Vote Yes For Our Kids

Today’s special post is written by Pam Kingery, Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo.

It has been many months since I last contributed to our CIS blog.  Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids consistently brings you relevant and interesting information each and every week. Jennifer’s steady and competent voice allows me the luxury of “dropping in” with a post when something inspires me to share my voice.  This is one of those times.

Tomorrow—Tuesday, May 5th—is a very important day in our County, a day when each of us as registered voters, can exercise a firm, clear YES! on behalf of our children. In addition to the state roads referendum, there is a local KRESA special education millage. Special education services in our county have been underfunded for a number of years. To meet federal and state law, local districts have had to redirect dollars from their operating budgets to cover the unfunded special education costs. It is critical that students with disabilities as well as general education students have their educational needs met to fulfill their potential. School districts across the county are funding approximately $11 million in special education costs from their general operating budgets, requiring cuts to general education services. Through the passage of the KRESA millage, special education needs can be fully funded and critically needed academic supports for general education students can be restored.

Our children need our full support, including an affirmative vote on the KRESA millage.  When we see each child as part of our responsibility and part of ouropportunity to make Kalamazoo a stronger community, we can lift up a whole generation.

Tuesday, May 5th we can go to the polls and exercise our civic duty, by fully considering the benefits of the KRESA special education millage. Decide whether it makes sense to you to provide local dollars for local schools and local kids. Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo regularly asks you to volunteer, to advocate and to donate resources to provide learning readiness strategies and to enhance learning support to the neediest of students.  We sincerely appreciate your significant contributions and hope you will continue to invest in our efforts.  For CIS to be fully effective in removing the barriers that keep students from succeeding, it is also essential that our schools and teachers have what they need—the core capacity to engage our kids in active learning. Please vote tomorrow.

And thanks for “listening.”

Pop Quiz: Dominique Edwards

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Dominique Edwards (right) with Artrella Cohn, CIS Director of Secondary Sites

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 Dominique Edwards, a 2014 graduate of Kalamazoo Central High School. A CIS alumni and former board member of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, Dominique is currently attending Southwestern Michigan College and took time out of her busy schedule to participate in the three-day CIS Leadership Town Hall in New Orleans. She made Kalamazoo proud—serving on the Mission Possible: Communities In Schools Alumni panel.

We popped this quiz on Dominique while she was in the New Orleans airport waiting for Delta 1603 to arrive and take her back to Kalamazoo. Alright, Dominique: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned? 

I’ve learned that you can have fun as long as you are responsible. You must be responsible for yourself.

What are you currently reading?

My favorite book of all time is Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. I’m reading a lot of psychology and sociology books right now. English too.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A CIS Site Coordinator. I think I finally found my niche. I love what a site coordinator does. They are the extended family that is with you throughout your school day and they care enough to know and help you after the school day has ended.

What is your favorite word right now?

Barbados. I love the letter b. It’s so smooth and there are two b’s in Barbados. Barbados. It’s just fun to say.

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

My mom. My parent got divorced when I was six. My dad is a fantastic guy and is there when I need him. But I grew up in a single parent home and so my mom was the dominant force in my life and made sure I was taken care of. She went off to be a truck driver for a while but she made sure my brother and I were taken care of.

Another caring adult is Ms. Trella.  A lot of the doors that opened for me wouldn’t have been opened if it weren’t for her. Doors like the Leadership Conference—Ms. Trella put my name in for that—and to be part of the CIS campaign launch party to talk about my experiences. So many things, like, one-on-one tutoring, performing poetry in a talent showcase, a five session career workshop, being part of the Principal’s Bookclub with Mr. Washington. We read the Hunger Games series and we also went to King-Westwood and read to kindergarteners. Being a Literacy Buddy and a mentee with the PRO team.

That is a wide range of activities.

It was a domino effect. Once I got involved with CIS, one opportunity after another presented itself. I would have gone to college but I wouldn’t have enjoyed it that much and I would have dropped out after one semester. All those experiences CIS provided helped me in growing up. And now I get to go to a community college that has dorms and that is awesome.

Any advice you have for students?  

Hone your studying skills in high school so you can carry those with you into college. I also have to say that even though I didn’t feel like I was a leader, I was. So, don’t fight your leadership quality. Go for it. And don’t be afraid to put yourself outside of the box.

That’s exactly what you did this whole week. You were on the Mission Possible: Communities In Schools Alumni panel and spoke from the heart before over three hundred people. That is stepping outside of the box and really putting yourself out there.

