Get Ready To Celebrate Our Award Winners

Grab a handful of confetti and a beverage of your choice. Now get ready to toast those who will be honored at the 2021 Champs Celebration! Hosted by Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS), this event will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, May 12 at 5 p.m. It will be livestreamed from the Radisson and you are invited to enjoy this annual celebration via the CIS Kalamazoo YouTube channel. Here is the livestream link.

For more information about the event visit: www.ciskalamazoo.org/champs

Kalsec is the presenting sponsor for this event which honors community partners who share in the CIS vision— an engaged community where every child fulfills his or her promise— by actively putting forth time, energy, talent and resources to drive this vision to reality.

This year’s Champs who support our Kalamazoo Public Schools students are:

Kathy Hogg, CIS volunteer

Kalamazoo Public School Information and Technology Team, school partner

School Food Services Team, school partner

Dr. Qiji (Jim) Zhu, CIS volunteer

Pam Dalitz will be honored with the Gulnar Husain Volunteer Award which recognizes CIS volunteers who emulate Gulnar’s belief that there is no greater calling than serving children. Prior to the pandemic, Pam Dalitz supported students in Ms. Chyna Campbell’s second grade classroom at Spring Valley Center for Exploration. She continues to support students and families by delivering food packs, technology equipment, and basic need items.

The Late Mrs. Dorothy P. Young will be honored with the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award. This award is named for Western Michigan University President Emeritus Diether Haenicke. Mrs. Dorothy P. Young spent her entire career educating students, empowering families, and developing teachers. Employed by Kalamazoo Public Schools for 37 years with most of those years serving as principal of Hillside Middle School, her impact spans across generations. In addition to nearly four decades serving as an educator, consultant, and administrator for KPS, Mrs. Young also served heavily throughout the community, ensuring that many students, especially students of color and students living in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods had access to the resources to help them succeed academically.

As a new element to this year’s celebration, the following CIS staff will be recognized for their exceptional collaborative work during an unusual year of remote service: Dana Flynn, Samantha Darby, Carli Thompson, Shannon Jones, Katherine Williamson, Phillip Hegwood, and Jane Asumadu.

To access a digital copy of this year’s program, you can find it 2021 CIS Champs Celebration Program – Digital Copy.

While waiting for tonight’s program to start, you can watch two special Champ video messages from our good friends and partners at the Kalamazoo Promise and Kalamazoo Public Schools.

Click here for message from Dr. Rita Raichoudhuri, Kalamazoo Public School Superintendent.

Click here for message from Von Washington, Jr., Kalamazoo Promise Executive Director of Community Relations.

Keep following us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids. In the weeks to come we will bring you more about these fabulous award recipients.

 

Crossing the Finish Line

The finish line to this year’s extraordinary school year is in sight. Some of us may be losing steam and slowing down. Others may be attempting to pick up the pace and feel worried that we’ll never cross that finish line.

Here are three tips to help keep our kids (and us!) focused and on track to successfully complete the school year. That way, whether we’re running, crawling, leaping, or cartwheeling across the finish line, we’ll be doing it together!

MAKE A LIST

On a piece of paper, make a list of all that is between you and the finish line. You might not be a list person but keeping all these “to dos” inside our heads can be stressful. Putting them down on paper provides perspective and reduces anxiety.

Made your list? Now go back through it and cross out all those items that are “wishes,” those things that you’d like to accomplish but aren’t necessary to get you across the finish line. You are now left with a more manageable and probably smaller-than-you-imagined list. By separating out what matters from the minutiae, you may already be feeling better!

BREATHE 

As you start to tackle your list, don’t forget to breathe! Taking a few deep breathes throughout the day will help you relax, stay focused, and build resiliency. While we all know how to breathe, if you want more guidance on how to do more mindful breathing, you can click here and follow along with this audio guide put out by UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center.

SLEEP 

Now work on getting a good night’s sleep. And then another good night’s sleep. And so on.

Sleep-or lack of it—impacts school and work performance. When we are short on sleep, we have to work harder to accomplish tasks and often don’t do as well. So how much sleep is enough? As better sleep has been shown to improve school performance, sleep deserves a whole other blog post devoted to itself. (We’ll start working on that!)

