CIS Ugly Sweater Competition and Exhibit – Vote Today!

Vote Today!

Donations = votes!

As sweater images become available, the below listings will be updated accordingly.

Kalsec Sweater: Vote Here

Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo Sweater: Vote Here

Edwards Garment Sweater: Vote Here

Fifth Third Bank Sweater: Vote Here

First National Bank of Michigan: Vote Here

Humphrey Products Sweater: Vote Here

Husted’s Market Sweater: Vote Here

Friends of Poetry Sweater: Vote Here

Kalamazoo Rotaract Sweater: Vote Here

YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo Sweater: Vote Here

Unifab Corporation Sweater: Vote Here

WMU Office of Diversity and Inclusion Sweater: Vote Here

#GivingBack on #GivingTuesday at CIS of Kalamazoo

Today is #GivingTuesday: a “global day of giving” fueled by the power of social media and collaboration.

Last year, CIS of Kalamazoo launched an initiative to do the “giving” on #GivingTuesday, surprising an individual who has gone above and beyond for students in each school building with a card and gift from the CIS site coordinator. The huge smiles and joy we witnessed last year ensured that it would become an annual activity.

We’re thrilled to continue this initiative in 2020. Though it may look different, our purpose remains the same: to honor and recognize someone at each school who is going above and beyond. Each CIS site coordinator has selected a KPS staff member who has demonstrated a commitment to working with CIS to help students succeed and/or make sure students’ needs are met. A personal note and e-gift card will be sent to each recipient. Check out the descriptions below to learn about the inspiring work being done by school staff.

This year has been especially challenging for schools and school staff, and we also want to take a moment to say thank you to EVERY individual who has worked so hard for students. From all of us at Communities In Schools, thank you. We are proud to partner with you.

Arcadia Elementary – Donia Ali has been a true partner for CIS when it comes to connecting to Arcadia’s Arabic speaking families.  She has the best interest of Arcadia students and families in her heart with all that she does. Thank you, Donia, for all you do for Arcadia students and families!

Edison Environmental Science Academy – Head Secretary, Tonya Orbeck, is the most helpful head secretary we could possibly imagine. She always has a million things to do, and yet always finds the time to help in whatever way she can. She is truly the embodiment of teamwork and selflessness.

El Sol Elementary – Secretary, Graciela Arevalo, is a bridge between El Sol staff and families. She is a vital resource to distributing information to families and maintaining a connection between El Sol families and CIS.

Hillside Middle School – Melinda Long, Counseling Office Secretary, is a constant support to CIS at Hillside. She is always very positive and cheerful. Ms. Long works tirelessly as the secretary for the counseling office; she is patient and compassionate when working with students and her professionalism and demeanor makes her a wonderful role model for the young people she supports every day.

Kalamazoo Central High School – Bilingual Home School Liaison, Rebeca Arevalo-Visuet, has been a precious resource. She helps communicate with families where English is a second language. She consistently responds to requests for assistance. Rebeca makes our jobs and the jobs of many other KPS staff much easier. The service she provides is priceless. We are especially grateful!

King-Westwood Elementary – There is no task too big or too small for Jennifer Diget, King-Westwood secretary. Whether it is getting information about a family, accepting a delivery, getting instructions on how to do absolutely anything—or who to contact for absolutely anything—Ms. Diget is the one to call. Not only is she willing to help with anything, she always does it with a smile. She is priceless!

Lincoln Elementary – TaKarra Dunning goes above and beyond to serve the students and families of Lincoln Elementary. As the school’s Behavioral Specialist, she not only helps to support families with clothes, food, and visiting homes, she also supports staff by thinking outside the box to get the job done!

Linden Grove Middle School – Kelly Reimink at Linden Grove has been the missing link necessary in connecting us to students and families. While we’re working remotely, she has been the LG staff member keeping us in the loop about resources available to continue our connections with students and families. Her extensive knowledge and diligence allow us to continue the good work that we do.

Loy Norrix High School – GSA advisor and Library Media Specialist, John Krieder, is always there for students in any capacity. He is always in good spirits and welcomes everyone with a smile.

Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts – Our secretaries, Dillon Boyd and Nicole Degraaf, have been allies for CIS from the day they both entered Maple Street. Their willingness to connect families to CIS whenever possible helps to seamlessly provide much needed services to students. We really appreciate them for being kind-hearted and available when we have questions or if we need anything. We are grateful for all that they do. Thank you!

