Beyond the Backpack

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Don’t Discount What Seems Small

A glimpse inside the backpacks from Berkshire Hathaway
A glimpse inside the backpacks from Berkshire Hathaway

Little things make a big difference.

Recently, Precious Miller, Senior Site Coordinator at Hillside Middle School reminded us of this truth. She has been, like so many of our Communities In Schools site team members throughout 20 Kalamazoo Public School buildings, distributing school supplies to students who need them. Just the other day, she gave a student a binder. She didn’t think much more about it until she saw that same student moments later in the hallway. “Thank you again for the binder,” he said. “I feel perfect!” Precious noticed he had “the biggest smile on his face and seemed to be walking with pride.” Precious again told him, “You’re welcome” and wished him a good day. Later, she overheard him saying to a teacher, “I finally got a binder!” and noticed he continued to brag about his new item for school.

“In the day to day,” she says, “it’s good to remember how big of a difference we can make in a student’s self-esteem. Even if—to us—it is ‘just’ a binder.

Whether its erasers or paper, crayons and markers, scissors, glue, and backpacks, the list goes on. these ‘little’ supplies fuel our kids’ success. When our CIS staff hand out a school supply, the student knows the community cares, that you are behind them, cheering them on.

Thank you for helping our kids get off to a great start!

Berkshire Hathaway

Borgess Nurse Council

Bronco Express

Costco

Fetzer Institute

First United Methodist Church

Flynn Thiel Boutell & Tanis

Harding’s

Hiemstra Optical

Junior League of Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo County Association of Retired School Personnel

Kalamazoo Institute of Arts

Kalamazoo Public Library

Kushner & Company

Miller Johnson

Old National Bank

Stryker – Tax

Stryker Instruments – CXC

The River

TowerPinkster

West Kalamazoo Christian Church

WMU Lee Honors College

Zion Lutheran Church

And numerous individuals like Pat, James, Martha, Noelle, Jennifer, Kelly, Ward, Joan, Andrea, & Katherine

We were able to catch a few of you in the act of dropping off the much needed school supplies:

Old National Bank dropping off items to CIS as part of their "Tools to Schools to Schools" initiative.
Old National Bank dropping off items to CIS as part of their “Tools for Schools” campaign.

 

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Donation of school supplies from WMU Lee Honors College
Western students wrote notes and placed them inside the school packs.
Western students wrote notes and placed them inside the school packs.
Supplies received from Hiemstra Stuff the Bus
Supplies received from Hiemstra Stuff the Bus

 

Kushner & Company providing much needed school supplies
Thank you, Kushner & Company!
Cosco dropped off some much needed backpacks.
CIS Site Coordinator Melissa McPherson (left) is all smiles as Costco employees drop off some much needed backpacks.
Thank you all!
Thank you all for helping!