So make that list, breathe, get a good week’s sleep, and come back next week. In the meantime, keep moving toward that finish line.

Please Pass the Grits

We’ve all experience challenges and setbacks. It’s a part of life. Yet, some kids have had more than their share of unwanted and un-asked-for difficulties.

Resilience is the ability to respond in a healthy and productive way in the face of adversity or stress. It’s part of the social emotional learning continuum. Researchers have discovered that adults who overcome adversity have at least one thing in common: someone in their childhood who believed in them and stood by them. Resilience researcher and psychologist Julius Segal referred to this “charismatic” adult as someone “from whom a child gathers strength.”

A critical element to school success is a student developing a close and nurturing relationship with at least one caring adult. Students need to feel that there is someone from their school whom they can turn to and who will advocate for them.

Dr. Robert Brooks, who studies resiliency, outlines six ways grown-ups can be charismatic adults for children.

  1. Identify and appreciate a child’s “island of confidence.” While charismatic adults don’t deny a child’s problems or difficulties, they acknowledge a child’s strengths—their islands of confidence. Always begin with the strengths.
  2. Accept children for who they are. Accept the child for who they are and not who you want them to be. One way to do this is to listen to children. Give them focused, undivided attention builds their sense of confidence. You are sending the message: You are important.
  3. Involve children in problem solving. Problems are meant to be solved. Give kids opportunities to solve them. It’s hard to be resilient when  you don’t know how to proceed when confronted by a problem.
  4. Offer opportunities to contribute to the well-being of others. This is one of the CIS basics!
  5. Help children recognize mistakes as an opportunity for learning.
  6. Provide positive feedback and encouragement. Catch kids being good. When they do something right, let them know it.

Speaking of grit, if you haven’t seen this interesting and gritty Ted Talk by Angela Lee Duckworth, you might want to check it out here. A professor of psychology, her research finds grit a key predictor of success.

Now get out there and pass our kids some grits!

 

Note: An earlier version of this post was first published in Ask Me About My 12,00 Kids back in 2014.

 

History Gallops into Kalamazoo

April is National Poetry Month and so it seems the perfect time to share a poem with you. A number of poems were created during a recent Family Fun Poetry Night that was hosted virtually by Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo. Before writing their own poems, students, family members, and CIS staff first learned about ekphrastic poetry, in which a poet describes a piece of art. They studied “Clouds over Miami” a painting by local artist Mary Hatch and then the poem written by local poet and CIS volunteer Elizabeth Kerlikowske who was inspired by the painting. [You can view that artwork and poem from their book, Art Speaks: Paintings and Poetry, by going to this website.]

Everyone then reflected on CIS students’ artwork about community and wrote their own poems. After participants shared some of their efforts, they then worked together to generate this poem:

HISTORY HAS ITS EYES ON US

Community poem inspired by Amanda Gorman’s “The Hill We Climb”

History gallops into Kalamazoo.
Wearing a suit and tie and fur coat,
History eyes our community and rumbles deeply
in a British accent, “Diversity wins!”
History returns two days later and never leaves.

      -written by CIS students & their families

 

Hungry for more poetry? The Kalamazoo Poetry Festival will be holding its annual festival this coming Friday and Saturday, April 16 and 17. All events are virtual and free. To learn more and register in advance to participate in any of the events, go here.

And if you didn’t get the chance to see Amanda Gorman recite her poem, or you just want to listen to it again, you can do so by going here.

 

Phillip Hegwood: Becoming His Best Self

As Phillip is now spending lots of time in his home office connecting with kids, he designed and painted a fun backdrop that you can see in this photo we took during this Zoom interview.

Born and raised in Kalamazoo, Phillip Hegwood is a proud graduate of the Kalamazoo Public Schools. After attending Lincoln Elementary and Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts (then called “South”), Phillip continued on to Loy Norrix High School. With the support of the Promise, Phillip went to Western Michigan University and obtained a degree in general studies along with three minors: English/Language/Arts, social studies, and music.

As part of the second graduating class to receive the Kalamazoo Promise, Phillip is now Maple Street’s CIS After School Coordinator, giving back in the very school that nurtured him as a youth.

