Pfizer: All In For Kids

Today we highlight Pfizer, honored with a 2017 Champ Award. The team’s Champ award was sponsored by Schupan & Sons. CIS Board member and Humphrey Products President Dave Maurer presented the award.

Pfizer is committed to applying science to improve health and well-being at every stage of life. A global company with a local heart, Pfizer also works with CIS to ignite hope and help our young people become the prosperous citizens of tomorrow. As a CIS partner, they play an important role in supporting students on their path to using The Kalamazoo Promise®. From encouraging their employees to volunteer to providing career exploration opportunities, Pfizer is making it their business to ensure our children fulfill their promise.

When businesses go all in for kids, everyone profits.  A few years ago, in 2015, two Pfizer colleagues reached out to see if CIS would be interested in  working together on their Community Art project. Along with other community groups tapped by Pfizer, sixty-five students participating in the six-week CIS Think Summer! program, created artwork for Pfizer’s Global Supply facility on Portage Road. Organizers Julie Righter and Laura Martin said that collaborating with CIS on projects like this “is mutually beneficial to both Pfizer and the students.” The artwork, they say, “inspires our colleagues every day as we manufacture safe medicines for the community.”

The students’ art graces the walls of a company they could very well work for one day. That’s because Pfizer is helping students envision a future beyond high school by offering career exploration opportunities. Through hands-on activities developed by enthusiastic Pfizer colleagues, students explore science, technology, engineering, math, and skilled trades-related careers and learn about the education and training needed for these jobs. Through these career exploration opportunities, Pfizer plants seeds of hope, inspiring students to envision their future, perhaps even a future that includes a career with Pfizer.  

While there is much to admire about our partner, one of the qualities CIS staff appreciates most is how student-focused Pfizer is: They want to know what students are interested in and what they’re working on. They are receptive to input from staff and always seek feedback so they can continue to improve what they offer to students.

Pfizer’s commitment to excellence—to listening to the views of all people involved in health care decisions and using that to focus on improving the way they do business—readily translates into the work they do in the schools. For instance, when Pfizer site leader, Bob Betzig, attended the CIS Think Summer! celebration, he listened closely to a CIS Youth Development Worker—and a Promise scholar— who wondered how she could get an internship with Pfizer. The result of Bob’s listening? The local Pfizer site revived their internship program. And in 2016, when Pfizer returned to CIS Think Summer!—they came with their college interns and even “bigger and better” career exploration activities for students.

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

 

Susan Knox: Doing Her Part to Create a Community of Hope

Today we highlight Susan Knox, honored with a 2017 Champ Award. Her Champ award was sponsored by Greenleaf Trust. CIS Board member and Kalamazoo Promise Board Member Dr. Janice M. Brown presented the award.

A child’s success in school and life often hinges on the opportunity to have a one-on-one relationship with a caring adult. It’s one of the five CIS basics, something every child needs and deserves. This relationship can make the difference between a student staying in school or becoming one of the 1.2 million students who drop out of school each year. Since the Fall of 2010, Susan Knox has been that caring adult for many of our high school students, particularly those struggling academically.

When Susan, a chemical engineer, retired from Pfizer, she sold her house and car, and moved downtown. “I wanted to start volunteering,” she said, “to contribute to something I felt passionate about. I picked up a pamphlet about volunteering and circled the ones I thought I could do.” We’re forever thankful she circled Communities In Schools.

Susan, on right, with CIS Site Coordinator Deborah Yarbrough.

She has been a CIS volunteer at Kalamazoo Central for seven years now. Regardless of the weather, she catches the city bus and week after week, year after year, shows up consistently for our kids. “Suzie’s passion to serve students goes far beyond what is expected of any volunteer,” says CIS Site Coordinator Deborah Yarbrough. “She’s willing to adjust her schedule to accommodate the needs of both our students and staff.

Her flexibility has allowed CIS to connect her with the students who need her most. She provides academic support to student one-on-one and in small groups. She’s worked with students during study hall, after school, and during the lunch hour. While she primarily focuses on math, she’s willing to tutor in other subjects. “No French or Spanish,” she says, “but I’ll give everything else a try.”

Susan and Kalamazoo Cental student taking a break from tutoring to smile.

Smart, compassionate and humble, Susan credits her success with students to the support she’s received along the way. “CIS gave me the training I needed to be successful. I learned how to do things and just as importantly, what not to do.” She refers to CIS Site Coordinator Deborah Yarbrough and CIS Success Coach Jenna Cooperrider as her “CIS bosses…They aren’t bossy, though,” she says. “Because they know the students so well, they give me insight into what the students need from me. They’re role models. I watch their interactions and it helps me figure out what I should do, what I should tolerate or not tolerate when it comes to behaviors. They coordinate with each other and give me the support I need so I can support the student.”

