Connectedness During a Time of Social Distancing

For the second week in a row, Jane Asumadu is our guest blogger. [If you missed her post last week, “The Community is Here With You,” you can find it here.] As CIS After School Site Coordinator at Linden Grove Middle School, Jane hopes to share her passion for education, particularly reading and writing, with students. As a Kalamazoo native, former Japan resident, and world traveler, Jane hopes to share her experiences with the community.

In last week’s post, I provided a list of some local and national resources available that support learning and the basic needs for students and families at home. This week, I want to look at our time at home through a different lens. How can we maintain emotional stability at this time?

In this post, I have compiled a list of some strategies and resources that promote physical and emotional balance. Before I begin, though, I must emphasize that I am by no means an expert on mental health. I simply want to share tips while I also walk this path with you all. 

Routines, routines, routines.

With people obligated to spend time at home, it may be easy to fall into weekend or summer break habits. While relaxation is always a healthy way to recharge, waking up late, being in pajamas all day, eating irregularly, and excessive time on screens for days and days can lead to the creation of unhealthy habits, especially for younger kids. So, how do we break that cycle? Establish routines at home. 

In an article in Psychology Today, comparative educational specialist Teru Clavel states that, “…this as an opportunity to establish new or revised house rules…” Now that many of us do not have the structure of our usual daily schedule, we should create a new one for our time at home. Younger children may need a schedule that shows when to eat, read, and play. Older children may need a schedule that states their responsibilities at home (chores) and due dates for assignments. Adults, too, may need to schedule their time as well. It could be a great way to finish that project from around the house or start that hobby you have always wanted to try. 

Below are parts of a example schedule provided by the CDC that shows what a structured day might look like for a family with young kids:

Family with 3 kids, twins age 4 and a 2 year old

  • Age 2
    • Wake up at 7:00 a.m. and have milk
    • Cartoons until breakfast at 8:00 a.m. Get dressed for the day
    • Snack at 10:00 a.m.
    • Lunch at noon followed by nap at 12:30 p.m.
    • Dinner at 5:30 p.m.
    • Bath at 6:00 p.m., followed by a story and a few songs in bedroom
    • Lights off by 6:45 or 7:00 p.m.
  • Continued for age 4
    • Bath time around 6:30 p.m.
    • Read or do something together, like a game or art project, around 7:00 p.m.
    • Potty, brush teeth, and then to bed by 8:00 p.m.

Establishing a routine at home creates structure. There are many creative ways to ensure that this time spent at home can also be a learning experience that supports growth. 

Disconnect to reconnect.

In last week’s post, I shared some online resources that support continued learning at home. This week, I want to add a little aside. Living in the Information Age, we have become dependent on the technological advancements that have taken charge of how our society and lives operate. In 2017, Common Sense Media reported that young teenagers spent an average of 5 hours in front of screens, not including school or homework. Imagine the amount of time they might be spending in front of screens when there is no school at all. There is a lot of research that has been done that discusses the impact of screen time on students and learning. Instead, I want to focus on ways to reduce that time. 

Jane’s suggestions to reduce screen time for students at home:

  • Limit academic learning online to one hour, two hours max
  • Schedule offline reading time, at least 30 minutes
  • Be aware of what your students are watching while online
  • Have TV time together
  • Journaling – 251 Creative Writing Prompts for Kids
  • Go outside and exercise! (of course, while maintaining social distancing)

Most importantly, reducing screen time can help with managing sleep for everyone. The blue light in LED screens has been proven to reduce the amount of melatonin released, which is what we need to have a proper night of sleep. The blue light essentially makes our brains think we are still awake and not ready to sleep. It is crucial at this time that we are as healthy as possible. Good sleep is a great defense against illness. 

Exercise and Mindfulness

Lastly, I want to suggest staying active and mindful. There are still ways to be active while adhering to Governor Whitmer’s Stay Home, Stay Safe Executive Order. We can definitely go for a walk or run outside while maintaining a safe distance from one another. Everyone should go outside and to get some much needed Vitamin D. For those who want to stay inside and be active, great organizations like the YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo have compiled a list of free resources available. Click here to access that list. 

