Steve Brewer: Celebrating the Small Victories of Student Success

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 CIS Site Coordinator Steve Brewer.

Born in Princeton, New Jersey, Steve Brewer was barely walking when he toddled off to Tubingen, Germany with his family. (His father had been awarded the John Wesley Scholarship to live in Germany.) After several years, the family returned to Lebanon, New Jersey. Eventually, the family settled in Spring Arbor, Michigan.

A graduate of Spring Arbor University, Steve majored in sociology and minored in philosophy. Steve served two years, beginning in 2015, as an AmeriCorps VISTA at Edison and Northeastern elementary schools. Last year, he began as the CIS Site Coordinator for Northglade Montessori Magnet School and was the assistant coordinator for Literacy Buddies. As a full time CIS Site Coordinator, Steve is currently supporting Northglade as well as providing daytime and after school support to Edison Environmental Science Academy. While every school has its own unique culture, Steve says both schools share a passion for helping students learn and grow.

We met up with Steve at Northglade where he was meeting and greeting students in the hallway. It was just before Thanksgiving when we popped this quiz on him.

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

Pop Quiz

What is one of the best parts about being a CIS site coordinator?

One of my favorite times of the day is lunchtime. That’s when I check in with the students to find out how they are doing. Sometimes, I’ll just sit with them, sometimes eat lunch with them, or we might have lunch together in the CIS space.

I really like that we are doing important work. It’s work that wouldn’t be done if we weren’t here in the schools. It’s also good to know we are making an impact. Sometimes, it may not always be noticeable because often it’s small steps being made along the way. You know the saying: progress is made in inches instead of miles. It’s important to look at the big picture and recognize the small victories.

Can you share a small victory?

One of my small victories is that a student is now bringing his back pack to school each day. He wouldn’t bring it last year.

What is one of the most challenging aspects of being a site coordinator?

We still don’t have enough resources to take care of everybody. Take Northglade, for example. We have 224 students. We are not one of the higher poverty schools in the district, yet at least 70 percent of our students qualify for free and reduced lunch. By that measure, we may not have the highest need, but 70 percent is still 70 percent and that translates to a lot of needs. The community works with us to meet them, but it is still a challenge. For instance, our kids need coats and boots. Warm Kids—a great, long-time CIS partner—is providing us 20 brand new coats and 17 boots. That is wonderful. Still, we have more Northglade students who could benefit from these types of basic needs.

[As if on cue, Don Keller, a Northglade parent, enters the CIS room to donate several “Wish List” items for CIS Kids’ Closet, including some much needed coats. “I know that some of my kids’ friend’s may be in need of these items,” he says, as CIS intern Jessica Teske-Harden steps in to assist with the donation. Even though the Keller’s own children may not be the direct beneficiary of resources provided, Keller points out that his kids benefit when their classmates have their needs met. “We appreciate that CIS is in the school and that my wife and I can play a part.”]

The Kellers stopping by to support students through CIS Kids’ Closet.

You were meeting and greeting students in the hallway first thing this morning. Plus, you have had parents stopping into the CIS office. Can you give us a glimpse of what else goes on in the day of the life of a site coordinator?

I find first thing in the morning is a great way to connect with kids and get a sense of how things may be going. That’s why I’ll also stop into the cafeteria as students are eating breakfast. It gives the students the opportunity to reach out about something that may be on their mind. For instance, today two students needed CIS help. One involved a boot situation and one student just needed to connect and talk a little. Which reminds me, I have several calls to make about coats and boots and other basic needs!

Let’s see, what else is going on? I just completed the community feast spreadsheet and turned it into Trella [Artrella Cohn, CIS Senior Director of Community Engagement & Student Investment] so that 45 of our school’s families can have a thanksgiving meal they might otherwise not have. [While CIS staff like Steve are identifying families and doing the necessary paperwork, Hands Up Foundation, a fabulous CIS partner, works hard year-round raising the funds to make sure KPS—as well as families with children in the surrounding area—have a Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings. This year, they provided over 1,000 Thanksgiving dinners to KPS families.]

Every day is different. Like right now, I have glasses on my mind. I’m in the process of reviewing a vision list. Every school year, throughout KPS, first, third, and fifth graders are screened for vision and tested to see if they need glasses. As a site coordinator, I’m looking at results and following up with parents whose children need further follow up. I’m calling them to see if they were able to get an appointment, if they need some kind of assistance with this, or we can help in any way. I’ve already set up an appointment for one family based on one of these calls.

I’m also working on student support plans for each of the students we serve. Jessie [Teske-Harden], our CIS intern through WMU School of Social Work, has been helping with these plans. She’s a great support for our kids.