“Volunteering,” someone once said, “is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.” Through her rock solid and steady support, Susan is creating a community of hope, one in which all children can fulfill their promise.

Susan Knox, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

The Importance of After School Programs

This article was featured in our CIS Connections newsletter, The Double Issue. You can find the full publication here.

For the past 13 years, CIS of Kalamazoo has helped students succeed in school through 21st Century Community Learning Centers and currently serves 750 students in 15 after school sites—11 elementary and 4 middle school sites. CIS After School is available thanks to the support of federal dollars awarded through the Michigan Department of Education, 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

The federal budget for 2017-18 (which begins October 1, 2017) proposed by the President completely eliminates funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers. This would eliminate critical academic and social supports for our kids, families and community. 21st Century Community Learning Centers are a key part of helping students graduate from high school ready for college or a career and able to utilize the gift of The Kalamazoo Promise. Over the past 11 years, the graduation rate for KPS students has increased, in part because of the added learning readiness and learning support services afforded by the 21st Century CLC programs provided by CIS and its community partners.

Over the years, thousands of Kalamazoo Public Schools students have told this community how important it is to extend their learning day. Our children have written letters to public officials and stakeholders, visited City Hall and shared with their Mayor and City Commissioners the importance of extending the learning day through after school programs. They’ve made artwork, read essays, and held neighborhood marches to raise grown-ups’ awareness about the need for after school and summer learning opportunities.

The CIS Board has heard our children and is taking every action possible to advocate for continued funding of regular after school and summer programs through 21st Century Community Learning Centers. If you share this concern, you can speak up on behalf of the hundreds of students who benefit from approximately 440 extra hours of learning support per year. Our public officials (listed below) have an important job to consider these needs and the opinions of individuals who live in their communities. Help them understand what you think should happen.

Pop Quiz: Tamiko Garrett

Tamiko Garrett, upon successfully completing Communities In Schools Site Coordinator Learning Pathway Virtual Boot Camp

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. Today we feature Tamiko Garrett. She’s been with Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) for three years and is the CIS Site Coordinator at Linden Grove Middle School.

A proud KPS parent, Tamiko attended Kalamazoo Public Schools as well, graduating from Kalamazoo Central High School, after having been educated at Spring Valley, Northeastern, and Hillside Middle School. She says that supporting students within the same school district she went to is “rewarding and strange at the same time…I’ll work with a kid and then quickly discover that I went to school with their parent. That connection, I think, actually helps me do my job better.”

Alright, Tamiko: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned? 

I recently learned Trevon Martin’s mother is going to be in town, speaking at Chenery as part of an event that is sponsored by Lee Honor’s College. It’s March 29th and I plan to attend.

What are you currently reading? 

Hidden Figures by Margot Lee Shetterly.  I recently saw the movie. Normally, I read the book first but I decided to switch things around.

That is a great movie. Everyone needs to see it.

I agree.

What made you decide to change things up?

A few things, really. Just being in America and having never before heard of these women and their incredible story, this black history, well it made me want to know more. Also, I don’t know if you’re aware of this or not, but students in after school—not just here at Linden Grove but all the CIS after school sites throughout KPS middle schools— are doing an amazing program. It involves working with NASA. It’s quite exciting for our students to be exposed to STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math] beyond the school day. Students will even be linking up with other schools throughout the country that are using this curriculum. When [CIS After School Coordinator] Jenee learned that the movie was coming out, she thought it would be a perfect opportunity to tie in the NASA project with Black History Month. She arranged for the students to see the movie and I volunteered to help chaperone.

Thinking back to your years with the Kalamazoo Public Schools, who was one of your favorite teachers?

Auga Davis. She was my first grade teacher. My older sister had her as well so I thought it was cool to have the same teacher. I still remember thinking, “Wow, this is my sister’s teacher and she’s teaching me now!” Ms. Davis recently retired from Indian Prairie after teaching 40 years in the Kalamazoo Public Schools. She was such a nice and sweet teacher. To think of somebody teaching and giving to students for 40 years. Just, wow.

What is your favorite word right now?

Blended learning.

Tell us more about that.

Blended learning is really all about how we can customize a student’s individualized learning style with a teacher’s teaching style in order to achieve the best educational outcome for the student.

What is something you love about Kalamazoo?

The Kalamazoo Promise. I have a daughter who attends Kalamazoo Central High School.  She is in the 11th grade. The Promise is such a wonderful opportunity and she will soon be able to get 100% of this incredible gift!

