Pop Quiz: Dominique Jackson

dominique-jackson-internWelcome 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 Dominique Jackson.

One of ten terrific interns working with CIS, Dominique graduated from Kalamazoo Central in 2012. A Promise Scholar, Dominique went on to Michigan State University and obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice. “I was the first generation in my family to graduate from a four year university,” she says. She is currently working on her Masters in Social Work at Western Michigan University.

As a social work intern, Dominique works closely with her CIS site team at Linden Grove Middle School. “It’s great learning from [CIS Site Coordinator] Ms. [Tamiko] Garrett and [CIS After School Coordinator] Ms. [Jenee] McDaniel. And the KPS staff is awesome! They’ve all welcomed me and so it’s been a smooth transition coming in as an intern.”

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


What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

In some European countries, such as Norway, college is completely free. I didn’t know that.

Favorite word?

I have so many, it’s hard to say. Right now, I’d say strength. That’s what I need right now to get through this year, with working at Gilden Woods Early Childcare & Preschool, going to school, and doing my internship.

What are you currently reading?

I just finished Always by Nina Lane. I really liked it.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I’m still trying to decide, but I’m leaning towards doing social work in schools. Or, possibly, working with juveniles. This would tie in with my degree and I do like the thought of getting juveniles on the right track.

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

My mom, for sure. She’s the one that’s always been there, motivating me and pushing me to do well.

Thinking back to your years with the Kalamazoo Public Schools, who was one of your favorite teachers?

Mrs. [Ruth] Schafer. She was my fifth grade teacher at Arcadia. She was very engaging, helpful, and pushed us to do better. She was hard on us while still showing her love and support. She was amazing and I loved her.

Also, Mrs. [Elaine] Sayre, my AP [Advanced Placement] Language teacher. I had her my senior year at Kalamazoo Central. Mrs. Sayre helped me think and really prepared me for college and the higher level of work that was expected of me. I have to also definitely say Principal Von Washington. When I was at Kalamazoo Central, he was just an awesome principal. He was always checking up on students to make sure they were doing okay. Oh, and Mr. [Ramon] Baca. He was my principal when I was at Arcadia and he was great too. I loved Mr. Baca.

As you know, Von Washington Jr. is now the Executive Director of Community Relations for The Kalamazoo Promise. What’s it like to be a Promise Scholar who is now giving back within the very school district she graduated from?

It’s definitely awesome to come full circle. I come from a single parent household and I didn’t know college would be possible for me, so getting the opportunity to go to college by the generosity of strangers is an amazing gift.

Right now, my younger brother is at Michigan State. He was eligible to receive 100% of The Promise as well. And I have a much younger brother at Arcadia who will be a Promise Scholar one day.

What do you do as a CIS intern at Linden Grove Middle School?

As a CIS intern, I check in with kids about their grades. I make sure they have everything they need, whether it’s school supplies or personal care items, whatever they are going to need to enhance their school performance. I also make sure they are getting their homework done while still having fun with them as well.

I really love working with Ms. [Tamiko] Garrett and Ms. [Jenee] McDaniel. They’re awesome, engaging, supportive, and not afraid to challenge me, which I love because I love learning!

What is something you are learning when it comes to your internship?

Every kid is different. You have to tailor your approach to their needs as much as you can, make sure they are being recognized individually. One strategy you use for one kid many not work for another, but that’s okay. You find the one that works.

Thank you, Dominique!


Doing What It Takes To Get Her Promise Back

IMG_2959When JacQuese Steele graduated from Loy Norrix High School in 2008, she headed off to Michigan State University, fully intending to use the gift of The Kalamazoo Promise® to obtain a degree.

Bonnie Terrentine, CIS After School Coordinator for Lincoln International Studies and former Kalamazoo Area Academic Achievement Program (KAAAP) staff  knew JacQuese as a young student at Chime Elementary, then Milwood Elementary, Milwood Magnet Middle School, and then Loy Norrix High School. “She was extremely bright,” recalls Bonnie. “Talented, too. Even when she faced obstacles, she kept on going. She’s very resilient, a pioneer, really, as she was the first in her family to head off to college. I remember she had really supportive grandparents. She was just a great kid.”

JacQuese recalls Ms. Terrentine fondly and says that when she was in fourth grade, the KAAAP mentor she was connected to, Carol McGlinn, changed her future. (Initiated in 1992 by the Kalamazoo Chamber of Commerce, KAAAP was later absorbed by CIS. It matched elementary students to a mentor committed to seeing the young person through high school graduation.)

JacQuese started doing better in school thanks to the tutoring support she received from her mentor. “I wouldn’t be able to read if it wasn’t for her [Ms. McGlinn]. She saved my reading life. She saved me.”

Yet, the transition from high school to college was challenging. “Going off to college was hard for me,” recalls JacQuese. “My family loved me. They were in support of me going and said, ‘Do it!’ but that was it. I needed someone to guide me. I needed help with the how. I realize nobody has a blueprint for you but when you go to college you need a game plan. I felt like I just got dropped off. ‘Do good,’ they told me. Okay, but how? What are the steps I need to take to get through college?”

A talented woman with a variety of interests, JacQuese found herself changing direction frequently and switching majors. While at Michigan State, she studied Communications, Interdisciplinary Arts and Humanities, Religious Studies, Social Work, and Theater.

