Who have you been hanging out with lately? Responsibility? Joy? Generosity?
In today’s post, Coach Rodney Manning reflects on his relationship with Dedication. As the Assistant Varsity Basketball Coach for the Men’s Basketball team at Loy Norrix High School, he knows that performing at one’s best—whether it’s sports, academics, or anything else for that matter—can not be achieved without practice and more practice. Simply going through the motions to get something done is not enough. One must be deliberate and focused, trying to get better every time. That mindful approach takes dedication. Coach Manning, along with many of the basketball players, recently attended the MLK “Courage to Create” poetry workshop and this is what he wrote:
Dedication and I hang out together. Dedication pushes me to excel when I don’t want to push. Sometimes, I don’t really care for Dedication because it has a tendency to require more of me that I think I have to give.
Through our ups and downs, highs and lows, dedication and I have become best friends. We have taken each other to places where we could not have gone alone. Dedication and I are now inseparable.
Who have you been spending a lot of time with lately? Preparation? Optimism? Courage? Write us at email@example.com and tell us about it. We just might publish it!
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 O’Neal Ollie who is the CIS Success Coach at Loy Norrix High School. CIS Success Coaches allow Communities In Schools to have a larger footprint in larger schools. CIS Success Coaches are an extension—a more expansive one—of the case management model. It allows CIS to delve more deeply into a school, to meet student needs. For students who need a moderate degree of support, having that one-on-one coaching support from O’Neal Ollie can be the tipping point that gets them over the hump and on the road to graduation.
A graduate of Kalamazoo Central High School, O’Neal then headed to school in Riverside, California and later returned to Kalamazoo, graduating in Sports Management from Western Michigan University. Today, O’Neal and his wife Terri are proud KPS parents of son Bass, a senior at Kalamazoo Central High School who is also enrolled in college, and daughter, Symphony, who graduated from Kalamazoo Central, was honored by the YWCA in 2014 as a Young Women of Achievement, and is now in her third year at Michigan State University. O’Neal notes that “it’s my wife Terri who keeps all of us on track.”
Alright, Coach Ollie: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.
What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?
Oh, my goodness. I learn so much stuff. For a person that thinks he knows everything, well, that is a tough one. Okay, I learned about dual enrollment. That is the process of enrolling a student in college while they are still completing high school with eligibility to play high school sports. My son is a senior at Kalamazoo Central and plays three sports.
At this time of the year, it is football because my son is in his senior year.
What are you currently reading?
Sports Illustrated, because of the Olympics, which were so good with swimming, gymnastics, and track.
You graduated from Kalamazoo Central. Thinking back to your years with the Kalamazoo Public Schools, who was one of your favorite teachers?
Vern Davis and Clarence Gardener. Also, Coach Don Jackson. He taught PE, probably one of my biggest mentors in school. Mr. Davis was a math teacher and Mr. Gardner was general business & accounting. Both coached as well.
My counselor was Nelson Stevenson and he was my main man. He enrolled me in Upward Bound. That was my introduction to college. We stayed on Western’s campus-in Bigelow Hall-for eight weeks. I learned the social aspects of college and thought, this is going to be great! I have life-long friends that I made from attending Outward Bound.
Mr. Davis made you feel so good about yourself. He made it easy to learn. It probably helped that he was a former NFL player. He played for the Philadelphia Eagles and was All-American. I had his class fourth hour. “Don’t ever make me come look for you,” he’d say.
Coach Gardiner’s business and accounting was the most useful class I’ve ever taken. I still write my checks the way he taught me in school. When I went to college, I majored in accounting until I changed to sports management.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I’ve always been interested in school and sports administration. But, regardless of all I’m doing work-wise, I can’t forget I’m a dad. I learn a lot from my son and daughter.
Things I never expected to learn, like, what it means to go prom dress shopping. That is a whole process and it’s a family event.
Behind every successful student is a caring adult. Who is your caring adult?
My mom, my second mom, and my third mom. I have eight older siblings and my oldest sister, Ida Buchanan, was a secretary in my building when I was in high school. I would much rather my mother than my sister Ida get a hold of me. She did not play. Still doesn’t. She still works, going between Hillside and Linden Grove Middle School.
My mom, I always appreciated how hard she worked and the way she had a way of breaking things down to make us understand things. One of my favorite quotes she said was when I came home crying one day. “You’re crying because folks are talking about you?” she said. “You start crying when folks stop talking about you.”