Mindfulness is often misinterpreted as yoga and meditation. Although those are both great tools to practice mindfulness, mindfulness is simply defined as, “…awareness of one’s experience without judgement.” In an age where we are constantly bombarded with the opinions and drama of others, we need to find time to check-in and take care of ourselves. 

A few resources to practice mindfulness and self-awareness at home: 

  1. 25+ Mindfulness activities for Children and Teens – mindfulness in schools is often called social-emotional learning. Try out these exercises at home.
  2. Popular apps like Calm and Headspace offer free trial subscriptions to their seemingly unlimited mindfulness tools like guided meditation and help with sleep.
  3. If you or someone you know needs someone else to talk to, Gryphon Place will continue to offer 24/7 help to those in need. You can contact them at 269-381-HELP(4957) or call their 211 hotline if you need help locating other services like food, shelter, and mental healthcare. 

What Happens Now

It is a time to reflect and reconnect. In Teru Clavel’s article, COVID-19: 12 Preparations for Parents, Clavel points out the importance of communication and staying calm. We should be honest with each other. Not only about what is going on around us, but also what is going on within ourselves. So, continue to check-in with your neighbors and people close to you. Do not allow yourself to be bombarded with every news update and listen only to the facts from the CDC. Protect those around you and continue to look forward to the future. Stay happy and healthy.

The Community is Here With You

Today’s guest blogger is Jane Asumadu. As CIS After School Site Coordinator at Linden Grove Middle School, Jane hopes to share her passion for education, particularly reading and writing, with students. As a Kalamazoo native, former Japan resident, and world traveler, Jane hopes to share her experiences with the community. 

We have found ourselves in a fairly difficult situation. Rapid changes mixed with uncertainty have caused a lot of anxiety in our community. However, through these difficult circumstances, we can become more resilient as a community. 

So, we have been presented with some challenges. How can we continue learning for our students at home? And how can we stay connected when we have been advised to stay apart? Below, I have compiled a list of some of the resources available for students and families as we tackle school closures and social distancing, but still want to encourage growth and learning. In next week’s post, I will discuss ideas of staying connected, physically and emotionally.

Local resources

  1. Kalamazoo Public Schools is distributing food and learning packets at select locations and times until Friday, April 3. Breakfast and lunch will be packed up and available for pick-up by all students up to 18 years old on Mondays (two days worth of food), Wednesdays (two days worth of food), and Fridays (three days worth of food). 

Distribution Schedule:

  • 11:30-12:30 – All KPS school buildings except Greenwood, Indian Prairie, Winchell, ALP, South Westnedge School
  • 11:30-12 – Interfaith
  • 11:30-12 – Eastside Neighborhood Association
  • 12:30-1 – Fox Ridge Apartments
  • 12:30-1 – New Village Apartments 

For more information contact Chartwells/KPS Food Service: (269) 337-0458.

  1. Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes is continuing to offer meals for all local residents for pick-up by appointment and through their Mobile Food Initiative. Contact them at (269) 343-3663 to set up an appointment or for more information. KLF is also still looking for volunteers during this time, as well.  
  2. The South Michigan Food Bank has a number of pantries in our area that they support. Please call the 211 hotline and ask them to help you get in contact with one of these pantries. They are also holding their own food distributions (no appointment required) at these locations and times:
  • Fresh Fire AME (2508 Gull Rd., 4th Saturday of every month, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.)
  • Milwood United Methodist Church (3919 Portage St., 1st Tuesday of every month, 4 p.m.-6 p.m.)
  • Westwood Neighborhood Food Pantry (538 Nichols Road, 1st and 3rd Saturday of every month, 10 p.m.-12 p.m.)
  • Valley Family Church (2500 Vincent Ave., Portage, every Tuesday starting March 24, 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.)

     3. YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo is closed to the general public, but is still providing childcare services for the children of those who are considered to be essential workers at this time. Visit their website for more details.  

Online resources

Due to the sudden closure of schools, many students probably did not have time to gather the materials necessary to continue learning at home. Thankfully, several local and national companies are offering free services for students online. Below is a short list of sites I recommend, but many, many more still exist.

