In Schools. Pat immediately hopped on board. Using the portable model Drain Commissioner Patricia Crowley purchased, Pat teaches students about water cycles and conservation.

Most recently, Pat has worked to bring in the “Birds of Prey show and tell” from the Kalamazoo Nature Center. It’s no wonder Site Coordinator Laura Keiser and her King-Westwood team are thrilled to have Pat Early on their team!

Pat couldn’t attend the celebration so we’ll close with a letter he wrote:

Buenas Noches,

Missing the Champs celebration disappoints me. Celebrating the work done by volunteers, staff and teachers reminds us to strive for the ultimate reward:  successful students. Laura Keiser, CIS Site Coordinator at King-Westwood School, gives me strategies and support to be a more effective CIS volunteer. Thank you, Laura.

I look forward to working with the students so that they learn their lessons and grow as individuals.

I am in Buenos Aires, Argentina celebrating with my daughter. She is completing a five month study abroad program through Western Michigan University. She plans to continue on to medical school. Her journey started with a curiosity to learn. She has added hours of hard work to the curiosity to be successful.

I look forward to returning to King-Westwood next week to help other students on their journey.

Gracias por el reconocimiento, (thanks for the recognition).

Adios,

Pat

Pat Early, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

Checking out Pat's Champ Award! The Champ statues are created by local artist, Jon Reeves.
Checking out Pat’s Champ Award! The Champ statues are created by local artist, Jon Reeves.

What Are CIS Volunteers Reading?

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Photo taken by Kaitlin Martin, CIS Volunteer Services Coordinator and Kaitlin LaMoine Photography

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.

-Danielle Favorite, Linden Grove Middle School

 

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

-Jim Laurain, Maple Street Middle School

 

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

People’s Church

 

I am currently reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. It is a book we are considering for our Honors College common read for next year!

-Jane Baas, Milwood Street Magnet Middle School

Coordinator of Medallion Scholars

 

IMG_0621
Photo taken by Kaitlin Martin, CIS Volunteer Services Coordinator and Kaitlin LaMoine Photography

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and Tillyweed by Mary Anne Kelly.

-Jennifer Grace, Milwood Elementary

 

I just finished reading The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, which I loved even more than the movie. I am now reading salt.by Nayyirah Waheed; a book of her poems. It’s pulling on the strings of my heart.

-Tanequa “Te” Hampton, Maple Street Magnet Middle School

Pretty Lake Camp Director

 

Currently, I’m reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Once I’m finished, I plan on starting Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.

-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 Americanah by 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

 

Photo taken by Kaitlin Martin, CIS Volunteer Services Coordinator and Kaitlin LaMoine Photography
Photo taken by Kaitlin Martin, CIS Volunteer Services Coordinator and Kaitlin LaMoine Photography

I am always reading multiple books at a time. Currently, my books of choice are:

1) The Nez Perce Indians and the Opening of the Northwest by Alvin Josephy

2) I Shall Not Hate by Izzeldin Abuelaish

3) The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay & James Madison

4) The End of Nature by Bill McKibben

-Richard Thompson, King-Westwood Elementary School

 

I just finished The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline.

-Roberta Sportel, Northglade Montessori Magnet School

 

No Easy Day by Mark Owen and Cell by Stephen King.

-Lisa Holmes, Prairie Ridge Elementary

 

Just this very moment, I am on Anna Maria Island looking at the Gulf and reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

-Rosalie Novara, King-Westwood Elementary & Maple Street Magnet School

 

The Outsider by Richard Wright after finishing Native Son by the same author.

-Nanette Keiser, King-Westwood Elementary School

 

Photo taken by Kaitlin Martin, CIS Volunteer Services Coordinator and Kaitlin LaMoine Photography
Photo taken by Kaitlin Martin, CIS Volunteer Services Coordinator and Kaitlin LaMoine Photography

I belong to the International Murder Mystery reader’s group at the Portage Public Library. Our selection for this month is Night Soldiers by Alan Furst.

-Judy Riccio, Woods Lake Elementary

 

I just finished the Orphan Train which was the community read by Kalamazoo Public Library.

-Stephen Ohs, Lincoln International Studies School

 

Yesterday, I finished reading Mitch Albom’s The First Phone Call From Heaven. I am about to start reading Encountering God, written by an old friend of mine, Mark A Johnson, with a major assist from his parents.

-Dewey Walker, Prairie Ridge Elementary

 

I am reading The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant.  It is a good read and starts back in the early 1900’s about a Jewish family and their relationships and how they cope with life and world events.

-Nancy Laugeman, Prairie Ridge Elementary 

 

I am currently reading the entire series of Dune. A great sci-fi series that has great insight into life and is also a great and easy read.

