Thank You, Friends

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

Since the regular school year has wrapped up for students and teachers, and we are gearing up for the CIS Think Summer! program and KPS Summer School, it is a natural time to reflect on the 2015-16 school year. Gratitude is the overwhelming sentiment—for you, for our community. “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it,” wrote William Arthur Ward, “is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” So this is my expression of our sincere appreciation. As part of our community, you have chosen to lift up our children and youth as part of Communities In Schools. Thank you!

The important work of helping our kids succeed in school and in life does not happen without you. Your time, energy, talent and determination are essential investments in the future of the next generation and in the future of Kalamazoo. I believe the return on your investment is both measurable and immeasurable. The measurable part—-all of the graduates will have greater earnings, pay more taxes, be more well-prepared parents, and have better health outcomes, to name just a few—inspires us all to work harder to help more kids graduate. The immeasurable part—knowing how much you cared and how much each student felt cared for, converting tears of sorrow to tears of joy, listening to that graduate proudly announce he is the first in his family to graduate from high school—these are but a few of the priceless experiences that assure you will be back next year.

Did you know you helped grateful parents “fill the gaps” for their children? As one parent put it, “I want the best for my child but I can’t give them all that they need. I’m so grateful that CIS connected my child to the services she needed.”  We were able to step in because of you.

Our kids count on you and you have been there for them, even in difficult times. It has been an especially challenging year for Kalamazoo. Our community has been rocked by unexplainable tragedy. We’ve lost giants like Charles Warfield. Chuck had much to teach us and was always interested in learning from others, particularly our kids. Ed Gordon, one of the two founding board members of this organization, passed away last year. A member of the City Commission, Ed insisted that supporting our kids is a community responsibility and opportunity.

Each time you show up for kids—whether it’s to work, to volunteer, to partner, or to donate, you add to the foundation of others and you show our kids what it means to be a part of a community that acts together and takes care of one another. So, thank you for believing that CIS and the kids of Kalamazoo are a sound and worthy investment.

Think summer, think-think summer!  The learning and caring continue…

Thank you!

 

Rosemary Gardiner: A Gifted Story Teller

This year’s Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award, sponsored by Greenleaf Trust, was presented to Rosemary Gardiner. This prestigious award was established by the Communities In Schools Board back in 2010 to honor Diether’s extensive contributions to his adopted home of Kalamazoo and in particular, his service and genuine concern for the children and young people of our community. A former board member of CIS, Diether cherished teaching and learning at all levels and wanted all young people to have the gift of an excellent education and perhaps more importantly, the joy of life-long curiosity and learning.

Rosemary Gardiner (left) with Annie Johnston Henn of Greenleaf Trust.
Rosemary Gardiner (left) with Annie Henn of Greenleaf Trust.

Diether Haenicke was a man of many interests and talents.  He was equally passionate about fulfilling his responsibilities as Western Michigan University President as he was about being a mentor in the KAAAP Program. There is no doubt many of us can tell a story or two about Diether’s expectations for excellence—whether applied to himself or to those around him.  Among his highest ideals, was how we as individuals or as a community should care for our children. He would be especially proud that this award is going to this year’s recipient, Rosemary Gardiner, a devout champion of children.20160517-_DSC8177

Rosemary has served in many roles at Family & Children Services, starting as a social worker more than forty years ago. Prior to her eight-year stint as the Chief Executive Officer of the agency, she served as Public Relations Director and Development Director. She has dedicated her professional talents to Family & Children Services and has mentored and molded hundreds of young social workers. She has led the agency’s efforts in being innovative in developing or adopting new strategies for improving the lives of children while setting a high bar for stewardship. Among the areas most appreciated by Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, is her long-standing commitment to social-emotional support services delivered in school settings.

The common thread throughout her time and varied titles and accomplishments is one of the most cherished and valued roles she could possibly play—that of the wise and well-respected storyteller. Rosemary has created success in whatever she has taken on because she understands the stories of children and is able to tell them so skillfully to the rest of us. Whether telling us of the profound importance of being a foster parent or the sorrow of childhood trauma, Rosemary can make us understand. Whether showing us the unexpected healing that the most challenged human spirit can accomplish or the forever wound a grieving parent must survive, Rosemary can make us understand. Through imparting the critical stories of children, Rosemary can create an advocate from a casual observer. The way in which she shares these truths, changes us all.

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Dr. Tim Light, President, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo Board with Rosemary Gardiner.

In naming Rosemary Gardiner as the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence recipient for 2016, we have created a new category of excellence—excellence in telling the story of children and excellence in helping us to understand and to care. In native Pueblo culture, the role of the storyteller is an old and honored one. And so, as a symbol of her Diether Haenicke Award from the Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo Board, Rosemary was given a small piece of art, entitled “The Storyteller.” It was created by a Pueblo Native American artist. These small sculptures/figurines are created by many different Pueblo artists and reflect the esteem given to the wise and respected storytellers of the culture.  She was also given a book explaining the tradition.