  1. KPS Continued Learning Hub – The websites listed in this hub should be familiar to KPS students. With their KPS login, students can access sites like Compass Learning and Khan Academy from home. To get started, click here.
  2. Kalamazoo Public Library – Let’s Get Digital is another hub listing a variety of free media available to those with or without a KPL card. Just as their website boasts, “…[kpl.gov] is our online branch and it never closes!” [Also, see last week’s post “A Time to Read,” here.]
  3.  Scholastic Learn At Home is an initiative by Scholastic Books that offers two weeks of day-by-day interactive learning for students of all ages.
  4. Audible is an audiobook app. They are offering free audiobooks for kids, “for as long as schools are closed.” Students can stream select titles in six different languages from a desktop, laptop, phone or tablet by clicking on this site here.

An obvious obstacle with all these amazing resources is access to the internet. Fortunately, companies like Comcast and Spectrum are offering two months free internet to those who may need the support.  

Reach Out

Ironically, despite the necessity of social distancing, there is no better time than this to stay connected within our community. More than ever, it is important to check-in with our family, friends and neighbors. If you or someone you know is in need of extra support, reach out to find ways to help. The services and supports are available, they just need to be connected to the right people. When I find myself dealing with stressful times, I often think of this quote by author Zora Neale Hurston, who said, “There are years that ask questions, and years that answer.” Through patience and support, we will make it through. 

My heart goes out to everyone during this challenging time. Remember to reach out for help when you need it, and take care.

Jane Asumadu

A Time To Read

On Thursday, March 12, Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued a mandate to close all Michigan schools grades K-12 through April 5 to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Spring Break is the following week for Kalamazoo Public Schools and, as of this posting, that is still happening, which means students should be returning to school on April 13th.

In the meantime, it’s more important than ever for our kids—and us!—to read. What books do you plan to read?

Last month, we asked Communities In Schools board members what they are reading. Here’s what a few of them said:

Race Against Time by Jerry Mitchell. A reporter reopens two unsolved murder cases of the Civil Rights Era. Also, Sapiens and Homo Deus by Yuval Noah Harari.

-Darren Timmeney

 

Just Mercy by Bryan Stephenson

-Namita Sharma

 

Edison by Edmund Morris

-Randy Eberts

The Culture Code: The Secrets of Highly Successful Groups by Daniel Coyle

Judy D’Arcangelis

 

Range by David Epstein. Also, Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell.

-James Curry

 

The Five Disfunctions of a Team by Patrick Len

-Sheri Welsh

 

21 Lessons for the 21st Century by Yuval Noah Harari

-Dave Maurer

 

Long Walk to Freedom by Nelson Mandela. Also, The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris.

-Pam Enslen

 

Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance

-Dominic Pullo

Not that long ago, we introduced you to our newest board members and they shared their favorite children’s book. You can read that post here

Need to get your freshly washed hands on one of these or other books? Even though the Kalamazoo Public Library is currently closed during this pandemic, their online branch never closes. They have a solution for self-isolation boredom. You can check out their large variety of digital options, including eBooks, eAudiobooks, eVideos, eMusic, and eMagazines. It’s easy to browse and you can filter your search in several ways, including by age (adult, juvenile, or teen). Here’s their website.

Also, keep in mind our three wonderful independent bookstores that serve this community. Like other small and local businesses, they are part of what makes Kalamazoo so special and they continue to need our support. They are here for us and you can help the local health of our economy by turning to them (without even setting foot outside your home!) for your reading needs instead of going to Amazon.

Here are quick links to each of their websites and Facebook pages:

Kazoo Books:   websiteFacebook 

Michigan News Agency:  websiteFacebook 

this is a bookstore/Bookbug:  website & Facebook 

You are important to us. Take care of yourself. And when we emerge from this pandemic, we will be a stronger, wiser, and even more well-read community than before.

Catching Up with Elissa Kerr: One Sweet Conversation

Born and raised in Connecticut, Elissa Kerr spent much of her childhood “playing under the shade of two massive maple trees.” Not surprising given this former CIS site coordinator has just written a book that features maple trees! We ran into Elissa a few months back during an author event at Kazoo Books, where she was introducing a children’s book she’s written. She said, “I am very excited to embark on this new endeavor as it will allow me to get back to my roots and what I am passionate about—encouraging a child’s love of learning.”

No matter what endeavor Elissa undertakes, she says her two biggest supporters are her husband Ian and their two young boys.

Since it’s National Reading Month and Michigan’s Maple Sugaring days are upon us, we think it’s the perfect time to catch up to Elissa Kerr and get the scoop on her new book.