Can you tell us something about yourself that people may be surprised to know?

I am currently working on my Ph.D. in Educational Leadership at Eastern Michigan University.  I love learning and teaching others.

Behind every successful person is a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?

Definitely my mom. She raised three kids. She is now very hands on with raising my niece and she is helpful to me in raising my daughter. My siblings and my niece all graduated from Kalamazoo Public Schools, and my daughter will soon be joining us as proud graduates.

Tamiko, thank you for hanging out with us at Ask Me About About My 12,000 Kids!

We continue to talk with Tamiko in our soon to be released newsletter, CIS Connections. Tamiko and her CIS site team member, CIS After School Coordinator Jenee McDaniel, share insights into what it takes to work together to help students stay in school and be successful.

 

 

Pop Quiz: Dominique Jackson

dominique-jackson-internWelcome 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. Today we feature Dominique Jackson.

One of ten terrific interns working with CIS, Dominique graduated from Kalamazoo Central in 2012. A Promise Scholar, Dominique went on to Michigan State University and obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. “I was the first generation in my family to graduate from a four year university,” she says. She is currently working on her Masters in Social Work at Western Michigan University.

As a social work intern, Dominique works closely with her CIS site team at Linden Grove Middle School. “It’s great learning from [CIS Site Coordinator] Ms. [Tamiko] Garrett and [CIS After School Coordinator] Ms. [Jenee] McDaniel. And the KPS staff is awesome! They’ve all welcomed me and so it’s been a smooth transition coming in as an intern.”

Alright, Ms. Jackson: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

In some European countries, such as Norway, college is completely free. I didn’t know that.

Favorite word?

I have so many, it’s hard to say. Right now, I’d say strength. That’s what I need right now to get through this year, with working at Gilden Woods Early Childcare & Preschool, going to school, and doing my internship.

What are you currently reading?

I just finished Always by Nina Lane. I really liked it.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I’m still trying to decide, but I’m leaning towards doing social work in schools. Or, possibly, working with juveniles. This would tie in with my degree and I do like the thought of getting juveniles on the right track.

Behind every successful student is a caring adult. Who is your caring adult?

My mom, for sure. She’s the one that’s always been there, motivating me and pushing me to do well.

Thinking back to your years with the Kalamazoo Public Schools, who was one of your favorite teachers?

Mrs. [Ruth] Schafer. She was my fifth grade teacher at Arcadia. She was very engaging, helpful, and pushed us to do better. She was hard on us while still showing her love and support. She was amazing and I loved her.

Also, Mrs. [Elaine] Sayre, my AP [Advanced Placement] Language teacher. I had her my senior year at Kalamazoo Central. Mrs. Sayre helped me think and really prepared me for college and the higher level of work that was expected of me. I have to also definitely say Principal Von Washington. When I was at Kalamazoo Central, he was just an awesome principal. He was always checking up on students to make sure they were doing okay. Oh, and Mr. [Ramon] Baca. He was my principal when I was at Arcadia and he was great too. I loved Mr. Baca.

As you know, Von Washington Jr. is now the Executive Director of Community Relations for The Kalamazoo Promise. What’s it like to be a Promise Scholar who is now giving back within the very school district she graduated from?

It’s definitely awesome to come full circle. I come from a single parent household and I didn’t know college would be possible for me, so getting the opportunity to go to college by the generosity of strangers is an amazing gift.

Right now, my younger brother is at Michigan State. He was eligible to receive 100% of The Promise as well. And I have a much younger brother at Arcadia who will be a Promise Scholar one day.

What do you do as a CIS intern at Linden Grove Middle School?

As a CIS intern, I check in with kids about their grades. I make sure they have everything they need, whether it’s school supplies or personal care items, whatever they are going to need to enhance their school performance. I also make sure they are getting their homework done while still having fun with them as well.

I really love working with Ms. [Tamiko] Garrett and Ms. [Jenee] McDaniel. They’re awesome, engaging, supportive, and not afraid to challenge me, which I love because I love learning!

What is something you are learning when it comes to your internship?

Every kid is different. You have to tailor your approach to their needs as much as you can, make sure they are being recognized individually. One strategy you use for one kid many not work for another, but that’s okay. You find the one that works.

Thank you, Dominique!

 

Pop Quiz: Lenny Williams

IMG_3000Welcome 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. Today we feature Lenny Williams, who is about to begin middle school at Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts. We sat down with him at the end of last school year, just as he was preparing to graduate from Arcadia Elementary School.

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

I’ve learned something about history. I’ve learned about slavery and about a man named Jacob who would go claiming lands for his people and then he was mistreating people who were slaves. He’d hit them. He wasn’t a nice guy. I learned that from Ms. [Donna] Judd. She teaches me social studies and science.

