Pop Quiz: Precious Miller

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. During the last week of school, a beautiful June day, we sat down with Precious Miller, who was wrapping up her first year as the Communities In Schools Site Coordinator at Hillside Middle School.

FB_IMG_1467148577246 (2)In 2010, Precious interned with CIS at Kalamazoo Central High School. She later served as a Youth Development Worker for the 2011 CIS Think Summer! program. With her Bachelors and Masters in Social Work from Western Michigan University, Precious served as a case manager with Casemanagement of Michigan before rejoining the CIS team in October 2015, this time as a CIS Site Coordinator for Hillside Middle School. This past January, Precious and her husband (and former CIS Site Coordinator), Derek Miller, welcomed their son, Kai, into the world.

As we were about to spring this quiz on Precious, Shania Armstrong, a sixth grader looking forward to CIS Think Summer!, popped into Ms. Miller’s office. When she learned her site coordinator was being interviewed for the blog, she had this to say: “She’s an awesome person. She’s nice and I like her a lot. She makes me smile. Since I’ve met her, she’s been building up my confidence…”

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

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

I’m learning how to balance caring for my kids at school and caring for my son at home.

What’s the secret?

Leaving school at school and being present in the moment. I practice mindfulness. When I’m with Kai, I catch myself thinking about the kids and all I need to do at school, and then it’s flip-flopped when I’m with the students. So, I remind myself to stay in the moment.

Favorite word right now?

I’m going to go with awesome because I hear it at least twice a day and I say it 10,000 times a day. If I see two kids skipping class, I say, “I see two awesome kids going to class.” And they do.

What are you currently reading?

I’m just about to start reading In a Rocket Made of Ice by Gail Gutradt. My VISTA, Terra, gave it to me. It’s about children growing up with AIDS. I understand that AmeriCorps ties into it, servicing a community that needs advocacy.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I want to be a community changer, starting with one student at a time. My work doesn’t stop—whether I’m here or not. It can happen at the grocery store, the park, anywhere, and I’ll see kids that need a little reminder that they’re awesome.

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

Diane McKinney. She was my inspiration when I attended Creston High School in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She was the school social worker. I remember going to her office every day at lunch. And while I didn’t need anything in particular, I remember I just wanted to be with her. I loved how she nurtured my becoming a woman and I can’t even articulate how she did it. It was really her presence that spoke to me. I love how she cared for me.

I can’t help but think about that young woman, Shania, and what she had to say about you. Here you are now, giving back in a manner similar to Ms. McKinney.

I had no idea I did that for Shania. Like so many kids, she just needs a little bit of hope in realizing who she is.

Thank you, Precious!

Over this past school year, we’ve introduced you to members of the wonderful CIS Site Team at Hillside. We kicked it off with Principal McKissack. If you missed the post, you can find it here. Read about CIS After School Coordinator Katherine Williamson here and CIS AmeriCorps VISTA Terra Mosqueda here. Former Youth Development Workers Nicholas Keen and Fred Myles were also featured. Nicholas won’t be returning in the new school year as he has relocated to Hawaii to accept a teaching position, and Fred’s business has really taken off. Good for them, but our loss! While we and our kids will miss them both, we wish them all the best.

Hillside and other schools need energetic and enthusiastic youth development workers to serve in an after school setting (Monday through Thursday). Help us recruit for kids! If you or someone you know might be right for the job, go here.

Maple Street’s Duo: Emily Demorest and Jen Nitz

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.

On a drizzly day in late March, we were out at Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts. CIS Site Coordinator Emily Demorest and CIS After School Coordinator Jen Nitz were both on hand so we thought we’d pop our quiz on them. These two passionate and talented women work closely with the Maple Street team, including teachers, staff, and the principal to help students succeed in school and life.

Alright, Emily Demorest and Jen Nitz: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

Emily: I learned that the Michigan State Board of Education has just put forth new guidelines that would allow transgender students to have greater recognition of their gender identity. [Emily has since written a blog post about this and you can read it by going here.]