What brought you to Michigan?

I moved to Michigan in 2008 because my husband attended Western Michigan University. We fell in love with the area and have been here ever since.

You first got connected with CIS by serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA with us, right?

Yes. I have a degree in elementary and special education. When we moved to Michigan I began working with CIS as an AmeriCorp VISTA. I supported both Arcadia Elementary School and Edison Environmental Science Academy. I then stepped into the site coordinator role at King Westwood for two years. And for the past eight years I have been employed by the State of Michigan and focused on supporting individuals and families.

What is one of your fondest memories from when you were working with CIS?

I think one of my favorite projects was setting up a publishing center at Arcadia. It was wonderful to have volunteers come in and support classroom teachers and promote the art of storytelling. The best part was watching kids find their voice by sharing stories they were passionate about.

What was your favorite childhood book?

It’s difficult to pick just one book! My favorite childhood author would have to be Beverly Cleary. I especially loved her character, Ramona. Her mischievous antics always sprung from a place of pure childhood curiosity.

What book are you currently reading?

I enjoy participating in Kalamazoo Public Library’s Reading Together event. I love the idea of learning and having a discussion on a topical subject as a community, so I will usually give their suggestion a try. I recently finished this year’s book, We are the Weather by Jonathan Safran Foer. [Jonathan Safran Foer’s presentation is tonight, Tuesday, March 10, 2020 at Chenery Auditorium at 7 pm.]

My guilty pleasures are mysteries, though, and I recently read The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware.

Describe your book in one sentence, or two, if one is too hard.

The Sweetest Season follows a young girl and her father as they journey through the forest and work to transform sap to syrup.

Elissa’s book on display at Kazoo Books.

For your book, you must have done some research. If so, can you talk a little bit about that?

We are members of the Kalamazoo Nature Center and have attended their annual maple syrup festival for the past eight years. We take a picture of my kids every year in the exact same spot! Their volunteers and staff do a great job in teaching guests about the process of identifying maples, tapping trees, and boiling syrup. I did additional research as well, again, turning to my local library for additional books. I am a strong supporter of libraries.

The title of your book, The Sweetest Season, is short and sweet and hits just the right spot. At what point in your writing process did you identify this title? Is there a story behind coming up with the title?

Coming up with the title was probably one of the hardest parts for me. It did not come naturally. The story was completely written and illustrations were started before I had a title I loved. I was using the working title, Sugar Season. While informational, it was certainly not catchy or very whimsical. I made the change late in the process and am much happier with the title.

Do you have real maple syrup in your house right now?

Not currently. My family was enjoying a lot of syrup and breakfast foods, but sadly, they might be starting to get a bit tired of it. I did just find a recipe for a maple hot coco that I want to try, so I will probably be picking up some soon enough.

Can you tell us one or two interesting maple syrup-related facts?

It takes 40 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of syrup. It’s not just sugar maples that can be tapped for sap. Many other varieties can be tapped, it’s just that their sugar content is not as high. I am really curious to try a syrup from another type of tree just to compare!

Are any of the characters based on or inspired by real people?

Though they aren’t based on real people, my characters have a love and connection to nature that I hope to inspire in others.

What was the most challenging aspect of working on this book?

Rhyming and meter. I always wanted to make a book that rhymes. Some lines came naturally, while others I would constantly rewrite.

What behind-the-scene tidbit in your life would probably surprise readers the most?

My husband has bright red hair and many people who know me assume that I chose characters who have bright red hair. In reality, it was completely the illustrator’s idea. Zoe Saunders felt the red hair would be a nice contrast to the melting winter snow.

What is your favorite word or phrase right now?

My favorite phrase right now is: Little seeds grow mighty trees.

Little seeds could be small acts of kindness, a smile on the street, or a simple idea. You never know what impact your small gesture makes in the lives of others. I hope this book is that little seeds that inspires others to go outside and connect more with the nature found right in their backyards.

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

I come from a family of educators and I would say my grandmother still embodies that teaching and nurturing spirit. I would certainly consider her one of the most caring adults in my life. She always has inspired a love of learning and encouraged me to share my gifts and skills. She turned 95 this year and seems really delighted to see my work on this project. I am thankful that it’s brought her so much joy.

