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.

 

Dr. Sandy Standish: Shining Her Light For Young People

At the 13th Annual Champs Celebration, presented by Kalsec, CIS Board President Namita Sharma presented the 2020 Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award, sponsored by Zoetis, to Dr.  Sandy Standish. A decade ago, this prestigious award was established by the Communities In Schools Board to honor Diether’s extensive contributions to his adopted home of Kalamazoo and in particular, his service and genuine concern for the children and young people of our community.

Those of you who’ve had the privilege of working with Dr. Standish know she’s dedicated her life to the education of young people. For thirty two years she shined her light as an innovative educator in Comstock Public Schools. Following her “retirement” from public education, it wasn’t in her to “take it easy.” Instead of hiding her light under a bushel, she took on the role as the founding director of Kalamazoo County Ready 4s, better known as KCReady4s. She spent the next decade collaborating with community partners to build a system of high-quality pre-kindergarten programs accessible to all four-year-olds in Kalamazoo County.

Parents want their children to be on solid footing when they start kindergarten. Yet, not every child is at the starting line with their peers. Not all families have the luxury or the means to access high-quality early care and education. At CIS, because we are in a similar business—creating systems of support for students kindergarten through twelfth grade—we’re particularly impressed with her remarkable work over the years of rallying this collective effort. To change mindsets about the way we work together to support and educate our children, to change the landscape of how things are done—or not done—requires vision, a teamwork mentality, passion, and more.

With her usual grace, humor, and expertise, she has been a fearless advocate for early education, because Dr. Standish knows this: Children who receive high-quality early care and education do better in school and life. In that safe and consistent space, they learn basic skills, as well as social and emotional skills, all building blocks for future success.

Sandy, in naming you the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence recipient for 2020, we give you this Blue Hydrangea Bulb blooming out of a vintage base, a symbol of your award from the Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo Board.

Dr. Standish accepting the 2020 Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award.

Thank you for educating our children, and for illuminating a pathway for Kalamazoo county to continue to support some of our youngest citizens. By shining your light, you have made our community a brighter place for all.

Dr. Sandy Standish, thank you for helping kids stay in school and succeed in life.

Barry Ross and Jane Rooks Ross: Educating Through Music

This year’s Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award, sponsored by Bronson Healthcare, has been awarded to Barry Ross and Jane Rooks Ross. Last week, CIS board member Carolyn H. Williams presented the prestigious award to this most deserving couple during the 12th Annual Champs Celebration.

Plato said that music “is a more potent instrument than any other for education.” He was on to something. We now know that music affects the whole child. Emotionally and socially it serves as a vehicle for expression and connection. Physically it promotes coordination. Music education enhances children’s cognitive abilities and the resilience needed to overcome challenges and pursue excellence.

No duo has infused this vital gift of music into our children’s lives more than Barry Ross and Jane Rooks Ross. Together, they have brought joy through music to the children and youth of Kalamazoo. They have created experiences to hear music, experience music, learn music, and connect through music. Music permeates all areas of life, and through their vision, collaboration, and endless efforts, Barry and Jane have touched so many lives in our community. 

They have contributed new and creative ways to share their love of music to inspire human potential. Family Discovery Concerts, Marvelous Music, the Instrument Petting Zoo, Kalamazoo Junior Symphony and Kalamazoo Kids In Tune reflect just some of their endeavors.

It doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from, if you’re a child or a young adult—you are “in” with Barry and Jane. They have used their incredible musical talents to inspire and motivate children of all ages, starting with three to four year old’s in Marvelous Music all the way to the Junior Symphony and college-goers and beyond, inspiring the most gifted of young musicians. You could watch Jane with a four-year-old participant in Marvelous Music or Barry helping a third grader make his first violin out of cardboard for Kids In Tune, and see the same enthusiasm and passion as when they meet a KSO concert soloist.

They believe that every child should have the benefit of participating and enjoying all kinds of music—and they have devoted their professional lives to making that happen. They have used classical music to spearhead their efforts and believe that all children can understand and enjoy its complexity.

Two individuals, like musical chords, reflect both harmony and distinct differences. Diether Haenicke would be especially pleased that the Promise of Excellence Award, named for him, is given this year to Jane Rooks Ross and Barry Ross for their exceptional and varied contributions to the children and young people of Kalamazoo. 

