Today we highlight the Kalamazoo College Civic Engagement Scholars (CESs), student leaders for the Mary Jane Underwood Stryker Center for Civic Engagement. At the 11th Annual Champs Celebration, presented by Kalsec, the CESs were honored with a 2018 Champ Award which was sponsored by Miller-Davis Company. CIS Board President Tony McDonnell presented the award.
Trying to capture a partnership that spans 18 years is impossible. But we’re going to try anyway. We’re going to let the words of Principal Frank Rocco of Woodward School for Technology and Research help us out here. He says, “It would be impossible to deliver the diverse and quality programming that K delivers in partnership with Communities In Schools without the diligent and detailed work of the Kalamazoo College Civic Engagement Scholars. “They are,” he says, “an integral part of the conversation between site coordinator, school, teacher, student and K volunteer, to ensure the work of supporting the student in the best way possible continues to thrive.”
And thrive the students do! At Woodward as well as El Sol Elementary School and Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts, the students can’t wait for K students to arrive. As one student puts it, “Mr. David is kind and thankful. He makes me feel excited and happy. He is the best tutor I have ever had. I wish I could have him work with me every day.”
It’s been said that schools are “the modern engines of social justice.” These Scholars fuel that engine. They impact student after student by recruiting and preparing their peers before they even step into the school. This year alone, they’ve supported 128 K students! And each year, the work looks a little different. That’s because kids and schools are not static; needs change. Fluid thinkers, the Scholars understand this. Their adaptability is just one of the reasons CIS staff loves working with them. In partnership with CIS, here’s a sampling:
To support a college-going culture, they’ve organized field trips to K’s campus. They’ve even collaborated across CIS sites, like the time El Sol and Maple Street students attended the Kalamazoo College play, “Into the Heights,” which celebrates the Latino culture.
At Maple Street, they recruited Spanish speaking K students to support bilingual and English Language Learners. Last year, when the need shifted for more Arabic speaking volunteers, Scholar Kalli Hale tapped K students taking an Arabic speaking class. Then, to meet the growing demand, she collaborated with Western students.
Working one-on-one, in small groups, they support students’ academics and positive behavior in various ways. At El Sol, CIS Site Coordinator Levi Soto says that the scholars tutor students in English during the Lunch Buddy Program. He says, “of the 23 El Sol students enrolled in the program last year, 21 saw improvements in their grades.”
At Woodward, they’ve initiated a newspaper club. CIS After School Coordinator Ebony Ragotzy says the project, spearheaded by Kevin McCarty and Sarafina Milianti is not only reinforcing writing skills but it’s helping students find their voice.
Woodward’s CIS Site Coordinator Jen DeWaele reminds us that every site coordinator needs a site coordinator. “Coordinating ever-changing schedules of college students, while matching the needs of classroom and students takes a lot of delicate work. Having the support of CESs at your side, like David Vanderkloot and Delaney Fordell, is imperative. At Woodward, it’s what allows us to implement multi-level programming in every classroom, the playground, and the lunchroom.”
Over the years, hundreds of Scholars have been able to work with and learn from the community because of the strong collaboration between CIS and the Center for Civic Engagement. Kalamazoo College says, “Our CESs do a great job—made possible because of the CIS site coordinators and teachers/staff at our partner schools who welcome, guide and support them when they arrive on the school’s doorstep.”
Building on the work of those who have come before them, this current group of scholars include Kalli Hale, Kevin McCarty, Sarafina Milianti, Delaney Fordell, David Vanderkloot, Valentina Cordero, and Marlyn Sanchez. We’re confident that as they pass the baton on to those who come after them, this partnership and the children they serve will continue to flourish.
Kalamazoo College Civic Engagement Scholars, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.