ONE GENEROUS COMMUNITY, 7,500 BACK-TO-SCHOOL SUPPLIES

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.

High School Student Follows Through on Volunteer Commitment

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 Kohler Briggs. Kohler will be a senior this fall at Loy Norrix High School and Kalamazoo Area Math & Science Center.

This past spring, Kohler reached out to Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo to see if there was a project he could help with, as part of his volunteer work with the National Honor Society. Since launching Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids in August of 2012, we’ve racked up hundreds of posts. We wondered if Kohler could use his organizational and technical skills to create one document that could systematically capture all the posts published in Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids. We were ecstatic when Kohler agreed to help us.

A month into the project, the pandemic struck and school buildings physically closed. Despite these challenges, Kohler continued to work on the project. He recently provided us with an 18-page document that will allow us to easily access past posts. This archived information holds a wealth of information, from students overcoming obstacles to succeed in school, to the school and community members who volunteer and partner with CIS to support our 12,000+ kids, to innovative programming making a difference for students, and much more. We are so grateful to Kohler for sharing his time and talents with us!

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

Pop Quiz

You went through and chronologically organized and hyperlinked almost nine years of blog posts for Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo. [At the bottom of this post is an example of the work Kohler did for us.] Thanks to you, we now have hundreds of blog posts at our fingertips. What did you get out of doing this project?

I loved learning about the variety of different ways CIS assist students and families in our schools. I also loved learning about the many individuals, including teachers and other students, that are working to improve our communities both inside and outside of school.

The pandemic disrupted school and life. How have you been holding up? What was your experience of doing distance learning?

I am doing well, but I was extremely busy during distance learning. I missed seeing all my classmates and teachers and missed receiving in-person instruction. I did like how I was able to learn at my own pace and had the time to give extra attention to subject areas that needed it.

In navigating these challenging times, what have you learned about yourself? 

I have learned that it is very important for me to take breaks while working. When we were still doing in-person classes, I never had much time to step away from my work. When I had more opportunities to take a bit of time off during online school, I found that I was much less stressed and more productive when I returned to working.

With summer upon us, what are you currently reading?

I am about to start reading Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Xendi.

What is one of your favorite school subjects?

I love almost anything involving science, especially dealing with the environment.

We know there are probably many, but can you share with us one teacher who has inspired/influenced you throughout your years with Kalamazoo Public Schools?

This year, I took AP Language and Composition with Ms. [Brianna] English at Loy Norrix. Ms. English did a great job with helping me improve my writing skills.

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

The most important caring adults in my life are my parents. They are always open to questions and support for my academic endeavors.

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

 

Here’s an example of Kohler’s work. If you missed any of these posts, you can easily access them by clicking on the titles he has hyperlinked to the published post.

2020 Posts

June 9              Jerrell Amos: Learning to Adjust When Life Throws a Curve Ball

June 2              In Schools, and Now Beyond

May 19            Nazlhy Heredia-Waltemyer: Finding Ways to Connect With Students During Time of Physical Distancing

May 12            CIS Supporting Students Through This Pandemic

May 5              #GivingTuesdayNow – Together We…

April 21           Take Care of Yourself and Read

April 15           Celebrating Our Community of Support

March 31         Connectedness During a Time of Social Distancing

March 24         The Community is Here With You

March 17         A Time to Read

March 10         Catching Up With Elissa Kerr: One Sweet Conversation

March 3           Meet Paul Runnels

February 25     Meet Teresa Miller

February 18     Teacher Andrea Walker: An Open Book

February 11     Courage is Contagious

February 4       Fifth Grader Passes Pop Quiz With Flying Colors

January 21       Tribute to Moses L. Walker

                          Communities in Schools of Kalamazoo 2019 Annual Report

                          2018-19 Gifts of Kindness

January 14       Sara Williams: Rolling Up Her Sleeves for Kids

 

 

Celebrating Sue Warner: All In For Kids & Reading

Since 1992, Sue Warner has served as the Head of Youth Services. A Kalamazoo native, Sue holds a bachelors degree in English Literature from Indiana University and her MA in Library Science from the University of Michigan. Sue first worked at Kalamazoo Public Library (KPL) as a Student Assistant from 1976-1977. She returned as a Children’s Librarian in 1988, stepping into Head of Youth Services four years later.