Yes. Socially, I tend to be shy. Just attending this conference was outside the box for me. I wonder what if they don’t want to talk to me. But I pushed myself. Hi, my name is Dominique, I’d say. And I shook their hand and it went from there. It all turned out great.

Pop Quiz: Jen Dewaele

PhilHegwood-dk-m_7Welcome 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 Jen DeWaele, CIS Site Coordinator at Woodward School for Technology and Research. Her Principal, Mr. Frank Rocco, was interviewed a few months back by Daquayveon Edmonson and you can read that post here.

An interesting fact about Jen is that she is one of four individuals who founded Peace House, an intentional community in the Eastside Neighborhood of Kalamazoo dedicated to nurturing the next generation of peacemakers.

Alright, Jen: pencils out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

I’ve recently learned about elephant memory. Elephants can remember where water has been decades later when there is a drought or areas have been planted over. Each elephant has a personal greeting that they recognize each other with, and they can remember these long after an individual has passed.

WhatisthewhatWhat are you currently reading?

What is the What by Dave Eggers. It is the story of one of the lost boys from Sudan.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Patient.

What is your favorite word right now?

Community. I believe that we are all better when we can work together. When we have our shared wisdom and experience, we can go further and deeper towards more creative ideas and solutions.

Will you share with us something that has been on your mind lately?

I’ve been noticing lately that there’s a lot of anger in our culture. I’ve been thinking a lot lately of how I can, and should try to, be a part of changing that in a positive way, even if it seems small.

Behind every successful student– and grownup–is a caring adult. Who is one of your caring adults?

My husband. We take on each day together as a team. He is my sounding board and support for everything. I’m daily grateful for his wisdom.

Jen D reading with a friend
CIS Site Coordinator Jen DeWaele (right) with friend, Jordan Martin

 

Every Site Coordinator Needs A Site Coordinator

Today, we highlight the work of Jay Gross.  Jay was honored this past May at the seventh annual Champ celebration. CIS Board Member Jim Ritsema, along with Derek Miller, CIS Site Coordinator at Northglade Montessori Magnet School, presented the award. 

20140506-DSC_7627We’ll let you in on a saying we have at CIS. Every Site Coordinator needs a Site Coordinator. And Emily Demorest, CIS Site Coordinator at Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts, has hers in this next Champ.

“We wouldn’t be able to accomplish what we have out at Maple Street if it wasn’t for Jay Gross,” she says. “Last year, when I was a new Site Coordinator, he took me under his wing. He oriented me to the building, took time he didn’t have to help me learn who was who, who did what, and suggested the best avenues for getting things done.”

As the Home School Community Liaison for Kalamazoo Public Schools at Maple Street, Jay embodies the spirit of collaboration, showing what we can accomplish when we work together. So when Communities In Schools proposed doing a College Night last year as a way to promote a College Going Culture at the middle school—it was Jay who was one of the first to step up, supporting not just with words, but actions. “If Jay had not been in the picture,” points out Emily, “this event would not have been the success it was, nor would we have considered doing it again this year. Both times, Jay helped handle communications, advertising and promotion of the event internally and externally.” It took CIS and KPS, working in concert, to host the sixteen representatives from higher learning institutions.

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From Left: Jim Ritsema, Derek Miller, Jay Gross

Jay’s low key and calm-under-pressure approach can be counted on when it comes to our kids. When a student reached out to the Site Coordinator and she realized immediate care was required and that, for safety reasons, it would take more than one adult, Emily did not hesitate to turn to Jay. He jumped into action, providing the transportation necessary, allowing the CIS Site Coordinator to focus her attention fully on the student.

Jay can be counted on, whether it is as an ambassador for CIS, successfully implementing a college night, or joining with us in a student’s moment of need.

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

We Geek The Library

Book w GlassesHere at Communities In Schools, we’ve been talking about how much we love our Kalamazoo Public Library. The organization and its people are a part of what makes Kalamazoo excellent.

Speaking of the library, did you remember to vote today? On the ballot is the millage renewal for both the Kalamazoo Public Library and the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency. If you didn’t catch the Kalamazoo Gazette Editorial in Sunday’s paper, you can read it here. Now go out and vote! I’ll wait right here. The polls are open from 7am to 8pm.

Welcome back. Feels good to exercise your right as a citizen, doesn’t it? Anyway, here are just nine reasons we love our library…

They bring us together.

