11 Questions for Cash the Dog

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 Cash, a Bernese Mountain Dog who volunteers with the Science Club at Edison Environmental Science Academy along with Teresa Miller. [We featured Teresa in an earlier post here.  And if you missed the post on the Science Club’s 2020 Champ award, you can find it here.]

Part of the volunteer team who makes Science Club so successful, Cash is well-behaved and humble. So while he didn’t bring it up, Teresa shared that he also has a drafting title. As she explained it, Bernese Mountain Dogs are originally from Switzerland. Historically, they pulled carts of milk from farms to the town. And because Cash has actually pulled a cart, he boasts a drafting (carting) title.

In the spring of last school year, we popped this quiz on Cash in Edison’s library as he was getting ready for students to come in for Science Club. Teresa was there to help with translating. Cash has been very patient in waiting for his interview to be published. Good boy!

Alright, Cash: pencil out, paws on your own paper. Good luck.

Pop Quiz

We don’t normally ask this of our volunteers, but what is your age?

I’m 8 ½ in dog years and 58 in people years.

What year did you start volunteering with the Science Club?

2012. I was a teenager.

Cash with some of the other volunteers he works with during Science Club. (Photo taken last school year.)

In one sentence, how would you describe your volunteer work?

Pet me, pet me, pet me!

What do you love best about volunteering?

Did I say, Pet me?

What type of training did you need to do to prepare for your volunteer position?

I had to pass two tests: Canine Good Citizen (CGC) and Therapy Dog.

Would you recommend volunteering to other dogs?

Yes, the kids are the best kind of friends to have. I love kids! I also volunteer at the Bronson Children’s Hospital two times a month.

What’s your favorite word right now?

Cookies.

What do you do in your leisure time?

Mostly spend time with my mom. She does lots of fun stuff. We like to go camping, swimming, dock-diving, and lots of walks.

Cash with his mom, Teresa Miller.

Are you more a wagger or a barker?

Definitely a wager. I only bark to alert my mom of strangers, or if she asks me too.

Favorite rap artist: Snoop Dogg or Bow Wow?

Snoop, for sure.

Anything else we should know about you?

I like to brag about my kids. I have over thirty and they are all very good looking and smart. One lives with me. His name is Cruz. He just turned three.

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

 

 

Family Health Center: Changing the Landscape of Healthcare Delivery

At the 13th Annual Champs Celebration, presented by Kalsec, The Family Health Center was honored with a 2020 Champ Award which was sponsored by Abraxas and Chase. CIS Partner Services Coordinator John Brandon introduced us to this CIS partner who is a true champion for children.

A healthy start in life. That’s one of Communities In Schools’ “five basics,” an essential ingredient to a child’s success. Healthier children make better students. If their tooth aches or they aren’t feeling well, it’s difficult to focus on school. Learning becomes fundamentally compromised.

Accepting the Champ Award on behalf of Family Health Center, Jeffrey Jousma, Mobile Unit Manager

This year’s Champ, the Family Health Center, has always made it their mission to bring quality health care to all members in our community, particularly those underserved. As a long-term, highly committed partner, the Family Health Center has worked with CIS and its many community partners and changed the landscape of the way healthcare is delivered to our children.

As part of their mission, they operate a Mobile Health and Dental Clinic. When their Mobile Health Clinic, a 40-foot-long clinic on wheels, rolls up to our schools, our site coordinators connect students to caring health professionals inside. They provide physicals, immunizations, well-child visits, and more to our students and their family members in the Kalamazoo Public Schools district. In taking on the operation of the Mobile Dental Clinic [that was previously run by Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services], they provide basic check-ups and dental care right on school grounds. And healthy kids, more ready to learn, experience improvements in academics and attendance and problem behaviors decrease.

Starting with CEO Denise Crawford and with the leadership of COO Ken LePage and Mobile Unit Manager Jeff Jousma, the Family Health Center, works effectively within the CIS model of integrated student services to break down barriers to learning by filling the healthcare gap in innovative ways. The result? Thousands of Kalamazoo Public School students receive outstanding preventative healthcare services each year.