What are you currently reading?

The Magic Treehouse series. Right now I’m reading Sunset of the Sabertooth where they find the saber tooth tiger. I really like the Magic Treehouse books.

What’s your favorite word right now?

Go! As in, I go to the car.

What college or colleges are you considering going to and taking advantage of the Kalamazoo Promise?

I want to be a Spartan. And I’ll be a football player for Michigan State.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A football player.

Do you have a backup plan?

My back up plan is to play basketball.

Do you have a backup to your backup plan?

I also could study math, history, and science. I like those things too. Ms. [Ci’Erah] Bell taught me math last year. She taught me stuff I didn’t know, like adding fractions and subtracting fractions.

Even though you don’t have to make those decisions now, it sounds like you have talents and interests in a number of areas so you’ll have some good choices when the time comes.

Yea, I think so too.

Behind every successful student is a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?

My whole family. My dad, my mom, and my sisters who are in high school. They help me with my algebra and problems that I do not know. I’d also say my Principal, Mr. [Greg] Socha. He is very nice. He checks on us every day to make sure we’re safe and sometimes he’s even helps us with our work when he’s in the classroom.

Anything else we should know about you?

I like school.

Thank you, Lenny!

Lenny will be featured in our upcoming newsletter, CIS Connections, where he reflects on his elementary years and the school and community supports that helped him succeed. You won’t want to miss it!

 

Pop Quiz: Alex-Saundra Hudson 

Ms. Alex working during CIS Think Summer!
Ms. Alex working during CIS Think Summer!

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. Today we feature Alex-Saundra Hudson, or, as she is known by students in the CIS Think Summer! Program, “Ms. Alex.”Alex's graduation photo As a proud 2015 graduate of Kalamazoo Central High School, she is now a Promise Scholar who has successfully completed her freshman year at Michigan State University. “Being in college,” she says, “and knowing how much everything costs, the Promise is definitely a blessing!” Alex is spending her summer as a youth development worker with Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo. “I love what I’m doing!” says Alex.

Alright, Ms. Alex: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

I have a deeper understanding and appreciation that, as people, we are all different. It’s helpful to have an understanding that each kid has a different family background. Having that in your mind when you’re working with them is good to remember.

Favorite word?

Extraordinary.

What are you currently reading?

The only thing I have time to read right now is the Bible.

Thinking back to your years with the Kalamazoo Public Schools, who was one of your favorite teachers?

Oh, that’s hard to answer because I definitely had many great teachers, teachers like Ms. [Karen] Jansheski. She was my 8th grade English Teacher at Linden Grove. Also, I was an attention-seeker when I was younger so in my elementary years—I came to KPS in fourth grade—Ms. [Tracey Sanders] Pierce was great with me. She was the behavior specialist at King-Westwood. At Kalamazoo Central, I had a lot of great teachers there, but Ms. [Elaine] Sayre jumps out. She taught journalism, AP Language and I did an independent study with her my senior year. Also, Mr. [Joshua] Gottlieb. He taught physics.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Honestly, this job with CIS has helped a lot. It started out as a summer job, a way to make some money, but it has become an eye opener to my future. I was studying science at Michigan State and now I’m switching to Human Development and Family Studies. I always knew I wanted to work with kids in some way. This job has encouraged me. I enjoy it. It never feels like I’m at work, whereas, when I go to my second job—a large-scale retailer—I just dread going there.

I love the kids here and really enjoy the relationships I’ve formed. I envision doing something with my degree and probably going on to graduate school.

Behind every successful student is a caring adult. Who is your caring adult?

My mom, definitely, and primarily because she has been a positive example. When I was six, and my sister was eight, she went back to finish her college degree in chemistry at Michigan State. When I was in high school, she started law school. She is taking the bar, starting tomorrow. She always pushes me and my sister to do our best.

I would also have to say my high school track coaches, Coach Jaime Gordon, Coach Hal Bates, Coach Richard Grayson, and Coach Calvin Cheatham have been there for me. I just finished my freshman year of college and they were a huge support system. They texted me to see how I was balancing track and school. Checking up and making sure I’m doing what I need to be doing is really helpful.

Thank you, Ms. Alex!

If you or someone you know might want to be a youth development worker with CIS click here for more information.

IMG_3161

 

That’s Me When I Used To Be A Grown Up

Volunteers (not all pictured) gathering to carry out First Saturday at the Kalamazoo Public Library. Every KPS secondary site in which CIS has a presence was represented by student volunteers and CIS staff who turned out for this February’s First Saturday @ KPL.
Volunteers (not all pictured) gathering to carry out First Saturday at the Kalamazoo Public Library. Every KPS secondary site in which CIS has a presence was represented by student volunteers and CIS staff who turned out for this February’s First Saturday @ KPL.