-Paul Ferguson, Washington Writers’ Academy

 

Photo taken by Kaitlin Martin, CIS Volunteer Services Coordinator and Kaitlin LaMoine Photography
Photo taken by Kaitlin Martin, CIS Volunteer Services Coordinator and Kaitlin LaMoine Photography

I am reading:  Newspapers – Kalamazoo Gazette, Detroit Free Press, New York Times;  Magazines- Time, National Geographic, Military History; Books – Budapest 1900/A Historical Portrait of a City and its Culture by John Lukacs, Ardennes 1944 by Antony Beevor, and One For the Money by Janet Evanovich.  With my Bible study group I am also reading Jeremiah, the 24th book of the Old Testament.

-James (Jim) W. Smith, Woods Lake Elementary

 

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.

-Bob Spradling, Woods Lake Elementary

 

Reading Love Will Steer Me True by Jane Knuth and Ellen Knuth; and Mothers, Tell Your Daughters by Bonnie Jo Campbell.

-Amy Morris, Northeastern Elementary School

 

Right now I’m reading John Adams by David McCullough.

-Diane Tultz, King-Westwood Elementary School

 

I am currently reading Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and The Dogs of Littlefield by Suzanne Berne.

-Susie Knox, Kalamazoo Central High School

 

Photo taken by Kaitlin Martin, CIS Volunteer Services Coordinator and Kaitlin LaMoine Photography
Photo taken by Kaitlin Martin, CIS Volunteer Services Coordinator and Kaitlin LaMoine Photography

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

 

Our Unitarian Universalist Association suggests a “Common Read” each year and People’s Church accepted the recommendation of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. Recently, we held a group discussion of this book and related themes. My own book club is reading The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing and we also participate in the Kalamazoo Common Read, currently The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline.

-Kay Spade, Lincoln International Studies School
People’s Church

 

Thank you for sharing! And if you missed some of our CIS staff and board members are reading you can find them here and here.

 

We are an open book

Today begins National Reading Month. In anticipation of all the fabulous literacy activities kicking off throughout the Kalamazoo Public Schools, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) staff once again prepare by asking each other: What are you reading?

Crash the Chatterbox by Steven Furtick.

-Deondra Ramsey, CIS After School Site Coordinator at Washington Writers’ Academy

 

I am reading the Mindful Manifesto by Jonty Heaversedge and Ed Halliwell and I love it!

-Missy Best, Site Coach & Mentor 

 

I am currently reading From Babylon to Timbuktu- A History of Ancient Black Races Including The Black Hebrews, written by Rudolph R. Windsor.

-Montrell Baker, CIS Site Coordinator, Loy Norrix High School

 

I just finished Memory For Forgetfulness, by Mahmoud Darwish, which is a poetic account of the 1982 Israeli invasion of Beirut. I’m now reading Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin and How The Irish Became White, by Noel Ignatiev.

-Kaitlin Martin, Volunteer Services Coordinator

 

I just finished Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, which is a case study and research summarization of how people are dating now that technology is involved. I laughed out loud on every page. Everyone on my flight on Tuesday morning thought I was crazy. Now I am going to start reading Sick In The Head by Judd Apatow.

-Elyse Brey, Director of Elementary Sites

 

Station 11 by Emily St. John Mandel.

-Keely Novotny, CIS Site Coordinator, Edison Environmental Science Academy

 

I am reading the first volume of a collection of graphic novels by Jaime Hernandez entitled Love and Rockets. Very fun!

-Katherine Williams, CIS After School Coordinator, Hillside Middle School

 

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

-Stephen Brewer, AmeriCorps VISTA, Edison Environmental Science Academy

 

I am reading…Tales of a Female Nomad  Living at Large in the World by Rita Gelman and We Need New Names by No Violet Bulawayo. Here’s to Good Reads….

-Lauren Longwell, AmeriCorps VISTA Lead

 

I am reading In a Rocket Made of Ice by Gail Gutradt. It’s about Gail’s volunteer experience at my uncles orphanage in Cambodia.

-Terra Mosqueda, AmeriCorps VISTA, Loy Norrix High School & Hillside Middle School

 

I just finished M-A-C-N-O-L-I-A. Through narratively linked poems, A. Van Jordan tells the story of MacNolia Cox. She won the 1936 Akron, Ohio Spelling Bee and then became the first African American to reach the final rounds in the national competition. It’s beautifully written and reads like a play. Now onto reading Nora Webster by Colm Tóibin.

-Jennifer Clark, Special Projects & Initiatives

 

I am currently reading The Witches: Salem, 1692 by Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Stacy Schiff. It is a psychologically thrilling nonfiction account that is rather dense with facts and light on sensationalism. In other words, readers really have to commit, but the payoff has been well worth it.

-Carly Denny, CIS Site Coordinator, Prairie Ridge Elementary

 

The book I currently started dissecting again is The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness written by Michelle Alexander; a former director of the Racial Justice Project at the ACLU of Northern California and past director of the Civil Rights Clinic at Stanford Law School. The New Jim Crow is about the US prison system, its rise to have one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, and how, when systems are created, the social views those systems are predicated on can play a huge role in the systems operation.