You can find Elissa’s book, The Sweetest Season, at Kazoo Books. It’s also available for purchase on-line at Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

 

Courage is Contagious

Despite the weather, on Saturday, January 18, 2020, Kalamazoo Public School students ventured out to participate in “Courage to Create” poetry workshops held at Western Michigan University as part of Kalamazoo’s annual MLK Day Celebration. “Courage to Create” is a collaborative effort of Western Michigan University Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, Friends of Poetry, and Kalamazoo Public Schools.

Jayla Smith

For today’s post, we share a poem that was created during the workshop by former CIS intern and Western Michigan University School of Social Work student Jayla Smith. Last school year, as Jayla was completing her bachelor’s degree, she served as a CIS intern at Lincoln Elementary School. “It was a great experience,” she says. “I loved working with CIS in the school…It confirmed that I wanted to continue to further my education and pursue a career in social work.”

Originally from Detroit, Jayla came to Kalamazoo to attend Western Michigan University. In addition to her studies, she is currently interning with the Kalamazoo Promise Scholars Program on Western’s campus. She will be graduating this spring with her Master of School Work (MSW). During the MLK Courage to Create workshops, Jayla welcomed the middle school and high school students, and supported the poetry facilitators. Jayla also sat and wrote alongside the students during the poetry exercises. When students were invited to read aloud some of the work they created, Jayla shared her poem, encouraging others to share. Here’s her poem:

 

My heart resides in a glass box that I keep inside my refrigerator.

She gets cold easily so keep her close to the bulb,

but she is still not satisfied.

I paint her walls red with hot sauce

and she screams that her eyes burn.

What do you want?

 

It takes courage to create. It also takes courage to stand up and let your voice be heard. So thank you, Jayla, for modeling courage for our students.

The upcoming MLK Courage to Create celebration, in which students who participated in the annual MLK Courage to Create contest read alongside community poets, will be held on Wednesday, February 19th on the campus of Western Michigan University, in the WMU Multicultural Center in the Adrian Trimpe Building. The celebration starts at 4 p.m. and is open to the public.

 

Principal McKissack out at WMU (in 2016) with Hillside students and staff. Hillside students are rock stars when it comes to Courage to Create. Come out and see how they do this year!

Fifth Grader Passes Pop Quiz with Flying Colors

Sophia and her mom Heidi.

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 Sophia, a fifth grade student at El Sol Elementary School. This Kalamazoo Public School (KPS) offers instruction in two languages, English and Spanish. The program model is unique within the district and Southwestern Michigan.

“CIS is very helpful for kids in this community that are new,” the fifth grader says. She should know. Sophia arrived last year with her mom from Venezuela.

She’s glad that her then fourth grade teacher, Ms. Courtney Eaton, introduced her to CIS. Since then, Sophia has worked hard, taking advantage of all the opportunities and community resources that her CIS Site Coordinator Levi Soto has offered. Sophia is also featured in the recently released 2018-19 CIS Annual Report, so once you see how she did on her pop quiz, you can learn more about her here.

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

Pop Quiz

What is your favorite word right now?

In English?

How about one in English and one in Spanish?

In English, it would be love. And in Spanish, Venezuela.

What are you currently reading?

Twenty and Ten by Claire Huchet Bishop. It’s about these kids in World War II. I like reading for fun.

What is one of your favorite things about being a student in KPS?

I get a lot of help when I need it.

What is one of your favorite subjects in school?

Science. I’ve gone from red, to orange, to green. [Note: Green is good! That is excellent progress!] And I really like social studies.

Would you rather be a dinosaur or a whale for one day?

A whale. Because I would like to see the different fishes that a human can’t see.

Outside of school, what things do you enjoy doing?

Going to Lake Michigan with my mom. I also like eating pizza. It’s my favorite food.

If you could change one thing about the world, what would it be?

That all kids would have a home and have food every day.

Behind every successful student is a caring adult. Who is one of your caring adults?

My mom. She helps me a lot with math homework. I didn’t understand it a lot at first. It’s really different from homework in Venezuela.

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

Be sure to check out the CIS annual report featuring Sophia! You can read it here.

Tribute to Moses L. Walker

There are community pillars and there are community pillars. On Thursday, January 16, 2020, Kalamazoo lost one of its grandest, Moses L. Walker.

