Jack Szott: Stepping Up to The Plate For Kids

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 WMU graduate student Jack Szott. This former CIS volunteer turned CIS advocate is a graduate of Metea Valley High School, located in Aurora, Illinois. Baseball and college brought Jack to Kalamazoo in 2015.

Jack holds a Bachelor’s degree in accounting from Western Michigan University. Throughout his college baseball career, Jack has pitched over 160 innings for Western. He has been awarded Academic All-MAC three times and Distinguished MAC Scholar Athlete three times. He also serves as part of Western’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (S.A.A.C). CIS is thankful that this busy college student has carved out time over the years to volunteer and advocate for our 12,000+ kids.

Jack Szott will graduate this June with his Masters in accounting and head to Chicago where he already has an accounting job lined up.

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

Pop Quiz

What is a question you’ve been asked recently?

I lost my wallet yesterday for a six hour period. When I got to the bank to cash in the money for a check for CIS, the question I got was, Can I see your debit card?
Nope, I said.
Can I see your id?
Nope.
We can’t fill out the check unless we have some id. You need to find your wallet.

So where was your wallet?

It was in my room.

Sounds like maybe your room is a little messy?

It’s all relative!

What are you currently reading?

I’ve been reading a few memoirs and biographies of leaders or former leaders. I just finished reading a biography of President George H. W. Bush. It’s Destiny and Power: The American Odyssey of George Herbert Walker Bush by Jon Meacham.

It’s really interesting. I enjoyed learning about his leadership qualities, how he treated people, and what got him to where he was in the position as President of the United States.

What is your favorite word right now?

So many to choose from! But right now, I’d say fortitude. I’ve been around a lot of people who have taught me how to deal with difficult situations and I admire that quality, of being strong enough to deal with what you’re going through and helping others at the same time. I think fortitude is the difference between being a good and a great person.

What are you curious about?

I’m very curious about the future that our country is headed in. We are at a turning point in many ways, such as with technology and politics. Just how we will progress? I like to think and learn about that. I like keeping up with world news and trends.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Naperville, Illinois with a brother and sister. My life was always 50/50, divided between school and sports.

Jack Szott, Western Michigan Baseball #36.

How has sports shaped you as a person?

I’ve had no single, larger teacher than sports and baseball. I have gained many insight and lessons that I could not have learned in school. While school is obviously important, sports has molded my personality. More than anything, it has given me—and I know resiliency can be a loaded term, so I’ll say—mental fortitude. What I mean by that is you fail so much more than you succeed in sports. That experience allows you to develop healthy and effective coping mechanisms. It makes it seem a lot more manageable when you are presented with difficult situations or experience failures in life.

I’ve also found that nothing teaches you to communicate better than working with teams in sports, I’ve done a lot of group projects in school and college and felt I had an advantage with being able to communicate and work with the group because of sports.

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

I love Marvel movies. Recently my brother and I watched all 22 movies in order. We learned from an avid Marvel fan that some of the most famous scenes and best parts are ad-libbed and were not scripted.

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

Both my parents. My dad taught me to always let your actions and your own achievements speak for themselves. He taught me humility. You don’t need to explain your success to people. They will figure out for themselves. Mental toughness is something else he taught me.

My mom is very passionate and has always encouraged me to pursue what I care about, and to do it as hard as I can. Also, to have fun while doing it. If I have any issues, I call my mom.

How did you first become involved volunteering with CIS?

As Medallion scholars, we were looking for a class project. [Note: The Medallion Scholarship is WMU’s most prestigious merit-based scholarship and is affiliated with Lee Honors College. In 2016, they received a Champ award, which we featured in this post.]

Jane Baas [former Associate Dean of Lee Honors College, now retired] gave us the low-down on CIS and we began a mentorship program at Woodward. I did that for two years—during my junior and senior year. I really enjoyed that. [CIS Site Coordinator] Jen DeWaele assigned each of us a student to work with a couple times a week. [CIS Volunteer and Development Coordinator] Nicky Aiello trained us and then we started meeting with our students in the morning or over the lunchtime. I would always go in the morning and have breakfast with my student.

What a fun way to help a young person start their day. Your students must have loved that.

It was sure good for me! I really enjoyed it and hopefully, they liked it, too.

And then last year, I also volunteered during the Thanksgiving Dinner Giveaway [a Hands Up Foundation project that CIS partners on, with the support of many in the community]. I helped with unloading the truck and going around and packing the dinner bags. That is quite an amazing process! I didn’t think we’d get it all done but with all the volunteers and the system set up, well, we got it done in no time.

