Meet Johnny: A Story of Success

What does success look like? In the case of one student, it looks a lot like Johnny Mata Juarez. A fifth grader at Edison Environmental Science Academy, Johnny became involved in CIS as a first grader at Lincoln Elementary School. He was struggling in math and reading and needed some additional supports. Johnny’s mother is pleased with the positive academic impact CIS is having on her son. “He hands in his homework, he’s doing better in school.”

Johnny agrees with his mother. “I usually stay quiet in school but I used to not pay as much attention to my teachers as I should have. I’ve learned, especially through the CIS [Think] Summer! program that you have to pay attention or you don’t move forward.”

And Johnny is moving forward. When Johnny transitioned to Edison in second grade, the CIS supports he received and the academic gains he made continued. Like many of his schoolmates, Johnny has his health needs met through the Edison School Based Health Center (staffed by the Family Health Center and in partnership with CIS and KPS). His CIS Site Coordinator Gerald Brown also arranges for Johnny to participate in Friday food packs, First Day Shoe Fund, and more.

Johnny’s favorite thing? The CIS After School program. “I get a chance to get school work done and sometimes we even have parties.”  It’s also a chance to learn skills from others in his community. Johnny really enjoys Open Roads, which uses bike repair and social skills training to promote positive decision-making.

“I’m glad I’m learning how to build a bike, what parts to use and not to use. They teach us how to take off wheels and put them back on and check on them.” Johnny also appreciates his “club time,” when WMU College of Aviation students come out “to be with us. The Western students make airplanes and we make models of them. Usually we make them fly. I did once.”

“Johnny is a good kid,” says Stacy Salters, CIS After School Coordinator, who has known him for multiple years and keeps him under her wing. “He is energetic, curious, and loves science.” Add funny to the list. When asked how he would describe himself, Johnny replied, “What she said.”

When it comes to the school day, Johnny’s favorite subject is science. “Science,” he points out, “is not just doing experiments. You need to write about the experiments, too. Science is fun and teaches you to not give up on your experiments.”

Johnny is surrounded by a supportive network: a loving mother and family, his fifth grade teacher Mr. Chad Chambless, KPS Bilingual/ELS teacher Ms. Glory Ward, Principal Julie McDonald, CIS Site Coordinator Gerald Brown, CIS After School Coordinator Stacy Salters, AmeriCorps VISTA Nicholas Baxter, and many more. Empowered to succeed, thanks to the combined efforts of his school, his family, and the community working through CIS, Johnny is glad he has the Kalamazoo Promise.® After he graduates from high school he plans to attend Western Michigan University. His dream? To become a police officer.

That is success. Surrounded by caring adults, Johnny sees his future and he’s doing what he needs to do to get there.

Sparks begin in many ways.