Thank you, Coach Ollie!
We continue to talk about O’Neal Ollie in our soon to be released newsletter, CIS Connections. O’Neal and his CIS site team member, CIS Site Coordinator Montrell Baker, share their insights about helping students get on track to graduation. And if you missed Montrell’s interview with Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids, you can read it here.
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 another member of the Communities In Schools site team at Hillside Middle School, Terra Mosqueda. Embarking on her second year of service as an AmeriCorps VISTA with CIS, her work spans between Loy Norrix High School (three days a week) and Hillside (two days a week).
Terra grew up in Rockford, Michigan and it was college that brought her to Kalamazoo. She started at Western Michigan University studying Child and Family Development and then decided to change her focus. After taking some classes at Kalamazoo Valley Community College she decided to take a year off and try something else other than school.
“Being a VISTA has made me lean more towards social work,” Terra says. “School has always been my biggest obstacle. I didn’t try very hard in high school. And I want to work to make sure kids don’t go down my same path. Honestly, I never thought I’d be in a school again! But I really enjoy the relationships I’m making, especially with the students. Being a VISTA gives me opportunities to try new things. I get to talk to people I’ve never thought I’d have a chance to talk with by being in the schools.”
Like her other colleagues who are VISTAs with Communities In Schools, Terra helps nourish a college-going culture. To this end, she has planned college trips for Loy Norrix students and at Hillside she’s created a “college window” that she changes every few weeks.
She orders food from CIS partner Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes to keep the food pantry stocked. She makes sure CIS Kids’ Closet is organized and filled with essentials, like clothing, hygiene, and school supplies.
Alright, Terra: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.
What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?
It’s not so much something I’ve learned as something that I’ve opened up to. and that is that no two kids have the same learning style. If two kids are sitting next to each other and I show one how to do a math problem, that same approach may not work for the other student. I have to bend my mind and think of other ways to help that child. At the same time, this helps me in that I expand and come up with new ways of thinking.
What are you currently reading?
With a Pistol in his Hand by Americo Paredes. It is about Gregorio Cortez, a Mexican outlaw still known to this day. When Gregorio eventually dies, he does so in my great-grandfathers house; it’s mentioned in one of the chapters. It’s a really interesting read, and I get to learn a little more about what my great grandfather experienced in his life with his compadre, Gregorio Cortez.
What’s your favorite word right now?
Go. I always say “Go” to the kids as a way to encourage them to be in the right classroom, do their homework, and such. “Go” is both encouraging and demanding. It’s the best of both worlds!
What do you want to be when you grow up?
I’m really leaning towards social work. It’s so important to keep kids in good environments. I want to help them graduate with the Kalamazoo Promise and do what they want to accomplish in life.
Behind every successful student is a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?
My mom and dad, equally. My mom was the caring one and my dad helped me by pushing me. They had the good cop-bad cop thing going on and it worked well on me.
Thank you, Terra!
Are you or someone you know interested in becoming an AmeriCorps VISTA? The next group of AmeriCorps VISTA members will come on board in August. To find out more, go here.
In the weeks to come, we’ll introduce you to Fred Myles and Precious Miller, two more CIS team members from Hillside. In the meantime, if you missed the post about Principal McKissack, you can read it by clicking here. You can read about Katherine Williamson, Hillside’s CIS After School Coordinator, by going here. To learn about Nicholas Keen, Youth Development Worker at Hillside, go here.
If you follow our blog, you know that CIS has been asking caring adults to think back to when they were young and in school and recall that caring adult they felt especially connected to. Today, we publish a letter written by CIS Director of Secondary Sites, Artrella Cohn. A proud graduate of the Kalamazoo Public Schools, Artrella’s poignant letter reminds us that school staff and teachers touch our lives and inspire us, stay with us even after we’ve left their classrooms and school buildings behind.
My Dear Mrs. Benton,
I want to start this letter by saying, “Thank you.” You have carved out a special place in my heart forever. I am almost certain that you have no clue the impact that you have had on my life and the endless stream of HOPE that you poured into me as an impressionable youth. You truly have no clue!
Your spirit and your smile alone has helped me through some difficult times (the image of your smile lives within my heart). Even as an adult who has carved a place in the hearts and lives of the youth of this generation, your care and concern for me remains in my thoughts.