Family Health Center, thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

Howard Tejchma: Inviting Others to Join in the Work

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 volunteer Howard Tejchma, who was recently honored with the Gulnar Husain Volunteer Award.  [If you didn’t get a chance to read about the great work Howard is doing with elementary school students, click here for that post. To learn more about Gulnar, read this post, “A Good Life.”]

Since 2010, Howard has been volunteering at Arcadia Elementary School. He works closely with fifth grade teacher Holly Bishop, supporting about four of her students each year in a small group setting over the lunchtime. Over the years, CIS has noticed that as Howard engages the students in fun activities, he also takes the opportunity to weave in life lessons.

We got a chance to meet up with Howard at Arcadia Elementary School after one of his “lunch bunch” sessions. We popped this quiz on him just days before the pandemic hit and schools were closed.

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

Pop Quiz

From volunteering more than a decade with CIS, what have you learned?

We all have the child that goes through us within life. The kids reawaken that child in me and get me out of my box…I have to think more like a kid to understand them and that’s healthy.

What are you currently reading?

I just read In the Shelter by Pádraig Ó Tuama. A philosopher, poet, and theologian, Ó Tuama talks about living in the shelter of one another. I’ve been running a bookclub on it at my church. It’s a beautiful book about community. It’s about listening, interacting, and creating relationships and the author tells it through his own story.

Currently, I’m reading a book on butterflies. It’s The Last Butterflies by Nick Haddad. The underpinnings of this book help with understanding why we exist in the world. Habitat, for instance, has a direct relationship with the type of habitat we foster for kids to survive and thrive in the world. And what we see on the surface isn’t necessarily what matters. Just like the work we’re doing at CIS, it’s long term work making a world that we are proud for our kids to grow up in, and to feel proud that we had a role in that.

Where is one place in Kalamazoo you love hanging out?

Sarkosky’s. Especially having breakfast there on Saturday morning.

What is your favorite word right now?

Hope.

What question have you asked recently?

Interesting you’d ask that. Pádraig Ó Tuama goes into the quality of questions we ask ourselves and others. I’ve been thinking about the quality of questions. High quality questions can’t be answered with a simple yes or no response. Sometimes, it’s both yes and no… I think it’s worth wondering: what are those questions we are not thinking about? What questions aren’t we asking ourselves? What are the questions I’m avoiding in my life? Whatever question or questions I’m running away from, those are the ones I need to ask.

Why am I not considering tutoring? What are my barriers to getting involved? Why might I be afraid of it? What are our barriers to inviting others to join us in the work?

Speaking of barriers, Gulnar had no barriers when it came to inviting others to join in the work.

That’s right. Gulnar was magnificent with reaching out and asking others to join her in this work. When I think about Gulnar, she was on a mission and as the CIS site coordinator at Arcadia, she first engaged me in this work. Her mission was not only to make the world a better place—creating greater harmony and peace—but to also get other people to do that as well, to be an agent of change.

It’s amazing to think about the effect she had on my life. What she got me to believe in.

And what did she get you to believe in?

That I can make a difference. I can make a difference by working in schools and helping kids. I’m needed. We need you was her message. And I can say that, too. We need you. We need you for tutoring and mentoring. Join us.

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

Oh, so many. My partner Steve of 25 plus years. My church family. I can’t imagine life without them. My high school English teacher Christine Bettese. She was also in the theater arts program and got me involved with that. I was really reserved in high school. I was planning to go to Michigan Tech and she said I should apply to Kalamazoo College. I visited the campus and then decided to go to K. So if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here in Kalamazoo.

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

Howard accepting his award at 2020 Champs

 

In the Shelter of Each Other

At the 13th Annual Champs Celebration, presented by Kalsec,  Joan Coopes, former Communities In Schools Site Coordinator at Arcadia Elementary School, presented the 2020 Gulnar Husain Volunteer Award to Howard Tejchma. As both volunteer and CIS Site Coordinator, Gulnar Husain relentless pursued a more just and welcoming world for all. For more than 38 years, she relished volunteering throughout our community. The Gulnar Husain Volunteer Award recognizes a CIS volunteer who emulates Gulnar’s desire to serve children with a consistent and unflinching passion.