Milwood Elementary – Leroy Green, Behavioral Aid at Milwood Elementary, is awesome! He is the rock of our school. He is respected and loved by all; the school would not be the same without him!

Milwood Magnet Middle School – KPS IT Specialist, Jacob Cieslak has been a necessary lifesaver when helping CIS implement our groups, CIS After School, GSA newsletter, and more! His patience and willingness to be available whenever we need him has helped us to reach students. He is dedicated to CIS and our students.

Northeastern Elementary – Judy Morin, the Behavioral Specialist, has constantly supported CIS and our students since we’ve started working together. She frequently refers families that are in need to our office. Ms. Morin is extremely devoted to our students and is passionate about what CIS can do to help. She is always promoting us, our services, and utilizing them for students in whatever way possible.

Northglade Elementary – Principal Re’Qwal Duckworth has worked hand in hand with CIS through the pandemic. Through meeting with site coordinators to help meet students’ needs, delivering supplies to students, making home visits, and leading the site and students in the midst of a global pandemic, Mrs. Duckworth shows a commitment to working with CIS and helping students succeed. 

Parkwood Upjohn Elementary – Paraprofessional, Jane Metzler, has spent many years working within our school district. Ms. Metzler has readily made herself available to assist in meeting the needs of our students.  When we moved to remote learning in the spring, Jane could regularly be counted on to deliver food and school supplies to students without hesitation.  Special Education teacher, Ms. Forbes, says that Jane is “amazingly compassionate and caring.  She goes above and beyond to make sure the students have not only academic resources, but also words of encouragement.  She is a true gem.”

Prairie Ridge Elementary – Home Support Specialists, Terry Hess and Amy Triemstra, have gone above and beyond to coordinate with CIS staff to make sure our work has the greatest positive impact for our kids, families, and staff. They are the glue that holds the school together. The Prairie Ridge CIS team is so grateful to them both.

Spring Valley Elementary – School Psychologist, Michelle Youngs, goes above and beyond to make sure that our students’ needs are met and is always there to support staff with encouragement. She truly does understand the CIS vision and what an important role we are in the students’ success and well-being.

Washington Writers’ Academy – Ms. Joy Vandepol and Mrs. Yolanda Kirk do everything possible to help the school run smooth. They are a great team and always going above and beyond to help and support me (CIS site coordinator, Fredrick Daniel) as I am new in this position. When frustrations and uncertainties kick in, they help to calm things down. I love them to death.

Woods Lake Elementary – Teacher, Alex Miller, is always advocating for her students. She is always going above and beyond to make sure her students are logging on with her every day. If students are not logging online, she is trying to figure out why and identifying anything they may need in order to be successful!

Woodward School for Technology and Research – Kindergarten Teacher, Asha Epp, regularly goes above and beyond to make sure her kindergarten students feel at home with her and in her classroom. During COVID times, this has been no different. Asha makes deliveries, ensures ALL students are feeling connected to each other and to the class, and works tirelessly to build that loving and accountable classroom culture that is essential to learning, especially during these hard times. Asha is an essential part of the Woodward Wolf Pack, and we are grateful to be able to honor her and say “Thank You” for being so strong for your students and the school community!


Keeping Lights On During Dark Times

National Lights On Afterschool Awareness Day is today, Thursday, October 22, 2020, and Kalamazoo Public School students are doing their part to shed light on the need to invest in after school programs. As part of this 21st national event, elementary and secondary students who participate in Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) After School Programs have been busy coming up with creative ways to shine the spotlight on quality after school support during these unprecedented times.

A significant body of research demonstrates that students who regularly participate in after school programs are more likely to improve their grades, tests scores, and overall academic behavior. CIS Senior Director of Site Services Dr. Tamiko Garrett says, “Students value the opportunities and supports they receive as part of the after school experience. They know it makes a difference in their lives and they want the community to know it’s important to ‘keep the lights on’ for them.”

To get a taste of what some of our kids have been doing to raise awareness about the need for after school opportunities, here is one of the videos they’d like you to see. (And we’ll be sharing more videos in the weeks to come.)

CIS relies heavily on local resources and partnerships for its core work during the school day, including placing CIS Site Coordinators within schools to identify needs and connect students to the right resources to remove barriers to school success. The CIS After School Program is able to serve students in 15 after school sites—11 elementary and 4 middle schools— thanks to the support of federal dollars awarded through the Michigan Department of Education, 21st Century Community Learning Centers.


This post is written by guest blogger, Sara Lonsberry. Sara is our basic needs coordinator with CIS Kids’ Closet, and she is passionate about community engagement and supporting all students in their growth and development.