Huge numbers of us read and discuss the same book in the Reading Together program. By doing so, we become wiser as a community.

KPL is an information hub for our community.

Check out Consumer Reports, find a book on origami or learn about financial derivatives.

No computer? No problem.

Just go to your local library branch and computers and computer help are waiting for you.

They reach out to all members of our community.

With multiple branches and programming geared to every age—from babies to tweens to seniors and all in between—everyone is welcome. Whatever we geek, the library supports us! How cool is that?

(From Left) Dr. Michael F. Rice, Walter Dean Myers, Dr. Zaheerah Shakir Khan, Sue Warner
(From Left) Dr. Michael F. Rice, Walter Dean Myers, Dr. Zaheerah Shakir Khan, Sue Warner

They promote a college going culture.

Whether suggesting books to read—in person or on their blog—the Kalamazoo Public Library encourages us all to read. One of the 8 pillars identified by the Kalamazoo Public Schools for building a college going culture is: “Everyone Reads/Literacy: Language Development, Reading, and Writing.” KPL, in a joint endeavor with Kalamazoo Public Schools, works hard to make sure every KPS first grader has a library card and is a library user.

As a KPS parent, I had the opportunity to chaperone my son’s class on their library trip. I watched librarians asking children what topics interested them and then escorting the children—some who had never set foot inside a public library until that day—to shelves filled with books on the subject they wanted to know more about. It is a thing of beauty to watch the world open for a child as, for the first time, they check out a library book.

They remind us that reading is fun.

They run a fabulous summer reading program. If you have never signed up your child, encouraged others to sign up or signed up yourself, you owe it to yourself to do so.

They play well with others.

KPL partners with a number of terrific organizations throughout the community to co-host family friendly event at the Central Library the first Saturday of every month. Called First Saturdays @ KPL,  CIS loved partnering with our library in hosting a First Saturday which offers fun, free activities.

They keep us hip.

They provide e-books for our Kindle Fires, DVD’s, movies, and music—all at no charge.

They remind us that reading is not an option.

KPL brings great writers to Kalamazoo, like Walter Dean Myers, who are passionate about books and inspire young and old alike. “Either you read or you suffer,” Mr. Myers said during his “Reading is Not Optional” tour this past summer. “A child will pay the penalty for a lack of literacy throughout their life.”

Pop Quiz: Principal Frank Rocco

Today’s guest blogger is Daquayveon Edmonson, a fourth grader at Woodward School for Science and Technology. His favorite thing to learn about in school is science. His favorite book is the one he currently has checked out from the Woodward library: Tucker’s Countryside. Daquayveon interviewed his Principal, Mr. Frank Rocco for today’s blog post.

Woodward became a CIS site this past fall and we appreciate learning what this Kalamazoo Public School Principal is learning, reading, and thinking about, so thank you, Daquayveon! In the weeks to come, we will also be featuring Woodward’s CIS Site Coordinator, Jen DeWaele.

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

I watched the show CosRocco and DEmos last night and it was amazing to learn about the many, many solar systems and other planets that are being discovered.

What are you currently reading?

I’m reading four different books right now. The one I’m spending the most time with is a math book. It focuses on ten different ways to help teachers learn how to best teach math to each of their students.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A professional baseball player.

What is your favorite word right now?

Patience.

Will you share with us something that has been on your mind lately? 

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about how I can get Woodward to be the best school in Kalamazoo. I’ve been thinking a lot about what I can bring in to the school to help everyone—the teachers, the students, so everyone can do the best job they can.

Behind every successful student–and grownup–is a caring adult. Who is one of your caring adults?

My grandmother is someone I talk with regularly. She helped to raise me, and is someone who I’m still pretty close with.  She keeps me going.

The Madness Of The March To Graduation

Bball HoopIn my house, “March Madness” means the excitement of the NCAA men’s and women’s basketball tournaments. It’s great to see KPS grads Devin Oliver (University of Dayton) and Von Washington, III (Western Michigan University) getting recognition on the biggest stage in their sport. I don’t want to brag, but my bracket is in the 96th percentile out of more than 10 million entered at ESPN’s Tournament Challenge. How’s yours?

Away from basketball, this is a March that maddens. It is maddening that public education in our country struggles to obtain the stable and adequate funding it needs to educate our youth. It is sheer madness to expect teachers—no matter how skilled they are—to teach students who are hungry, suffering from untreated tooth decay, having difficulty seeing the blackboard, are worried where they will sleep tonight. The list goes on.