I also have a little bit of work left to do for Girls on the Run. For our school’s team, I’ve identified two Girls on the Run coaches. One is a teacher and one person is with CIS After School. Both had expressed interest in doing this so that made it easy. I just gave them our partner’s website information they needed to register. Now I need to work on finding one or two more volunteers to serve as assistant coaches.

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

Decaf coffee isn’t caffeine-free, it just has less caffeine.

What are you currently reading?

Karl Marx: Greatness and Illusion by Gareth Stedman Jones.

What is your favorite word right now?

Sleep. I can’t get enough.

Where is one place in Kalamazoo you love hanging out?

Shakespeare’s Pub. My band plays there a lot in their lower level, and also I like to watch comedy there.

What’s the name of your band?

I’m in two, actually. One is called Bike Tuff, and the other is Pack Sounds. I play drums in both. Both could be considered kind of punk/alternative bands.

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

My dad. He gave me the several pushes I needed to get through college when it got tough.

Thank you, Steve, for hanging out with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids.

Black Student Union: Passion for Serving Students Runs Deep

 

Today we highlight the Black Student Union at Western Michigan University. At the 11th Annual Champs Celebration, presented by Kalsec, the Black Student Union was honored with a 2018 Champ Award which was sponsored by Old National BankCIS Board Member Namita Sharma presented the award.

Since 1968, the Black Student Union has been

CIS Board Member Namita Sharma addressing the crowd at Champs

empowering and uniting minority students on the campus of Western Michigan University. Because they value community service, they began partnering with CIS three years ago, initiating a female empowerment group, Young Women With A Purpose, at Kalamazoo Central High School. CIS Site Coordinator Deborah Yarbrough says, “Their passion for serving our students runs deep. By creating a safe place, our students can open up; they feel more connected to themselves and others in the group, and, in turn, feel more connected with school.”

In a few short years, the Black Student Union has grown their volunteer force from one to 12, expanded their programming to meet needs, and reached into Linden Grove Middle School. Linden Grove’s CIS Site Coordinator Tamiko Garrett recounts Ms. Carney, who teaches strategic math, saying, “My student has gone from hating math and being disruptive in class to looking forward to math because he knows that on Tuesdays, Autumn is going to be there to help him.”

Kalamazoo Central’s Principal Valerie Boggan says, “We talk often about giving back and the students from the Black Student Union are examples of how to give back. KC students look forward to the exchange and appreciate having relationships with students who are able to relate to their life and school experience. The passion they bring to create change and to generate enthusiasm around reading, writing and verbal expressions is phenomenal! I look forward to the continued partnership.”

Parents, too, are noticing positive changes in attendance, behavior, or academics and will stop by CIS to make sure their child continues working with these Western students. The high school students themselves have been recruiting other students they think could benefit from this Champ’s support.

Part of the Black Student Union’s success is that their passion is paired with the mindset that, in order to empower young people to succeed, we must work together. So, they’ve joined forces not just with CIS, but also some of our other partners coming into the Kalamazoo Public Schools, like WMU’s School of Social Work and Mt. Zion Baptist Church.

Mt. Zion’s director of youth ministries Reverend Morris “Mo” Brooks, comes out to Central each week to work with the KC Men of Change, and sees them in action. He says, “What the Black Student Union is doing is great! It’s encouraging to see them reaching out to youth. It takes a lot of energy to go to college and, in many cases, also work. This awesome group of young people is doing just that—going to school, working, and then choosing to spend time with youth. And they’re doing a phenomenal job with the students!”

We couldn’t agree more.

Black Student Union, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

Three New Sparks with CIS

From left to right: Ellen Sudeikis, Tate Vogt, and Jamie Morgan.

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 have compiled some answers from the newest members of our CIS family: our interns!

All three fabulous Western Michigan University students are working towards their bachelor’s degree in the School of Social Work. Here they are, in no particular order (drum roll, please): Tate Vogt (from Jackson, Michigan) is with the CIS team at Northglade Montessori Magnet School, Ellen Sudeikis (from Chicago, Illinois) is with the CIS team at Spring Valley Center for Exploration, and Jamie Morgan (from Albion, Michigan) has joined the CIS team at King-Westwood Elementary School.

Alright, interns: pencils out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

  • All about ethics
  • How to change the power steering lines
  • The new WMU football coach played for the Broncos during his undergrad at Western

What are you currently reading?

  • Lord of the Flies/ The Giver
  • Harry Potter
  • Me Before You

 What do you love about Kalamazoo?

  • The breweries and taphouses culture-bringing people together
  • The variety of restaurants
  • How nice everyone is, especially in comparison to Chicago!

What do you want to be when you grow up?

  • A substance abuse counselor
  • A good father
  • A social worker and a mom

What is your favorite word right now?

  • Soda pop
  • Absolutely, as in “Absolutely, I’d love to do that.” When someone says that, it makes you feel like they really want you to be there.
  • Passionate

Will you share with us something that has been on your mind lately?