That really is something to witness and be a part of, isn’t it? So tell us a bit about WMU’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and how you all came to select CIS this year as the organization you wanted to support.

The Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (S.A.A.C.) is made up of two representatives from each WMU sports team. We wanted to come up with a fun, interactive way for our athletes to get involved, to serve the community, and donate to a good cause. We’re now in our second year of doing a dodgeball event.

As we considered potential organizations to support this year, I shared about my great experience with CIS and that I wanted to give back. A second athlete who is also part of the advisory committee said she had a similar experience with CIS and seconded the idea of selecting CIS this year. The committee and our deputy athletic director thought it was a good idea and so I reached out to CIS Volunteer Services Coordinator Nicky Aiello who put me in contact with [Director of Development] Kim Nemire. It was super easy after that.

Is this dodgeball event open to the public?

No. It’s really more for our athletes to spend some time with each other outside of their practices and games. This year, we had teams of six. Three players from a men’s sports team and three from a women’s team. Each athlete pays $5 to be in the tournament. Other athletes are also able to watch for $1. We raised $452. We had about 62 or 63 athletes compete this year. And some of those who watched, donated a dollar or more.

Last week, Jack braved snow-covered and icy roads to stop by CIS and provide Director of Development Kim Nemire with check of money the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee raised from the dodgeball event.

Well it’s a terrifically fun idea, and we’re so grateful to you, the entire Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, all the athletes who competed in the tournament, and the students who donated to the cause.

We’re so glad we could do it!

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

What Are CIS Partners Reading?

 

We can’t get enough of what you are reading! And a number of you can’t either! Some of you have even emailed and called and stopped us on the street to let us know how much you are enjoying this “What are you reading?” series. So we wondered, what are our wonderful partners up to in the world of books?

Here’s what a few of them said.

 

That was Then, This is Now by S.E. Hinton.

-Cate Jarvis, School Grief Support Counselor, Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan

 

I just started A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway and also just finished 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created by Charles Mann, which was a fascinating read on the consequences of early globalization.

-John Curran, Executive Director, First Day Shoe Fund

 

I just finished reading a novel written by William P. Young entitled The Shack. I love to read the book prior to seeing newly released movies. I just started reading a leadership book written Jon Gordon entitled The Energy Bus: 10 Rules to Fuel Your Life, Work, and Team with Positive Energy.

-Lola Amos, Director of Programs, Prevention Works

 

I’m reading Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad, by M.T. Anderson. It explores a dark and grim period in Russian history as experienced and expressed through the life and work of the famous composer. It was actually written as a book for teenagers, whom the author clearly regards as capable readers who can handle the real story. I highly recommend it as a captivating foray into a dense and difficult historical subject, especially as we grapple with deeply divided social and political beliefs in our own society.

Liz Youker, Vice President of Education and Community Partnerships, Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra

 

I am reading The Gift of Failure by Jessica Lahey.

-Julie Righter, Manager Operational Excellence, Pfizer Kalamazoo

 

I generally read several books at a time. I am currently reading The Power of the Other by Dr. Henry Cloud, Possessing the Secret of Joy by Alice Walker, and Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter.

-Sherry Thomas-Cloud, CEO, Family & Children Services

 

I am currently reading The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. It is a powerful novel that tells the story of a pre-Civil War slave named Cora. I’m also reading Kareem Abdul Jamar’s Writings on the Wall: Searching for a New Equality Beyond Black and White.

-Jane Baas, Associate Dean of WMU Lee Honors College (and coordinator of WMU Medallion Scholars who volunteer at Milwood Magnet Middle School)

 

I’m reading The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.

-Amy Kuchta, Chief Executive Officer, Big Brothers Big Sisters, A Community of Caring

 

I am participating in the Kalamazoo Public Library’s Community Read. The book is: Writings On the Wall authored by Kareem Abdul Jabbar and Raymond Obstfeldand. I am also honored to be facilitating one of the chapter discussions at the Douglass Community Associations Powell Branch Library. [Note: This Reading Together event with Von Washington Jr., Dick Shilts, and Beth Washington took place last night. A KPS student in attendance said it was “really good and made you think.”]

-Von Washington Jr., Executive Director of Community Relations, Kalamazoo Promise

 

Thanks for letting us know what you’ve been reading! And thanks, especially, for working with us to help kids stay in school and succeed in life!

Here at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids, we’re officially expanding March Reading Month into April. In a few weeks, you can learn what CIS board members are reading!