At the same time, it is heartening to know that this madness may be melting. This week, for the first time ever, the White House has scheduled a forum to discuss the role of Integrated Student Services in America’s public schools. But just what is thisIntegrated Student Services model? Child Trends defines Integrated Student Services (ISS) as “a school-based approach to promoting students’ academic success by securing and coordinating supports that target academic and non-academic barriers to achievement.” President of National Communities In Schools, Inc, Dan Cardinali, points out in his recent Huffington Post blog post that Communities In Schools (CIS) has been advocating this model for over 30 years. CIS affiliates—along with several other organizations—are actively carrying out this approach in some 5,000 schools across the country, serving at least 1.4 million students.

Here’s another way to think of it. Imagine turning on the television and seeing a basketball court. (No leap of imagination needed in my family. We are still flying high from our trip to Cleveland to witness the WMU Broncos men’s team win the MAC Tournament in Cleveland!)

The game is about to start. It’s one-on-one. The announcer offers stats on each player. They are the same age and size. Both are loved by their parents and both have fabulous coaches who have the skills and knowledge to teach them all they need to know to be successful players. Both have the home court advantage. It should, the announcer predicts, be a close game.

From one end of the court, out jogs a smiling young child, sporting a crisp uniform and shoes so bright they dazzle. Under the watchful eye of her supportive team members, she begins to warm up. She appears healthy, rested. The camera pans to her bench, which is quite deep. There to support and assist her are her pediatrician, eye doctor, and dentist. Squeezed next to her parents are the grocery store clerk, her piano teacher, someone holding juice and healthy snacks, and someone else holding a duffle bag of extra uniforms, shoes, and other sundry items.

The cameras then pan to the bench across the way. In contrast, it is quite sparse, just a tired looking woman on the bench—the player’s mother.

The game is about to begin but the second player is nowhere to be…oh, wait, here she comes. She’s late. Unlike the first player, she doesn’t have an alarm clock or a bed. She and her mother have been sleeping on the couches and floors of friends for the last few months. Because she’s arrived late, she hasn’t had a chance to warm up. In worn shoes and ill-fitting jeans and shirt, she heads directly to center court. She isn’t moving comfortably, but given that this is the only outfit she has, she must make do.

The game begins. Within seconds, the first child scores. And then scores again. Each time the second child has possession of the ball, she turns it over. By half-time, the game is a blowout. As both players head to the locker room, the second child’s coach is asked, “What is wrong with your player? Why aren’t you coaching h
er better?”

“Unless something dramatically changes in the second half of the game,” the announcer intones, “she will never catch up.” Cut to commercial.

The second half begins. It feels like an entirely different game. It looks that way, too. The second child is running up and down the court in new shoes and a pair of shorts. She’s taking shots and making many of them. The coach and mother who have been constants at her side are now joined on the bench by others. What is going on?

During halftime, when the fans in the bleachers realized that cheering was no longer enough, they turned to each other and said, “We need to deepen that child’s bench to keep her in the game. We can see she needs things like shoes and clothes, but what else? What can we do to ensure her love of the game continues?”

play-at-own-riskThe second player finished the game that evening. It’s a long season, though, and she has other needs to be addressed. But, with help from her community, her bench will deepen and she will receive the resources and support she needs, just like the first child, to play the rest of the games to the best of her ability.  

Communities In School’s model of Integrated Student Services (ISS) is basically a community’s way of saying, “Hey, wait a minute; we need to do something differently for all of our children. Let’s join forces with the schools and assure that resources and supports are available to students so they can stay in school and be prepared to learn all they can from their teachers.”

I feel tremendous pride—and you should too—that the ISS model is, in fact, the way in which our community has been choosing for over a decade to support our children within the Kalamazoo Public Schools. Individuals, nonprofit organizations, businesses, higher learning and faith based institutions are deepening the bench for students every time they make the decision to volunteer, partner, and/or donate to CIS, doing what it takes to ensure they stay in school and achieve in life. Integrated Student Services, paired with adequate and stable public school funding, is a game changer. Once policy makers recognize this and make decisions that reflect this as a priority for our children, we all win.

Unlike basketball, the beauty of integrated student services is that both “teams” can win and move on when their needs are being met. With their communities’ help, each can make it to the “Sweet 16” and the “Final Four.” Every student can win the sweetest prize of all: a high school diploma.

Students Tell Kalamazoo: “Keep the Lights On!”