Prior to stepping into his role with CIS, Phillip worked ten years with the YMCA in their before/after school settings and summer camps. During those last three years, he ran the Y’s Prime Time at Winchell, a before- and after-school care for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Now, with seven years under his belt as CIS After School Coordinator—the first three with Woodward Elementary and the last four with Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts—we wanted to introduce you to this passionate and caring man.

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

Pop Quiz

First off, how are you holding up during this pandemic?

I’m learning that I really miss being in school. I really miss being with my students. But, I’m holding up okay. I bought a house in December and have gotten hit with major house things that need to get fixed. I’m also cooking a lot and trying to focus on me and what I can and can not control. Also, staying home has shown me that my outside drama disappeared. I don’t need it and I enjoy it. I’m using this time as an opportunity to work on me.

What is one of the best parts about being a CIS After School Site Coordinator?

For me, the best part is that I’m able to provide different opportunities for the students that they can’t do normally during the school day. I love that we can offer students a variety of clubs. I think back on the trip we did with students and their families to see a Detroit Tiger’s game. Many had never been to a professional sport’s game before. I like that I was able to provide that, and other enrichment experiences, like attending Lion King at Miller Auditorium. It’s great that we can work with different enrichment providers throughout our community to provide our students with these types of experiences.

Plus, I have to say that the food at Maple Street is really good. Our head lunch lady at Maple, Lisa Saville, also helps with planning the menu for the CIS after school programs we have throughout KPS. She is super awesome, supportive of our after school program, and great to work with. Over the years, I’ve learned that to do after school well, you need three main people to help you: secretaries, janitors, and lunch staff.

They make it or break it, right?

Yep! And at Maple, we have a great team.

Given all the challenges we face during this time—school buildings closed and all of us practicing social distancing—what does your CIS work look like now? How have you continued to support students during this challenging time?

I’ve paired up with the other CIS after school coordinators who support our middle schools. Mondays through Thursdays I’m supporting Maple Street students with homework from 12 to 12:30 p.m. For after school, the coordinators and youth development coaches have been working together to provide a variety of opportunities for students. So, from 4 to 4:30 p.m., we offer social emotional support time. For that, I’m focused on just my Maple Street students. And then, from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. it is club time for students from all four of our sites. With all of us working together, we have way more opportunities to offer students.

One thing we’ve learned is that students are on the computer nine to four most ever day so it’s important to make things hands-on as much as possible to keep them engaged. For instance, we have Magic Club right now.

Magic Club! Are you a magician?

No! But I was in contact with this magician who has been on Penn & Teller. With Covid, she has created videos so we’ve been using these videos to introduce the magic tricks and then we practice and perform the tricks in front of each other. It’s been a hit with the students. We’ll have anywhere from 20 to 25 students attending every Tuesday and Thursday.

We also host special evening events for students and their families, like this Friday we will have a magic show. We also have a movie night coming up and a cooking night where everyone will learn to make minestrone soup. We’ll have new clubs starting up next week. Over a period of six weeks, students can choose three clubs every day (Monday through Thursday). Three of our enrichment providers, W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, Kalamazoo Civic Theatre, and BeadVenture will be offering clubs and we’ll also have an engineering club, a college prep club, a fitness & nutrition club, travel club, student advisory council, and gaming club.

The students you work with had already been dealing with other stresses in their lives before this pandemic. And now, this pandemic layers on additional stress for both these young people and their families. How are students coping? Are you seeing any common threads as to how students are responding?

Honestly, it really varies on a case-by-case basis. Some of my students are thriving with virtual learning and some we need to get back in school as soon as possible. The main thing they have in common is that they just miss their friends.

What are you currently reading?

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. I just started it.

I just saw a Ted Talk Brown did on the power of vulnerability. Does she talk about that in the book?

I don’t know. I’ve only just started it. There is a workbook that goes with the book so I’ll be doing that too. I’m reading it to help make me a better me.

That’s a good goal. If we all strive to be our best selves, the world only gets better. So, what is your favorite word or phrase right now?

Ducky.

As in…

Everything is just ducky. How are you doing? Ducky. How’s everything been? Ducky.

When we re-emerge from this pandemic, what is one of the first things you will do?