Please join me in congratulating Barry Ross and Jane Rooks Ross, this year’s recipients of the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence.

Over the next few months we’ll be spotlighting more of those honored at this year’s Champs Celebration. So keep up with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids.

Champs Among Us

Wednesday, May 15th will mark the twelfth year of Champs, a celebration in which Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) recognizes those who are making a difference in kids’ lives. Kalsec, a local company with business around the world, is the presenting sponsor for a second year, demonstrating its continued interest in the educational success of Kalamazoo’s children.

So, who will be honored this year? Drum roll, please! This year’s Champs are:

Dedrenna Hoskins and Isaiah Hoskins, CIS Volunteers
Gary Heckman, CIS Volunteer
Rod Raven, Lead Activity Helper, KPS Arcadia Elementary School
Swan Snack Emporium, CIS Business Partner

The Volunteer Leadership Advisory Council (VLAC) will also be honored with the Gulnar Husain Volunteer Award, a recognition established last year by Gulnar’s family to honor her long-time contributions to Communities In Schools and work as a CIS Site Coordinator at Arcadia Elementary School. This award recognizes CIS volunteers who emulate Gulnar’s belief that there is no greater calling than serving children. Last year, 828 individuals volunteered through CIS, contributing over 14,000 hours of service. Behind the scenes, the Volunteer Leadership Advisory Council—composed of CIS volunteers ranging from college students to seniors—works to strengthen and support these tremendous volunteer efforts. The VLAC members are Jeme Baker, Jashaun Bottoms, Chartanay Bonner, Pam Dalitz, Theresa Hazard, Moises Hernandez, Dedrenna Hoskins, Rollie Morse, Richard Phillips, Howard Tejchma and Marti Terpstra.

The CIS Board will also be honoring Barry Ross and Jane Rooks Ross with the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award. Established in 2010, this award is named for Western Michigan University President Emeritus Diether Haenicke. Barry Ross and Jane Rooks Ross together have brought joy through music to the children and youth of Kalamazoo. They have created experiences to hear music, experience music, learn music and connect through music. Through their vision, collaboration and endless work, Barry and Jane have touched many lives in the community. They have given time to find new and creative ways to use music to expand human potential. Family Discovery Concerts, Marvelous Music, the Instrument Petting Zoo, and Kalamazoo Kids In Tune reflect just some of their efforts.

We thank all of our event sponsors for sharing our vision and igniting in kids the hope and belief that they can succeed in school, graduate, and be prepared for life. Thank you to our presenting sponsor, Kalsec, AIA Southwest Michigan, Ascension Borgess, Bronson Healthcare, Chase, Comerica, Humphrey, Miller-Davis Company, PNC, TowerPinkster, and Warner Norcross + Judd.

Stay tuned to Ask Me About My 12,000+ Kids. Over the coming weeks we will spotlight each of these award recipients. You’ll learn what they are each doing to make a difference in kids’ lives.

Dr. Marilyn J. Schlack

This year’s Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award, sponsored by an anonymous friend of CIS, has been awarded to Dr. Marilyn J. Schlack. At the 11th Annual Champs Celebration, CIS board member and Kalamazoo City Manager Jim Ritsema presented this prestigious award to Dr. Schlack who has served as the president of Kalamazoo Valley Community College for more than three decades, becoming Michigan’s first female community college president in 1982.

When I found out that Marilyn Schlack started out as a middle school English teacher in Saginaw, it all made sense. She learned early in her career about growth spurts and rapid changes. She learned to tolerate awkward and clumsy and to understand that blemishes aren’t forever. She learned what all parents of young adolescents must learn—stay positive, keep the lines of communication open and set limits that are firm and fair. It sounds like a formula for a successful community leader. And that is what Marilyn Schlack is.

Marilyn is a builder. If you look at the number of college and community buildings that have been erected because of Marilyn’s initiative, your conclusion has to be that she is a successful builder of buildings, of places—doubling the Oshtemo campus, building the Arcadia campus, creating the culinary arts center. But the core interest in construction for Marilyn Schlack, is in helping to build lives, build talent, build futures. The scores of young people just starting their independence journey and the countless number of older workers who started over after down-sizing, right-sizing and outsourcing, can point to the career building opportunities born of Marilyn’s creativity, her commitment to evidence and her genuine interest in stronger families, stronger communities.