Sure to polarize people to one side or another of an already controversial topic, this book is great at inspiring critical reflection on one of Modern America’s major topics!

-Nathaniel Wolfe Easlick, CIS After School Program Coordinator, Milwood Elementary

 

I’m currently reading and listening to Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Full Catastrophe Living:  Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain and Illness. This book details Kabat-Zinn’s Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction program, which in many ways, forms the foundation of mindfulness practices in the United States. I’m also reading The Whole Brain Child, by Dan Siegel, which offers specific strategies for helping kids to integrate the various parts of their brain to help them manage socially and emotionally.

-Deb Faling, Director of Social Emotional Health Initiatives

 

I am currently reading: The Diamond Age: Or, A Young Lady’s Illustrated Primer by Neal Stephenson. A wonderful science fiction classic that deals with computer programming, nano-technology, and the limits of artificial intelligence.

Re-reading: Delivered from Distraction: Getting the Most Out of Life with Attention Deficit Disorder by Edward M. Hallowell, John J. Ratey. A fantastic strength’s based model and, in my opinion, a great read for both those with ADHD and those who work with or love those with ADHD.

Also, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen is my book club read this month. A fun read so far, it also has poignant themes about the treatment of people living in elder care communities.

-Ellie Galas, CIS Site Coordinator, Linden Grove Middle School

 

I just finished The Wright Brothers and am currently reading two books: Connection Culture by Michael Lee Stallard and Desire Lines by Christina Baker Kline, the author of Orphan Train (the community read this year).

-Mary Oudsema, Special Projects

 

I’m currently reading The Walking Dead Compendium Vol. 3 by Charlie Adlard and Robert Kirkman. It’s a collection of the graphic novels that the television show is based on. If you like the show, you’ll love the graphic novels – they’re amazing!

-Donielle Hetrick, CIS After School Coordinator, Woods Lake Elementary: A Magnet Center for the Arts

 

I have been reading a lot of articles lately on trauma-centered approaches to working with youth as well as other research papers on program design. But, I am about to crack into two books, Beating the Odds: Raising Academically Successful African American Males and Overcoming the Odds: Raising Academically Successful African American Young Women both by Freeman A. Hrambowski, III, Kenneth L. Maton and Geoffrey L. Greif.  Mr. Hrambowski was a keynote speaker at the National Summer Learning Associations training in October in Baltimore.

My book club, The Lovely Ladies of Literature, is voting in a little over a week on our next read.

-Artrella Cohn, Director of Secondary Sites

 

I am currently reading The Girl from the Tar Paper School by Teri Kanefield.

-Tamiko Garrett, Site Coordinator, Milwood Magnet School

 

 

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.

 

Happy Birthday, Blog!

One year ago we launched this blog: Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids. There were over 181 million blogs when we began and there are probably more than that now. The blogosphere is bloated with lots of blogs (say this sentence 10 times). So thank you, dear readers, for choosing to read this blog. To celebrate our year together, I’ve made a delicious chocolate cheesecake (recipe can be found here) and if you want a slice, stop down to our office today. We’ll be offering them on a first come, first serve basis.) In addition, we’re whooping it up by sharing 17 blogtoids* about our one-year-old blog:

  1. In one year, we offered up 53 posts; that’s basically a fresh post every Tuesday.
  2.  Donna Carroll and I welcomed 11 guest bloggers, composed of CIS staff, board, and partners. Thank you Emily, Artrella, Bethany, Melissa, James, Dom, Sandy, Pam, Bonnie, Kaitlin, and Carly for contributing your voice to this blog. Thanks to all the kids, parents, school and community partners who shared their thoughts with us. We’re looking forward to hearing more from you as well as new voices this school year.
  3.  Over half of our 53 posts have highlighted individuals or entities in this community. If all our 12,000 plus kids are going to succeed in school and life, it’s going to take a lot of committed adults working together.
  4.  All 18 of the Kalamazoo Public School buildings that have CIS (we’re in 19 schools this new year, having most recently added Woodward School for Technology & Research) have been mentioned at least once in one or more posts. We love the Kalamazoo Public Schools!
  5. We named names. And we won’t stop. We’ll continue to tell you who is making a difference for kids through CIS.
  6.  You’re smarter because of this blog. You’ve read topics here ranging from literacy, mentoring, resiliency, and music. You’ve discovered what dental care and food have to do with academic success. You’ve read impressive phrases (thanks to guest blogger like CIS board member and partner Dom Pullo) such as “students mixed chemicals that created a chemiluminscent reaction…”
  7.  Three of our posts caught the attention of National CIS. Woo, hoo!
  8.  Most cried over blog post: Open Letter to A Father Who Will Never Read This.
  9.  Funniest post: Don’t Name Your Blog “The Blog.”
  10.  Post that received the most response from teachers and other school staff: Cast Your Vote for Kids.
  11.  Post that featured our hairiest school volunteers: Kaitlin Martin’s Paws for Stories.
  12.  Hardest post to write: Engineers of the Heart.
  13.  Funnest post to write: Six and a Half Things to Do While We’re Away.
  14.  Most fashionable post: Threads.
  15.  Post that featured one of our favorite student interviews: Pop Quiz: Lincoln International Studies Student.
  16.  Hardest thing about blogging? Coming up with a title for each post that is provocative without being too provocative. It needs to be something catchy that will make you want to read more than just the title.
  17. Most rewarding thing about blogging? Seeing and sharing CIS in action—with you, the partners, volunteers, donors, parents, staff, and learning about the wonderful students who are empowered because of your support.