Once again, our community has made a tremendous difference in the lives of our students and families by participating in our annual Back to School Drive.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, our efforts to serve students looked quite different this year. We organized our first “Virtual Drive” allowing donors to “shop” our wish list of school supplies from the comfort and safety of their own homes.

Thank you to the many community organizations and local businesses who supported! As a result of the combined generosity from our community, 7,500 school supplies were donated and $1,800 was donated to buy more! Based on developing needs, more headphones for virtual learning, more zipper binders, and more secondary grade backpacks will be purchased this year. Although students are studying virtually this fall, the need for quality school supplies remains a basic and pressing need, and it’s because of our community’s consistent commitment to student success that we’re able to meet these needs year after year.

CIS staff have found creative ways to distribute basic needs donations, like school supplies. Because CIS site coordinators are not able to “shop” the Kids’ Closet due to COVID-19 building safety restrictions, they are communicating routinely with our basic needs coordinator to receive up-to-date information about what’s in stock, place online orders, and then pick up their orders to make deliveries directly to students’ homes.

In addition, CIS is working with Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes to establish additional food pantries at various CIS sites throughout the district. At these “pop up” food pantries, students and families will also be able to pick up “grab-and-go” Kids’ Closet items, such as backpacks and pencil boxes pre-filled with school supplies. This is still in the works, so stay tuned as this distribution opportunity develops!

Overall, our Back to School Drive was a success thanks to the dedication of our community members. On behalf of our students, families, teachers, and staff, we are SO grateful for each and every individual, business, and community organization that contributed.

Interested in donating to support our mission of supporting students and empowering them to stay in school and succeed in life? For an updated list of Kids’ Closet needs, please click here.

CIS Think Summer! – Thank you to our community of support!

As we conclude CIS Think Summer!, we are grateful for those who joined our team to share their knowledge and expertise with our students. The CIS Think Summer! program for Kalamazoo Public Schools elementary and secondary students is designed to reduce summer learning loss and increase academic and enrichment opportunities. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, this year’s program was transitioned from in-person to virtual experiences with presentations that align with career themes.

We are excited to share with you all the guest participants of this year’s program! We thank them for joining our staff to provide- engaging opportunities to “meet” different professionals in our community.

Chef Cory Barrett and Chef Stephanie Hughes from the Kalamazoo Valley Community College Culinary Arts & Sustainable Food Systems program joined our team to showcase the culinary center by providing a virtual tour of the facility and answered questions about cooking and classes offered.

Jessica Waller is a proud Kalamazoo, Michigan native and graduate. After graduating Western Michigan University, she followed a career in the food industry and currently works with Kellogg Company as the Vice President of the Salty Snacks Division.

Image of Carmen James

Carmen James, owner of Fit Bella Vei visited our “classroom” to engage with the students about healthy eating, being active, and also shared her personal journey.

BeadVenture, a nonprofit program of the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, joined our program. Students were able to participate in creating their own beadwork while learning about entrepreneurial skills.

Jewelry made by CIS Think Summer! student

Smile Savers, a non-profit mobile dental health service, stopped by to highlight dental education. Students received toothbrushes, toothpaste, and were shown the proper way to practice oral healthcare.

Majyck D Radio stopped into our virtual program and discussed how she combined her passion for communication and music into a career as a radio personality and owner of an virtual radio station.

Dr. Turnera Croom, an Army Vet with a mission to spread education and the love of Veterinary Medicine to our youth of color, spoke about the veterinary field and introduced students to many different types of animals during her presentation.

Dr. Turnera Croom

Mr. Michael Beyene is a 3D art instructor at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. Mr. Beyene presented on video game design, the variety of careers in the industry, and his educational path.

Dr. Khalid el-Hakim

Dr. Khalid el-Hakim, the founder/owner of the Black History 101 Mobile Museum, discussed the importance of knowing history, and what led him from being a middle school teacher in Detroit to managing hip-hop artists to owning his own museum, and how students can pursue museum work.

Mercantile Bank worked with our secondary students on how to be financially responsible in the personal life and how to secure capital to start their own business.

The owners of Freddy’s Food Truck presented to our secondary students. They provided a virtual tour of their food truck and discussed how to start their own business in the food industry.

Thank you to our presenters this summer. During the pandemic, like many of you, we are faced with so many unknowns. We want to express our sincere gratitude to these presenters who stepped up on such short notice to present to CIS/KPS students in effort to provide an engaging virtual program.