Volunteers (not all pictured) gathering to carry out First Saturday at the Kalamazoo Public Library. Every KPS secondary site in which CIS has a presence was represented by student volunteers and CIS staff who turned out for this February’s First Saturday @ KPL.

“That’s me when I used to be a grown up,” explained Donna Carroll’s grandson, 3 1/2 year old Malcolm, when he saw a picture of Malcolm X on the cover of a book his mom, Ursula, was reading.

How powerful when a child sees himself reflected in another, when we see ourselves in each other.

For many of our young people feeling like they’re part of a larger whole comes from a sense that they’re connected at the larger community level. But how can young people make this connection?

Volunteering is a great way to challenge ourselves and put ourselves on a path of meeting new people. For young people, it’s a chance to gain valuable experience, learn about themselves, interact with people they might not otherwise meet, and explore career interests.

Did you know that teens who volunteer are less likely to become pregnant or to use drugs, and are more likely to have positive academic, psychological, and occupational well-being?  According to Child Trends, other positive outcomes include development of greater respect for others, leadership skills, and an understanding of citizenship that can carry over into adulthood.

An opportunity for students to give back to peers and their communities is one of the five CIS basics.  Our young people are giving back every day. Here’s just one recent example.

Loy Norrix Senior Tiara Blair helps put event bracelet on one of the littlest partiicpants.
Loy Norrix Senior Tiara Blair helps put event bracelet on one of the littlest partiicpants.

In partnership with  the Kalamazoo Public Library, The Kalamazoo Promise® and New World Flood,  Communities In Schools hosted February’s First Saturday at the downtown Kalamazoo Public Library. Free and open to the public, the event welcomes families with their young children to enjoy stories, activities, guests, and door prizes. CIS partnered with the library last year to host one of their First Saturdays and it was a great experience for all involved. But Artrella Cohn, CIS Director of Secondary Sites (and lead for CIS  for organizing First Saturday events) felt something was missing: our older students. “This event,” she said, “is a perfect opportunity for students in our secondary schools to give back.” So, this year, the missing piece to the puzzle was complete. With support from CIS staff, AmeriCorps VISTAs,  wonderful KPL librarians, and New World Flood’s Todd “TJ” Duckett, thirteen middle and high school students volunteered. They ran five different literacy stations throughout the library: Read to Me, Scavenger Hunt, Spelling Bee, His & Her Story Station (writing their own stories), and Fantasy Station (which involved picking an item out of a basket to help build upon a collective story).

Artrella Cohn, CIS Secondary Site Director, reviews with volunteers how the literacy stations will work.
Artrella Cohn, CIS Secondary Site Director, reviews with volunteers how the literacy stations will work.

“Seeing the middle and high school students in action truly warmed my heart,” said Artrella Cohn, CIS Director of Secondary Sites and organizer of the First Saturday’s event. “The presence of the WMU Students added to the whole ‘reach back and give back’ message that I envisioned for this event. There were middle school students who were signing in, and with smiles on their faces asked, “There are 11th and 12th graders here to volunteer too?” I could visibly see our high school students—who are already mature young ladies—really jump into their role when they realized that there were older high school students and college students involved. Wearing WMU gear, Carmelita Foster and her team of college volunteers stood out in a real way for those of our students looking to successfully complete high school and obtain that Kalamazoo Promise®.”

“This event ran like a well-oiled machine because the youth volunteers knew where they fit. These young people took ownership of their stations,carried out fun learning activities and served as positive role models for the little ones.”

Todd Duckett, of New World Flood
Todd Duckett, of New World Flood

Colleen Marie Deswal, mother of one of those little ones wrote, “My son Teddy participated in his first story time! He volunteered and stated that the dog wiped his nose with the kleenex since that was his prop in the circle. I was shocked he understood what was going on and added to the story since he is only 2 1/2. Was an amazing moment in time. Glad you all are doing these types of events for the community. One reason I moved back to Kalamazoo is the wonderful community involvement.”

We may be stepping out of Black History Month into March, but many of our young people will continue to give back and make good choices, like choosing to give up their Saturday to volunteer. In giving back, they make history, and our future.

“I see myself in the future of these young people,” reflects Artrella. “It’s a beautiful cycle.”

Do you recognize yourself in our youth? If you do, despite what your mother told you, it’s okay* to point your finger. Point proudly at our young people and say, Yea, that’s me…when I used to be a grown up.

 

*sometimes