Compassionate, smart, creative and so much more, Melissa Holman is part of what makes Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo a great organization. In her role as the CIS After School Program Coordinator, Melissa is dedicated to her 12,000 plus kids. She works hard. She is always on the go, checking in, supporting CIS staff and students, and assuring that we are meeting or exceeding licensing standards at ten CIS sites throughout the Kalamazoo Public Schools. Funding provided by theMichigan Department of Education (21st Century Community Learning Centers) allows us to provide after school as a strategy for promoting student success.
Anybody who knows Melissa also knows she has a fabulous fashion sense. She pulls off some of the coolest looks. She mixes colors and patterns that shouldn’t work, but do. She can strap a belt in her hair and look totally hip. (Several years ago, inspired by her hairdo I decided to don a belt myself the following week. The first person I ran into said, “Um, did you know you have a belt in your hair?” Sigh.)
So, I’m grateful that this hard-working, hip, and delightful colleague—who is living a beautiful life—took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to sit down and talk with us today.
Can you tell us a little something about yourself?
Here’s a little background on me: originally from Ann Arbor, I grew up in Romulus, Michigan and graduated from Romulus High School. I attended Ferris State Universityand obtained a BA in Communication with a minor in U.S. Multicultural Relations. Then, from Western Michigan University I received my MA in Educational Leadership, with a Higher Education Student Affairs Concentration.
I have a knack for working with young people and am able to develop relationships because I like to have fun with them! I love for students to have “aha” moments—especially related to their identities. This is what drives me to do the work that we do. I’ve worked at Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo since December 2008 and have loved every minute of it! After School Program Rocks!
What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?
Recently I’ve been following the media on Lupita Nyong’o, the breakout star from the multiple-award-winning movie 12 Years a Slave. In a recent speech she made at anEssence Banquet, she spoke a lot to the concept of beauty as it relates to African/African American girls. During her open response to a young female fan who had begun skin bleaching treatments, Lupita spoke of her own struggles. She quoted her mother by saying, “you can’t eat beauty.” This is a thought-provoking statement. I’ve learned that “beautiful” is something you have to “be” and continue to “become.” My hopes are that I live a beautiful life that inspires others to do the same.
What are you currently reading?
I sometimes get into commentary, and read a lot of news online, but in a week or so, I’ll be starting a book called “DNA” by D.A. Hammond. It’s about understanding and explaining the Christian faith from the lens of hip-hop culture.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
When I grow up, I want to be a world changer! In reality, my hopes are to be impactful in whatever it is that I do. Ideally, I’d love to meet some of our CIS students at the university level and motivate them to finish strong and become productive adults who also impact society.
What is your favorite word right now?
I’m really into etymology, so right now my favorite word is “peace.” The word has multiple meanings and understandings.
Will you share with us something that has been on your mind lately?
Lately, I have been thinking a lot about what it means to leave a legacy. I’m still mulling through my ideas, but I think that your character could make your environment better or worse. A legacy could be either positive or negative. The formula (I think) for leaving a positive legacy would be Character + Accepted Responsibility + Positive Attitude. I’m not saying my thoughts make a lot of sense, but that’s what’s on my mind!
Behind every successful student—and grownup— is a caring adult. Who is one of your caring adults?
I have been very fortunate in having a lot of caring adults in my life who helped me get to where I am today. Two come immediately to mind. One is my third grade teacher, Ms. Awosika, who is by far one of my favorite people in life! She challenged me to read, corrected me when I was wrong, and even checked on me far past my third grade year. She spent a lot of her years in Africa, and she always had interesting stories and color pages. I had never met anyone who was interested in sharing with students their life experiences outside of my grandparents. She became friends with my mother and my aunt, so I was sure to stay on my best behavior.
I have a very supportive family that is full of caring adults. The one who comes to mind is my aunt who recently passed away, Charlene Johnson. Growing up, she embodied the CIS “5 Basics” for me. I remember having to temporarily move in with my aunt after the birth of my little brother because I was having a hard time adjusting to a new baby being in the house. Once I was able to “play nice” I was able to move back home and embrace having a little brother. In more serious circumstances—she is one of many adults I lived with when I was displaced as a child. She provided food, clothing, shelter, love, and a safe environment where I could concentrate so that I could learn and grow. Later in life while I was struggling to finance my freshman year in college, she paid my tuition, and I was able to finish. She believed in my dreams, and even up to her death, she was covering me in prayer and encouraging me to do more. My aunt was a community leader, and taught people across southeast Michigan and abroad. I spent a lot of time with my aunt, and she definitely made an impact in my life.
Melissa, thanks for sharing today and thanks for all you do for our community. And, just for the record, you show up day after day for our kids. You give your all. You already are a world changer.
Tags: 12 Years a Slave, after school as strategy for success, CIS, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, Ferris State College, Integrated Student Services, Kalamazoo Public Schools, Lupita Nyong’o, Melissa Holman, Michigan Department of Education, Romulus High School, Western Michigan University