I am

marigoldHere is a lovely poem written by seven-year-old Sevati. She wrote this during the CIS Think Summer! program.* Sevati attends Woods Lake Elementary School: A Magnet Center for the Arts. She is also part of Kalamazoo Kids in Tune, a partnership among The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Kalamazoo Public Schools, and Communities In Schools. What a talented young lady!

 

 

 

I am

I am a seed
I wonder what I will be
I hear sounds
I see dirt in the ground
I want to be a beautiful flower
I am a sprout

I pretend I’m not there
I feel lonely when I don’t have friends
I touch my eyes
I worry I’m not going to grow
I cry when I’m sad
I am a stem

I understand I’m growing
I say I can be whatever I choose
I dream I’ll be a beautiful flower
I try not to cry when I’m sad
I hope I’m a flower
I am a beautiful flower

                      -Sevati

 

*CIS Think Summer! is funded by the Michigan Department of Education (21st Century Community Learning Centers).

AmeriCorps Vista Summer Associates: Memory Makers

teamsecCIS Think Summer! ran for six weeks this summer and served over 150 first through ninth graders and also included the Kids in Tune participants. Fifteen AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associates were hired and supported the students throughout their summer academic/enrichment program.  Many of these AmeriCorps VISTA Associates—or “coaches” as the kids called them—hailed from Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo College, and Kalamazoo Valley Community College. Their energy and enthusiasm was contagious and one of the key ingredients to a successful summer experience for the students. Thank you AmeriCorps VISTAs for your support of our students!

Some of the AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associates took a few moments to reflect on CIS Think Summer! and they are our guest bloggers today.

Between the elementary  and secondary staff, there was a wide variety of coaches working for CIS Think Summer! Each day brought new challenges and everyone worked hard to make sure that all of the students were safe, learning, and having fun. All of us gained wonderful memories of our time in the program, and we want to share a few words about our experiences at CIS Think Summer!

My favorite memory was watching the students explore the zoo. I loved seeing the students’ faces light up at the bird exhibit and how excited they were to point out all the colorful birds. The moment when they fed the lettuce to the giraffes was memorable, too!

-Kelsey-Ann Wessel, AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate

 

Working with these kids this summer has been an amazing experience. Being able to combine an academic with an enriching environment brings fun to learning. Being able to share my own expertise with kids has also been rewarding.

-Sarah Woods, AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate

 

I had an amazing summer working with Communities In Schools. I got to meet some truly special kids and help guide them towards success. It was rewarding to work with kids who have so much potential. It’s good to be able to make a difference.

-Kira Boneff, AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate

 

Elementary school-aged children do not often get the opportunity to make choices about their activities, especially in school, but the clubs at CIS Think Summer! gave them exactly this opportunity. Every afternoon, the students spilt up into their choice of clubs, which rotated every two weeks. This approach allowed students of different grades to mingle and make friends, as they were split up into 1st-2nd grade and 3rd-5th grade groups.

The clubs were split into five different topics: STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), Arts and Crafts, Health and Wellness, Life Skills, and Leadership. Each coach got to switch which club they were leading every two weeks as well, which allowed us, as coaches, to meet and work with many students outside of our grade levels.

I was lucky enough to meet a lot of the younger kids through clubs, an opportunity that I might not have otherwise had as a 4th grade coach. Some of the offerings included Hands-On Science, Cooking Club, Debate Club, and Let’s Move Sports Club.

In addition to allowing the kids to have a say in their schedule, the clubs provided an opportunity to help them grow through non-classroom experiences. The kids learned about chemistry and plants in Hands-On Science, about healthy eating in Cooking Club, and about public speaking skills in Debate Club. Providing all of these experiences helped us work toward one of our main summer goals: giving students educational and fun opportunities to help grow up on the track to success.

-Kira Boneff and Sadina Sackett, AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associates

 

One great thing about CIS Think Summer! is that every Thursday is a celebration/field trip day. One of the most memorable and favorite field trips among the elementary students was going to Binder Park Zoo. Each coach was paired with around five kids, and was free to venture wherever they wanted. Coach Sadina from the 4th grade Achieve Team had a great time with her group.

All the children in her group wanted to go to Wild Africa first so that they could see the giraffes. To get there, they all  rode in the Safari Tram. Along with giraffes, the children saw ostriches, monkeys, zebras, and a variety of birds. Toward the end of the safari the kids went on an artifact scavenger hunt where they earned their ultimate safari training.

After Wild Africa they decided to go and visit other animals such as the bears, hogs, chipmunks, wolves, flamingos, and peacocks. One student took the liberty of marking down every animal the group saw on the map so that they could try to see them all!

Another fun part of this field trip wasthat all the elementary students got to ride the train to Battle Creek. It was very exciting to see everyone in a great mood riding together as a group. It was a great day for CIS Think Summer!

-Sadina Sackett, AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate

 

Honestly, if you were not a part of CIS Think Summer! you missed out on a lot of fun. I think the number one reason why it was awesome to be a part of it was because of the people involved.

