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.
Once again, our generous partners have made a difference for kids. Many community organizations and local businesses hosted supply drives and helped ensure that the basic need for school supplies was provided for students at the start of the school year. Our CIS site coordinators were able to collect and distribute supplies to students in 20 Kalamazoo Public Schools buildings. We wish to say “Thank You” to all of our wonderful community members who hosted school supply drives this year!
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.
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.
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?
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.
CIS is seeking community partners to work with us in the CIS After School Program to support students and their success in school. Use the links below to find more information, as well as access the Enrichment Partner Proposal and Enrichment Partner Profile forms. Deadline to submit a proposal is Monday, July 29, 2019.