  • The election and beyond
  • Time management
  • How am I going to manage taking four classes, working at Red Lobster five times a week, and interning for 30 hours?

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

  • My mother and father. My mother helps me with all my needs and my father pushes me.
  • My father, He supports me in many ways. He is my rock.
  • My brother is my caring adult.

Thank you, interns. Welcome aboard!

Pop Quiz: Dominique Jackson

dominique-jackson-internWelcome 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 Dominique Jackson.

One of ten terrific interns working with CIS, Dominique graduated from Kalamazoo Central in 2012. A Promise Scholar, Dominique went on to Michigan State University and obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. “I was the first generation in my family to graduate from a four year university,” she says. She is currently working on her Masters in Social Work at Western Michigan University.

As a social work intern, Dominique works closely with her CIS site team at Linden Grove Middle School. “It’s great learning from [CIS Site Coordinator] Ms. [Tamiko] Garrett and [CIS After School Coordinator] Ms. [Jenee] McDaniel. And the KPS staff is awesome! They’ve all welcomed me and so it’s been a smooth transition coming in as an intern.”

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

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

In some European countries, such as Norway, college is completely free. I didn’t know that.

Favorite word?

I have so many, it’s hard to say. Right now, I’d say strength. That’s what I need right now to get through this year, with working at Gilden Woods Early Childcare & Preschool, going to school, and doing my internship.

What are you currently reading?

I just finished Always by Nina Lane. I really liked it.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I’m still trying to decide, but I’m leaning towards doing social work in schools. Or, possibly, working with juveniles. This would tie in with my degree and I do like the thought of getting juveniles on the right track.

Behind every successful student is a caring adult. Who is your caring adult?

My mom, for sure. She’s the one that’s always been there, motivating me and pushing me to do well.

Thinking back to your years with the Kalamazoo Public Schools, who was one of your favorite teachers?

Mrs. [Ruth] Schafer. She was my fifth grade teacher at Arcadia. She was very engaging, helpful, and pushed us to do better. She was hard on us while still showing her love and support. She was amazing and I loved her.

Also, Mrs. [Elaine] Sayre, my AP [Advanced Placement] Language teacher. I had her my senior year at Kalamazoo Central. Mrs. Sayre helped me think and really prepared me for college and the higher level of work that was expected of me. I have to also definitely say Principal Von Washington. When I was at Kalamazoo Central, he was just an awesome principal. He was always checking up on students to make sure they were doing okay. Oh, and Mr. [Ramon] Baca. He was my principal when I was at Arcadia and he was great too. I loved Mr. Baca.

As you know, Von Washington Jr. is now the Executive Director of Community Relations for The Kalamazoo Promise. What’s it like to be a Promise Scholar who is now giving back within the very school district she graduated from?

It’s definitely awesome to come full circle. I come from a single parent household and I didn’t know college would be possible for me, so getting the opportunity to go to college by the generosity of strangers is an amazing gift.

Right now, my younger brother is at Michigan State. He was eligible to receive 100% of The Promise as well. And I have a much younger brother at Arcadia who will be a Promise Scholar one day.

What do you do as a CIS intern at Linden Grove Middle School?

As a CIS intern, I check in with kids about their grades. I make sure they have everything they need, whether it’s school supplies or personal care items, whatever they are going to need to enhance their school performance. I also make sure they are getting their homework done while still having fun with them as well.

I really love working with Ms. [Tamiko] Garrett and Ms. [Jenee] McDaniel. They’re awesome, engaging, supportive, and not afraid to challenge me, which I love because I love learning!

What is something you are learning when it comes to your internship?

Every kid is different. You have to tailor your approach to their needs as much as you can, make sure they are being recognized individually. One strategy you use for one kid many not work for another, but that’s okay. You find the one that works.

Thank you, Dominique!

 

Pop Quiz: The CIS Interns of 2016!

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 have compiled some answers from the newest members of our CIS family: our interns! We have five fabulous students from Western Michigan University. Three are working towards their bachelor’s degree in the School of Social Work and two are working on their degree in Interdisciplinary Health Services. Here they are, in no particular order (drum roll, please): Evelin Calderon, Paige Graves, Karlee Shave, Steve Everett, and Ann Dziedziula.

Alright, interns: pencils out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

IMG_2930
Our newest CIS interns (left to right): Paige Graves, Ann Dziedziula, Karlee Shave, Steve Everett, and Evelin Calderon.

 

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

  • I just learned about the Mobile Health Unit that CIS is helping to start in the Kalamazoo Public Schools.
  • I recently learned how to ski.
  • Telegraphing physical gestures through verbal greetings.
  • I just read an article about groups and learned about many factors to consider that makes up a group.
  • It is COLD. Plus, Spring Break is less than two months away. The Mobile Health Unit.