Sue Warner is a quiet leader in a world that too often confuses loudness with leadership. A listener, a doer, and a thinker, Sue exhibits a quiet and steady leadership. Over the years, she has brought these qualities (and more) along with her impressive grasp of children’s literature and understanding of child development to her work with the Kalamazoo Public Library. Our partnership with KPL and the children we serve throughout the Kalamazoo Public Schools have benefited from her wisdom and leadership. We will miss her when she retires at the end of this month.

We met up (virtually) with Sue during this pandemic to get her thoughts on books (of course!), retirement, and more.

First off, how are you holding up during this pandemic? 

As an introvert, home is my favorite place, so I’m doing okay.

What are you learning about yourself and/or the world in all this? 

I’m reminded that the people who are helpers are still stepping up and taking care of others without looking for attention or recognition; while those who are always seeking the spotlight are using this as a chance to try to be the loudest voices. We always need to look for the helpers and support them.

When it comes to supporting our young people and their families, you and KPL are such an extraordinary partner. We can always count on you to help us keep kids in school and succeed in both school and life. Any thoughts you want to share regarding this longstanding partnership? 

I love partnering with CIS! You guys are the best because you put kids first every day, look to community partners to help, and welcome volunteers to make the one-on-one connections kids that are so critical. Personally, I loved my four years as a tutor with three kids at Parkwood-Upjohn Elementary. The staff at KPL always works together in the fall to collect school supplies to donate the CIS Kids’ Closet. Also, I enjoyed helping my friend Millie, who lives in Texas, when she decided to knit mittens to send to Michigan kids and CIS was willing to distribute them to kids in our community. [Millie’s Mittens post can be found here.] When organizations have a partnership such as ours, the most important part, though, is the personal relationships that staff have . . . we have to know and trust each other in order for the work to be successful.

Sue (far right) back in 2013 when Kalamazoo Public Library hosted Walter Dean Myers during his “Reading is Not Optional” tour. Also pictured (from left): Dr. Michael F. Rice, Walter Dean Myers, and Dr. Zaheerah Shakir Khan. This photo originally ran in the 2013 CIS post, “Finding Words in Your Pockets.”

You and KPL do such wonderful and innovative programming. One of those which is close to your heart is The Late Show, in which you have volunteers read aloud books over the PA system during bedtime to young people residing at the Kalamazoo County Juvenile Home. Can you share with us a bit more about that program? and the power of reading aloud to young people

Now in its 27th year, the Late Show is a bedtime reading program on 2 or 3 nights a week at the Kalamazoo County Juvenile Home. The purpose of the program is to bring a send of calm and comfort to residents at bedtime by reading aloud to them, and to expose students to well-written literature. My first experience with the program was as a volunteer reader, recruited by my friend Ruth Heinig, from WMU. Later, Ruth recruited me to take over from her as the selector of the readings. Now, KPL is the institutional home for the program and we do it all . . . recruit new readers, schedule the readers, select and send out the readings for the week, etc.  We also work with the Juvenile Home to bring visiting teen authors there for author visits, and support other community volunteers who run weekly Book Club discussion groups at the Juvenile Home. Our mission is to support books and reading for these teens who are not currently able to visit the library.

Over the years, you have probably seen changes in the way the way children and families experience the library. Can you speak a little bit about those changes or trends that you’ve noticed?

When I was first starting out as a Children’s Librarian, it was mostly mothers bringing children to the library to check out books and come to storytime. Now we have so many dads, grandparents, and nannies as well as moms. We also offer so many more programs for kids of all ages. We are also seen as a community play space with age-appropriate toys, computers for kids with not only internet access but also educational games and other resources. We have parenting books and magazines in the Children’s Room, community resources about early education and care. The library is now a destination for families to visit and spend time together, not just dash in and leave; families are staying for a long time!

What tips would you give parents who are trying to find just the right book(s) for their young children? 

Let your child choose some of their own books; it’s never too early to learn about making choices; and ask the librarian for help finding things. We have a lot of good ideas!

What children’s book that has been around for quite a while, in your opinion, has stood the test of time?

