Team Trailblazers

Front row, from left) Team Trailblazers ______, Elizabeth Weaver, Ryan Tonneson. Back row, from left) CIS Site Coordinator Emily Demorest, Jamie Miller, CIS After School Coordinator Jen Nitz, Team Trailblazer Laura Ruelas. Not pictured, Carol Offerman.
Front row, from left: Lindsay Wilson, Elizabeth Weaver, Ryan Toennessen. Back row, from left: Emily Demorest (CIS Site Coordinator), Jamie Miller, Jen Nitz (CIS After School Coordinator), Laura Ruelas. Not pictured, Carol Offerman.

Today we highlight Team Trailblazers, one of seven school and community partners honored with a 2016 Champ Award.  Team Trailblazers’ Champ award was sponsored by Molina Healthcare of Michigan and CIS Board member Steve Powell presented the award.

William Butler Yeats wrote, Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire. Each school day, Team Trailblazers comes bearing torches to Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts. Jamie Miller, Carol Offerman, Laura Ruelas, Ryan Toennessen Elizabeth Weaver, and Lindsay Wilson are a passionate team led by English teacher Jamie Miller. On behalf of their seventh grade students, they have forged a well-worn path to the Communities In Schools office.

CIS Site Coordinator Emily Demorest and After School Coordinator Jen Nitz both point out that the majority of students they work with are also on Team Trailblazers. It’s not a coincidence, they say. Anytime there is an issue with a student, be it academic concerns, basic needs, or emotional support, Jamie Miller—whom they refer to as “the glue that holds us all together”—quickly makes CIS staff aware so they can work together to support the student and remove barriers to learning. Working as a cohesive team, they’ve supported students confronted with homelessness, domestic violence, struggling with food insecurity, mental health issues, hygiene concerns, among other barriers to learning.

“They know their kids really well,” say Emily and Jen. “And they know what kids need to be successful both inside and outside the classroom. So they make sure to reach out to CIS so we can connect students to the resources they need. Or, in cases where a student is already receiving resources through CIS, they might make a suggestion that helps us do our job better.”

Trailblazers invites the CIS team to participate in parent meetings and special classroom projects. And when Lenise Williams, Lead Youth Development Worker reviews students’ progress on their homework assignments, Trailblazers provides homework packets. And, after a full day of teaching, they can often be found volunteering and offering guidance to students during the after school program.

If this weren’t enough, Team Trailblazers hosted Peer Mediation student leaders. They contributed to CIS’ efforts to support Maple Street families over the holidays and Trailblazer students collected and donated over $200 towards gifts and winter wear. And when new initiatives arise, a Trailblazers’ member is often first to blaze a fresh trail to the CIS office. Recently, when one of Mr. Toennessen’s students couldn’t stop talking about the garden club he popped in and said, “Tell me more about this . How can I help?”

Kids don’t care what team grownups are on—whether it’s CIS or KPS or day or after school. What they see at Maple Street is one team, on the same page, refusing to let them fall through the cracks. And, even though the school year is winding to a close, the Trailblazers only burn brighter.

Team Trailblazers, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

(From left) Emily Demorest, Laura Ruelas, Maple Street Principal Dr. Jeff Boggan, Jamie Miller, and Ryan Toennessen.
(From left) Elizabeth Weaver, Emily Demorest, Laura Ruelas, Maple Street Principal Dr. Jeff Boggan, Jamie Miller, and Ryan Toennessen.

 

                             

 

2016 Champs Celebration

“I liked learning what businesses, teachers, your volunteers and partners are doing with you in the schools.” This was one of many comments guests made after attending Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) ninth annual Champs event at Cityscape. This year’s event was presented by PNC and Stryker. Over the next few months, we’ll be sharing more about each of the eight award winners (noted below).

Another guest said, “I love how you bookend your program with kids; couldn’t think of a better way to start than with Kids in Tune—those little kids were adorable—and end with a graduating Senior talking about her experience with CIS.”

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Kid in Tune graduates who are now in middle school accompanied the younger singers.  They are living out one of the five CIS basics: an opportunity to give back.
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Performing “Yes You Can”

 

“Those little kids” the guest referred to are first and second graders who hail from Woods Lake Elementary School and are part of the Kids in Tune Fundamentals Program. Kids in Tune is a partnership among The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra (a 2013 Champ), Kalamazoo Public Schools, and Communities In Schools. Conducted by Dr. Eric Barth, Kalamazoo Kids In Tune Curriculum Director, the students performed “Yes You Can” by Donnie McClurkin. The students were accompanied by Christine Mason, a Youth Development Worker for the past two years with CIS.

Closing out the evening was Doreisha Reed, graduating this year from Kalamazoo Central High School. She graciously shared her speech with us so we can share it with you in a future post.

Doreisha Reed, Kalamazoo Central High School, Class of 2016
Doreisha Reed, Kalamazoo Central High School, Class of 2016

Guests also had an opportunity to watch “Who We Are,” a music video created, produced, and performed by Milwood Magnet Middle School students in their CIS after school program, which is funded by the Michigan Department of Education’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers grants. The students worked closely with 2012 Champ and partner, BANGTOWN Productions & Recordings.  The students received national recognition for this creation: their music video was chosen as the Video Spotlight winner of the Communities In Schools National Leadership Town Hall this year. You can watch it here.

In the weeks to come we’ll introduce you to the award winners who were in between these two marvelous “bookends,” people like Rosemary Gardiner, CEO of Family & Children Services. The CIS Board honored her with the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award.

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Dr. Tim Light, President, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo Board with Rosemary Gardiner, CEO of Family & Children Services.

Tune into CW7 this Friday, May 27th at 4pm, to watch Rosemary and Pam Kingery, Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, on The Lori Moore Show. Then come back here on Tuesday and learn more about Rosemary Gardiner.

Congratulations to all of this year’s Champs:

Oshtemo Area Churches (OAC), CIS Faith-based Partner

Honoré Salon, CIS Business Partner

Big Brothers Big Sisters A Community of Caring, CIS Nonprofit Partner

Angelita Aguilar, Dean of Students, Kalamazoo Central High School

WMU Medallion Scholars, CIS Higher Learning Partner

Patrick Early, CIS Volunteer

Team Trailblazers, KPS Teachers, Maple Street Magnet Middle School

We also want to give a shout out to our CIS Site Teams, the CIS Site Coordinators, Youth Development Workers, VISTAs, and interns who provide the infrastructure to support the hundreds of marvelous volunteers and community partners who work through Communities In Schools to help children throughout Kalamazoo Public School stay in school and achieve in life.