Kalamazoo is a very diverse place to live. We love this because it is really hard to be “sheltered.” It makes for more dynamic ideas and creates a more comfortable atmosphere. That was easily Coach Bryce Burnette’s favorite part of being an Americorps VISTA.

He admits he is a little biased, but believes that secondary had the most fun this summer. The staff were very close and that had a huge impact on the program. It made the experience more enjoyable for the students especially because it was clear that everyone was having a good time.

Lastly, the students were fantastic. The future of KPS is very bright and CIS is doing a lot to make it an even better and more enjoyable experience.

-Bryce Burnett, AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate

Youth Development Workers: Making An Impact

CAM01512To say that things are hopping at Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo as we prepare for the upcoming school year is probably an understatement. A few weeks back, our six weeks of CIS Think Summer! wrapped up. This academic and enrichment program served over 150 first through ninth graders and also included Kids in Tuneparticipants. CIS is now gearing up for the upcoming school year by hiring, hiring, hiring! The majority of these job openings are for youth development workers. These positions will be filled by enthusiastic, energetic individuals who  dedicate themselves to helping students in an after school setting (Monday through Thursday).Youth Development Workers, like their title implies, work hard to develop the strengths and talents of our youth by involving and empowering students in their own development. These enthusiastic caring adults are passionate about helping Kalamazoo Public School students succeed in school and in life. We thought you might like to meet one of them…

My name is Danaequa Yarbrough. I am a fourth year student at Western Michigan University. I am majoring in Social Work and Public Relations with a minor in Dance. I have been working with Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) for two years now but I started back in 2007 volunteering at Edison Environmental Science Academy where my mom was serving as the CIS Site Coordinator. After my volunteer work, I decided to go ahead and apply to be a Youth Development Worker with CIS. I started my journey at Milwood Magnet Middle School.

Ever since I became a YDW, I’ve been able to impact the lives of many students. Through my work as a YDW as well as a dance club instructor, I’ve been able to connect with so many youth in the Kalamazoo community. My favorite part of being a YDW is getting to see the progress of my students from the moment they started until the end of the program. There were definitely times where I felt like I wasn’t getting through to the kids, but then watching them finally understand that math equation or getting that ‘eight count’ in dance club was always a reminder that my dedication to these kids wasn’t in vain.

The kids who come through CIS After School program and Think Summer! impact my life just as much as I make an impact on theirs. They remind me every day that every child deserves a chance to succeed and by being a youth development worker, I am contributing to their success on a daily basis. That’s why I love my job!

Danaequa, we thank you for your passion and continued service with CIS.  

We thank all the many wonderful people in our community who help our children grow through th
eir role as a YDW. We also welcome the many new YDW’s who are joining with us this new school year to make a difference for kids. A special shout out to First United Baptist Church. You opened your doors on Saturday, August 9th and helped us host a successful job fair, paving the way for more children to be connected to caring adults.

Out On A Limb

100_3410-edit“Stop singing!” my son has been begging me. But I can’t  stop singing the beautiful song (Out on a Limb) I heard last week out at the CIS Think Summer! program.

If CIS had a theme song, I thought to myself, it would be this song written by Jon Gailmor. “Let’s go out, out on a limb. Show ‘em the beauty of the world we’re in. Take a chance, grab a partner and dance–out here, out on a limb…” Jon himself performed the song (my son would have much preferred Jon’s pitch perfect, clear and soulful voice) which ends with these words: “Every child is a miracle–tall, strong, short or fragile. Being there to love ‘em’s the least we can do. Lift ‘em up where they can see the view.”

Jon Gailmor, according to his website, ”was born in New York State and failed to grow up in Philadelphia.”  Jon lives in Vermont now but last week, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo had the honor of hosting this most talented, funny and down-to-earth singer/songwriter at CIS Think Summer! out at Hillside Middle School. (The CIS Think Summer! program is made possible through the Michigan Department of Education, 21st CCLC Community Learning Centers.)

Jon was struck by “how much the kids are really enjoying themselves. It’s clear how much they love being here and how important CIS is to them in their lives.” He praised the CIS coaches, Site Coordinators, and CIS partners who are doing what it takes to make a difference for children. “Thank you for going out on a limb for these kids,” he said, addressing the crowd who had gathered last Thursday at Hillside’s cafeteria to hear the performance.

Just how did this artist-in-residence program play out? Each elementary grade level and Kids in Tune (a partnership with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo and Kalamazoo Public Schools) reflected with Jon on what they have been learning during the summer program. The students then worked to identify an area to focus in on and their topics ranged from The Kalamazoo Promise® to protecting drinking water and helping others. The children got busy developing lyrics, setting them to music, and recording their original compositions.

Jon GailmorTheir work with Jon culminated in a performance before peers and grownups of their new compositions. Jon pointed out that “each of the songs had something to do with Kalamazoo. They composed every lyric, every note. I just choose the key and play the melody to accompany them…I’m always in awe of what kids can do.”

