Rod Raven Coaching Kids Both On and Off the Court

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 Rod Raven, who is the lead Activity Helper at Arcadia Elementary School where he also serves after school as basketball coach for both boys and girls. In both these roles, Rod works with CIS to assure students have what they need to succeed in school and life. Rod is a 2019 Champ recipient and if you missed what was said about him at Champs, go here.

Born and raised in Gary, Indiana, Rod came to Kalamazoo in 1985 seeking better employment opportunities. Prior to working at Arcadia Elementary, he ran summer programs, including working six years at the Boys and Girls Club. Rod is also the proud father of three children. His son Demonte is a military police officer, daughter Taysha attends college at KVCC, and daughter Nakia is a therapy behavior technician here in Kalamazoo.

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

Pop Quiz

Practice is the foundation of success in sports (and other things). It’s been said that whatever you do in practice, you’ll do that during the competition. Do you find that what kids do in practice, carries over from the court into the classroom?

Definitely. And that behavior carries over into the halls, onto the playground, and into the future. Take manners for example. That’s an important life skill and something we practice. A lot of the teachers will stop me and say how students are greeting them by saying “Good morning” and “Good afternoon,” and that this is a turn-around from the previous school year.

I love seeing our kids doing their work in school, reading, working on art, listening to teachers, and walking calmly down the hallway. They are echoing each other’s positive behaviors.

A commonly shared aspect of success on and off the court is being a consistent performer, to try hard in all conditions and never give up, responding positively to winning and losing, taking up both success and failure in a positive way. Is this a teachable trait? And if so, how do you teach it?

I do believe it’s a teachable trait. I encourage the boys at the beginning of practice and before games that no matter how the game turns out; we’re all winners here. I will give that message to both teams—there is no failure here. Participation is honorable in itself.

I stress teamwork, politeness, kindness, and respect. The way I coach is by structuring things a little differently during our time together. The first half hour is educational and students read and do homework. The second half of the hour is devoted to life skills. We talk and reflect on both the positive and negative behaviors that have occurred in school and home. We discuss and debate what choices could have made or made better, so that should they experience a similar situation later on in life, they will be aware of it, and make a positive choice in the future. After all that, we then have about 25 minutes of basketball practice. I realize that’s not a lot of time, but it sends the message that academics and behavior are more important. The students will be going on to middle and then high school and behavior is key to success in school and on the court.

I tell the kids that Michael Jordon and Lebron James may be the best known players, but a lot of other players out there were just as good but because they had behavior problems, they didn’t get to be on the platform and go to that next level. Getting a good education is important. To get to that next level—whatever area they see themselves in—behavior and academics need to be a focus.

Rod, Myah (left), and Joan (right) listening as Bob Miller (not pictured) introduces Rod at Champs.

CIS Site Coordinator Joan Coopes and CIS After School Coordinator Myah VanTil say you are not only invested in the students’ success, but you get them to invest in each other. Can you talk some about how you do that?

We work as one. We practice life skills together, talk as one, help each other with homework, whether its math or social studies we’re working together. And students help each other with choice-making. Say a player is making a bad choice on the playground. Other members will step in and remind that student that they are representing not only themselves, but the team. They remind them what they stand for.

Over the last four years, I haven’t had to break up any fights and that is because they have been learning to make better choices: to walk away, to talk it out, or resolve the situation with support from others.

Several of the boys have commented [about you] to both Joan and Myah that “he is teaching us how to be gentleman.” How do you go about imparting this?

The way you present yourselves tells others a lot about you. I never was one for slacks hanging down so every Friday, the boys dress up in a shirt and tie. As the “Young Men of Arcadia,” they demonstrate politeness and being a gentleman. At the end of the school year, I take them to a formal dinner so that they can experience that setting and practice their manners. They really improve from the beginning to the end of the year. All this helps them be role models to their friends and family now and later in life.

What are you currently reading?

I’m always reading lots of sports magazine. And I also love reading poetry.

Have you read Kwame Alexander’s work, like his book, The Crossover, that blends basketball and poetry? It combines two things you love!

One of my friends told me about his books. I need to read that one! I do enjoy reading poetry and writing it, too.

You write poetry?

I write poetry for friends, mostly. I’ll write poems for valentines and birthdays, illnesses, things like that.

What is your favorite word right now?

Ambition.

Where is one place in Kalamazoo you love hanging out?

School. I don’t do a lot of club stuff. I’m always busy with kids, at school and during the weekend in my community.