Some see a certain irony in giving the Diether Haenicke Award, named for the late President of Western Michigan University, to another higher education president in the same community. Both of these individuals share several traits, in addition to their commitment to excellence and their belief in education as a means to better lives. One person suggested that Marilyn Schlack is “no-nonsense”—if Marilyn is involved, there just won’t be any nonsense. You might think you have the most compelling idea around, but if you want Marilyn’s endorsement, you better be prepared with the evidence. Innovative—how many wind turbine education programs are there in the country that can boast 100% employment for their graduates? Excellence, no-nonsense, evidence, innovative—all words that Diether Haenicke would approve of.

Bob Jorth, Executive Director of the Kalamazoo Promise, sums it up best: “Marilyn desires to improve this community—no one exemplifies that more. She is smart and knows how to get things done. Compared to what she has accomplished, her ego is small. She is driven by her desire to improve things for students and for families.”

As a CIS Board member and as the City Manager for the City of Kalamazoo, which has benefitted greatly from your selfless and inspired leadership, it is my great honor to present you with the 2018 Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award.

Dreon (left) and Tyresse (right) hold up quilt for all to see. Billie Gunderson created the stunning quilt.

Marilyn, this hand-sewn quilt was selected for you as an apt symbol of the many, many unique pieces you have stitched together over the years to make this a stronger community for those who live here, work here and go to school here. Thank you for your service and for your love of Kalamazoo.

Please join with me in congratulating Dr. Marilyn Schlack, this year’s recipients of the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence.

Dr. Marilyn Schlack and Jim Ritsema

Von and Fran Washington: Stirring The Dreams and Imagination of Young People

Fran Washington (left) and Von Washington (center) joined by CIS board member Namita Sharma and WMU sponsor representative and CIS board member Bob Miller.

This year’s Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award, sponsored by Western Michigan University, has been awarded to Von and Fran Washington. At the 10th Annual Champs Celebration, CIS board member Namita Sharma presented the award to the couple. This prestigious award was established by the Communities In Schools Board back in 2010 to honor Diether’s extensive contributions to his adopted home of Kalamazoo and in particular, his service and genuine concern for the children and young people of our community. 

Both Von Sr. and Fran Washington are educators, creators and professional performers, involved in the world theatre scene for years. For over 20 years, Von served as a theater professor and director of Western Michigan University’s Multicultural Theater program, retiring in 2010. Because his tenure overlapped with Diether’s time as University President and because of Diether’s deep appreciation of the arts, they developed a mutual respect and admiration.

Like Diether, this talented couple has a gift for poking holes in assumptions and challenging us to a truer, deeper understanding, always with an eye towards improving the lives of young people and improving the quality of life in Kalamazoo. Diether would be especially delighted that this year’s award goes to Fran and Von Washington.

This couple and their company, Washington Productions, provide an accurate and in-depth view of the African American experience through the performing arts. These two truth tellers extend the dialogue of race, culture, identity, and what it means to be American. By creating and bringing works to life that celebrate a variety of world views and not simply through the lens of the dominant culture, the Washingtons stir the dreams and imaginations of our young people. They have directly influenced thousands of young people and how they view themselves and the world around them. That is no small feat.

The Washingtons, giving an incredibly creative acceptance speech, one which, to the delight of the audience, showcased their storytelling talents.

 

For decades now, the Washingtons have known what research is now telling us: that a child’s sense of self and an understanding of their place in the world is linked with school attendance, graduation, and academic achievement, particularly for youth who are members of non-dominant racial/ethnic groups. Master storytellers, the Washingtons use their theater skills to conjure living moments from history for our youth. Moments that could easily have become forever lost, are lifted up and become wondrous, real, and exciting, right before children’s eyes. For many students, this is their first exposure to live theatre and the art of storytelling.

Education for the Arts Director, Bryan Zocher considers their presentations as the bedrock of EFA’s Arts For All school programming. He says, “By reaching 5,000-7,000 students annually over 20 years, Von and Fran may very well be the single, most powerful means of introducing African-American history and spreading a message of inclusivity and respect in our community.”

“Community leaders struggle every day to fill in gaps, gaps of every kind,” says their nominator, Mayor Bobby Hopewell. “As Mayor of Kalamazoo, in this city of promise, I stand in awe of Von and Fran Washingtons’ work as truth tellers and gap fillers, particularly when it comes to tackling history. They help all of our children learn and integrate the African American story into the American story.”