In reflecting on the amazing life of this longtime CIS board member, CIS Executive James Devers says, “Along with the Kalamazoo community, the CIS family mourns the loss of Moses Walker. His was a life of service, love, compassion, and excellence. Our deepest condolences go out to his wife and the entire Walker family.”

Four years ago, we sat down with Moses to learn about the kind of boy he once was, and the people and experiences that shaped him into the man he became. Due to space constraints, we published only a portion of that conversation in the CIS newsletter, that issue’s theme: “Boys to Men.” We also included a few of his responses in a March 22, 2016 post here at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids. In tribute to this long time CIS Board Member, we now publish the interview in its entirety, along with some of the photos Moses provided us at that time.

Conversation with CIS Board Member: Moses L. Walker

Communities In Schools board member Moses Walker is a truth-teller, justice seeker, and numbers guy. As a boy, he walked everywhere. As a man, he has touched the lives of practically everyone who walks anywhere in Kalamazoo, whether they know it or not. Born in Kalamazoo, the community that raised him, Moses Walker has, in turn, helped to raise this community. Here, he shares some of his thoughts on boys, education, community, and much more.

Can you tell us a little about the kind of boy you once were? What or who helped shape you into the man you became?

Good question. Growing up I was always viewed as being bright. Even as a little child, I was given speeches to memorize for school and church programs. And if someone was given two verses to memorize, I was given four. There were high expectations for me. I benefited from my older cousins working with me and was well prepared when I got to school and was recognized by my teachers.

Moses Walker as a young boy.

The Douglass Community Association shaped me and my friends, friends like Chuck Warfield. We were the Children of Douglass. We went to nursery school there. We played sports, learned how to dance, and shoot pool. Remember, this was at a time when black educators were refused jobs in the Kalamazoo Public Schools so we were the beneficiaries of Douglass youth workers like Ms. Juanita Goodwin and Mr. John Caldwell. They ended up with distinguished careers—as teachers and principals and retiring from the Kalamazoo Public Schools.

While there were no black educators when I was in school—I attended Lincoln School from kindergarten through ninth grade and then [Kalamazoo] Central High from tenth through twelfth grade—I was recognized and encouraged by my teachers. Even though I was always on the academic track, I admit, I did not always apply myself. My high school advisor Mildred McConkey was quite instrumental in my development and pointed out that I didn’t always apply myself. In fact, she was the one who said, ‘He’s smart but lazy.’ And it was true! She helped me get ready to go to college and made recommendations since I wasn’t top of my class.

High school advisor Mildred McConkey seated, bottom right.

I went to Western Michigan University, and then entered the military mid-stream. I experienced racism but it taught me a lot. Just being smart is not enough. There are a lot of smart people in the world. A lot of people have gifts. But that is not enough. What are you going to do with it? I’m not bitter about these negative experiences because they were one of the best things that happened to me. It was a wake up-shake up and the experiences got me on track. I returned to college, finished in two years, and then headed to graduate school at the School of Social Work at Wayne State University.

So yes, the encouragement and support I received throughout my schooling made me who I am but it was the negative experience of the military that brought everything home for me.

Do you think boys today face different pressures than what their fathers faced?

That’s a difficult question for me to answer. We have three grandchildren—my son’s three daughters—so they are the children of today. That’s two generations removed from me! But, from a societal standpoint, I can tell you: things change all the time. My generation was raised in a different way. We came from large families. I was born in 1940 and one of nine; that was not uncommon. We were close to each other—literally. We lived close to our friends. We could walk to each other’s houses. We had a different sense of community and sense of neighborhood. Everyone was your parent. Everyone had the right to correct you. That doesn’t exist today.

Even transportation is different. We walked everywhere. We didn’t own cars and many of our parents didn’t either. That sense of neighborhood when I was growing up doesn’t exist today. Many children have lost that sense of belonging, a sense of a greater bond. That saying, ‘It takes a village to raise a child?’ Well, that was truer in my day. We were a village. Children today are not growing up in the same village. People are less connected and as a result, peer pressures have greater influence on children and how they react to them.

According to Dan Kindlon and Michael Thompson, psychologists and the authors of Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys, too many of our young men “remain emotionally illiterate in pursuit of a caricature of strong, silent masculinity.” Do you agree?

