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.
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.
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 Paul Runnels. Since 2013, Paul has been one of the CIS volunteers who makes the Science Club at Edison Environmental Science Academy so successful.
Like other volunteers who have supported the Science Club since its 2003 inception, Paul brings to bear his talents, skills, and passion for science. And he has quite the science background! After obtaining his bachelor of pre-med at DePauw University, he studied veterinarian medicine at Purdue University. He then pursued his doctorate in veterinarian pathology at Iowa State University. While in graduate school he did research work for the National Animal Disease Center.
Paul moved to Kalamazoo in 2003 when Pfizer moved its Animal Health headquarters from Connecticut to Kalamazoo. [In 2013, Pfizer spun off this unit into Zoetis. Zoetis serves veterinarians, livestock producers and people who raise and care for farm and companion animals in more than 100 countries.] Retired since 2016 from Zoetis, this clinical research veterinarian is helping to inspire a new generation of scientists.
An avid biker, Paul also serves on the board of Open Roads, which use bicycles as a vehicle to engage and empower young people in the community to develop skills for their future. He is also part of the cyclist riding group, known as The Chain Gang. Back in 2016, he was one of the nine cyclists struck by a pickup truck. Five died, and Paul, along with three others, were severely injured. We’re thankful that Paul has recovered and is once again volunteering and biking.
Alright, Paul: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.
Researchers have found that asking children questions about their surroundings while encouraging and extending their explorations of their world can help them improve their general knowledge and science achievement. That’s what you all do as volunteers who facilitate the Science Club at Edison.
All the kids absorb the information like sponges. My only wish is we could do Science Club more often, and with more kids!
Scientists are curious and tend to ask good questions. What is a question you’ve asked recently?
We just did a recent section with the Science Club around water filtration. We had the students make their own bio filters. We gave them a small amount of tiny gravel, some sand, some activated charcoal, and peat moss. The coffee filters were then used to cap the end of a water bottle. We had filled them up with pond water and they ran the water through filters. The water was running painfully slow. So the question we posed to the kids was: Why are these filters running so slow?
How wonderful that the Science Club gives students the opportunity to do such interesting hands-on learning.
And this year, CIS, with a grant from Zoetis, bought some really good microscopes.
We asked students to imagine that Teresa’s dog, Cash, went out and drank some pond water and got sick. We want to figure out why Cash got sick, and figure out how to treat it. [Teresa Miller, another member of the volunteer team that helps facilitate the Science Club was recently featured on our blog, here.]
A week before meeting with the students, we had collected some pond water and so we put two or three drops on the slides. Usually, you see one or two things underneath the scope. The students are working in small groups and looking at the drops under the microscope when zoop! Something went back and forth across the field. Bigger than anything we’d ever seen.
What was that?
I have no idea! We’d never seen it before. I assume it was some type of larval insect. It got everybody excited, even me!
What have you found to be the most rewarding aspect to volunteering?
Interacting with the kids. I love it. As an old guy, it’s wonderful to be around all that energy.
What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?
I like to do woodworking. I’m teaching myself to cut dovetails. I’m getting there but I’m not yet really good at it. Matt Krautmann [Krautmann also volunteered for several years with the Science Club], does a good deal of wood working and has been helpful in this endeavor. I was recently gluing the base of a table and the joints didn’t fit perfectly. I respect Matt’s work ethic and creative thinking. I learned from him that it doesn’t have to be perfect to be good.
If we could talk about the 2016 incident in which you were seriously injured…after having experienced such a horrific event, was it scary getting back on the bike and ride again?
No, it wasn’t. Because I was determined. I had been laying in the hospital bed, and at first I wasn’t sure if I would be able to even walk. After some weeks, as I grew stronger, I knew I would do it.
What did you learn from this whole experience?
The biggest thing I learned is the importance of the support of the community. Not just the biking community, but also Kalamazoo, and the broader community, and all the encouragement and strength they shared with us. I’m grateful to the first responders and the medical community. I also learned how amazingly resilient the human body is.