Jen N: What have I learned? My mom just went to the Maldives, which is a Muslim country. What she learned from her time and now what I’ve learned from her is that Maldivians are very accepting and loving. They come to people with compassion. This is in sharp contrast with what is presented in the media these days, with the bomb that just went off in Brussels. That Malldivian message—approaching others with compassion and love—needs to be heard. That is what they, and we all want, for humanity. People really can be good in the face of bad.

 

Favorite word right now?

Jen N: Extrapolate. I’m the queen of extrapolating information from people.

Emily: You are also the queen of the power pose. That’s a technique that falls under that mindfulness umbrella.

Jen N: [To demonstrate, Jen stands up, places hands on hips.]It’s a grounding pose that calms. I use it to help calm and focus kids. They love doing it.

Emily: You used it just yesterday with that student who came in with anxiety.

Jen N: That’s right. I showed him the power pose, he did it with me, taking deep breathes. He quit hyperventiling and calmed to where we were then able to talk about what was going on for him. Doing the pose—being able to calm himself—helped him achieve a sense of personal power. He left calm, and went back to class.

Emily: My favorite word is multiverse. I recently went to see Neil Degrasse Tyson when he was in town.

Jen N: I wanted to see him! Was it good?

Emil: Really good. So multiverse is this idea in physics that in the universe there are multiple universes occurring at the same time.

Jen N: So, like for instance, our alter egos are meeting right now at another Maple Street Magnet School? Wow. You really love science, don’t you, Emily?

Emily: I do!

Jen N: As long I don’t have to convert joules to kilojoules in chemistry, science is fun.

 

What are you currently reading?

Emily: I’m studying for my social work clinical exam/license. I’m currently reading the Complete Guide to the National Social Work Exam.

Jen N: I’m reading How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk.

 

What are you learning from the book, Jen?

Jen N: Have kindness and empathy. I have short patience and I need to be better with that. I always want to come at kids in a positive, supportive manner.

 

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Jen N: A world traveler. I want to experience different cultures. I’m interested in anthropology. I’m interested in people and want to see how they live.

Emily: Honestly, this may seem super cheesy but I love being a CIS Site Coordinator. This is 100% what I want to be doing.

Jen N: But if someone plunked you down and said you could be anything, wouldn’t you want to travel? Who doesn’t want to travel?

Emily: I’ve traveled. I spent time in South Africa. I got there and realized it wasn’t my community. You can only do so much when it’s not your own community. Here, [Emily waves her hands around the school] this is my community. I can make a real difference here.

 

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

Emily: Adeline Sichterman. She was my neighbor when I was growing up in Paw Paw. She was this extremely cool and eccentric English teacher who had lived in Japan for a long time. She took me to Barnes & Noble and bought me books. She took me to plays. She taught me that it’s okay to be smart and weird. Later, when I grew up, she even did the flowers for my wedding!

Jen N: For sure my parents, both of them. They both work to educate and help people. They help the underdog. Their example taught me cultural sensitivity and that you can’t judge others. You must take every person that comes at you as they are, no matter what.

 

You two make a great team. You’re both funny and deep.

Emily: Funny but deep, I like that.

Jen N.: Just so we’re not funny and peripheral.

 

Thank you, Emily and Jen N.!

 

Pop Quiz: Omarion

2015-03-26 03.23.51-editWelcome 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 Omarion Morgan, who is in seventh grade at Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts. Omarion is featured in our recent CIS Connections. You can find out more about Omarion, what colleges he is considering and how he uses mindfulness techniques he’s learned in CIS after school to help him be a successful student in the latest issue of CIS Connections.

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

In science, we learned about cells and how they make up the human body.

What are you currently reading?

I’m re-reading this book called A Long Walk to Water. It’s our all-school read.

What do you consider one of your strengths?

I never give up and I make people laugh.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A lawyer or a teacher.

What is your favorite word right now?

A. Just A.

Any reason?

No, it just popped in my head. But my favorite phrase is ‘Never give up.’

2015-03-26 02.46.04-editBehind every successful student is a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?

My mom and my dad and my two aunties and my grandma.

You have a lot of caring adults in both your school and home life. Tell me a little bit more about your family and how they help you succeed.

My mom encourages me to do my work. My dad helps me with my homework, too.  My grandma she never gives up—that’s where I get that from—and my two aunties are both loyal and nice.

Thank you, Omarion! 

 

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