Beyond the Backpack

As Kalamazoo Public School students prepare to step into their second month of school, they have a community of support that launched them into a successful year of learning.

On Saturday, August 17th, the Beyond the Backpack School Readiness Fair took place at Bronson Park. Hosted by Collaboration Kalamazoo, the fair, designed to increase school readiness for students, was a huge success. More than 1,100 in attendance, families were able to learn about community resources available in literacy, dental and other health supports, and more. From free glasses to free backpacks and supplies, with the support of our community and collaborating together, more students are on the path to success this school year.

Collaboration Kalamazoo is composed of Bible Baptist Church, Charlie’s P.L.A.C.E., Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, The Kalamazoo Promise, and Kalamazoo Public Schools. “This year’s event,” said CIS Senior Director of Community Engagement & Student Investment Artrella Cohn, “was a tremendous showing of what it looks like when the community brings its knowledge and resources together for the betterment of students and their families.”

The Collaboration Kalamazoo team members: Alexia Jones of The Kalamazoo Promise, Nkenge Bergan of Kalamazoo Public Schools, Artrella Cohn of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, TaKarra Dunning of Charlie’s P.L.A.C.E., and Yolonda Lavender and Kandace Lavender of Bible Baptist Church.

With more than 1,100 individuals in attendance, families were able to learn about literacy supports in the community, access dental education and additional health resources, including mental health education, immunizations, sign up for health insurance, and more. In partnership with Hiemstra Optical and VSP Vision Care, 34 students were served on the Mobile Vision Unit, with 27 receiving glasses. Students also benefited from free haircuts and fresh hair styles from area barbers and stylists. The event provided free and much needed backpacks for students, but certainly went “Beyond The Backpack” to prepare students for a successful school year.

 

The 2019 financial sponsors for this event included: Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS), Kalamazoo Community Foundation, The Kalamazoo Promise, Kalamazoo Public Schools, Old National Bank, and YWCA Kalamazoo.

In-Kind Donors included: The Presidential Blend Suite, Charlie’s P.L.A.C.E., City of Kalamazoo, Exquisite Hair Design, First Baptist Church of Kalamazoo, First Congregational Church, First United Methodist Church of Kalamazoo, GQT Kalamazoo 10, Gordon Water Systems, Hiemstra Optical, Johnny Jackson (barber), Kalamazoo Promise Scholars, Life EMS, Marshall Music Company, Rentalex, Terry Watson (barber), UncLee’s Barber Shop, and VSP Vision Care.

Thanks to each and every one of you for surrounding students with support and launching them into a successful school year.

Check out this short video capturing some of the 2019 Beyond the Backpack School Readiness Fair: https://youtu.be/CboCKgoXU6o

 

A Salute To Bonnie Terrentine

At the end of last school year, Bonnie Terrentine stepped down from her role as CIS after school coordinator at Lincoln International Studies. She officially retired (well kind of, keep reading) from CIS after 16 years.

Bonnie first began working for CIS in 2003. Prior to that, she, along with Fred Coker, had served as a coordinator for the Kalamazoo Area Academic Achievement Program, also known as KAAAP. (Initiated in 1992 by the Kalamazoo Chamber of Commerce, KAAAP matched elementary students to a mentor committed to seeing the young person through high school graduation. KAAAP eventually merged with CIS.)

While Bonnie’s last seven years have been at Lincoln, regardless of the titles she has held and the organizations she has served [KAAAP, KPS, and CIS], Bonnie has touched the lives of many children and families at many schools. When we asked her to list schools she has worked in over the years, she ticked off: Lincoln, Arcadia, Chime, Washington Writers’ Academy, Vine Alternative, Hillside Middle School, Milwood Magnet Middle School, Kalamazoo Central High School, Loy Norrix High School, and Northglade Montessori Magnet School….oh, I’m probably missing a few! My work in these schools, I loved it!

Bonnie has now been in Kalamazoo longer than where she grew up, in Muskegon Heights. We’re thankful that Bonnie and her husband Robert made the move to Kalamazoo so Bonnie could attend school. Bonnie receive a secretarial shorthand degree from Parsons Business School and a degree in elementary education from Western Michigan University. She also received, through an on-line program with Madison University, a degree specializing in early education.

