March 8, 2016
Category: Pop Quiz

Pop Quiz: Nicholas Keen  

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 Nicholas Keen (pictured on right) who is in his second year with Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, serving as a Youth Development Worker at Hillside Middle School.

Nicholas grew up overseas and refers to himself as a ‘Foreign Service brat.’ “I got my start in Haiti, then Tunisia, Kazakhstan, Armenia, Czechoslovakia, and Croatia. Intermittently, I’d come back to America, but the breadth of my youth was overseas.” Nicholas eventually went to Kalamazoo College, graduated and started working for Communities In Schools.

Nicholas says that because he was always moving throughout his youth, he developed a “nuanced ability to adapt.” This propensity to talk to strangers, learn how to make friends, and comfortably enter new settings helped him jump easily into his work as a Youth Development Worker.

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


What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

I’ve been doing ballet for a while and just nailed how to do a pirouette. Consistently, that is.


What’s the secret?

Doing it over and over again until it happens. You have to keep practicing, isolating each of your body movements, such as keeping your weight over the hips while rotating. You isolate the movements but also need to address each of them at the same time. It’s more of an ongoing learning process. It’s also enthralling.


What are you currently reading?

I just finished Blood Memory by Martha Graham.


Favorite word right now?



What does it mean?

Aggressive greed.


What do you want to be when you grow up?

I would love to be a freelance artist or become an educator for studio art classes at the college, high school, middle school and maybe even elementary level.


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

Fortunately, I’ve had many. But my stepfather has been one of the more significant caring adults in my life. He came into my life when I was ten or eleven. I’d been without a father for four or five years and he applied more structure than had prevailed in our home. My mother was a foreign service officer within the US Embassy and quite busy. We were living in extravagant houses and my mother had to bear the weight of frequent gatherings. We had a cook, a housekeeper and privileges that my brother and I didn’t understand. We had a lot of freedom and up to that point, my brother and I were basically raised by wolves. My stepfather put a backbone into our life. He made us accountable and helped us apply a systematic balance to life.


Thank you Nicholas!


Our kids need more Youth Development Workers, enthusiastic individuals like Nicholas, to step up and serve in an after school setting (Monday through Thursday). If you or someone you know might be right for the job, go here.

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