Just as Diether asked tough questions, always with the intent of challenging us to be the best we can be, the Washington’s work helps us challenge our assumptions and consider alternative, and too often overlooked, points of view. By making it their life’s work to tell stories that would otherwise go untold, the Washingtons break myths that limit understanding of who we are and feed truths to our young people—as well as those that are educating and nurturing them. Sharing a vision of the African American experience allows all of our youth—regardless of color—to fill that yawning gap of understanding and develop a bigger, truer identity of who they are and what it means to be an American.

Along with the limited edition art print of James Huff’s “(Harriet) Underground Railroad” (held by Von Jr., center), the Washingtons also received a special tribute from the State of Michigan.

Von and Fran Washington, we thank you for tirelessly sharing your passions and gifts with our kids and this community. Congratulations on being selected as this year’s recipients of the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence!

Champs Among Us

 

This past Wednesday, CIS board and staff had a fabulous time hosting the almost 400 people who gathered at the Radisson for the 10th Annual Champs event to honor 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.

 

All in for kids, this year’s Champs are:

Evening Custodians: Mike Free, Ike Thurman, and Chalene Watson,

KPS Custodians of Milwood Magnet Middle School

Kalamazoo College Men’s Baseball Team, CIS Higher Learning Partner

Pfizer, CIS Business Partner

Prevention Works, CIS Nonprofit Partner

Rotary Club of Kalamazoo, CIS Service Club Partner

Susan Knox, CIS Volunteer

The CIS Board also honored Von and Fran Washington with the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award. This award is named for Western Michigan University President Emeritus Diether Haenicke. As educators, creators, and professional performers, this couple and their company, Washington Productions, use the performing arts to extend the dialogue of race, culture, identity, and what it means to be American. They gave an unforgettable acceptance speech that awed us all. We’ll feature the Washingtons next week.

Special thanks to the event sponsors:

  • PNC,
  • Maestro,
  • Lawrence Productions,
  • BASIC,
  • Borgess,
  • Fifth Third,
  • Greenleaf Trust,
  • Miller-Davis Company,
  • Schupan & Sons,
  • TowerPinkster,
  • Warner Norcross & Judd,
  • Western Michigan University,
  • Bronson,
  • First National Bank of Michigan, and
  • Kreis Enderle Hudgins & Borsos.

As Von Washington Jr., Executive Director of Community Relations with the Kalamazoo Promise, and emcee who kept the event flowing said, “You are all champions for children!”

In addition to hearing brief, yet memorable remarks from Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice and CIS Board President Dr. Tim Light, guests were treated to a performance of “Glorious.” As many of you know, “Glorious” was conducted by Dr. Eric Barth, Kalamazoo Kids In Tune Curriculum Director.  (Kalamazoo Kids in Tune is a partnership of The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Kalamazoo Public Schools, and Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo.) The children were joined by soloist Christine Mason, a CIS Youth Development Worker at Woods Lake.  Kalamazoo Kids in Tune, along with students from Arcadia, El Sol, Spring Valley, Woods Lake and Woodward Elementary Schools and Kalamazoo Central High School, Maple Street and Milwood Magnet Middle Schools filled the ballroom with glorious sounds. Bravo to all involved in the performance (both in front of and behind the scenes)!

Curt Johnson, a senior at Kalamazoo Central High School, shared his CIS story—which we’ll be publishing here in the coming weeks —and lifted up the voices and needs of the more than 11,000 students that CIS serves throughout 20 Kalamazoo Public Schools. Thank you, Curt!

A special shout out to our CIS Site Teams, the CIS Site Coordinators, After School Coordinators, Youth Development Workers, VISTAs, and interns who provide the infrastructure to support the hundreds of marvelous volunteers and community partners who work to help children stay in school and achieve in life.

So, keep up with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids to discover the Champ experience. You’ll be able to read what our various presenters said about their efforts and thanks to CIS volunteer, Don Kingery, you’ll be able to see what guests saw (and missed!) through his photographic lens.

We think you’ll agree it’s not just a one day event!

Sitting at table, left to right: Namita Sharma, Carolyn H. Williams, Sid Williams, and Moses Walker