Bonnie and her husband have four children: Melita, Tim, Aleesha, and Travis. They also are the proud grandparents of three.

We sat down with Bonnie, to learn how she is handling retirement, what she plans to do, and what advice she has for us.

Technically, you’ve retired from CIS.

Yes, but I was called out of retirement after only two months! It’s on a temporary basis, though. I’m filling in for Prairie Ridge Elementary School’s CIS after school coordinator who is on maternity leave.

I guess it’s fair to say you are rocking a “working retirement.”

Yes!

When my youngest son, Travis, found out I was retiring, he said, “But mom, what are you going to do?” He doesn’t have to worry now. When Linda [Thompson] called me in late July and asked if I would consider substituting later in the Fall when a staff went on maternity leave, it was easy to say yes because I love the work of CIS. Plus, the school is close to my home.

Here’s a few words and phrases your CIS colleagues use to describe you: a good woman, dedicated, compassionate, great laugh, no nonsense, loving, passionate about kids succeeding, generous, and reliable. What do you have to say about that?

They didn’t miss anything! [She laughs.]

Reflecting on your career with CIS, what are you most proud of?

I’m proud of the fact that I believe I did a good job, even in areas where I was weak. In those cases, I learned what I needed to do and I did it. I helped people and I accomplished a lot with families and kids. That’s a strength of mine. At my retirement celebration, Pam [Kingery] said, “You set the bar high for kids and you let kids believe and know that if they work hard they can accomplish anything they want to.”

What are you going to miss the most?

Of course, the children. That’s why I took on the site coordinator position in the first place. The kids are what this work is all about.

What are you going to miss the least?

Doing the data part of the job while making sure kids get what they need. I know data is an important part of our work, but it’s still a balancing act. It’s challenging to find the time to do the data, but you squeeze it in when you can. It’s about finding that balance, being able to take care of kids and families along with all the other requirements that allow us to keep the program going so we can keep taking care of kids and families!

You have been a voice that consistently lifts up the important role of youth development workers (YDWs). You brought to our attention, people like Justina Franklin [read post here], shedding light on how YDWs in CIS afterschool program throughout Kalamazoo Public Schools help our children grow. You said that what they do is what we should all be about: caring and developing the best in all of our youth.

Oh, I’ve been so pleased with the combination of solid staff I’ve had the privilege of working with over the years. Like the CIS youth development workers at Lincoln, like Mrs. Elaine Willis, Pat Atkins, Talanda Ollie, and Dalah Jaber. Oh, they’ve all been wonderful to work with. All my staff did their jobs and forged great relationship with children. You can’t ask for more!

What advice do you have for that next generation of CIS staff who follow in your footsteps?

Remember what the work is. Don’t be out for self-gain. Remember, you are here to improve the quality of education and life for the students. Never lose sight of this.

What are you currently reading?

I just finished God’s Transforming Love. A friend of mine, Gwendolyn E. Google, wrote a significant portion of this book and it’s about women, their griefs, struggles, and triumphs in life. She used to live here but lives in Nashville now. When she visited, she gave me a copy of her book. Before that, I read Courage to Soar. That’s by the gymnast and Olympian, Simone Biles. I’m also a daily Bible reader. I assist with teaching Sunday school to children up to 4 years old at Bible Baptist Church.

Now that you are retired, what do you plan to do or see or experience more of?

I hope to travel and see more of the United States.

With your husband?

Hopefully he’ll want to join me. [She laughs.] I already did one my bucket lists. 

Mind telling us what that is?

I took doula training and completed it. Did you know there are pre-birth and post-pregnancy doulas? I did the pre-birth and now I’m going to take the post-pregnancy training this Spring. I know what it’s like to be nervous and not know what to do once you’re home with your new baby, so I think that helping after the pregnancy will be more my thing. I’m really excited about that.

Thank you for your time, Bonnie. Not only for this interview, but for your years of service to students in the Kalamazoo Public Schools, including the last sixteen years with CIS in which you have dedicated yourself to helping kids stay in school and succeed in life. We salute you!