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

So many! Right now, I’d have to say Mr. Greg Socha. Over these last six years that I’ve been with Arcadia he has provided such encouragement. He shows a willingness to listen and take on challenges with me. When I’ve come up with an idea, he’s 100 percent behind it. We never look at an idea—or trying out an idea—as failure. I’m going to miss him. [Principal Greg Socha retired at the end of this school year.]

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

Pam Kingery and Her Post(s)

Pam Kingery, Founding Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo

At Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids, we’ve been reflecting on Executive Director of Communities In Schools Pam Kingery’s posts she’s written over the years. While Pam will be leaving her post at the end of June, her words and actions will reside on in this blog, in our hearts, and continue to shape the lives of our 12,000+ kids.

Speaking of laying the groundwork for the future, Pam wrote about breaking ground for the new home for Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, The Kalamazoo PromiseSouthwest Michigan First, and Warner Norcross and Judd, LLP, in her October 2018 post entitled “Breaking Ground on Future Home.”

Pam in purple dress and white construction hat at the August 2018 groundbreaking ceremony.

In Checking In For Children at the Checkout Lane at Meijer Pam described a moment where the generous, caring nature of this community percolates through an ordinary, everyday activity.

Pam has encouraged us to share with others the stories that shape our lives. In “What is Your Story?” Pam shared her own story and told us how her mother, despite having dropped out of high school,  instilled in Pam a love for education. Have you shared your story with anyone lately?

If you’ve had the opportunity to converse with Pam and/or follow this blog, you also know that Pam is passionate about attendance. The reasons a student may be chronically tardy or absent are as diverse as students themselves. Over the years, Pam has encouraged us to see attendance as a community issue. When it comes to school attendance, “Every Minute Counts.”

Pam in 2017 (on far right), holding one of 500 alarm clocks donated by Fifth Third Bank to support students’ school attendance. She’s pictured with (left) Sara Williams, Retail Regional Manager, Fifth Third Bank and (middle) Ron Foor, Community President for Fifth Third Bank.

Regular reader of Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids know that we’ve popped “Pop Quizzes” on hundreds of our CIS friends over the years. When Pam announced she was retiring from CIS, we finally got a chance to sit down with her. You can read her interview here.

Come July 1, Pam will no longer be soaring around CIS in her executive director cape. But she will continue to fly around our community with her superpowers—of kindness, compassion, assessment, and more—continuing to do good and amazing things for this community.

Skills Gap: A Moral and Economic Crisis

Today’s blog post is brought to you by Darren Timmeney, Market Manager and Community President of Chase Bank in Southwest Michigan. Darren also serves on the board of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo.

JP Morgan Chase Chairman and CEO, Jamie Dimon, recently addressed the skills gap in an article posted on LinkedIn.  In it, he shares the importance of making sure that all students graduate from high school, prepared for what comes next, and the implications when too many of our students don’t. Here in Kalamazoo, we have tremendous opportunities for our high school graduates in college and career, yet, we still have students who are not in position to take advantage of those opportunities. However, through the work of Kalamazoo Public Schools, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo and its many partners and volunteers, as well as the investment that local donors, funders, and businesses are making in helping youth succeed, we are on the path to creating brighter futures for all students.

The Skills Gap Is a Moral and Economic Crisis

by Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JPMorgan Chase & Co.

The path to a successful future begins at a young age. But economic opportunity is increasingly out of reach for millions of young people. In fact, 71% of today’s youth (ages 17–24) are ineligible for the military due to a lack of proper education (basic reading or writing skills) or health issues (often obesity or diabetes). Without the right skills or education, they find themselves stuck in low-skill, low-wage jobs or are unemployed.

It’s a moral and economic crisis that too many young people leave high school without clear pathways to a successful future. We must make it a national priority to help prepare young people to be both personally and professionally successful – especially those who are traditionally overlooked.

In many inner city schools, fewer than 60% of students graduate, and many of those who do graduate are not prepared for employment. We are creating generations of citizens who will never have a chance. Unfortunately, it’s self-perpetuating, and we all pay the price. The subpar academic outcomes of America’s minority and low-income children resulted in yearly GDP losses of trillions of dollars, according to McKinsey & Company.

Getting young people on a pathway to brighter futures in high school and beyond will help them achieve long-term economic success and ultimately positively impact the economic trajectory of the entire country.

JPMorgan Chase is investing over $350 million in skills development around the world. This includes New Skills for Youth, a $75 million, five-year effort to increase dramatically the number of young people who complete career pathways that begin in high school and end with postsecondary degrees or credentials aligned with good-paying, high-demand jobs. We are also investing in summer youth employment programs that provide young people with meaningful, skills-based summer work.