Probably. Too many of our young men today are raised in single parent, female households. We don’t see black males today involved in children’s lives as they once were. There is a major gap. In fact, over 70 % of our young boys are born into homes without men around. In the barbershop, we talk about how women can do the best they can, but that absence of a male figure—a positive male role model—makes a big difference. The absence of this, especially during a boy’s developmental years is a contributing factor to this problem.

What do we need to do better as a community to equip our boys to become successful and fulfilled young men?

That’s a difficult question. First of all, to become successful and fulfilled, you’ve got to be educated. Boys, particularly black males right now are not doing well when it comes to graduating on time or not graduating at all. White females are at the top, with 88% graduating on time, second is black females, followed by white males and then we see a major decline, with only 61% of black males are graduating on time. That’s a big warning sign.

We don’t want our boys heading to Jackson State University on 6000 Cooper Street. That’s the wrong university! But it’s hard. When children lack hope, are in an environment where education is not stressed, not passed on, it’s hard. But we have to stop making excuses. There are no easy ways but education is key. In my parents’ time, you just needed a pick and a shovel. These days, it’s tough succeeding without the necessary technical and academic training that today’s world demands. We need to engage, engage, engage, and keep our boys—and girls—in school.

If you could give only two pieces of wisdom to parents on raising sons, what would they be?

Value education. You must value it yourself in order to pass this along. Number two: make sure your child is putting forth the effort. Regardless of whether your child is black or white, they are not going anywhere if they aren’t prepared technology-wise or academically, so make sure they’re working hard. It starts with you. There’s no easy road. Hard work. It really comes down to recognizing the importance of education and sitting on your butt and doing the work. The Kalamazoo Promise guarantees opportunity. But the Promise doesn’t guarantee success or results.

There are many great organizations within our community. What is it about CIS that attracts you to give of your time and talent to this particular board?

I believe in what CIS stands for and the target population we serve. CIS is reaching out to some of our most vulnerable children and supporting them in a multitude of way so they can be successful. That’s really what it’s all about. Also, my relationship with [Founding CIS Executive Director] Pam Kingery—that goes back a long ways. At the end of the day, though, the CIS mission—surrounding students with a community of support so they can stay in school and succeed in life—is compelling. Some of our kids need additional supports and CIS is helping them academically, socially, and beyond.

Thank you, Moses Walker!

Third Grader Ysabel: I’m a better student because everybody helps me

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 Ysabel, a third grader at El Sol Elementary School.

CIS After School Coordinator Viridiana Carvajal had the pleasure of first working with Ysabel when she became involved in CIS after school as a first grader. “She’s got such a positive attitude and is willing to try new things,” says Viridiana (known as “Ms. Viri”). It’s students like Ysabel who inspire me go beyond and work even harder.”

We met up with Ysabel at Arcadia Elementary School during the 2019 CIS Think Summer! program. Ysabel says she enjoys school and learning. She loves being part of CIS After School, making new friends, and is looking forward to the new school year. [Ysabel is featured in the fall 2019 CIS Connections, found here.]

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

Pop Quiz

During the school year, you attend El Sol Elementary. What has your CIS experience been like as a student there?  

I like it. All the teachers, [CIS] coaches, and everyone in after school. Ms. Viri is special…She is kind and helps me with my homework in after school. I’m a better student because everybody helps me.

Speaking of Ms. Viri, she says you are enthusiastic and actively involved in CIS after school and many of the special activities. What else should we know about you?

I like to bake a lot. I like to make breakfast for my family. I like to bring them eggs and milk and coffee and waffles.

Favorite word? Fun!

What are you currently reading?

My Life in Pictures [written and illustrated by Deborah Zemke]. It’s about this little girl who is drawing pictures of her life.

Just like the title of the book!

Yes!

Favorite things about being a student in KPS?

I get to learn a lot of stuff. I like gym and math.

Would you rather be a dinosaur or a whale for one day?

A whale.

Why a whale?

Because they are really big.

Behind every successful student is a caring adult. Who is one of your caring adults?

My family. My mom and dad, aunts and uncles, and grandmas and grandpas….Also, my cousins, baby brother, big sister and little sister. And Ms. Viri.

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

Be sure to read the CIS Connections and find out more about Ysabel, including what one thing she would change about the world, if she could.