There’s an old Irish proverb: “It is in the shelter of each other that the people live.” You could say this year’s recipient of the Gulnar Husain Volunteer Award is a shelter of sorts. Howard Tejchma, or, Mr. Howard, as the students call him, has been volunteering at Arcadia Elementary School for the past decade. Working closely with Kalamazoo Public School teacher Holly Bishop, he supports several of her fifth grade students in a “lunch bunch” setting. The students look forward to his weekly visits, readily giving up recess to be in the shelter of his kindness.

With a degree in physics from Kalamazoo College, and a fierce curiosity for how the world works, Howard weaves in game playing, life lessons, and math and science support, all while nurturing a safe space which awakens students’ curiosities. Howard takes moments that arise—like the time one student had difficulty losing at a card game—to discuss how to be a good sport, a good listener, to take turns, to share. Gathered under the roof of his patience, children dream, wonder, and question. They discover their place in the world.

“Mr. Howard has been a blessing to me and my students,” says Ms. Bishop. “He has unique conversations with them and tries to connect on a personal level with each and every one. He is teaching them to be good humans. I truly hope that he wants to do this for as long as I am teaching, because he is always welcome in my classroom.”

As Howard is a tenor singer and has performed solo in the Kalamazoo Bach Festival, we thought he might appreciate the legendary Quincy Jones’ musical take on CIS. Thinking of it as an orchestra, Jones says, “CIS is the conductor who makes sure all the individual musicians are playing from the same score and coming in when they’re needed.”

Since 2010, our kids have counted on him coming into their lives at just the right times.

Howard, you play your part beautifully and inspire children—and us!—to do the same. May this musical metal sculpture serve as a symbol of your outstanding service.

Howard accepting his award.

Howard Techjma, thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

Stay tuned. Next week we’ll run Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids’ last face-to-face interview we did before the pandemic hit. It is with Howard and you won’t want to miss it!

Dr. Sandy Standish: Shining Her Light For Young People

At the 13th Annual Champs Celebration, presented by Kalsec, CIS Board President Namita Sharma presented the 2020 Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award, sponsored by Zoetis, to Dr.  Sandy Standish. A decade ago, this prestigious award was established by the Communities In Schools Board to honor Diether’s extensive contributions to his adopted home of Kalamazoo and in particular, his service and genuine concern for the children and young people of our community.

Those of you who’ve had the privilege of working with Dr. Standish know she’s dedicated her life to the education of young people. For thirty two years she shined her light as an innovative educator in Comstock Public Schools. Following her “retirement” from public education, it wasn’t in her to “take it easy.” Instead of hiding her light under a bushel, she took on the role as the founding director of Kalamazoo County Ready 4s, better known as KCReady4s. She spent the next decade collaborating with community partners to build a system of high-quality pre-kindergarten programs accessible to all four-year-olds in Kalamazoo County.

Parents want their children to be on solid footing when they start kindergarten. Yet, not every child is at the starting line with their peers. Not all families have the luxury or the means to access high-quality early care and education. At CIS, because we are in a similar business—creating systems of support for students kindergarten through twelfth grade—we’re particularly impressed with her remarkable work over the years of rallying this collective effort. To change mindsets about the way we work together to support and educate our children, to change the landscape of how things are done—or not done—requires vision, a teamwork mentality, passion, and more.

With her usual grace, humor, and expertise, she has been a fearless advocate for early education, because Dr. Standish knows this: Children who receive high-quality early care and education do better in school and life. In that safe and consistent space, they learn basic skills, as well as social and emotional skills, all building blocks for future success.

Sandy, in naming you the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence recipient for 2020, we give you this Blue Hydrangea Bulb blooming out of a vintage base, a symbol of your award from the Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo Board.

Dr. Standish accepting the 2020 Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award.

Thank you for educating our children, and for illuminating a pathway for Kalamazoo county to continue to support some of our youngest citizens. By shining your light, you have made our community a brighter place for all.

Dr. Sandy Standish, thank you for helping kids stay in school and succeed in life.

Building Our Future: National Society of Black Engineers

At the 13th Annual Champs Celebration, presented by Kalsec, the National Society of Black Engineers was honored with a 2020 Champ Award which was sponsored by Humphrey Products and Lake Michigan Credit Union. Kalamazoo Central High School’s CIS Site Coordinator Jennifer Miner introduced us to this dedicated group of college students who champion children. [If you missed this virtual event, you can click here to watch the Champs Celebration. At the 29-minute mark,  Max Doggett,  current External Chair of the Western Michigan chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, accepts the award on behalf of his team.]