We thank Rosemary for her long and faithful service to the children and families of our community and for continuing to tell their stories.

Rosemary receiving a special tribute from the State of Michigan.
Rosemary receiving a special tribute from the State of Michigan.

Rosemary Gardiner and Pam Kingery sat down with Lori Moore last week on The Lori Moore Show. You can watch it here.

 

Doing What It Takes To Get Her Promise Back

IMG_2959When JacQuese Steele graduated from Loy Norrix High School in 2008, she headed off to Michigan State University, fully intending to use the gift of The Kalamazoo Promise® to obtain a degree.

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.”

 

Women Making Kalamazoo Better For All

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Pam (right) receiving her YWCA Women of Achievement Award from Carrie Pickett Erway, President and CEO of The Kalamazoo Community Foundation.

Kalamazoo is bursting with strong, wonderful women.

Just last week, the 2015 award celebration for the YWCA Women of Achievement was held at the Radisson. Pam Kingery, Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo  was one of four women to receive the Women of Achievement Award.Kalamazoo Community Foundation sponsored her award and, as President and CEO, Carrie Picket Erway shared with the packed audience: In December 1999 Pam took on the challenge of developing a new organization from scratch, known as Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo. Pam’s recipe to success was in using a national model to overcome the barriers that disrupted kids, giving them hope and the belief they can succeed in school, graduate and be prepared for life. Under her leadership and vision, the organization has steadily grown to over 140 employees, serving 20 schools, reaching 1,300 students, coordinating 175,000 hours of service, and over 9,700 students receiving service through community partnerships coordinated by Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo.

Several of you have asked that we run the speech that Pam gave  that evening. We think you’ll find it straightforward and sincere, just like Pam. But, before we share it, just a few words about some of the other award winners with connections to CIS….

The YWCA Lifetime Woman of Achievement Award was given to Carolyn Alford. A former CIS board member, who, among many other volunteer and professional accomplishments, also served 16 years on the Kalamazoo Public Schools Board of Trustees. She  reminded the packed audience that we can make an impact on our community “when we work together as one on behalf of others.” She definitely lives these words.

CIS and our kids have also benefited from the wisdom and expertise of former CIS board member and YWCA Woman of Achievement Sherry Thomas-Cloud. Currently, Sherry is the executive director of the Douglass Community Association.

(Right to left) Tiara Blair, Pam Kingery, Cynthia Cooper, and Artrella Cohn
(Right to left) Tiara Blair, Pam Kingery, Cynthia Cooper, and Artrella Cohn

The YWCA Young Women of Achievement Award was bestowed upon 19 young women from area high schools and organizations that show exemplary leadership through extracurricular activities, volunteer work, serving as role models, and academic achievements. Special kudos to our own Tiara Blair!

We are so proud of her and how she and all the Women of Achievement serve as role models for the next generation. In fact, later this week, Thursday, May 21st, our future women–over 2,000 3rd-5th grade girls–will pound through the streets as part of the Greater Kalamazoo Girls on the Run 5K. You go, girls!

Here now, is Pam’s speech:

I love this community!  I came here with my husband for his graduate school program, intending to stay one-two years. Now, 41 years later, I feel very blessed to be in this special place.  I have had the good fortune to have two careers here—one in mental health and one with Communities In Schools.  And in both, I have been extremely lucky to work with smart, talented colleagues who care about their work as much as I do—several have honored me with attending this evening.  A special thanks to Jennifer, Emily and Trella for nominating me for this award.  I want to thank my family—my husband, Don, my daughter Logan and my sons, Noah and JB; not only have they been very supportive of me, they embrace my work with Communities In Schools with their own time, talent and treasure. They conspired to surprise me with the special visit by Noah from Washington DC to attend this event. My very special friend, Tyreese and his mom, Renee, also enrich me every day by sharing their lives.  Thank you, Tyreese!

I so appreciate this award and the YWCA’s history of supporting and lifting up the women of Kalamazoo. To be a part of that group of women is inspiring to me.  To theKalamazoo Community Foundation for sponsoring my award, please accept my genuine gratitude. I really believe in “For good and forever”—it isn’t just a tag line—and so it is especially meaningful to have your support. Thank you.

Diane Eberts (center) and Lisa Rodriguez (right) congratulate Pam on her YWCA Women of Achievement award.
Diane Eberts (center) and Lisa Rodriguez (right) congratulate Pam on her YWCA Women of Achievement award.

I want every child in this community to benefit from its resources as much as I have, and as much as my children did—for the good of us all, forever for Kalamazoo and beyond.  And so my deep and profound appreciation includes in particular the Board members of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo and our generous donors.  Thank you for giving so much of yourselves and taking this journey of faith and determination that together we will surround our kids with love and a community that continues to say “we believe in your ability to succeed.”