I never tire of Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown.

What children’s book (or children’s author) has flown under the radar and deserves a wider audience? 

Elisha Cooper’s books are wonderful. His Beaver is Lost and A Good Night Walk are favorites at my house right now.

Is there a children’s book that is over-rated, one that has been touted and received inexplicably positive press? 

Love You Forever by Robert N. Munsch.

When you were a child, what was your favorite book? 

According to my mom, The Cat in the Hat. She had to periodically “lose” it. She despised it, but I’m still rather fond of it. Mom read to us so much; it paid off as my brothers and I are all readers today.

What are you currently reading? 

Kindest Regards by Ted Kooser and Tiny Love: The Complete Stories by Larry Brown.

What is your favorite word or phrase right now?

It will be fine; have a cookie.

When we re-emerge from this pandemic, where is one of the first places you will go? 

Bookbug for me and Oval Beach in Saugatuck for my husband.

What do you think you will miss most about your job once you retire? 

Working with kids and their families every day; it’s so meaningful to help someone find a book they will love, or to encourage a new parent to read with a newborn, or to help a teacher find books to enhance their lessons. Sitting on the floor to read and sing with kids can make the administrative work tolerable some days.

Fred Rogers said, “Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.” As someone on the cusp of retirement, what will you be stepping into and beginning during this next phase of your life? 

Most immediately, providing care for my youngest grandkids this summer; after that, probably looking for a volunteer opportunity in the community where I can work with kids.

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

Note: The Kalamazoo Public Library has missed you! The library will be opening on June 22 with limited hours and service. Face covers will be required for entry. Find out what you can expect when you visit by learning details here.

#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.

Meet Teresa Miller

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 longtime CIS volunteer Teresa Miller.

More than a decade ago, Teresa, who has a background as a veterinarian technician and holds a Bachelor of Science in Zoology from Michigan State University, walked into Edison Environmental Science Academy and started volunteering once a month with the Science Club. At that time, in 2007, she worked with Zoetis in Animal Health. Since 2017, she’s been employed with Stryker as an Associate Sourcing Manager. “I loved doing my volunteer work with the fourth and fifth graders. I thought I might have to give it up, though, when I started my new job, but I didn’t! I’m so lucky that Stryker allows me to continue to do this!” she says.

In fact, Teresa loves working with the students so much that she convinced her hairy, 105 pound friend, Cash, to volunteer as well. A Bernese Mountain Dog, Cash is considered part of the volunteer team who makes Science Club so successful. [Since we’ll be featuring some of the Science Club volunteers, we’ll bring you Cash’s interview this spring when he comes to visit the students at Edison.]

Born in Taylor, Michigan, Teresa, along with her husband, two children, two dogs, three cats, and two horses, now lives on a 10-acre property in Plainwell. “I love Kalamazoo and I love Plainwell. And, of course, Plainwell has the best ice cream!”

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

Pop Quiz

As you know, the Science Club has been going strong since 2004 when Zoetis scientist [and current CIS board member] Dom Pullo started the club. It’s such a fantastic way to enhance students’ learning of science, through inquiry and hands-on activities.

It’s fun volunteering with Dom and other volunteers, like Paul. [Paul Runnels will be featured in an upcoming post, so stay tuned.] The kids are great. They ask lots of question and they are amazing questions. We encourage that. Asking questions is how you learn. They are just so inquisitive. Science, for these kids, is like magic.

What have you found to be the most rewarding aspect to volunteering?

Seeing the change and growth in the students. It’s rewarding to see the kids change from the beginning of our time together to the end. In the beginning, some are just there to get out of class, maybe wanting to do something different. At some point, that changes. They want us to come every week. When we do the slime project, there are always some kids who don’t want to touch the slime, but by the end, they are picking it up and playing with it.

What is a question you’ve asked recently?

When I started with Stryker, I had no manufacturing experience, so I asked a lot of questions. In particular, What are the different types of processing of materials?

So, for instance, when it comes to a hospital bed, part of the metal is bent metal. You do that by heating the metal to form it. And then, you have to use a different process to do another section, say with a laser to cut the holes where you want them.