[With money raised, the Chain Gang connected with Kalamazoo sculptor Joshua Diedrich who created a memorial to those who lost their lives and to honor the survivors. The piece is installed at Markin Glen Park. To learn more about the artist’s process and to see additional photos of the monument, gohere.]
Your roommate became quite a successful author. What was he like back then?
He was a very engaged individual who is very bright. When we were in school he was a campus leader. He got into journalism and became the editor of the school paper. He went on to Harvard for law school, became a lawyer, and ended up writing about the Wall Street insider trading scandals of the 80s. That book, Den of Thieves, won the Pulitzer. And Heart of a Soldier is another of his books I really like.
What is your favorite word right now?
What’s something you looking forward to in 2020?
Taking a winter vacation in Hawaii. My wife and I spend the month of February in Hawaii. It’s a perk of retirement.
Behind every successful person is a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?
My parents. My dad was one of the vets in the town of Darlington, Indiana, that I grew up in. He mostly worked on farm animals and also did small animals more as a service than as a passion. He did that for 20 or so years and then joined the staff at Purdue for another 25 years. He was very busy as a small town, practicing vet. He’d get called out at any time of the day or night. The local telephone company was his answering phone when he was at church. That was his one undisturbed hour of the week. And though busy, he made time to be supportive and come to the events we were involved in. Both my parents did.
Thank you, Paul, for hanging out with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids.
For today’s post, we share a poem that was created during the workshop by former CIS intern and Western Michigan University School of Social Work student Jayla Smith. Last school year, as Jayla was completing her bachelor’s degree, she served as a CIS intern at Lincoln Elementary School. “It was a great experience,” she says. “I loved working with CIS in the school…It confirmed that I wanted to continue to further my education and pursue a career in social work.”
Originally from Detroit, Jayla came to Kalamazoo to attend Western Michigan University. In addition to her studies, she is currently interning with the Kalamazoo Promise Scholars Program on Western’s campus. She will be graduating this spring with her Master of School Work (MSW). During the MLK Courage to Create workshops, Jayla welcomed the middle school and high school students, and supported the poetry facilitators. Jayla also sat and wrote alongside the students during the poetry exercises. When students were invited to read aloud some of the work they created, Jayla shared her poem, encouraging others to share. Here’s her poem:
My heart resides in a glass box that I keep inside my refrigerator.
She gets cold easily so keep her close to the bulb,
but she is still not satisfied.
I paint her walls red with hot sauce
and she screams that her eyes burn.
What do you want?
It takes courage to create. It also takes courage to stand up and let your voice be heard. So thank you, Jayla, for modeling courage for our students.
The upcoming MLK Courage to Create celebration, in which students who participated in the annual MLK Courage to Create contest read alongside community poets, will be held on Wednesday, February 19th on the campus of Western Michigan University, in the WMU Multicultural Center in the Adrian Trimpe Building. The celebration starts at 4 p.m. and is open to the public.
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 Sophia, a fifth grade student at El Sol Elementary School. This Kalamazoo Public School (KPS) offers instruction in two languages, English and Spanish. The program model is unique within the district and Southwestern Michigan.
“CIS is very helpful for kids in this community that are new,” the fifth grader says. She should know. Sophia arrived last year with her mom from Venezuela.
She’s glad that her then fourth grade teacher, Ms. Courtney Eaton, introduced her to CIS. Since then, Sophia has worked hard, taking advantage of all the opportunities and community resources that her CIS Site Coordinator Levi Soto has offered. Sophia is also featured in the recently released 2018-19 CIS Annual Report, so once you see how she did on her pop quiz, you can learn more about her here.
Alright, Sophia: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.
What is your favorite word right now?
How about one in English and one in Spanish?
In English, it would be love. And in Spanish, Venezuela.
What are you currently reading?
Twenty and Ten by Claire Huchet Bishop. It’s about these kids in World War II. I like reading for fun.
