A Peek into the History of CIS of Kalamazoo

Ever wondered how Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo came to be?

It began with imagining. The City of Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo Public Schools, and the local Chamber of Commerce imagined a more just and healthy community, one in which every child had a chance to finish school and be ready for college and the workforce. Collectively, they determined that the Communities In Schools (CIS) model of integrated student services was the most powerful vehicle through which the community could work to empower students to stay in school and achieve in life.

The seeds of this model were planted back in the 1970s when CIS founder Bill Milliken, a youth advocate in New York City, developed the idea of bringing community resources to students within public schools where they could be accessible, coordinated, and accountable. The CIS model is a community’s way of saying, “We need to do something differently for our children. Let’s join forces with our schools and assure that resources and supports are available to students so they can stay in school and be prepared to learn all they can from their teachers.” Over a span of decades, Communities In Schools, Inc. bloomed into the nation’s largest and most effective organization in addressing the dropout crisis.

In 1999, Pam Kingery was chosen to create the Kalamazoo affiliate of the national organization to help overcome the barriers that derail kids, giving them hope and the belief they can succeed in school, graduate and be prepared for life. 

In 2003, two organizations merged: Kalamazoo Public Education Foundation (KPEF) and Kalamazoo Area Academic Achievement Program, also known as KAAAP. (KAAAP was initiated in 1992 by the Kalamazoo Chamber of Commerce and matched elementary students to a mentor committed to seeing the young person through high school graduation.). Upon the completion of this merger, and the desire to implement the national Communities In Schools (CIS) model of integrated students services, the CIS of Kalamazoo affiliate was officially formed. To this day, the organization has steadily grown: from three employees to over 140, and from serving students in three schools to 22.

Thanks to imagination and hard work of this community working together, more and more Kalamazoo kids will succeed in school and life.