What are you currently reading?

  • I have been reading a book by Lysa Terkurst called “Walking in Faith.”
  • Girl with a Dragon Tattoo
  • Girl on the Train
  • Mindsight
  • The Game of Thrones series, book two, “Clash of Kings”

What do you want to be when you grow up?

  • When I grow up, I want to be able to help others receive the same opportunities I did to receive a higher education. I would like to work in success programs.
  • I would like to work for a university in the research department looking at how disease spreads.
  • A school social worker.
  • An occupational therapist for a school district.
  • An effective counselor.

 What is your favorite word right now?

  • Inspire
  • Quiche, because it is super yummy and fun to say.
  • Love
  • Food
  • This is a Hawaiian fish. (This is what happens on a seven hour car ride.)

Will you share with us something that has been on your mind lately?

  • My family back home, because I miss them.
  • Racial inequality.
  • I’ve been thinking about my trip that I am taking with my best friend to Europe.
  • Graduating and continuing my education by completing my Masters.
  • Graduating and what I’m going to do with my life.

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

  • My caring adult is my mom. She has always guided me and supported me in all my decisions.
  • My parents have both played major roles in my life. They make sure that I have the support I need to be successful.
  • My grandmother.
  • My mom. She is my biggest supporter and she inspired me to be in a caring profession.
  • My old high school football coach who always showed faith in me while simultaneously pushing me to be better.

Thank you, interns! Welcome aboard!

Pop Quiz: Missy Best

(From Left) Judy Moran (Title 1 Achievement & Behavior Support Specialist), Victoria Kiel (CIS Intern from WMU School of Social Work), and Missy Best (CIS Site Coordinator).
(From Left) Judy Moran (Title 1 Achievement & Behavior Support Specialist), Victoria Kiel (CIS Intern from WMU School of Social Work), and Missy Best (CIS Site Coordinator).

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 Missy Best, CIS Site Coordinator at our newest site, Northeastern Elementary School. Prior to her work with CIS, she lived in Mount Pleasant, Michigan and was a Human Resources Generalist for Fabiano Brothers, a wholesale beverage distributor. During this time, she got her associate’s degree from Central Michigan University. When her husband, John, was transferred to Kalamazoo, she and their daughter, Isabel (now an 8th grader in the Kalamazoo Public Schools), naturally followed. “My favorite aspect of human resources was working with people. I wanted to do more of that.” Approaching the move as an opportunity for growth, Missy applied to WMU School of Social Work. “I ended up doing an internship with CIS in 2010 and I never left you guys.”

In our most recent CIS Connections, Missy contributed a great article on the important skill of organization. You can read that here.

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

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned? It’s creepy. You still want to know?

Yes.

There are more living organisms living on your body than there are people in the world. [Missy shivers. So do I.] I have a happy one, too. I discovered that there is actually a radio station that plays Christmas music from October to New Year’s Day. It’s become my go-to. It’s hard to have a bad day if you listen to Christmas music, like Frosty the Snowman. I know it’s early and I might be burnt out on Christmas by the time it gets here, but right now it works for me.

The GiverWhat are you currently reading?

I’ve just finished The Silkworm. I can’t say enough good things about it. J.K. Rowlings—who wrote the Harry Potter series—wrote it under the pseudonym Robert Galbraithl. It’s part of her Cormoran Strike detective stories for grown ups. It is really good. Lots of humor. I now plan to read The Giver. My daughter, who attends Maple Street Magnet Middle School, is reading it for school right now.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Wise.

You already are.

I wish. Every day I realize how much I don’t know. I rely on my instincts in a lot of situations. I wish I had all the answers.

What is your favorite word right now?

Tenacity. It’s fun to say. It’s fun to spell. I just have to keep reminding myself to be tenacious, to keep on chipping away at a problem until it erodes away.

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

My grandma. When I was young, I spent all my free time with my grandma. I can honestly say she is one of the few people who truly believed in me. Always. No exceptions. If I had an idea, she didn’t tell me it was stupid. She asked questions, she encouraged it. We had conversations; real conversations. My opinion mattered. Grandma Z—the Z stands for Zeoli—was a very unusual woman for her time. She contracted polio when she was young but still managed to become educated.  She worked as a teacher even though her parents wanted her to become a nun.

She sounds like she was a special lady. Who is your caring adult these days?

Without a doubt, my husband. He’s my best friend. He was my best friend before we married and someone who still is. I’m really lucky.

CIS—and the three hundred plus students at Northeastern—are fortunate to have Missy and a fabulous team of caring adults—like Principal Vanessa Carter, Secretary Tonya Orbeck, Title 1 Achievement & Behavior Support Specialist Judy Moran, the dedicated KPS teachers and staff, Kids Hope mentors from Second Reformed Church, parents, and many others. Go Northeastern!

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