What is one of your favorite things about being a student in KPS?
I get a lot of help when I need it.
What is one of your favorite subjects in school?
Science. I’ve gone from red, to orange, to green. [Note: Green is good! That is excellent progress!] And I really like social studies.
Would you rather be a dinosaur or a whale for one day?
A whale. Because I would like to see the different fishes that a human can’t see.
Outside of school, what things do you enjoy doing?
Going to Lake Michigan with my mom. I also like eating pizza. It’s my favorite food.
If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?
That all kids would have a home and have food every day.
Behind every successful student is a caring adult. Who is one of your caring adults?
My mom. She helps me a lot with math homework. I didn’t understand it a lot at first. It’s really different from homework in Venezuela.
Thank you, Sophia, for hanging out with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids.
Be sure to check out the CIS annual report featuring Sophia! You can read it here.
Today is #GivingTuesday! A “global day of giving” fueled by the power of social media and collaboration, #GivingTuesday is celebrated on the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
Starting this year, here at CIS of Kalamazoo, we will be doing the “giving” on #GivingTuesday. Each CIS Site will have the opportunity to recognize 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.
Throughout the day, we will be popping into each school to deliver special gifts for each selected recipient.
Check out who each site team selected and why!
Arcadia Elementary – Teacher and Instructional Lead Tony Spencer has worked with the CIS afterschool program for several years. This year, he has continued his commitment by helping After School Coordinator, Ms. Maria implement lessons to complement her program, all while making sure that the students are taken care of, and have a good time in the process.
He serves as teacher, mentor, and friend to all who have had the pleasure of working with him. His positivity is infectious, as is his booming laugh! A valued KPS employee and appreciated CIS partner, we appreciate him so much!
Edison Environmental Science Academy – Secretary Tonya Orbeck is always there when you need her. Her smile lights up the office. She is always helping everyone. Ms. Orbeck is a kind-hearted person who puts her needs after others. We think Tonya deserves to know she is appreciated.
El Sol Elementary – Teacher Jennifer Greenman goes above and beyond to ensure that basic needs are being met for every student in her classroom. She ensures this by closely communicating with CIS coordinators Mr. Soto and Ms. Viridiana and the services that CIS provides. From a pair of gloves, boots, or classroom supplies, to mental health services and after-school program enrollment, she works with CIS so the right students can receive the right service at the right time.
Hillside Middle School – Teacher Heather Sokolowski works tirelessly and consistently with the students supported by CIS. This year, Ms. Soko (as the students call her), has been instrumental in starting a pilot program for a “chill room” to implement mindfulness techniques with students.
Kalamazoo Central High School – Student Registrar/Secretary/Administrative Assistant Ebony Hemphill demonstrates a commitment to working with CIS to help students succeed by referring students and encouraging and loving students where they are at. Ms. Hemphill takes no prisoners when it comes to students showing respect.
King-Westwood Elementary – Daytime Custodian Sam has helped students by providing a clean atmosphere and assisting with necessary office supplies. He never complains and always obliges with moving supplies in and out of the school. We appreciate his diligent work to keep the school clean and organized. Thank you, Sam!
Lincoln Elementary – Behavior Support TaKarra Dunning is always willing to go the extra mile for students. Last year, Ms. Dunning went out and delivered food to our kids during the week off. She has provided many of her own snacks and treats for students.
Linden Grove Middle School – Campus Safety Ms. Foster knows every student in the building, what supports they need, and how to reach out to them. A fantastic resource, she has been an amazing help to our CIS staff!
Loy Norrix High School – Teacher Mr. Patrick Greeley is loving, caring, patient, a good listener and shows genuine interest in his students’ well-being and success. He connects with his students, making them feel valued and appreciated. He always has words of encouragement for both students and staff. Students love Mr. Greeley!
Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts – Teacher Mrs. Jacklyn Sowle continues to be a supporter of CIS at Maple Street. She ensures that her students receive the services that CIS offers. She works with CIS to make sure her students have glasses, adequate clothing such a winter coats, and recommends them for opportunities like the Community Feast. Mrs. Sowle, along with other staff members at Maple Street, are a pleasure to work with on a daily basis. We appreciate all that she does for the students at Maple and for her continued support of CIS.
Milwood Elementary – Paraprofessional Patrick Salamun has been working with students at high intensity levels. He works with students with intense behavior issues and always comes to work with a smile on his face. He is always thinking of others before himself, and loves his job. He is a great team member and is terrific with the kids. He deserves the extra appreciation.
Milwood Magnet Middle School – Principal (and chief ambassador) Mark Tobolski supports the CIS mission and autonomy within the Milwood Middle School. He is always willing to listen and support our ideas, along with promoting CIS wherever he goes.
Northeastern Elementary – Behavioral Specialist Judy Morin has helped connect with dozens of families and help identify student/family needs that CIS can provide. Ms. Morin consistently promotes CIS to the Northeastern community and continues to help expand capacity and validate our role with many families, students, and staff. She has also provided tools and support that help us work with students in a positive way based on the unique needs of our students and school. In short, Judy rocks!
Northglade Elementary – Deb McCullough in food service makes sure our kids are fed. Whether it is providing breakfast, lunch, after school program dinner, or making sure that we have snacks in the CIS office, we can always count on her to make sure our kids have a meal or snack.
Parkwood Upjohn Elementary – Behavior Specialist Sarah Collins provides consistency and a dependable support system to students requiring behavioral interventions. She is able to remain calm in her interactions with students and hold them to high expectations. She is also a source of support to many parents and caregivers and will seek out “what’s missing” in order to assist students.
Prairie Ridge Elementary – Home Support Specialist Amy Triemstra has patiently offered her time and valuable knowledge to help new CIS team members understand the student, family, and staff networks so that our team might better serve them. We value her expertise gained through experience and her endless willingness to share it.
Spring Valley Elementary – Teacher Chyna Campbell is always accommodating and flexible with scheduling students receiving CIS services. She is very supportive of the after-school program and provides homework as well as communicates student progress.
Washington Writers’ Academy – Food Service Supervisor Denise Doerschler has always been extremely flexible with making sure our students have food and allowing CIS staff to use the cafeteria for special events. She makes her freezer/refrigerator space available and helps to coordinate special snacks around events. She works tirelessly without complaint and we appreciate all she does for the staff and students at WWA. She is an unsung hero who deserves to be recognized for all she does.
Woods Lake Elementary – Lead Secretary Janice Garneau continues to put students at Woods Lake first! Always recommending our services to families that may need them and always putting others needs before her own, Janice communicates with all the staff at Woods Lake. She really takes the time to get to know her students and understand where they come from, and the obstacles they may face.
Woodward School for Technology and Research – Teacher Beth Polso is always ready to host volunteers, even surprise ones! She helps our CIS site coordinator seamlessly tailor each student’s needs to each volunteer’s talents. She is always looking for ways to deepen the work of Communities In Schools at Woodward with a smile.
…a student so hungry he rummages through a garbage can in the cafeteria, snatching and stuffing into his pockets a partially eaten sandwich, a bit of apple. He is worried about his younger sister who isn’t yet school age and wants her to have some food in her belly before the day slips away.
…the third grader who messed up big time on an assignment. The class was learning sequencing and she couldn’t figure out how to put in proper order the steps for making a bed. She sleeps on floors and, if lucky, couches of friends and family. It’s hard to figure out steps to making a bed when you don’t have one, when the only pillow you’ve ever seen is in a book.
…the sixth grader who wears shoes so worn that the soles flap up and down as she walks through the halls. She feels like a clown. Though some of her classmates tease her, one offers up a pair of their own worn, but respectable pair of shoes.
