POP QUIZ: Sheldon Turner

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 Sheldon Turner who will soon begin his fourth year with CIS as a youth development worker at Prairie Ridge Elementary School. Youth Development Workers, as their title implies, work hard to develop the strengths and talents of our youth by involving and empowering students in their own development. Like Sheldon, these enthusiastic caring adults are passionate about helping Kalamazoo Public School students succeed in school and in life. Students often refer to Sheldon and others in this important role as “coach.”

Thoughtful, gentle, and passionate about helping kids succeed, Sheldon says it was music that brought him from Muskegon, Michigan to Kalamazoo. As both the minister of music and music director at Renaissance Church of God in Christ in Grand Rapids, Sheldon is also all in for kids. In July, we had a chance to catch up with him while he was working at CIS Think Summer, held this year at Arcadia Elementary School.

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

POP QUIZ

In talking with Briasha, one of the students in CIS Think Summer, she identified you–Coach Sheldon–as one of the caring adults who is helping her succeed. What do you think about that?

Briasha is a great kid. We have so many great kids in the program.

How is CIS Think Summer going?

The program is going really well and the kids are learning a lot. We just had a visit from Pfizer and that was really great for the kids. They loved it. Some of them really wanted to be basketball players and now they are like, You know, I can actually have a career with Pfizer! It has opened them up to thinking, I can be more than one thing. I can be a basketball player and be a scientist, too. It’s always good to have a plan B, C, and D!

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

I’m learning from my job with CIS that kids engage better with kids and, given the chance, can naturally problem-solve together. That can be better than for me to come in and try to problem solve for them. I’ve seen it where, if students weren’t friends in the beginning, they’ll become friends by the end. I just need to let them work it out–that’s huge for me because I have a tendency to want to solve their problems for them. But it’s important to give them the opportunity to do this for themselves.

What are you currently reading?

Right now, along with the students, I’m reading a book called Long Shot by Mike Lupica. It’s about a kid and his team and how teamwork basically makes the dream work; that you can’t do things on your own.

What is your favorite word right now?

My favorite word right now is actually the “word of the week” here at CIS. This week’s word is confidence. And you know, focusing in on a word is fun and helps not just the kids, but the staff too! Confidence is about believing you can actually achieve things that you have planned. You can also think of it in terms of making it a goal to maintain confidences.

What is something you love about Kalamazoo?

I love the atmosphere of the entire town. I can go places and not feel you, know, like I’m being watched or something. Kalamazoo is just such a friendly city…the atmosphere, the people, the kids. Everything about this place is just amazing.

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

One of the caring adults in my life would have to be Stacy Jackson. She’s looked out for me year after year. She knows that I’m a hard worker, she knows that I love the kids, and she is part of the reason why I’m here helping with CIS Think Summer. I look at her as a mother figure.

She recognizes my work ethic and how well I work with the kids and engage with them to help them develop into what they’re not only good at doing, but also, what they’re meant to be.

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

Our kids need more youth development workers, enthusiastic individuals like Sheldon, to step up and serve in an after school setting (Monday through Thursday) this school year. If you or someone you know might be right for the job, go here.

Happy Birthday, Edwards Garment!

How many of us make it to our 150th Birthday? Well, Edwards Garment has, so instead of scrambling for 150 candles, we thought we’d light up the blog by sharing what a spark a business partner can be for students.

A CIS supporter since 2004, Edwards Garment is a business rich in Kalamazoo history, having been a part of the community since 1867 when the Rosebaum family began producing pants for men and boys out of the Rosebaum building. Did you know the name of the company is inspired by Edwards Street, the side street in downtown Kalamazoo which the old Rosenbaum building shares with Michigan Avenue?

Today, Edwards Garment is a leading specialty image apparel and uniform supplier for men’s and women’s clothing. Their headquarters are located on South 9th Street and they employ 185 individuals from the greater Kalamazoo area.

Partnerships, like any relationship, evolve over time. This year, Edwards Garment has expanded their reach by supporting students at Prairie Ridge Elementary School. The school’s CIS Site Coordinator, Carly Denny, says the students as well as the school staff deeply appreciate their involvement. “Their support is wonderful,” she says. “They have given us generous donations of backpacks and school supplies. They’ve provided our students with lots of winter apparel. CIS was also able to pass some of the overflow of larger sizes on to our high school students at Kalamazoo Central and Loy Norrix.”

Edwards Garment employees commit time and energy to building a stronger community in the areas that they reside. This year, the business has also joined forces with CIS partner, Big Brothers Big Sisters, A Community of Caring to become a Bigs in Schools. “Right now we have four ‘Bigs’ working with our students,” says Carly. “The Bigs have lunch with their “Littles” twice a month. They spend an hour together and work on specific goals with their Littles. The students adore the extra attention and really thrive with this support.”

We love how Edwards Garment continues to grow with us! A while back we interviewed Gary Schultz, President and CEO of Edwards Garment. If you missed that post (or want to refresh your memory) you can read about Gary and how Edwards Garment has kids covered by going here.

 

 

 

 

Oshtemo Area Churches: One is as big as it gets

(From left) Carolyn H. Williams, Tony McDonnell, and representatives of OAC, Simon Tuin and Eli Bast.
(From left) CIS Board Member Carolyn H. Williams, Chief Development Officer of Borgess Foundation Tony McDonnell, and representatives of OAC, Simon Tuin and Eliza Bast.