It was at the start of her fifth year of college, her degree in sight, that things began to unravel. JacQuese’s grandfather, a great ally and whom she was very close to passed away on her first day back to school. To make matters worse, shortly thereafter, JacQuese was robbed. “My bank card was stolen and my entire bank account was wiped out. I was very depressed. I couldn’t pay the rent. I didn’t know what to do.” So, when a new opportunity arose, JacQuese dropped out of college and headed to Atlanta to “chase my singer-songwriter dream.” While JacQuese experienced some success with her musical career she ultimately determined “it ended up not being the opportunity for me that I thought it would be.” As she puts it, “The music industry, well, let’s just say snakes aren’t always low in the grass.”

Recently, JacQuese decided to return to Kalamazoo. Through Facebook, she connected with her former middle school math teacher, Diane Lang. They met for lunch, caught up, and talked about JacQuese’s future. Afterwards, with JacQuese’s blessing, Diane reached out to friend and Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, Pam Kingery. Was there a way for JacQuese to get her The Kalamazoo Promise back?

And before September faded into October, JacQuese, with Diane Lang at her side, met with Bob Jorth, Executive Director of The Kalamazoo Promise®. Thanks to Bob, JacQuese got the information she needed and is now doing what it takes—including making a recent trip to Michigan State University—to finish what she started.

JacQuese couldn’t ask for a better cheerleader at her side—and someone to help navigate the how questions all college students have—than Diane Lang.

“This kid has tons of talent and positive energy,” says Diane. “She just needs to finish up her degree. I’m proud of her.”

“This time, I’ll be going back to college,” says JacQuese, “just  a little wiser.”


What is Your Story?

When somebody asks you what your story is, what do you tell them? Where do you start? When we tell our stories, according to writer Scott Russell Sanders, we usually start too small. I am struck by how, when people share their story, they can’t help but point to the people who have helped them along the way. Here at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids we are interested in sharing more stories—both big and small—about the caring adults—the teacher, the neighbor, etc… who shaped us. To fully enter into the lives of our children, we must first be able to tell our own story. So, in the coming months, we will be sharing a few of these stories with you. If you’d like to participate in this project and possibly contribute a guest post, we’d love to here from you. We’ll get warmed up with CIS Executive Director Pam Kingery’s story. This piece was written by Pam and originally published in our CIS Connections newsletter. It inspired countless phone calls, emails, and old-fashioned letters (I love those!) to our CIS office. Pam was also the guest last night on Keith Roe’s cable television show Monday Night Live. After you’ve read Pam’s story, be sure to catch her on the show. It will air again this Thursday-Saturday at 7pm on Channel 97 and again on Sunday at 1:30.

Pam_and_Mom-sm-150x150“Why?” is the essential question we ask ourselves when attempting to understand someone else’s motivations for acting in a certain way.  Most of us at least occasionally grant the opportunity to pose the same question to ourselves when contemplating what drives us—to something or away from something.  How do we make sense of why some students appear to embrace education opportunities despite great adversity and why others take education for granted despite every form of encouragement and advantage?  Why?  What’s their story?

I am the first and only person in my family to receive a college education.  Because my mother was so pro-education, I never had the slightest doubt that I would be a college graduate.  I didn’t quite understand my mother’s determination until she was in her mid-70’s and recovering from her first stroke and I was long since out of graduate school. Things that must have been family secrets until then were shared between mother and daughter during long conversations that were part symptomatic and part rehabilitation.  Among them was the fact that she was a high school drop-out, who at age 16 left her mother, step-father and five siblings to move to Detroit from the west side of the state to get a job.  Her post-stroke emotions revealed sixty years of shame and sorrow that she gave up what she loved most—school.  She shared that she just got so tired of others making fun of her because the clothes she wore were almost rags, reflective of the poverty that governed her life and her family’s.

Did I not know until then that my mother did not finish high school?  Did I presume in my self-absorbed child’s way that this woman who read to me, took me to the Hackley Public Library, fawned over report cards and insisted that I would go to college that she at least finished high school?  When I look back, it seems that I must have known and didn’t really want to know—that I thought it odd that my mother seemed a little uncomfortable making an appearance at my high school but I chose not to ask.  Didn’t I observe her fall silent when my father talked about playing high school baseball?

My mother grew up in poverty.  She was periodically hungry and the rags she referred to appear to be a potato sack in one picture I found recently of her and her sister.

Pam’s mother (right) with younger sister
Pam’s mother (right) with younger sister

She always talked to my brother and me about how much she loved school, most especially her sixth grade teacher who used her long fingernails to pinch the most recalcitrant students in the earlobes.  My mother had many of the same challenges that many of our students have.  She watched while her three younger siblings were sent to an orphanage after she dropped out of school and moved to Detroit.  She and those siblings ultimately lived with my Great Aunt Mary and Great Uncle Del to finish growing up, grateful for the rescue from living alone in Detroit and the orphanage.

This is the same mother who was diagnosed with colon cancer six weeks before my freshman year of college and who made my father promise that if she died from the cancer he would assure that I would attend college and graduate.  She survived the cancer and made sure herself.  She didn’t finish high school herself but she made certain that I inherited her love of school and had the educational opportunities that she didn’t have.  To what extent does this motivate me?  I’m not sure but I think about it every now and then.  How about you?  What’s your story?