For the past five years, the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) at Western Michigan University has been working through CIS to funnel six to eight volunteers from their society to support Kalamazoo Central High School students. Two times a week, these engineering students consistently share their time, talents, as well as their stories with our students. Together, they build upon each other’s work, constructing something bigger than themselves.

Principal Valerie Boggan loves seeing the positive impact they have with students. We share her appreciation for this partnership. These engineering students create enthusiasm around learning and shine a light for our kids. The National Society’s mission is: to increase culturally responsible black engineers who excel academically, succeed professionally and positively impact the community. To see this mission in action is powerful and shines a light for our students.

Working with young people is like building a very important building, something bigger than the Empire State Building and more impressive than the Eiffel Tower. Through their very presence and listening, these engineering students are inspiring our kids to be the best students and people they can be. A young person realizing their full potential is a more impressive sight than even the great pyramids of Egypt.

National Society of Black Engineers, thank you for helping kids stay in school and succeed in life.

 

Cultivating Future Scientists: The Edison Science Club

Zoetis Senior Scientist Dom Pullo during the virtual Champs Celebration.

At the 13th Annual Champs Celebration, presented by Kalsec, The Edison Science Club was honored with a 2020 Champ Award which was sponsored by BASIC Benefits and Miller-Davis Company. Edison Environmental Science Academy’s CIS Site Coordinator Cameron Massimino introduced us to these Zoetis-led volunteers who champion children. [If you missed this virtual event, you can click here to watch the Champs Celebration. This video will remain accessible throughout November.]

 For 16 years now, science-minded volunteers make monthly visits to Edison Environmental Science Academy. Initiated by Zoetis Senior Scientist Dom Pullo, the volunteers enhance about 27 fifth graders’ learning of science through inquiry and hands-on activities.

Photo credit: Freshwater Photography
Photo Credit: Freshwater Photography

In Science Club, students become scientists! Wearing lab coats and lanyards, and occasionally donning goggles and gloves, students extract DNA from peas, investigate circuit theory, study water filtration, and more. Thanks to a grant from Zoetis, CIS was able to purchase state-of-the-art microscopes so students can view specimens close-up.

The Science Club even recruited Cash, a very friendly and hairy, 105-pound volunteer. Cash assists Zoetis veterinarians (Dr. Theodore Sanders, Jr. – DVM, MS, MBA, DACLAM Executive Director Animal Research Support, Dr. Marike Visser –  DVM, PhD, DACVCP , and Dr. Paul Reynolds, DVM – Retired) in demonstrating animal check-ups. [Cash sat down for an interview with us and we’ll be publishing that conversation in the near future.]

As Edison students look on, Dr. Theodore Sanders, Jr. demonstrates an animal check-up (photo taken last school year).

In addition to Dom Pullo and the three veterinarians noted above, the Edison Science Club has been supported by a number of dedicated volunteers over the years, including: Blair Cundiff, Jacqueline Killmer, Shannon Smith, Teresa Miller, Joshua Kuipers, Stacey Wensink, Sherry Garrett, Kelsey Lammers, Kelly Turner-Alston, Kelly Kievit, Matthew Krautman, Brianna Pomeroy, Tiyash Parira, Tobias Clark, Lisa Yates, Elizabeth Graham, Ben Hummel, Clark Smothers, Adam Schoell, Rose Gillesby, and Thomas Berg.

Dr. Paul Runnels accepting the Champs award for his team.

Fifth grade teacher Mrs. Rocann Fleming says both students and staff LOVE the science club. These dedicated volunteers, some who’ve now retired or moved on from Zoetis, still show up and inspire young minds. Their passion for science is contagious.

“I’ve learned,” says one student who dreams of becoming a veterinarian, “there’s a lot you can’t see in this world that is real—like bacteria!—so wash your hands.” “Well, I’m going to be a scientist,” says another girl. “I’m not sure what kind yet, but probably a woman scientist!”