And today we announced the expansion of The Fellowship Initiative, which helps create economic opportunity for young men of color in New York City, Chicago, Los Angeles and Dallas. Through the right combination of intensive academic, mentoring and leadership training, we are preparing them to take advantage of critical opportunities to get ahead. In fact, this year 117 students completed The Fellowship Initiative and 100 percent of them are graduating from high school. Combined, they have been accepted into over 200 colleges and universities across the country.

While not every business can make this kind of commitment, they can promote other efforts that create economic opportunity. This includes continued on-the-job training and education and create apprenticeships for future workers. They can also encourage partnerships with schools to ensure skills are aligned with employment needs. These investments are good for the long-term vitality of the communities we serve and create pathways to success for their employees and families.

JPMorgan Chase is creating bridges between businesses and communities to support an economy that creates opportunity for future generations. By encouraging business, government and nonprofits to work closely together, we can continue to produce position outcomes and drive entire communities forward.

You can read more about our approach to bridging the skills gap here.

Jamie Dimon’s article originally ran in LinkedIn on June 26, 2017 and you can link to it by going here.

Dedication and I

Who have you been hanging out with lately? Responsibility? Joy? Generosity?

In today’s post, Coach Rodney Manning reflects on his relationship with Dedication. As the Assistant Varsity Basketball Coach for the Men’s Basketball team at Loy Norrix High School, he knows that performing at one’s best—whether it’s sports, academics, or anything else for that matter—can not be achieved without practice and more practice. Simply going through the motions to get something done is not enough. One must be deliberate and focused, trying to get better every time. That mindful approach takes dedication. Coach Manning, along with many of the basketball players, recently attended the MLK “Courage to Create” poetry workshop and this is what he wrote:

 

Dedication and I hang out together. Dedication pushes me to excel when I don’t want to push. Sometimes, I don’t really care for Dedication because it has a tendency to require more of me that I think I have to give.

Through our ups and downs, highs and lows, dedication and I have become best friends. We have taken each other to places where we could not have gone alone. Dedication and I are now inseparable.

Who have you been spending a lot of time with lately? Preparation? Optimism? Courage? Write us at jclark@ciskalamazoo.org and tell us about it. We just might publish it!

 

Thank You, Friends

Today’s post is written by Pam Kingery, Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo.

Since the regular school year has wrapped up for students and teachers, and we are gearing up for the CIS Think Summer! program and KPS Summer School, it is a natural time to reflect on the 2015-16 school year. Gratitude is the overwhelming sentiment—for you, for our community. “Feeling gratitude and not expressing it,” wrote William Arthur Ward, “is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” So this is my expression of our sincere appreciation. As part of our community, you have chosen to lift up our children and youth as part of Communities In Schools. Thank you!

The important work of helping our kids succeed in school and in life does not happen without you. Your time, energy, talent and determination are essential investments in the future of the next generation and in the future of Kalamazoo. I believe the return on your investment is both measurable and immeasurable. The measurable part—-all of the graduates will have greater earnings, pay more taxes, be more well-prepared parents, and have better health outcomes, to name just a few—inspires us all to work harder to help more kids graduate. The immeasurable part—knowing how much you cared and how much each student felt cared for, converting tears of sorrow to tears of joy, listening to that graduate proudly announce he is the first in his family to graduate from high school—these are but a few of the priceless experiences that assure you will be back next year.

Did you know you helped grateful parents “fill the gaps” for their children? As one parent put it, “I want the best for my child but I can’t give them all that they need. I’m so grateful that CIS connected my child to the services she needed.”  We were able to step in because of you.

Our kids count on you and you have been there for them, even in difficult times. It has been an especially challenging year for Kalamazoo. Our community has been rocked by unexplainable tragedy. We’ve lost giants like Charles Warfield. Chuck had much to teach us and was always interested in learning from others, particularly our kids. Ed Gordon, one of the two founding board members of this organization, passed away last year. A member of the City Commission, Ed insisted that supporting our kids is a community responsibility and opportunity.

Each time you show up for kids—whether it’s to work, to volunteer, to partner, or to donate, you add to the foundation of others and you show our kids what it means to be a part of a community that acts together and takes care of one another. So, thank you for believing that CIS and the kids of Kalamazoo are a sound and worthy investment.

Think summer, think-think summer!  The learning and caring continue…

Thank you!

 

A Safe Place to Learn and Grow

A safe place to learn and grow. This is one of five CIS basics that we believe every child needs and deserves. Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo Site Coordinator and today’s guest blogger, Emily Demorest, works closely with other CIS staff, the Kalamazoo Public Schools, volunteers, and community partners to create a safe and nurturing learning environment for all children. Here now is Emily’s open letter and reaction to a recent draft statement put forth by the Michigan State Board of Education.