Since I have gone from animals to manufacturing, I’m constantly learning something new every day and I love that. I never get bored!

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

I recently asked Alexa (my Amazon Echo) about dolphins.

Another question!

Yes! And I learned that their skin is so thick. I didn’t realize that but it makes sense as it would help them with body warmth. Orcas are dolphins and not whales. Because we call orca’s killer whales, I didn’t realize that either.

What are you currently reading? 

The last book I read was Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. I read it before I saw the movie. I cried through the entire last chapter. The book before that was A Dog’s Purpose by Bruce Cameron. That’s a movie, too, about a dog who is reincarnated. Are you sensing a theme here?

What is your favorite word right now?

Service.

What’s something you looking forward to in 2020?

I’m going on a ten day cruise this spring to celebrate my daughter’s graduation. She just got accepted into Michigan State University (MSU)!

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

My dad. The support he gives me and how he teaches. He’s the kind of person who is always teaching, telling you why he is doing something a certain way.. When he was 19 he had started working for Ford and worked for them his whole life. With no real formal education after high school, he felt it was important to get an advanced education. So when I was growing up, he was always pushing me to go to college. It wasn’t an option. In fact, he was the one who got me to consider going into the animal field.

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

Jack Szott: Stepping Up to The Plate For Kids

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 WMU graduate student Jack Szott. This former CIS volunteer turned CIS advocate is a graduate of Metea Valley High School, located in Aurora, Illinois. Baseball and college brought Jack to Kalamazoo in 2015.

Jack holds a Bachelor’s degree in accounting from Western Michigan University. Throughout his college baseball career, Jack has pitched over 160 innings for Western. He has been awarded Academic All-MAC three times and Distinguished MAC Scholar Athlete three times. He also serves as part of Western’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (S.A.A.C). CIS is thankful that this busy college student has carved out time over the years to volunteer and advocate for our 12,000+ kids.

Jack Szott will graduate this June with his Masters in accounting and head to Chicago where he already has an accounting job lined up.

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

Pop Quiz

What is a question you’ve been asked recently?

I lost my wallet yesterday for a six hour period. When I got to the bank to cash in the money for a check for CIS, the question I got was, Can I see your debit card?
Nope, I said.
Can I see your id?
Nope.
We can’t fill out the check unless we have some id. You need to find your wallet.

So where was your wallet?

It was in my room.

Sounds like maybe your room is a little messy?

It’s all relative!

What are you currently reading?

I’ve been reading a few memoirs and biographies of leaders or former leaders. I just finished reading a biography of President George H. W. Bush. It’s Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush by Jon Meacham.

It’s really interesting. I enjoyed learning about his leadership qualities, how he treated people, and what got him to where he was in the position as President of the United States.

What is your favorite word right now?

So many to choose from! But right now, I’d say fortitude. I’ve been around a lot of people who have taught me how to deal with difficult situations and I admire that quality, of being strong enough to deal with what you’re going through and helping others at the same time. I think fortitude is the difference between being a good and a great person.

What are you curious about?

I’m very curious about the future that our country is headed in. We are at a turning point in many ways, such as with technology and politics. Just how we will progress? I like to think and learn about that. I like keeping up with world news and trends.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Naperville, Illinois with a brother and sister. My life was always 50/50, divided between school and sports.

Jack Szott, Western Michigan Baseball #36.

How has sports shaped you as a person?

I’ve had no single, larger teacher than sports and baseball. I have gained many insight and lessons that I could not have learned in school. While school is obviously important, sports has molded my personality. More than anything, it has given me—and I know resiliency can be a loaded term, so I’ll say—mental fortitude. What I mean by that is you fail so much more than you succeed in sports. That experience allows you to develop healthy and effective coping mechanisms. It makes it seem a lot more manageable when you are presented with difficult situations or experience failures in life.

I’ve also found that nothing teaches you to communicate better than working with teams in sports, I’ve done a lot of group projects in school and college and felt I had an advantage with being able to communicate and work with the group because of sports.

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

I love Marvel movies. Recently my brother and I watched all 22 movies in order. We learned from an avid Marvel fan that some of the most famous scenes and best parts are ad-libbed and were not scripted.