We have only begun to introduce you to some of your 12,000 kids and the hundreds of caring adults who are helping to raise them. Stay with us this year and continue to get a behind the scenes glimpse of CIS in action. At Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids you will continue to meet the talented teachers, hard working principals, and dedicated community volunteers, partners, and CIS staff who are empowering our children to succeed. We look forward to turning two with you.

*A blogtoid is a term I made up just for this post. (I hope this makes you feel special!) A blogtoid is a fact or deeply held opinion about a blog.

Birthday Candles

Threads

Milwood Sewing ClubToday’s post comes from Kaitlin Martin, our Volunteer Coordinator. After reading it, check out these pictures on our facebook album taken by Freshwater Photography.

While most of the world has been focused on the dress worn by Jennifer Lawrence at the Oscars, over at Communities In Schools, we are more interested in a different set of threads: Those being crafted by our students involved in the fashion club at Milwood Magnet Middle School. The club, Culture Couture, is part of Milwood’s current After School Program, run by CIS, and is designed to highlight high-end fashion from around the globe. The girls (6th-8th grade) are creating their own original pieces—with the help of some star volunteers—to enter into the spring fashion show put on by M.O.D.A. (Merchandising Opportunities and Design Association) through Western Michigan University.

When I entered the room there were several different groups of kids, each surrounded by various fabrics, pin cushions, measuring tape, and all the essentials of sewing. Volunteers were interacting with the kids, teaching them how to load a spool, run the thread, and operate the pedal. I definitely heard a few “Slow down!” instructions. The excitement of the students was palpable. The volunteers patiently listened to descriptions of fantastic dresses and then helped the kids work through the step by step process of constructing each piece.

Milwood Sewing ClubThe reward of this project is in the connections that are formed: between the volunteers and the kids, among peers, and with the process itself. With the pace of life so accelerated, sewing often feels like a lost art these days. At the end of this project these kids will know more than how to sew on a button, they will have learned how to work, as a team, toward a common goal, how to plan and organize their time, and how to create something beautiful together.

And the winner for best collaborative wardrobe design goes to our students.

Paws For Stories

Want to feel warm and fuzzy? Read today’s post, written by Kaitlin Martin, our Volunteer Coordinator. We’re fortunate that she also has her own business,Freshwater Photography and took the accompanying photos for us.

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of seeing some unique volunteers in action at Edison Environmental Science Academy. These CIS volunteers were quite small and furry. One was black with tight curls and the other was rust colored with wavy hair. These wonderful creatures are Darby and Brandy, two of several therapy dogs that make weekly trips to Edison to read with students.

IMG_9371I watched the children’s faces light up as the dogs appeared in the doorway, tails wagging. “Can I read first?” one student asked the teacher. One by one, each child walks the dog down the hallway (leash in hand) to the library, selects a book, sits comfortably on a beanbag with the dog, and reads a short story to the canine listener. The library is well-lit, with murals on the walls and ample books to select from. It is a quiet escape from the daily routine.

The (human) volunteers, Anita Lawson and Jeanne Church, both through RSVP Senior Services, listen in and assist with tricky words, if needed, but by and large the dogs are the stars of this exchange. Some of the more timid children come out of their shells when they have a non-judgmental listener. The dogs seem to enjoy being read to, as well as petted. After reading, each kid gets a bookmark with their dog on it and a hand stamp. They even receive an individual photo of them reading with the dog.

IMG_9413Third grade teacher, Sarah Powell, commented that, “Overall, the dogs coming is a hugely positive experience…The kids look forward to it very much.” She noted that one interesting outcome of the program is that students who were previously scared or nervous around dogs are learning “that there are many different kinds of dogs and that they can be a great source of comfort and companionship.” In addition to building reading skills, these kids are making new friends and diverse connections with the world around them.

See more of these precious volunteers by checking out our Paws For Stories picture album on facebook.  And while you’re at it, “LIKE” us to.