Thank you so much!
Loy Norrix High School, Class of ‘99
Pictured below: Artrella with Mrs. Benton…back in the day when she was attending Loy Norrix. And below that, with her caring adult years all these years later! Mrs. Susan Benton is still supporting students in the Kalamazoo Public Schools as a Guidance Counselor at Loy Norrix High School.
Who is your Mrs. Benton? If you are up to the challenge of reflecting on and writing a letter to your caring adult, email it to me, Jennifer Clark, at firstname.lastname@example.org and we just might publish it!
Bonnie Terrentine, CIS After School Coordinator for Lincoln International Studies and former Kalamazoo Area Academic Achievement Program (KAAAP) staff knew JacQuese as a young student at Chime Elementary, then Milwood Elementary, Milwood Magnet Middle School, and then Loy Norrix High School. “She was extremely bright,” recalls Bonnie. “Talented, too. Even when she faced obstacles, she kept on going. She’s very resilient, a pioneer, really, as she was the first in her family to head off to college. I remember she had really supportive grandparents. She was just a great kid.”
JacQuese recalls Ms. Terrentine fondly and says that when she was in fourth grade, the KAAAP mentor she was connected to, Carol McGlinn, changed her future. (Initiated in 1992 by the Kalamazoo Chamber of Commerce, KAAAP was later absorbed by CIS. It matched elementary students to a mentor committed to seeing the young person through high school graduation.)
JacQuese started doing better in school thanks to the tutoring support she received from her mentor. “I wouldn’t be able to read if it wasn’t for her [Ms. McGlinn]. She saved my reading life. She saved me.”
Yet, the transition from high school to college was challenging. “Going off to college was hard for me,” recalls JacQuese. “My family loved me. They were in support of me going and said, ‘Do it!’ but that was it. I needed someone to guide me. I needed help with the how. I realize nobody has a blueprint for you but when you go to college you need a game plan. I felt like I just got dropped off. ‘Do good,’ they told me. Okay, but how? What are the steps I need to take to get through college?”
A talented woman with a variety of interests, JacQuese found herself changing direction frequently and switching majors. While at Michigan State, she studied Communications, Interdisciplinary Arts and Humanities, Religious Studies, Social Work, and Theater.
It was at the start of her fifth year of college, her degree in sight, that things began to unravel. JacQuese’s grandfather, a great ally and whom she was very close to passed away on her first day back to school. To make matters worse, shortly thereafter, JacQuese was robbed. “My bank card was stolen and my entire bank account was wiped out. I was very depressed. I couldn’t pay the rent. I didn’t know what to do.” So, when a new opportunity arose, JacQuese dropped out of college and headed to Atlanta to “chase my singer-songwriter dream.” While JacQuese experienced some success with her musical career she ultimately determined “it ended up not being the opportunity for me that I thought it would be.” As she puts it, “The music industry, well, let’s just say snakes aren’t always low in the grass.”
Recently, JacQuese decided to return to Kalamazoo. Through Facebook, she connected with her former middle school math teacher, Diane Lang. They met for lunch, caught up, and talked about JacQuese’s future. Afterwards, with JacQuese’s blessing, Diane reached out to friend and Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, Pam Kingery. Was there a way for JacQuese to get her The Kalamazoo Promise back?
And before September faded into October, JacQuese, with Diane Lang at her side, met with Bob Jorth, Executive Director of The Kalamazoo Promise®. Thanks to Bob, JacQuese got the information she needed and is now doing what it takes—including making a recent trip to Michigan State University—to finish what she started.
JacQuese couldn’t ask for a better cheerleader at her side—and someone to help navigate the how questions all college students have—than Diane Lang.
“This kid has tons of talent and positive energy,” says Diane. “She just needs to finish up her degree. I’m proud of her.”
“This time, I’ll be going back to college,” says JacQuese, “just a little wiser.”
One of the highlights at our recent Champs event: the closing remarks offered by Antasia Fareed. On behalf of students served by Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS), Antasia thanked everyone for their support. “Whether you know it or not,” she told the audience, “you are part of my CIS family.” She spoke from her heart, moving the crowd to tears and receiving a standing ovation. A number of you who were present requested we print her speech here at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids. Antasia spoke without a written script but she agreed to try and capture the essence of what she shared with the audience. Indeed, we all felt embraced by this daughter of CIS and hope you will too when you read what she has to say.