Edison Science Club, thank you for helping kids stay in school and succeed in life.

Mikka Dryer: Grateful For the Opportunity to Volunteer

At the 13th Annual Champs Celebration, presented by Kalsec, Mikka Dryer was honored with a 2020 Champ Award which was sponsored by Fifth Third Bank. Milwood Magnet Middle School’s CIS Site Coordinator Missy Best introduced us to this CIS volunteer who is a champion for children. [If you didn’t get a chance to learn about the great work Mikka is doing with students in Dr. Brandy Shooks’ ESL classroom, click here to watch the Champs Celebration. This video will remain accessible throughout November. Mikka’s award is at the 14:33 minute marker.]

Mikka Dryer, 2020 Champ Award recipient

Born and raised in Battle Creek, Michigan, Mikka lives in Portage with her husband Cory. She says she’s “grateful to have the opportunity to volunteer with CIS as my job as Supervisor of Community Health, Equity and Inclusion at Bronson provides me the flexibility to do so.

We sat down with Mikka at Milwood Magnet Middle School, shortly before the pandemic hit and schools were closed.

You’ve been volunteering out at Milwood Magnet Middle School for the past four years, with the last three of those years supporting a small group of young ladies who are part of KPS teacher Brandy Shook’s ESL [English as a Second Language] class. How did you come to volunteer through CIS?

When my daughter was in middle school and upper hours, I had an hourly job and couldn’t take off time from work to volunteer in her classroom or at her school. With my job now, as a salaried employee, I have that flexibility and wanted to start volunteering through CIS. For me, it’s a way to give back to kids whose parents are in the same position I was in…I know there are parents just like me, that want to volunteer in their child’s school but just can’t give back because of their job.

I want to give back and am grateful I have the opportunity to do this now, even though I couldn’t do it with my own daughter.

What insights have you gained from volunteering?

There is a difference between raising my own child and coming into a volunteer experience where you are interacting with kids you don’t know. So I’m learning about them and asking them questions. It’s not intuitive to me because I don’t know their lives and what they are going through and dealing with. I’ve gained understanding and tolerance. Also, as I’m walking through the halls and the bell rings, it brings me back to my own middle school days. Some things haven’t changed.

What are you currently reading?

I just finished a book called On the Come Up by Angie Thomas. It’s a young adult book and the follow up to her book, The Hate You Give. I’ve really enjoyed both of the books. I wanted to read her latest book because last year, we all read The Hate You Give as an all-school read. We really bonded over they book. [We ran this post about last year’s Reading Together book and how students had lots of love for The Hate You Give.]

What is your favorite word right now?

Through an equity lens.

I say this and think about this often in the work I’m in. I’m always considering what I’m doing through an equity lens. Am I considering all people, all voices, historical events, oppression, people who have had experienced life in different ways than me? Am I taking into account the whole situation? Whether I’m at work, volunteering, or how I’m spending my money, am I approaching what I’m doing through an equity lens?

Taking into account the whole situation and various perspectives is a much fuller way to experience life.

Yes, you feel fuller because you are considering others and their perspectives, not just one’s one. I can relate to people better because of it.

What question have you asked recently?

Can you tell me more about that? Why do you feel that way?

I’m trying to ask more questions at home. At work and out in the community I’m accepting, tolerant, and open, but at home, well, it’s a space I need to work on. I want to be more tolerant and understanding of my family members and asking them questions helps me do that. And they are less likely to shut down. Instead of responding with “Get over it,” “That’s not important,” or “Move on,” I’m trying to ask more questions and really listen to what they have to say.

Where is one place in Kalamazoo you love hanging out?

I love walking my two dogs. I love Portage trails, being out in the sun and walking outside trails, biking paths, and enjoying the sunshine.

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

As a young person growing up, I’d definitely say my parents, James and Tako Keller. They had five kids and I was the middle child. They loved and supported me, and still do. I had a good childhood even though I probably wasn’t the easiest adolescent to parent, and yet they still supported me. They have always had my back.

Anything else should we know about you?

My daughter Nayah wants to open her own bakery one day and I’m happily obligated to be her taste tester. She recently moved out on her own, and one thing I’ll miss is having tasty treats at least three times a week!

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