 

I applaud the Michigan Department of Education for their bold step to support the rights and safety of LGBTQ youth in Michigan public schools. The State Board of Education’s Statement and Guidance on Safe and Supportive Learning Environments for LGBTQ Students is a crucial step in ensuring all students in the state receive the education they deserve. We are tasked with supporting all students regardless of our personal feelings regarding individual identity issues.

Any LGBTQ students can share stories of marginalization or open hostility because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. At a time when young people are most vulnerable in their personal development, youth are experiencing issues with bullying, physical harassment, and difficulties accessing safe use of a toilet during the school day. Most are careful to share their true identities even with those they trust. As a CIS Site Coordinator, I work daily with students facing these challenges. All these young people want is to be safe and supported in their learning environment.

Students who do not feel that school is a safe and supportive environment have worse educational outcomes. According to research published by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network in 2013, LGBTQ students who perceive a hostile school climate are three times as likely to miss school and twice as likely to report a lack of interest in pursuing post high school education. Tragically, over half of students experiencing discrimination and harassment at school do not report the abuse due to feeling that exposing their identity to school staff will lead to further problems.

Do not all children deserve equal opportunities to quality education?

The full report is available by going here. Members of the public who wish to comment on the guidelines have until April 11th to express their support before the vote on May 10th.

 

 

Dearest Ms. Dodge

What better way to start the New Year than to reflect on that special person, that, even after all these years, you still carry within your heart? If you follow our blog, you know that Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo has been asking caring adults to think back to when they were young and in school and recall that caring adult they felt especially connected to.

Today, we share a touching letter written by Carly Denny, CIS Site Coordinator and one member of the passionate and dedicated team at Prairie Ridge Elementary School. Carly Denny began her career as an AmeriCorps VISTA with CIS last school year, using her creative talents to support the college going culture within Northeastern Elementary School and Spring Valley Center for Exploration. In her new role as a Site Coordinator, she says this: “We have amazing partners and volunteers—most of the volunteers come from the surrounding Oshtemo churches. They are pro-active and often reach out to CIS and ask, ‘What can we do to help?’ The Prairie Ridge community, the teachers, and staff all support each other in every decision they make. It’s very obvious they care about each and every student here.”

Here’s Carly’s letter.

Dearest Ms. Dodge,

Even though it has been a long time since I have seen you, I still think about you often. As my very first teacher, you are the one that I have compared all future educators to. I was only two and a half when I  enrolled into preschool, much younger than my fellow classmates, yet you made me feel safe in an undiscovered environment and just as capable as the other students. Throughout my preschool experience you cultivated my curiosity and challenged me to be my best little self. Most importantly, you gave me my first taste of learning, which is something I continue to crave, even as I journey my way through grad school. I am not sure I will ever be able to properly thank you for being such an inspirational teacher and special person in my life. You helped shape the person I have become and for that I am forever grateful.

Love,

Carly Denny

Future CIS Site Coordinator Carla Denny with her inspirational teacher Ms. Dodge
Future CIS Site Coordinator Carla Denny with her inspirational teacher Ms. Dodge

 

Carly on her first day of preschool.
Carly on her first day of preschool.

Who is your Ms. Dodge? If you are up to the challenge of reflecting on and writing a letter to your caring adult, email it to me at jclark@ciskalamazoo.org and we just might publish it!

Educators on Parade

It’s Giving Tuesday, a way to reclaim this season and infuse it with true giving. #GivingTuesday does just that by generating conversations about how you can help, give smarter, and put personal philanthropy back into the giving season. How perfect then, that today’s post comes from Emily Kobza, our Director of Development & Business Engagement.

 

I took my son to his very first Kalamazoo Holiday Parade a few weekends ago.  To be honest, I had never been to this parade before so I wasn’t sure what to expect other than a marching band or two and the giant balloons that had been advertised.  While my expectations for the marching bands and the giant balloons were more than met, I ended up being surprised by something I didn’t expect – local educators on parade.

There were band teachers, scout troop leaders, dance teachers, football and cheerleading coaches, and school bus drivers.  There were color guard coaches, preschool teachers, and gymnastics coaches.  There were advisors of student clubs, choir teachers, and swim club coaches.  And they were all there on a Saturday morning walking with their students, supporting and encouraging them.

In this season where we pause to give thanks and reflect on our blessings, I am very grateful for the many, many men and women in our community who are helping young people to learn and grow every day.  Some of them have chosen this as a profession.  Others are volunteering.  All of them are helping to ensure that our kids can fulfill their promise.  Thank you to all of you.

And to the Kalamazoo Husky Club – I think you were my son’s favorite part of the parade.

thanks carved into table