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

Both my parents. My dad taught me to always let your actions and your own achievements speak for themselves. He taught me humility. You don’t need to explain your success to people. They will figure out for themselves. Mental toughness is something else he taught me.

My mom is very passionate and has always encouraged me to pursue what I care about, and to do it as hard as I can. Also, to have fun while doing it. If I have any issues, I call my mom.

How did you first become involved volunteering with CIS?

As Medallion scholars, we were looking for a class project. [Note: The Medallion Scholarship is WMU’s most prestigious merit-based scholarship and is affiliated with Lee Honors College. In 2016, they received a Champ award, which we featured in this post.]

Jane Baas [former Associate Dean of Lee Honors College, now retired] gave us the low-down on CIS and we began a mentorship program at Woodward. I did that for two years—during my junior and senior year. I really enjoyed that. [CIS Site Coordinator] Jen DeWaele assigned each of us a student to work with a couple times a week. [CIS Volunteer and Development Coordinator] Nicky Aiello trained us and then we started meeting with our students in the morning or over the lunchtime. I would always go in the morning and have breakfast with my student.

What a fun way to help a young person start their day. Your students must have loved that.

It was sure good for me! I really enjoyed it and hopefully, they liked it, too.

And then last year, I also volunteered during the Thanksgiving Dinner Giveaway [a Hands Up Foundation project that CIS partners on, with the support of many in the community]. I helped with unloading the truck and going around and packing the dinner bags. That is quite an amazing process! I didn’t think we’d get it all done but with all the volunteers and the system set up, well, we got it done in no time.

That really is something to witness and be a part of, isn’t it? So tell us a bit about WMU’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and how you all came to select CIS this year as the organization you wanted to support.

The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (S.A.A.C.) is made up of two representatives from each WMU sports team. We wanted to come up with a fun, interactive way for our athletes to get involved, to serve the community, and donate to a good cause. We’re now in our second year of doing a dodgeball event.

As we considered potential organizations to support this year, I shared about my great experience with CIS and that I wanted to give back. A second athlete who is also part of the advisory committee said she had a similar experience with CIS and seconded the idea of selecting CIS this year. The committee and our deputy athletic director thought it was a good idea and so I reached out to CIS Volunteer Services Coordinator Nicky Aiello who put me in contact with [Director of Development] Kim Nemire. It was super easy after that.

Is this dodgeball event open to the public?

No. It’s really more for our athletes to spend some time with each other outside of their practices and games. This year, we had teams of six. Three players from a men’s sports team and three from a women’s team. Each athlete pays $5 to be in the tournament. Other athletes are also able to watch for $1. We raised $452. We had about 62 or 63 athletes compete this year. And some of those who watched, donated a dollar or more.

Last week, Jack braved snow-covered and icy roads to stop by CIS and provide Director of Development Kim Nemire with check of money the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee raised from the dodgeball event.

Well it’s a terrifically fun idea, and we’re so grateful to you, the entire Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, all the athletes who competed in the tournament, and the students who donated to the cause.

We’re so glad we could do it!

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

One Generous Community, 14,000 Back-to-school Supplies

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!

Airway Fun Center

AT&T Michigan

Breakfast Optimist Club of Kalamazoo

Edward Jones

Edwards Garment

FLYNN THIEL

IBEW Local 131

Jaqua Realtors

Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes

Kalamazoo Public Library

Kalamazoo County Association of Retired School Personnel

Kushner & Company

Menards on West Main

Miller Johnson

NALS of Greater Kalamazoo

Old National Bank

Outerwears

Parkview Hills / Willow Lake Clubhouse

Rose Street Advisors

Salvation Army

West Michigan American Payroll Association

WMU Black Student Union

WMU Lee Honors College

 

Over 14,000 school supply items were donated! With your support, students have access to resources like school supplies every day.

Interested in participating? For an updated list of current, urgent needs, please click here.

 

 

 

 

Pop Quiz: Gary Heckman

Welcome back to the POP QUIZ! This is a regular, yet totally unexpected, feature where we ask students, parents, staff, our friends, and partners to answer a few questions about what they are learning, reading, and thinking about. Today we feature CIS volunteer Gary Heckman, who is also a 2019 Champ recipient. [If you didn’t get a chance to read about the great work Gary is doing with middle school students, click here for that post.]

