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

 

The Beat of Summer

Writing poems during CIS Think Summer!
Writing poems during CIS Think Summer!

Students are packing a lot of fun and learning into these six weeks of their CIS Think Summer! program*. At the Prairie Ridge Elementary School site, Kalamazoo Kids in Tune (a partnership between Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo and Kalamazoo Public Schools) have been making music and more.

Totally focused and bringing a new poem into the world!
Totally focused and bringing a new poem into the world!

If you visited the summer program during the last week in July and stepped into the “Italy” group, rising 5th-7th graders, you would have overheard student conversations like this:

“Is poetry considered art or is it academics?”
“It’s academic because we’re learning about it during our academic time.”
“Yea, we talked about adjectives and abstract nouns.”
“I think poetry is art. It makes me feel inside like when I do art.”
“It feels a little bit like music, too.”
“I think it’s both.”

What do you think? You can ponder this question as you read two new poems created by Sahriah and Javan. These KIT students, along with the rest of their classmates, created poems inspired by Jo Harjo’s poem, “She had some horses.” These are just two examples of the tremendous student work being done at all levels throughout CIS Think Summer!

We played some music

She played some songs.
He played his instrument that was out of tune.
She played her songs that were sounding good.
I played Barber of Seville that didn’t sound as good.

Sahriah played some orchestra music.

Gabby played in a concert with Mozart.
Ann played conga with Nathan.
Zach played the blues that sounded happy.

LaMeeka played some cello music.
Naomi played some flute music with Nyareve.
Miyah played some clarinet songs with Javon.

This was the same music.

                                             -Sahriah Casey

 

I played some fragile chords of truth

I played some frantic tunes of beauty.
He played applause in dreams that were tired.
She played a measure of music that was colorful.
He played cute keys that were full of courage.

She played some waltz music.

I played instruments with care.
I played colorful measures with amazement.
He played music that moved us.

He played some chords.
She played some concert music that changed the world.
She played some beautiful tunes from the waltz.

This was the same waltz.

-Javan Harris

 

Cheers to all the youth development workers, site coordinators, VISTAs, volunteers, and school and community partners who are working together to provide the best CIS Think Summer! yet! Cheers to horses, poetry, and music, too!

*The CIS Think Summer! program is funded by the Michigan Department of Education (21st Century Community Learning Centers.)

_______________, youth development worker with CIS, supporting students as they create poetry.
Miss Viri, youth development worker with CIS, supporting students as they create poetry.

Twelve Days Of Kindness

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12 Days of Kindness Calendar

We’re taking the next two weeks off from blogging and will return here to meet up with you again in January. To tide you over until then, we thought we’d share a really cool and kind idea: the Twelve Days of Kindness.

In December, each day after school, students at Woods Lake began focusing on acts of kindness. As part of Kids in Tune (a partnership of the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, and Kalamazoo Public Schools) one student has been reading out loud the day’s theme to the rest of the students and then everyone practices that theme. Students carry forward the themes of each day, adding to their musical and kindness repertoire. Deb Faling, CIS Director of Social Emotional Health Initiatives says the students have responded overwhelmingly to the activity. “Each day, a number of teachers, staff, Kids in Tune volunteers have had opportunities to pass out ‘kindness coupons.’ There were a variety of incentives associated with the Twelve Days of Kindness, including rounds of applause from their fellow Kids in Tuners. It’s been fun for kids and grown-ups, alike!” The themes, which Deb and Eric Barth came up with and incorporated into December programming were:
A1_EveryDayPlease and Thank You Day

Be Kind to Your Instrument Day

Kind Smiles Day

Kind Words and Compliments Day

Kind Listening Day

Be Kind to Your School Day

Post-it Notes of Kindness Day

Kindness Crafts Day

Kindness Chain Day

Write Kind Letters Day

Be a Kind Helper Day

Culmination of Kindness Day

When was the last time you did something kind? What acts of kindness have you benefitted from? Ralph Waldo Emerson noted that “you cannot do a kindness too soon, for you never know how soon it will be too late.” So, during these next few weeks, let’s all do some kindness while we still have time. See you back here in January.

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One of the many kindness letters written

Got Learning?

Tiara (left). Her mom and sister attended the CIS Think Summer! bash and watched her perform with her dance club.
Tiara (left). Her mom and sister attended the CIS Think Summer! bash and watched her perform with her dance club.

What have you been learning this summer?

Have you improved your math and reading skills? Have you learned to sing, cook, dance, play the cello, discovered who you are, and perhaps, more importantly, gained a glimpse of who you might become?

You’d likely answer ‘yes’ to most of the above questions if you were like one our 200 students involved in the six week CIS Think Summer! program that ended last week.

The students had an opportunity this past Thursday to celebrate and share with friends and family members just what they had been learning in their elementary, secondary or Kalamazoo Kids in Tune summer program.

Recarte Lockhart stopped down to see what all the fuss was about. “My nephew has been having a wonderful time this summer with CIS. He doesn’t like to miss a day of this program!”