Dear CIS Family,
Hi. My name is Antasia Fareed. I am a Loy Norrix High School student. I am an 11thgrader, soon to be a senior. I have been working with CIS for about 11 years. What would I do without them?
When I needed clothes, they provided them. When I needed food, they gave that to me as well. I am so blessed to have this opportunity to have a second family. Like family, they provide for me. They give me a smile when I’m not confident in myself. I have been in this program since second grade and look what came out—a beautiful, confident woman.
I never thought I could get this far but CIShas pushed me. When my grades slipped, they helped me bring them back up. That’s the main reason why I’m standing here before you with a 3.2 GPA. I never believed I could do it, but I did.
CIS means a lot to me. CIS grows children and I’m proof. To me, the “C” in CIS means carry, the “I” is improvement, and the “S” is society. As students, we want to carry ourselves with dignity. We should be prepared to help improve things when they are messed up, and I believe we will become equals as a society.
CIS has made me powerful and helped me become a leader. That’s why I will be an ambassador for Kalamazoo as I have been awarded a scholarship that will allow me to travel to our sister city in Japan for ten days this summer. That’s a great leadership opportunity. Mrs. Elnora, my CIS Site Coordinator, pushed me to get my stuff in as she believed that I could get the scholarship. And I did. I may have only known her for just one year, but it feels like forever. We always see eye to eye. I’m her helper and she’s mine. I always tell her to stop and breathe.
I’m just so glad that CIS was there for me and will continue to be there for me.
Over the next few months we will be introducing you to our award winners honored at our recent annual Champ Celebration. You won’t want to miss these special installments to our blog. Today, we officially kick this series off with New World Flood, one of eight organizations and individuals honored with a Champs award. Moses Walker, CIS Board Member and Lauren Longwell, Lead AmeriCorps VISTA (based at Washington Writers Academy) presented the award.
Presence is a powerful change-agent. Presence combined with a downpour of passion is unstoppable. That gets to the heart of our next Champ, New World Flood. This partnership, which started four years ago began, as most floods do, with a single drop: supporting students in the CIS Think Summer Program. Loy Norrix graduate and New World Flood founder Todd “TJ” Duckett rained hope, kindness, and passion upon our kids during a family barbeque picnic. He spent time connecting, listening, taking pictures with the kids, and talking about the importance of school and learning.
New World Flood has kept right on raining—through fall and winter, and summer after CIS Think Summer. Showering support by speaking to over hundreds of CIS Think summer students to conducting student focus groups, co-facilitating discussions for a young men’s empowerment group, to reflecting with young men on the value of service and giving back at the past two CIS Transformative Youth Leadership Summits.
Artrella Cohn, CIS Director of Secondary Sites says this about the founder of New World Flood. “TJ has always been the biggest man on campus, in personality and celebrity. Despite all the glory and attention he receives, he is just the same as he ever was—humble and approachable.” Artrella should know. When both were students at Loy Norrix, she literally cheered for him on the sidelines through four seasons of basketball and one season of football. Artrella, who then went on to U of M, admits she stopped cheering when Todd played for MSU, but she picked right back up again when he was later drafted by the NFL. “One of his greatest gifts,” says Artrella, “is that he has a way of making people feel important. He makes time for people, particularly our youth. Loy Norrix is our home and the students are always on his radar. He’s always asking, “What more can I do? How can I give back?”
For the past several years, New World Flood has promoted literacy alongside CIS as part of the First Saturdays at the Kalamazoo Public Library. One grandmother confided, “We only came to the library so the boys could meet Mr. Duckett.” And here, we thought it was our catchy flyers. “Do you think he’d let me take a picture of him with the boys?” she asked. Todd politely obliged to this common refrain and after the cameras went away, he was in deep conversation with the family. Soon, both boys were checking books out of the library.
When CIS AmeriCorps VISTAs, charged with promoting a college going culture, organized a Ready, Set, College! event for the first Mayor’s Day of Service, Todd’s organization flooded city hall with college gear from his alma mater, MSU. VISTAs and their site teams were then able to distribute these and
other college items to grateful graduating seniors, many who would be the first in their family to attend college.