Knowing me, it’s probably going out for a really nice dinner or to play darts with friends.

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

My mom. Hands down. My mom, Kathy McIntyre, is truly one of my best friends now. I think also, with her being a former educator—she worked twenty plus years with KPS—anytime I had an issue as an adult in a school setting, I could go to her for advice as to what I should do. Along the way, we’ve been able to trade different skills with each other.

Anything else we should know about you?

I play four instruments. I started playing trumpet in fifth grade. In college, I ended up minoring in music. The bassoon and trumpet are my primary instruments. I’ve also picked up the clarinet and French horn throughout the years.

Oh, and I’m trying to eat a more plant-based diet. One that is more vegetarian/vegan.

Trying?

I still like cheese and a good steak from time to time. I can’t give that up, but I try to eat this way three to four days a week.

And I love my middle school team! I’m also a work in progress: I’m just trying to be a better me.

Thank you, Phillip, for hanging out with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids.

 

11 Questions for Cash the Dog

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 Cash, a Bernese Mountain Dog who volunteers with the Science Club at Edison Environmental Science Academy along with Teresa Miller. [We featured Teresa in an earlier post here.  And if you missed the post on the Science Club’s 2020 Champ award, you can find it here.]

Part of the volunteer team who makes Science Club so successful, Cash is well-behaved and humble. So while he didn’t bring it up, Teresa shared that he also has a drafting title. As she explained it, Bernese Mountain Dogs are originally from Switzerland. Historically, they pulled carts of milk from farms to the town. And because Cash has actually pulled a cart, he boasts a drafting (carting) title.

In the spring of last school year, we popped this quiz on Cash in Edison’s library as he was getting ready for students to come in for Science Club. Teresa was there to help with translating. Cash has been very patient in waiting for his interview to be published. Good boy!

Alright, Cash: pencil out, paws on your own paper. Good luck.

Pop Quiz

We don’t normally ask this of our volunteers, but what is your age?

I’m 8 ½ in dog years and 58 in people years.

What year did you start volunteering with the Science Club?

2012. I was a teenager.

Cash with some of the other volunteers he works with during Science Club. (Photo taken last school year.)

In one sentence, how would you describe your volunteer work?

Pet me, pet me, pet me!

What do you love best about volunteering?

Did I say, Pet me?

What type of training did you need to do to prepare for your volunteer position?

I had to pass two tests: Canine Good Citizen (CGC) and Therapy Dog.

Would you recommend volunteering to other dogs?

Yes, the kids are the best kind of friends to have. I love kids! I also volunteer at the Bronson Children’s Hospital two times a month.

What’s your favorite word right now?

Cookies.

What do you do in your leisure time?

Mostly spend time with my mom. She does lots of fun stuff. We like to go camping, swimming, dock-diving, and lots of walks.

Cash with his mom, Teresa Miller.

Are you more a wagger or a barker?

Definitely a wager. I only bark to alert my mom of strangers, or if she asks me too.

Favorite rap artist: Snoop Dogg or Bow Wow?

Snoop, for sure.

Anything else we should know about you?

I like to brag about my kids. I have over thirty and they are all very good looking and smart. One lives with me. His name is Cruz. He just turned three.

Thank you, Cash, for hanging out with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids.

 

 

What Do I See?

This is the third installment of our Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) blog series in which we cover topics and resources that we hope  provides support to students and families during these challenging times. The two previous posts are: Staying Fit While Socially Distancing and 3 Easy Science Projects Students Can Do at Home. 

These days, most of us aren’t traveling many places and taking in new sights. What Do I See? is a fun way to get some culture and practice writing at the same time.

Right now, The Kalamazoo Valley Museum has a wonderful virtual tour called Filling in the Gaps: The Art of Murphy Darden. Mr. Darden is an artist who lives in Kalamazoo and for many years has used his artistic talents and love of history to shine a light on people, places, and events that we all need to know about to help fill the gaps in both our Kalamazoo and nation’s history.

Here’s how to play What Do I See?