Mrs. Cobb, whose daughter Rickelle will be a 7th grader in Kalamazoo Public Schools is “pleased to see how CIS has promoted college and career development. I appreciate how the staff get the students to think for themselves, to problem solve and to address important issues like bullying…CIS is reinforcing, promoting the important lessons we, as parents, are teaching at home. For some kids, I know, this is an introduction for them. For others, like my daughter, it is reinforcing those important skills and ideas they need to know to be successful.”

“I’m really grateful for this experience,” her daughter Rickelle says. “I’ve learned more about subjects like math and English—and it’s been fun! Our coaches are the best; they lay out the lessons in fun ways, through games and playing. Plus, they really know how to connect with kids and can handle anything that comes up with us. CIS chose really good people to help us. I’m glad they hired coaches like Miss MacKenzie, Miss Angelica, and Coach Asia. They really helped me this summer.”

100_3773Deshani Raines, who will be attending 7th grade at Hillside this fall expresses similar sentiments. “CIS Think Summer inspired me to do more things than I normally would over the summer and to learn more than I already know—in a fun way. Coaches taught me to do what’s expected and to learn right from wrong. They were all great.”

For Jazel O’Neal, another up and coming 7th grader, this summer experience was an opportunity to explore one of her passions: singing. “I learned how to be a better singer because of CIS. They even made arrangements so I could perform at the Black Arts Festival. The coaches were really nice and encouraging. They are not judgemental at all. Thanks to CIS, more people have gotten to hear my voice. I like that.”

For older students like Tiara Blair, who has been involved with CIS for three years and will be entering 11th grade at Loy Norrix High School this fall, summer has been an opportunity to give back to younger students.

Tiara, a friendly, poised and self-assured young woman, helped sixth graders in the area of fashion and dance. Cynthia Cooper, Tiara’s mother, points out that her daughter was in a good position to help out because of the experiences and opportunities she has received through CIS. “This is my daughter’s third year participating in CIS and I’ve seen how it’s helped her make friends and positively impact her self esteem.”

“My favorite part this summer,” says Tiara, “was working with the younger kids and helping them figure out how to solve their problems. Like, who took my pencil? It may not seem like a big thing, but kids need to figure out the small problems if they want to solve bigger one’s later.”

CIS Think Summer! secondary students dressing for success before their mock interviews.
CIS Think Summer! secondary students dressing for success before their mock interviews.

Just how has being a part of CIS’s summer experience changed Tiara? “Helping these kids has got me thinking: I can see myself now becoming a teacher.” Along the way, Tiara has benefited from a number of great KPS teachers. A few of her favorites? Loy Norrix English teacher Ms. Kelly Stetten, Milwood Middle School’s Math teacher Mr. James Roth and Mrs. Rana Findling who taught Tiara the ins and outs of video production. Teachers, Tiara and her mother both agree, who go above and beyond their job description.

CIS is proud to be working with and within the Kalamazoo Public Schools. We greatly appreciate our coaches, school and community partners, volunteers, and parents who  work with CIS—no matter what the season—to do what it takes for kids to be successful in school and life. We are especially grateful to all the wonderful kids who (even though they may have had some fun along the way) have worked incredibly hard this summer, and are not just avoiding the summer slide, but are climbing mountains, inspiring us all to greater heights.

(If you didn’t get a chance to check out the “CIS Think Summer” celebration video posted on our facebook page, you can check it out here.)

Lights On Or Lights Off? You Decide.

Last week, our CIS students—along with students who benefit from nearly 8,000 afterschool programs—called attention to the importance of out-of-school structured activities as part of a nation-wide advocacy event called, “Lights On Afterschool (LOA).“  LOA is a project of The Afterschool Alliance.

At all Kalamazoo Public middle schools and at Loy Norrix High School in which CIS 21stCentury programming is in place, student-planned events were held to explain why they find afterschool programming important. During parent teacher conferences at the middle schools, students reached out to parents and guests, explaining what they get out of afterschool programming and why it is important that it continue to be funded. These students—success stories in the flesh—manned information tables and collected signatures in support of afterschool programming nationwide. Our Loy Norrix participants collected 70 signatures during their parent-teacher conferences. In total, across the five secondary after school sites, students obtained over 400 signatures on their petition to support afterschool programming.

Kalamazoo Kids In Tune students at Woods Lake (a partnership we have with theKalamazoo Symphony Orchestra and Kalamazoo Public Schools) also recorded a song. Other projects and petitions will be coming out of the elementary sites over the next few days.

Here are a few facts about the need of afterschool programs nationwide:

  • 15.1 million children take care of themselves after the school day ends.
  • Just 8.4 million children are in afterschool programs—but the parents of another 18.5 million children say their children would participate in afterschool if a program were available.
  • A report on 21st Century Community Learning Centers (afterschool programs receiving federal funds) showed that 45% of all participants improved reading grades, and 41% improved math grades.
  • On school days, 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. are peak times for juvenile crime and experimentation with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and sex.
  • Teens who don’t participate in afterschool programs are nearly three times more likely to skip classes than teens who do participate. They are also three times more likely to use marijuana or other drugs, and they are more likely to drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, and engage in sexual activity.
  • Parents with children in afterschool programs are less stressed, have fewer unscheduled absences, and are more productive at work.

Thanks for helping us keep the lights on here in Kalamazoo.