And, on the day before Thanksgiving, you will find Todd Duckett championing the hungriest children in the very halls he once attended as a student: Parkwood UpJohn Elementary School. Along with Parkwood’s Principal Robin Greymountain, CIS Site Coordinator Jody Sikkema, and others he welcomes families to the High Five Turkey Drive and helps them gather up a turkey and a grocery bag full of all the fabulous fixings for a Thanksgiving dinner. This year, CIS Site Coordinators and their site teams were able to identify 200 families who, were it not for the generosity of New World Flood, would have little, if anything to eat. This distribution was just part of New World Flood’s larger effort to ripple beyond the boundaries of Kalamazoo and into Lansing, this year reaching over 800 families.
“People,” Todd reminds us, “are in need all over and we have an opportunity to take care of a few of them, if just for one day.”
New World Flood, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.
And if you missed Todd Duckett and Artrella Cohn on the Lori Moore Show (or if you saw it but just want to watch it again), click here, to watch.
As one of the largest employers in Michigan, AT&T has a vested interest in assuring that students do well in school. Jim Murray, President of AT&T Michigan, told the crowd that had gathered this past Thursday at Loy Norrix High School that it’s important to “build a pipeline of talent…a good education and a high school diploma are critically important for Michigan students as they prepare for success in life,” he said. “We see this in our communities and in our workforce and that is why AT&T is supporting students and proven programs like Communities In Schools that help them.” Mr. Murray then presented a $292,238 check to Pam Kingery, Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo. Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo is 1 of 30 AT&T Aspire recipients nation-wide (and the only one in Michigan) selected from a competitive request for proposal process from more than 1,100 applicants. Mr. Murray explained that programs were evaluated based on their effectiveness in helping students graduate ready for career or college. Selected programs use evidence-based approaches to serve students and are able to demonstrate quantitative results.
“Students should be provided with the opportunity and the necessary support to be successful,” said Rodney Prewitt, Principal of Loy Norrix High School. This union of AT&T and Communities In Schools supports our purpose by helping us to maximize students’ academic, social, and personal success. In addition, it also benefits our college going culture by helping us provide an education that is relevant to the needs of our students.” Kalamazoo Central High School Principal Val Boggan echoed similar thoughts, adding that “CIS does phenomenal work. We’ve had great success with our students at Kalamazoo Central.”
Several Loy Norrix students then spoke.
Antasia, a junior, credited her success as a student and 3.5 GPA to resources she’s received through CIS as well as “having somebody to be by my side.” Removing the barriers allows her to strive to be the best student she can be.
Malik, a senior, for whom CIS has been a part of his life since second grade, pointed out that it is often the “little stuff” that students need to help them to focus so they can be successful. Dental care, vision support, and food packs help many students, he said.
Anasia, a freshman appreciates the guidance CIS has provided her. “They always have my back. With the help of CIS, my transition to high school was ten times easier…every student should have this support.”
Tiara Blair, a senior, said this, “Communities In Schools has given me multiple opportunities throughout my high school career. They have provided me with glasses so I can actually see the notes I need to take. CIS has also offered tutoring in subjects, like math, that I struggle in. These are just a few of their helpful tools they provide me with.
With these tools I am able to maintain a 3.7 GPA.” The audience broke into applause, as they did for the other students who mentioned their impressive GPAs. Tiara waited for the audience to stop applauding and continued. “I was one of those students who thought college was not an option for me. With the support of CIS, I am applying to Michigan State University, Grand Valley State University, and Albion College. Communities In Schools has better prepared me to be accepted. Not only have they helped me figure out where to apply to, they also helped me navigate through the many employment options available. One of the programs offered was MODA, Merchandising Opportunities Design Associations at Western Michigan University. This gave girls like me a chance to try out the fashion world. We were able to design and sew our own outfits and present them in one of their fashion shows. Although it was a lot of fun, I also learned how stressful this line of work can be. I am privileged and grateful to have the support of CIS be a part of my middle school and high school career.”
AT&T Aspire, the company’s signature education initiative focused on school success and career readiness, allows CIS to support a site coordinator at Loy Norrix High School, provide in-class assistance to Algebra I students at both Loy Norrix and Kalamazoo Central High School, and support students over the summer. With an unwavering commitment to data-driven education outcomes, AT&T Aspire has impacted more than 1 million students since its launch in 2008.
We thank you, AT&T, for helping kids aspire to be the successful students they are meant to be!