The CIS Think Summer! Program is supported by federal dollars awarded through the Michigan Department of Education, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

Back to School Supplies – How You Can Support!

During these unprecedented times, we are faced with so many unknowns.

Among all the unknowns, we do know for certain that school supply distribution is needed for the upcoming year!

As school supplies are hitting the middle aisle in your local store, many in our community are starting to think about collection drives. Like many of you, our top priority is the health and safety of the families we serve, our generous supporters, KPS staff, and CIS staff. As such, we have set up a virtual collection drive this year! With students attending virtual classes this year, the need for school supplies may be needed more than ever!

This is new territory for us, so thank you for your flexibility and understanding.

Are you interested in supporting our back to school drive? It is simple…

  1. Visit our donation page:
  2. Select from the available items that have the biggest impact
  3. Follow through with the purchase of the items via the donation page

All items purchased through the donation page will be directly delivered to the CIS Kids’ Closet for distribution to students connected with the 20 CIS supported Kalamazoo Public Schools.

The drive is only open until August 28th!

As a friendly reminder, you are always welcome to support the CIS Kids’ Closet with a financial donation through our website and selecting the CIS Kids’ Closet on the donation page. Don’t forget, distribution of supplies requires “people,” support from our community through our general donations help to provide this service. We THANK YOU, our community of support for helping us meet the need of so many students!

Photo taken from 2019 donation made by Rose Street Advisors in Kalamazoo, Michigan

#GivingTuesdayNow – Together we…

…show up for kids

…are all in for kids (in school and beyond!)

…give thanks

…are grateful

…appreciate our community

…happy to give on #GivingTuesdayNow

Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo is delighted to participate in #GivingTuesdayNow, which is a global day of giving and unity that was organized as an emergency response to the unprecedented need caused by COVID-19. Generosity in any form empowers us to make positive changes in the lives of others, and is a value that everyone can act on.

The tagline for #GivingTuesdayNow: “Together We…” is a perfect sentiment – CIS has elected to participate by giving thanks to our community for the kindness, generosity and collaboration which enable us to remain fully staffed and supporting students each and every day.

For this global day of unity and giving, members of our team each have reflected on an individual or group to recognize in some way. Whether it be volunteers who have gone above and beyond, graduating seniors who deserve some love, or any number of others in our community, CIS team members are eager to recognize some very special people. Here are just a few of the ways that CIS team members have elected to participate in #GivingTuesdayNow:

  • Recognizing seniors that the high school site teams have worked with by preparing celebratory yard signs and banners to post in yards and windows of graduating seniors
  • Sending hand-written thank you cards to community partners who are working on the front lines in our community
  • Sharing gratitude with corporate partners who have offered advice and support for navigating the complexities of running an organization during COVID-19
  • Encouraging neighbors to get involved by delivering sidewalk chalk for writing messages of gratitude and kindness for all to see
  • Writing a poem to share with a specific volunteer who has supported a student
  • Sending a “plantable” card to two special volunteers to thank them for planting seeds of kindness at a school
  • Sending e-cards to corporate sponsors who have extended kindness and understanding after we had to change our annual event
  • Preparing and sending virtual greetings to volunteers, partners and supporters

And much more! We are fortunate to be a part of this community that provides constant reasons to give thanks, and we’re delighted to take part in this global day of unity.

Together We thank you for being part of our community.

Celebrating Our Community of Support

Thank you for being part of our community of support and tuning into our message from Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo Executive Director, James Devers.

Today, April 15th, we intended to come together to celebrate the 13th year of honoring those in our community of support that are champions for kids. We have a wonderful group of community members being honored this year.

Although we can’t celebrate with you today, please know we are grateful for each of you.

We look forward to celebrating together on October 6th.

Thank you to our sponsors of this year’s Champs Celebration for your kindness and understanding.

Presenting Sponsor:

Champion Sponsors:

Fifth Third Bank





Award Sponsors:


BASIC Benefits


Humphrey Products

Lake Michigan Credit Union

Miller-Davis Company

Cap & Gown Sponsor:

633 Group

Ascension Borgess

Bronson Healthcare

Comerica Bank

Consumers Credit Union

First National Bank of Michigan

Seelye Automotive


Unifab Corporation

Honor Roll Sponsors:


BKC | Brink, Key & Chludzinski

Consumers Energy

CSM Group

DeMent & Marquardt, PLC

Dimplex Thermal Solutions

LKF Marketing

The OnStaff Group

Welsh & Associates, Inc.