20131021-_DSC4027Over 1,000 children throughout ten Kalamazoo Public School buildings benefited in the 2012/2013 school year from after school programming through Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo. This resource has been available thanks to the support of the Michigan Department of Education (21st Century Community Learning Centers). CIS is in the fifth year of this five year federal grant.

“Afterschool programs are vital to creating healthy outlets for students during this critical time of day, says Artrella Cohn, CIS Director of Secondary Sites. “We cannot expect young people to make healthy decisions in life such as attending school regularly and improving their academics when we are not willing to invest our time and resources to support them.”

In conjunction with Lights On Afterschool 2013 events across the nation, Kalamazoo Public School students who participate in CIS afterschool programming have been coming up with their own unique ways to shine the spotlight on quality, afterschool programming. Throughout October, students have been posting facts and research regarding afterschool programming, creating public service announcements, working on special projects with school personnel, and more.

20131021-_DSC3968And just this past Monday evening, close to 80 students, parents and CIS staff filled the Chamber of City Hall. The students present were representing all students from CIS afterschool sites: Edison Environmental Science Academy, Lincoln International Studies School, Milwood Elementary School, Washington Writers’ Academy, Woods Lake Elementary, Milwood Magnet Middle School, Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts, Linden Grove Middle School, Hillside Middle School and Loy Norrix High School. They came together at city hall to share with the Kalamazoo City Commission the importance of extending the learning day through afterschool programming. Commissioner Don Cooney, on behalf of the Kalamazoo City Commission and Mayor Bobby Hopewell, read aloud a proclamation announcing October as “Lights On Afterschool Month” in Kalamazoo and committed to engaging in activities that ensure that the lights stay on and the doors stay open for all children after school.

Surrounded by children and parents, Melissa Holman, the CIS Afterschool Program Coordinator accepted the proclamation. Reflecting upon the experience, Melissa says, “I was extremely proud of our students for having the courage to advocate for their after school programs to our public officials. I believe that we are helping to develop world changers, who will first start by creating a better community through after school programs.”

Sure enough, one by one, students stepped up to the microphone to speak to their elected officials.

“The afterschool program provides us with food, clothes, and other things we need,” fifth grader Antonio said before a packed audience. “The afterschool program helps us stay away from drugs and off the streets. The staff help us with our homework and any issues we struggle with. The staff will do anything to make sure we are respectful, responsible, and safe so we can grow up to be anything we want to be and treated equally. This helps us so we can do the same for others who need help and think they can’t find it.”

Leasia Posey, a 7th grader at Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts, said, “I have been in Communities In Schools afterschool program since elementary school at Washington Writers Academy.  I think the afterschool program is amazing because of the staff, the clubs, and the transportation home.” Leasia told Commissioners that her favorite clubs are art, drama, and gardening.

Tiara Blair
Tiara Blair

Loy Norrix High School student Tiara Blair spoke up as well, “Communities In School has made a huge difference in my life. It has helped me to maintain my grade point average at a 3.7 average.” [Applause errupted in the chamber.] “Not only has it helped me with my academic studies but also with community building and networking. Communities In Schools connects me with a lot of resources, such as dental, vision, and food pack services. Also, because of CIS, I am provided a room with materials and the needed space to complete my homework. I appreciate the team staff that are hired here, they really take the time to help me succeed in my education.”

Rather than citing a bunch of research demonstrating that students who regularly attend afterschool programs are more likely to improve their grades, tests scores and overall academic behavior (there is a lot of it!), we’ll let Shediah, a fifth grader from Milwood Elementary School wrap up this post. Here, in her own words:

What Does the CIS Afterschool Program Mean to Me?

To me, afterschool program means to always be loved and helped. Afterschool program is a place that I can let my feelings go and be myself. I will always be safe and cared about.

To me, afterschool program is a place I can go to and calm down. I know I can always go the CIS staff when I need help. I can always be comforted when I’m going through a hard time.

When my [Site Coordinator] Ms. Abby left, I was very sad. After a while she came upstairs and comforted me. So did all of my classmates and my teachers.

I still miss Ms. Abby but Ms. Korrine who has taken her place is really nice. CIS is still fun.

Check out the inspiring City Hall photos (taken by Don Kingery) on our facebook album.

If you missed any of the WWMT coverage that aired on these recent events, not to worry. Just check out the following links:

What CIS Executive Director, Pam Kingery says about afterschool programming can be found here.

Students speaking out for afterschool programming during city commission meeting can be found here.

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