  • Round up some family members, some paper, and pencils or pens.
  • Go on a virtual tour of this exhibit by visiting it here. You will find that the museum has organized the exhibit into three areas: “A Broader History of Kalamazoo,” “Civil Right’s Heroes,” and “American’s Forgotten Black Cowboys.”
  • After having a chance to explore some of Mr. Darden’s works, each person participating in What Do I See? selects one piece of Mr. Murphy’s artwork or one of the artifacts he has collected. Do not yet let each other know what you have picked.
  • Study the piece. Wonder about it. Ask yourself questions. (What do you find most interesting about it? What colors do you see? What type of feelings live in this piece? Use your imagination to wonder what happened moments before. What is going to happen?)
  • Now, using paper and pencil (or pen), write down some words and phrases to describe what you see. You can write your description as a poem or a story. You may decide you want to pretend to be something within the piece (like a horse, a tree, or a cowboy hat) and write from the perspective of that thing.
  • There is no right or wrong way to do this! All you have to do is use some words to tell the story in your own way.
  • Take turns reading aloud what you have written.
  • See if others can guess what piece of art or artifact you selected. See if you can guess what they described.

This same process can be done with other exhibits that are available. While there are many exhibits out there, here are three more local places you may want to consider:

  • The Black Arts & Cultural Center is hosting a virtual gallery of local artist Linda Manguiat-Herzog. Throughout March you can go here to tour her work.
  • The Kalamazoo Institute of Arts has several interesting exhibits going on now. Their current exhibit information can be found here. While several pieces can be found on their website, if you plan to go in person, first check here for their temporary hours and visitor guidelines.
  • The Ninth Wave Studio’s virtual gallery features a variety of artists and can be visited by going here.

Or, if you and your kids want a break from screen time, you can even stroll about your house, identify a picture, a photo, a painting, or an interesting knick-knack to write about.

Have fun learning, writing, and sharing! If you are in kindergarten through twelfth grade and end up writing a poem you think needs to travel beyond your family, consider submitting this month to Poems That Ate Our Ears. It could end up on a bus or in a book (story about that in Encore here). You’ll find contest rules here at Friends of Poetry. If you are any age and feel quite satisfied with whatever you wrote and want to share further, Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids would love to see it! You can send your piece to us at jclark@ciskalamazoo.org. Who knows. We might, with your permission, publish it on our blog.

Note: The photograph used at the top of this post comes from photographer Janine Kai Robinson who posted this on Unsplash. You can also play What Do I See? by visiting her virtual gallery of photographs she maintains here.

Family Health Center: Changing the Landscape of Healthcare Delivery

At the 13th Annual Champs Celebration, presented by Kalsec, The Family Health Center was honored with a 2020 Champ Award which was sponsored by Abraxas and Chase. CIS Partner Services Coordinator John Brandon introduced us to this CIS partner who is a true champion for children.

A healthy start in life. That’s one of Communities In Schools’ “five basics,” an essential ingredient to a child’s success. Healthier children make better students. If their tooth aches or they aren’t feeling well, it’s difficult to focus on school. Learning becomes fundamentally compromised.

Accepting the Champ Award on behalf of Family Health Center, Jeffrey Jousma, Mobile Unit Manager

This year’s Champ, the Family Health Center, has always made it their mission to bring quality health care to all members in our community, particularly those underserved. As a long-term, highly committed partner, the Family Health Center has worked with CIS and its many community partners and changed the landscape of the way healthcare is delivered to our children.

As part of their mission, they operate a Mobile Health and Dental Clinic. When their Mobile Health Clinic, a 40-foot-long clinic on wheels, rolls up to our schools, our site coordinators connect students to caring health professionals inside. They provide physicals, immunizations, well-child visits, and more to our students and their family members in the Kalamazoo Public Schools district. In taking on the operation of the Mobile Dental Clinic [that was previously run by Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services], they provide basic check-ups and dental care right on school grounds. And healthy kids, more ready to learn, experience improvements in academics and attendance and problem behaviors decrease.

Starting with CEO Denise Crawford and with the leadership of COO Ken LePage and Mobile Unit Manager Jeff Jousma, the Family Health Center, works effectively within the CIS model of integrated student services to break down barriers to learning by filling the healthcare gap in innovative ways. The result? Thousands of Kalamazoo Public School students receive outstanding preventative healthcare services each year.

Family Health Center, thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.