Finally, I believe my mother’s spirit is here with me.  She is the person who instilled in me a love of education, in spite of having to give up her own. Thanks, Mom—I am forever your grateful daughter.

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.”

Aspiring Toward A Brighter Future

20141023-DSC_4421-EditAs 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.

20141023-DSC_4382Antasia, 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.

20141023-DSC_4429With 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!

Check out these pictures on our CIS  facebook album taken by CIS Volunteer, Don Kingery.

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Thank You For Being Mashed Potatoes

Today’s post is written by Pam Kingery, Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo. Her words can also be found on the front page of our latest CIS Connections.

Pam Kingery, Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo
Pam Kingery, Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo

No one orders gravy without the mashed potatoes. No one buys a set of special tires without owning a car to put them on. You don’t buy an extra gig of memory when you don’t possess a computer. Likewise, Communities In Schools wouldn’t seek after school grants if it didn’t have basic core services within the schools—whole-child, integrated student support.

Communities In Schools was recently notified that ALL THREE after school grants for which it applied have been selected for funding by the Michigan Department of Educationbeginning the 2014-15 school year. Those grants, funded for five years, will provide significant extra learning support in fifteen schools—nine out of its ten current after school sites and six new elementary sites.  And, yes, the grants do represent a substantial dollar amount—more than ten million over the five year period. Of course, this is a huge accomplishment for CIS, Kalamazoo Public Schools and the partners who collaborate with us. We couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity!

BUT, after school services are not the CIS core integrated student support strategy that is basic to our mission—to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.  After school services are an example of a very important, narrow but intensive strategy for providing critical academic support to a targeted group of students within each selected school. It does give us a critical opportunity for daily contact with students to support homework completion, provide tutoring and practice for key academic skills and a safe, supervised setting while parents are working. It makes a substantial impact on the students who participate.

Core to a whole-child, coordinated service strategy, is a site coordinator who is available to organize and connect the community’s resources to a wider group of students within a school, students who have needs beyond academics, and who most often have very limited socio-economic means to meet those needs—dental, vision, food, clothing, school supplies, mental health, etc.  Why do I point this out? Because it is our KALAMAZOO FUNDERS and DONORS who make possible the core of what Communities In Schools is and does. If you are one of those funders and donors, your support is essential in allowing us to leverage other resources—the gravy if you will—to provide critical extra support to some students, while maintaining the basics to greater numbers of children.

Yes, ten million dollars, even over five years, is a lot of money.  But it goes to a very specific and narrow purpose—the special set of tires—and cannot be used to support our core services.  For that core set of services, we are continuing our Promise Me Campaign.  For that core, we are dependent on you, Kalamazoo.  For that, we thank you for being the mashed potatoes.  

Barbara Witzak: A Blue Ribbon Woman

Over the next few months we will be introducing you to our nine award winners honored at our recent annual Champ Celebration. You won’t want to miss these special installments to our blog. Hopefully, you got a chance to read last week’s post which featured Kawyie’s speech. Today, we officially kick this series off with the winner of the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award. Retired Judge and CIS Board President, Carolyn H. Williams presented the award. 

20140506-DSC_7737The late President Emeritus of Western Michigan University demanded excellence of himself and inspired and cajoled others to achieve excellence. Whether reflecting on his experiences as a 6th grade teacher, getting donations of winter clothing for Western Michigan University students from the Middle East or questioning what Communities In Schools was doing to support boys, Diether Haenicke was always in pursuit of ways in which the lives of young people could be improved so that they could demonstrate their own excellence.  That trait of straightforward sense of determination is shared by this year’s recipient of the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award, Barbara Witzak.

A native of Kalamazoo, Barbara has served the children who attend the Kalamazoo Public Schools for more than four decades.  Among the many attributes for which she is known, is a work ethic reflected in regular fourteen-hour days that often begin in her office at 5:00 a.m. and end well after dark. She has sustained an intense level of commitment to her profession, to the school district, to her educator team and to the children in KPS, whether as Principal of Oakwood Elementary and Washington Writers’ Academy over a 14-year period or in her subsequent administrative positions including the most recent, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning.  Among her most noteworthy accomplishments was the selection of Washington Writers’ Academy as a “Blue Ribbon School.”

Ms. Witzak consistently reflects the behavior of a servant-leader, always willing to jump in with her sleeves rolled up to enhance support for others or to fill in for someone attending to other needs.  According to her nominators, Superintendent Michael Rice and School Board Trustees, “In her leadership roles, Barbara has been integrally involved in every major instructional reform of the last several years in the district.” The nomination goes on to indicate,  “As Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Services, Barbara has been instrumental in helping to establish and build community partnerships in support of an urban literacy community and a growing college culture.”

Please join me in saluting the 2014 outstanding winner of the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award, Barbara Witzak.

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