Today we highlight Oshtemo Area Churches, one of seven school and community partners honored with a 2016 Champ Award.  Their award was sponsored by Borgess and CIS Board member Carolyn H. Williams presented the award.

_MG_4541Imagine, a number of churches individually supporting one school, independent of each other. Good things are getting done. The support is greatly appreciated. But now, picture this: six churches of various denominations coming together as one in partnership with Communities In Schools to serve the students, families, faculty, and staff of Prairie Ridge Elementary School. That’s exactly what happened and that decision was a game changer.

As Principal Karen Spencer puts it, “When these six churches: Heritage Christian, Centerpointe, Lifespring, Voyage, Lighthouse, and Oshtemo United Methodist chose to work together, to create a team, on behalf of our children—that support multiplied exponentially.

These six churches, known together as the Oshtemo Area Churches, meet monthly with CIS Site Coordinator Carly Denny and CIS After School Coordinator Alexis Arocho to discuss both academic and nonacademic barriers to student success. “OAC,” they say, “is sensitive to the needs of the entire school family and works closely with CIS to align and integrate a student support strategy. Even outside of these meetings,” say Carly and Alexis, “OAC can be counted on to communicate, brainstorm, and troubleshoot, as necessary.”

In various combinations and forms, these six churches have become part of the fabric of the school. We’ve found that six equals one and one is as big as it gets. What does the power of one look like? Here’s a glimpse:

_MG_4520– Nearly one half of all our CIS volunteers at Prairie Ridge found out about how they could help through Oshtemo Area Churches. OAC has recruited and funneled through CIS, committed and caring adults to tutor students on a daily basis.

-OAC reinforces the importance of literacy through tutoring support and supporting the school’s “Books to Bikes” reading initiative—providing new bicycles raffled off to students who read the most in February.

-More students are ready to learn so they can receive the full benefit of the excellent teachers at Prairie Ridge Elementary School. Students, who once arrived late to school or not at all, arrive on time because they have the winter apparel they need. On Mondays, students arrive focused and ready to learn because members from the churches took time to distribute Friday Foodpacks. And they work with our 2008 Champ, Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes, to purchase enough food for more than 75 Prairie Ridge families, providing 4 days of food on a monthly basis.

-Family involvement is nurtured. Students celebrate with their home and school families during Thanksgiving Family Night and Back to School Bashes, organized, run, and led by the OAC.

-From one, an “Impact Group” was born. Composed of CIS and Kids Hope volunteers working within the school, the group meets weekly to encourage each other and plan events, such as this year’s “Harvest Party” and last year’s CIS after school “End of the Year Picnic.”

_MG_4530-Six as one can wrap their arms around an entire school. Each grade level within the school has been adopted by one of the churches, encouraging the classes with small notes and gifts. That reach can extend beyond the school and into the home. So, for instance, children, who might otherwise have had nothing to open for Christmas, had a present to open that morning.

-Teachers are provided with needed school supplies. Teachers and staff within the school feel appreciated and cared for in small and big ways. The OAC pooled together their money and catered lunch from Taco Bob’s!

While it can be tempting to go it alone, OAC sets a shining example for us all:  when grownups set aside differences—denominational or otherwise—and literally come together as one through CIS, it’s the students who benefit.

As Principal Karen Spencer says, “Every day—every hour—I turn around and see the evidence of the care and concern OAC has shared with our children…OAC is now a part of our culture and part of who we are. We are eternally grateful.”

Oshtemo Area Churches, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

_MG_4566

 

Dearest Ms. Dodge

What better way to start the New Year than to reflect on that special person, that, even after all these years, you still carry within your heart? If you follow our blog, you know that Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo 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 share a touching letter written by Carly Denny, CIS Site Coordinator and one member of the passionate and dedicated team at Prairie Ridge Elementary School. Carly Denny began her career as an AmeriCorps VISTA with CIS last school year, using her creative talents to support the college going culture within Northeastern Elementary School and Spring Valley Center for Exploration. In her new role as a Site Coordinator, she says this: “We have amazing partners and volunteers—most of the volunteers come from the surrounding Oshtemo churches. They are pro-active and often reach out to CIS and ask, ‘What can we do to help?’ The Prairie Ridge community, the teachers, and staff all support each other in every decision they make. It’s very obvious they care about each and every student here.”

Here’s Carly’s letter.

Dearest Ms. Dodge,

Even though it has been a long time since I have seen you, I still think about you often. As my very first teacher, you are the one that I have compared all future educators to. I was only two and a half when I  enrolled into preschool, much younger than my fellow classmates, yet you made me feel safe in an undiscovered environment and just as capable as the other students. Throughout my preschool experience you cultivated my curiosity and challenged me to be my best little self. Most importantly, you gave me my first taste of learning, which is something I continue to crave, even as I journey my way through grad school. I am not sure I will ever be able to properly thank you for being such an inspirational teacher and special person in my life. You helped shape the person I have become and for that I am forever grateful.

Love,

Carly Denny

Future CIS Site Coordinator Carla Denny with her inspirational teacher Ms. Dodge
Future CIS Site Coordinator Carla Denny with her inspirational teacher Ms. Dodge

 

Carly on her first day of preschool.
Carly on her first day of preschool.

Who is your Ms. Dodge? If you are up to the challenge of reflecting on and writing a letter to your caring adult, email it to me at jclark@ciskalamazoo.org and we just might publish it!