The children titled their five performances as follows: Big Brains and Big Goals (1st & 2nd Graders), A Promise of Hope (3rd Graders), The Six Pillars of Rock (4th Graders), We Know What to Do (5th Graders), and Changing Our World (Kids in Tune). Each of the students will soon be receiving a cd of their songs (thanks to Absolute Video) and we will be featuring the lyrics and songs with you in future blog posts.

For Nicole Barrow, whose daughter Zaria attends Think Summer!, the performance was nothing short of amazing. But her expectations were high to begin with. “This is a place kids can learn and they are learning a lot. My daughter comes back home each day from the CIS program tired and excited. We love that! I have confidence and trust in the staff, knowing they are each looking out for my daughter and all of these kids.”

A special thanks to Casey Gershon, a former Vermont resident, who planted the seed and wrote the grant that introduced Kalamazoo and our kids to Jon Gailmor. Funding for this artist-in-residence program was made possible through the generosity of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. We are grateful to them for helping kids and grownups alike love where we live! Guitar Center, thank you for providing the equipment necessary to rock our kids’ worlds, which in turned, rocked us adults.

Jon GailmorJon Gailmor, we appreciate you reminding us that adulthood is often overrated. Even more importantly, as CIS Site Coordinator Stacy Salters put it, “Great things are living inside our children. Thank you, Jon, for tugging the greatness out of them.”

And a most special thanks to our awesome kids of Think Summer! You have created songs with powerful lyrics that dream boldly and challenge us grownups to live up to the Kalamazoo you sing of:  “there’s no better place in the nation.”

May we all go out on a limb for each and every one of you.

Think Summer! Think Water!

Water DropletWhat is the best thing that has ever happened to you? For one fifth grader, it is being a part of the CIS “Think Summer” program which is running out of Hillside Middle School this summer. “I get to see my friends and learn all kinds of stuff. It’s the best thing that has ever happened to me!”

Last week, the third through fifth grade classes learned much about water from environmental experts from the City of Kalamazoo, Mike Wetzel and John Paquin. They brought in a groundwater simulation unit and gave an exciting demonstration for the students as to how water (and pollution) moves underground. The students also had a chance to meet Kalamazoo County Drain Commissioner, Pat Crowley, and learn more about storm water and that “clean water is everybody’s business.” As one student later reflected, “It was quite a coincidence that the Drain Commissioner visited us and then later that day we had a horrible storm! I’ll never think of storms in the same way again.”

The following day, volunteers from the Kalamazoo River Cleanup Coalition and Create Hope Park founder (and KPS parent) Dustin Harback gave students a chance to take what they have learned from the water experts and put their knowledge into action by sharing their own visions for clean, healthy land through art. The students wrapped up by creating water proclamations. The fifth graders urged grown ups to “properly dispose of chemicals and other products by taking them for free to theKalamazoo County Household Hazardous Waste Center. This will help keep our drinking water healthy.” And because they learned that water is everybody’s business, they too, will be taking action. “We will not waste water, we will take shorter showers, turn off water as we brush our teeth, we won’t pollute, and we will think of ways to slow down storm water.”

AmeriCorps VISTA Christina Czuhajewski took the opportunity to talk with several of the students who reflected on their experience. Here are a few excerpts from these conversations.

Christina, with Abriannah who will be entering fourth grade this fall.

What did you think about the presentation yesterday? I liked it a lot.

What did you like? That it was like real life and you got to pump the water out. It was really cool but kind of hard to (pump the water out) because it was stuck in the dirt.

Did you go home and think about what you learned? Yeah I told my mom too. I gave her a sticky note that said “protect our water, that’s what we drink.” She hung it on the refrigerator, and then she put a magnet on the refrigerator that was a rain drop..

Do you have any other comments? I want them to do it again! Because it was really cool. Water week is really cool.

Christina also spoke with Jordyn, who will be entering fifth grade this fall.

What did you like about the presentation? I’ve never thought about water like that before. But after this, I’ll think about it a lot.

Any questions you still have for them? I asked some pretty good questions and they answered them. I asked, “How many gallons do you guys pump up a day or an hour?” and they said, within a week, they pump up thousands and thousands, and they said last summer since it was so hot, for the whole entire summer, they pumped at least a billion gallons of water!…It was pretty cool.

Any other thoughts or comments? I think that I’d like them to come back and show more things about water, and to maybe the high schoolers—that’d be a good thing for the high schoolers to learn. And some of the kids down the hall didn’t get to see it. I was wondering if they could come back another time because that was a cool presentation.

A Water Proclamation

The water in our city of Kalamazoo is clean and healthy.  To make sure that it stays that way and is available to all:

We, the third grade students of  CIS “Think Summer” believe that our lands and water needs to stay clean and not be polluted.

We also believe this about water: No one should be allowed to pollute water and if they do, they should clean it up.

We urge that steps be taken by adults to make sure that all kids have clean water.

We ask that adults not litter, pollute, or put sticky gooey icky stuff in the water and clean up any pollution that is already there.

We will make sure we do not pollute the water. It is all our business.