Today we highlight Susan Knox, honored with a 2017 Champ Award. Her Champ award was sponsored byGreenleaf Trust. CIS Board member and Kalamazoo Promise Board Member Dr. Janice M. Brown presented the award.
A child’s success in school and life often hinges on the opportunity to have a one-on-one relationship with a caring adult. It’s one of the five CIS basics, something every child needs and deserves. This relationship can make the difference between a student staying in school or becoming one of the 1.2 million students who drop out of school each year. Since the Fall of 2010, Susan Knox has been that caring adult for many of our high school students, particularly those struggling academically.
When Susan, a chemical engineer, retired from Pfizer, she sold her house and car, and moved downtown. “I wanted to start volunteering,” she said, “to contribute to something I felt passionate about. I picked up a pamphlet about volunteering and circled the ones I thought I could do.” We’re forever thankful she circled Communities In Schools.
She has been a CIS volunteer at Kalamazoo Central for seven years now. Regardless of the weather, she catches the city bus and week after week, year after year, shows up consistently for our kids. “Suzie’s passion to serve students goes far beyond what is expected of any volunteer,” says CIS Site Coordinator Deborah Yarbrough. “She’s willing to adjust her schedule to accommodate the needs of both our students and staff.
Her flexibility has allowed CIS to connect her with the students who need her most. She provides academic support to student one-on-one and in small groups. She’s worked with students during study hall, after school, and during the lunch hour. While she primarily focuses on math, she’s willing to tutor in other subjects. “No French or Spanish,” she says, “but I’ll give everything else a try.”
Smart, compassionate and humble, Susan credits her success with students to the support she’s received along the way. “CIS gave me the training I needed to be successful. I learned how to do things and just as importantly, what not to do.” She refers to CIS Site Coordinator Deborah Yarbrough and CIS Success Coach Jenna Cooperrider as her “CIS bosses…They aren’t bossy, though,” she says. “Because they know the students so well, they give me insight into what the students need from me. They’re role models. I watch their interactions and it helps me figure out what I should do, what I should tolerate or not tolerate when it comes to behaviors. They coordinate with each other and give me the support I need so I can support the student.”
“Volunteering,” someone once said, “is the ultimate exercise in democracy. You vote in elections once a year, but when you volunteer, you vote every day about the kind of community you want to live in.” Through her rock solid and steady support, Susan is creating a community of hope, one in which all children can fulfill their promise.
Susan Knox, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.
Today, we hear from CIS volunteer and Bookbug staff extraordinare, Shirley Freeman. As part of the Chapel Hill/Portage United Methodist Church initiative to help students attain the Kalamazoo Promise, Shirley began tutoring at Parkwood-Upjohn Elementary School. Ten years later, she’s still at it. Two years into her volunteer service, she received specialized training from SLD Read, a nonprofit community resource serving West Michigan. Through SLD Read’s training and on-going support, Shirley is able to provide individualized, one-to-one multisensory instruction in reading, writing and spelling for at-risk readers in first, second and third grades.
Dear Mr. Sindoni,
I often tell the story of my 7th grade year. How I was kicked off every field trip that year – generally for being sassy and talking too much. I know part of it was that we had a new boy in school, Dave Tobey, and he was a bit older and more physically mature than most boys in my class. He was a bit of an instigator and I certainly didn’t resist going along. No one who knows me now can believe I was kicked off any field trip, let alone every one.
I always think of you when telling the story because at some point toward the end of 7th grade, you called me in and talked to me about my behavior. You said that I was “going off the deep end.” I’ll never forget it. And then, the best part – at the beginning of 8th grade, you asked Dawn and me to help with something. You trusted us with a position of responsibility. Thank you. I will always be grateful for your intervention and your trust.
Who is your Mr. Sindoni? If you are up to the challenge of reflecting on and writing a letter to your caring adult, email it to firstname.lastname@example.org and we just might publish it!
National Reading Month has us wondering, what are Communities In Schools (CIS) volunteers reading? To appease our curiosity, Kaitlin Martin, CIS Volunteer Services Coordinator asked them. Here’s what 26 of these wonderful folks who share their time and talents to benefit students throughout the Kalamazoo Public Schools had to say:
What a great idea! I’m an avid reader myself. I am currently reading Memories by Lang Leav. She is a talented poet my friend recommended to me and I adore her beautiful poetry.
I just finished The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy; good story. I don’t read a lot of books because I read a newspaper every day and subscribe to two magazines, and then there is all that mail, both snail and electronic. Also, I read stories off the Internet.
-Karen Tinklenberg, Lincoln International Studies School
-Kailee Smith, Northglade Montessori Magnet School & Prairie Ridge Elementary
I finished Orphan Train by Christine Baker-Kline a few weeks ago: interesting and heartbreaking novel based on true events between 1854-1929 depicting the lives of abandoned children from East Coast cities put on so-called orphan trains carrying thousands of them to the farmlands of the Midwest where their fates would be determined by pure luck; intermixed with a storyline set in modern day foster care.
I am now well into Americanahby Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a fascinating novel about immigration, American dreams, the power of first love, and the shifting meanings of skin color. A full immersion opportunity to think outside the American box.
-Mary Reaume, Prairie Ridge Elementary
I am always reading multiple books at a time. Currently, my books of choice are:
A series written by English author, Jacqueline Winspear. These books are set in England and France between WWI and WWII. They are historical mysteries. The main character is Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator. The storyline contains delightful characters, many of whom continue from book to book. Besides the plots being well developed and interesting, Winspear’s use of the very rich vocabulary of the English is fun to explore. My Kindle allows me to find word meaning and usage on the spot! The historical settings are well researched.
-Diana Spradling, Woods Lake Elementary
I received your email and thought it was an interesting project to list what CIS folks are reading. Right now, I am reading The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean by David Abulafia. It is a fascinating history of civilization as it developed on the Mediterranean from 22000 BC to the present. It will be interesting to see what others are reading.
Dead Wake by Erik Larson—about the sinking of the Lusitania. Strangers in the Bronx by Andrew O’Toole—about the transition from DiMaggio to Mantle in the Yankee dynasties. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough—about the development of the first successful airplane. A Man and His Ship by Steven Ujifusa—about the man who conceived and supervised the building of the ocean liner “United States.”
-Wayne Connor, Edison Environmental Science Academy