These students bring to mind a conversation with a CIS friend who said that as a child she was thankful for school each and every day. “I didn’t want to leave it. I’d figure out strategies to stay as long as possible. Anything to not go home.” School, she said, was her haven. For some children, weekends, holidays, and snow days take away the solace that comes in knowing they will have a breakfast and a lunch, a warm and stable environment that isn’t necessarily a given once the school bell rings at the end of the day.
What will children—who sleep on floors and worry where their next meal will come from—what will they doing this Thanksgiving? Will they have enough to eat? Anything to eat? Where will they lay their heads to sleep?
The good news is that in each of the above situations, CIS was able to reach out to these children because of you. We—and those students and their families and schools—are thankful for YOU. Thank you for giving your heart, financial support, resources, and time. You make a difference.
What have you been seeing/experiencing lately along your path to justice?
Here’s what they said:
As an African American who was raised in the segregated south during both the Jim Crow and Civil Rights era, justice has always been a part of my DNA. As I experienced injustice at an early age, I was also taught at an early age that the only way to fight injustice was to become an advocate for justice. Having been surrounded by an entire community who fought daily for justice, my path to justice was an easy one to follow.
Although segregation no longer exists—at least in theory—injustice still require me—and others—to speak out against it. Over the years, I have tried to use my creativity in many ways to be an advocate for justice, be it through my poetry, playwriting, or other avenues available to me. There is still a need to fight for justice, not only for people of color and other minorities, but for the human race. The only way to fight injustice is to fight for justice.
-Buddy Hannah, retired radio host, playwright, director, and poet
I got on the road to justice when I stepped on my first bus that went to Ottawa Hills High School, an inner-city school in Grand Rapids. In the six years I spent there, I learned more about life than at any other time in my life. It was a great experience of what the world could be like if we trusted each other, got to know each other, and worked toward the same ends. Later, I was “punished” for social activism by a university. They roomed me with three black women. Of course, that was the most important part of my education!
My path to justice is sometimes blocked by jaywalkers who only have eyes for their phones. We don’t talk to each other enough anymore. My sister visited from California. We were chatting with a clerk at D&W. Her husband couldn’t believe this was happening: we were all just Michigan together. We need to try and connect more over groceries, weather, and the new cross walk stops. Anything to form community, if only for a moment.
-Elizabeth Kerlikowske, President of Friends of Poetry
I think we are all born knowing intuitively what is just and what is not. We have distractions that get us off that road to justice. The easiest thing in the world is to put our own well-being before that of society. The personal strength to stay moral and just is something we know in our hearts. Staying true to that is what defines a person’s character.
What keeps me on the path to justice is my desire to live in a society where all people have the inalienable right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; ideals laid out in the Declaration of Independence. I take tremendous pride in my American identity and want to be sure that those ideals are fought for, that they are more than just words, and that our actions define us as a just and honorable society.
-William Craft, Director of Information Technology, Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Western Michigan University
Realizing that how and to whom we extend recognition of their full humanity are
choices, they are decisions we make in each moment about “who the equals are” and what equitable treatment means in any given context. We must move towards each other with equity by opening up and learning from one another about our experiences and to attune our responses to one another in ways that are life-affirming and just.
I express my commitment to social justice in many ways, but at the present time, it is primarily expressed through my part-time teaching (this academic year I am holding teaching appointments at Kalamazoo College, WMU and the WMU School of Medicine), and my work as a full-time immigration lawyer for Justice for Our Neighbors-Michigan in Kalamazoo. What I am experiencing now in immigration practice is really disturbing because policy and regulations in many areas that have historically sought to protect vulnerable populations, such as refugees and asylum seekers, are changing at a really rapid pace in ways that are detrimental to the health and security of people who are fleeing violence and persecution and in need of legal and social support.
Poems should reflect on social justice in celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy.
The contest is open to students in grades 7-12.
Poems will not be returned. Writers should not submit their only copy.
Poets may submit more than one poem. Each poem should be submitted on a separate page. Author’s full name should be placed at the top of the page, along with his or her grade, school, and email address or phone number.
All poems will be reviewed anonymously by a group of distinguished community poets.