Gary Heckman with CIS Staff Melissa Best (left) & Shannon Jones (right)

Upon retiring three years ago as the plumber, electrician, and steam operator for Manchester University, this grandfather of four has plunged himself into a new campus of learning as a CIS volunteer at Milwood Magnet Middle School.

CIS Site Coordinator Missy Best has come to rely on him and says the students have, too. She says he is “an irreplaceable part of the team.” Gary modestly says, “I do a little bit here and there.” One of the biggest “little bits” he does is supporting students academically by serving as a push-in tutor for Ms. Alexandria Hopp’s strategic math class and Ms. Jamie Ottusch’s seventh grade science class.

Gary grew up in rural Indiana, twenty miles northeast of Fort Wayne, near the tri-Lakes. As he puts it, “Only preachers and teachers had degrees in my town that was not even really big enough to be a town.”

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

Pop Quiz

How did you become involved volunteering with CIS?

When I retired, I wanted to do something in the schools. I did research and found that CIS is the way to do it. [In “retirement,” Gary still works two days a week doing building inspection services for Oshtemo and Coopers Townships.]

What insights have you gained about kids from volunteering?

The other day with the students, we were sitting around the table having a conversation about tides and oceans and stuff. I learned a number of the kids here haven’t been to the Great Lakes, haven’t gone 40 miles from their home. They just haven’t done stuff like that. It’s bothersome how poverty creates a lack of opportunity for kids.

I’ve also noticed how some of the toughest kids are the ones whose moms have band-aids and candies in their purses. They keep their kids going. Their moms really support them…I know there are a lot of dads and grandpas out there and I’d love to see more of them volunteering in the school. These kids, particularly the boys, could benefit from greater male involvement.

[Come on, dads and grandpas! Join Gary and sign up here today to become a CIS volunteer.]

What are you currently reading?

Twenty Minutes in Manhattan. The author, Michael Sorkin, is an architect talking about his daily walk to work; it’s all very deep into city history and the architecture he encounters during this twenty minute walk.

I just finished From Bacteria to Bach and Back: The Evolution of Minds by Daniel Dennett; he’s a philosopher and linguist. And before that, I read Enlightment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steve Pinker.

Once every year or two, I’ll read some fiction, but nonfiction is what I enjoy reading most.

What is your favorite word right now?

Blower door.

That’s a new one! Nobody has ever told us that is their favorite word!

I’m doing a blower door test on a house tonight.

I have one foot in the building trades and one foot in academics. [He chuckles.] As a former plumber, electrician, and steam operator at a small college, I also have a degree in sociology, which is, as I say, the dismal science. It’s the study of social problems and yet, you don’t do anything about it.

But you are doing something about it.

[Nods head affirmatively.] I guess that’s right.

Where is one place in Kalamazoo you love hanging out?

The Air Zoo. I have a membership—the grandparent plus two—and love going there. I wish I could take all the kids there!

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

I have a couple of mentors, Tom and Jim. One taught innovation and entrepreneurship, and the other heads an award engineering firm. Also, growing up, I had two Kens who I’d consider mentors.

What characteristics would you say these mentors have in common?

They saw the real world, they had broader views, patience, and innovation. Every one of them could get things done. I should add that I have had some moms and ladies in there, too, who have been caring adults and influenced me. One of my teachers as well as the neighbor mom next door. She was elegant and even though she never went to college she was all about education.

Anything else should we know about you?

I was not a strong student in middle school. And yet, here I am! [CIS Site Coordinator] Missy makes this volunteer experience fun. She intentionally works hard at this, and supports us, knowing that volunteering can sometimes be frustrating.

It’s not necessarily easy work, is it?

That’s right. But I’m enjoying it. I like working with the kids. Missy and [CIS After School Coordinator] Shannon [Jones] are wonderful and the teachers and principal are all great to work with, too. Principal Mark Tobalski is terrific and really provides strong leadership for the school.

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

Champ recipient Gary Heckman with CIS Staff Melissa Best & Shannon Jones

School is about to start and our kids need you. Consider becoming a volunteer today. To learn how you can help, go here.