 

 

 

 

 

Western Michigan University Medallion Scholars

CIS Board Members Bob Miller, Associate Vice President of WMU (left) and Stephen Denefeld, Lewis, Reed & Allen, P.C. (right) congratulate WMU Medallion Scholars. Representing the Scholars, (left to right) Josh Ayerdi, Kylie Dennis, Marine Boillet, and Ed Ryan.
CIS Board Members Bob Miller, Associate Vice President of WMU (left) and Stephen Denenfeld, Lewis, Reed & Allen, P.C. (right) congratulate WMU Medallion Scholars. Representing the Scholars, (left to right) Josh Ayerdi, Kylie Dennis, Marine Boillet, and Ed Ryan.

Today we highlight Western Michigan University Medallion Scholars, one of seven school and community partners honored with a 2016 Champ Award. Their award was sponsored by Western Michigan University and CIS Board Member, Steve Denenfeld, presented the award.

In 2013, when Western Michigan University Medallion Scholars from Lee Honors College reflected on their education, they realized some of their toughest years were in middle school. They wished they’d had someone there for them academically and to help them navigate the social, emotional and sometimes choppy waters of middle school. So, for the past three years, once a week, these fourteen scholars from Lee Honors College have been doing just that for students at Milwood Magnet Middle School.

“The impact on students has been phenomenal,” says Tamiko Garrett, CIS Site Coordinator at Milwood. “Attendance has improved and students, once reluctant to do homework, now look forward to it. Scholars Travis, Marine, Leslie, Jake, Kelly, and Jenna have sparked students’ passion for learning.” On Tuesdays, students often stop by the CIS office to make sure Ana, Emily, Ben, or Elizabeth is coming. “I have math homework to do with Zach today, you know,” reminds Amarion, who, by the way, now wants to become an engineer like Zach.

These one-on-one relationships enhance these middle schoolers’ sense of who they are and what they can accomplish in school and life. Medallion Scholar Ed Ryan studies graphic design and works with Ben in the school’s animation club. They eat and then finish homework together. Ben, too, wants to be a graphic designer. Narisse Martin is in biomedical sciences, pursuing the path of a doctor. Her mentee, Brianna, wants to explore a career in science.

A few of the WMU Medallion Scholars with some of their Milwood Magnet Middle School students
A few of the WMU Medallion Scholars with some of the Milwood Magnet Middle School students.

These and other successful matches don’t just happen. It takes behind-the-scenes coordination. Tamiko, as Site Coordinator, connects the right resources to the right kids at the right time. She credits Jane Baas, Associate Dean of Lee Honors College, with getting the program off to a strong start as she provided a profile of the Medallion Scholars, which included their academic majors. As Tamiko met with each of the middle school students, reflecting on their interests in communication, theatre, science, and music, this information proved invaluable in connecting the right middle schooler to the right scholar. Jane is a steady support for the Medallion Scholars and staying in close communication with CIS.

From left: Josh Ayerdi, Kylie Dennis, Jane Baas, Marine Boillet, and Ed Ryan
(From left) Josh Ayerdi, Kylie Dennis, Jane Baas, Marine Boillet, and Ed Ryan.

Milwood Magnet teachers are also part of the program’s success as teachers stay after school to give students that extra boost. Teachers like Ms. Zang and Ms. Hawkinson are always reaching out to the Site Coordinator, saying things like “Have them come down to my room this afternoon to discuss an assignment they can work on together.”

“We’re all behind the Medallion Scholars because they put students first,” says Tamiko. “We all count on them to be here each week and when one of them can’t make it, they let me know so I can prepare the student and identify another mentor to double up so that no student is left out.”

Tattiana says, “Giulia helps me with my homework. We play games—only when I finish my homework—and she is nice. She’s also funny, smart, kind, and helpful.”  Natacia says, “I like spending time with Kylie. I can talk to her about things and I get help with my homework.”  “Sami is great and awesome,” says Devy. “We do fun things.  She helps me with my homework.  When I try to get her to do my homework she won’t.  She keeps encouraging me!!” Darius says, “Josh is cool.  He helps me get my homework done, and I know it is correct.  I look forward to coming to the CIS After School program, especially when I know Josh will be there.”

As these scholars graduate from college and their mentees advance to high school, the scholars have accomplished what they set out to do: sparking hope in the future leaders of Kalamazoo.

WMU Medallion Scholars, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

 

What Are CIS Volunteers Reading?

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Photo taken by Kaitlin Martin, CIS Volunteer Services Coordinator and Kaitlin LaMoine Photography

National Reading Month has us wondering, what are Communities In Schools (CIS) volunteers reading? To appease our curiosity, Kaitlin Martin, CIS Volunteer Services Coordinator asked them. Here’s what 26 of these wonderful folks who share their time and talents to benefit students throughout the Kalamazoo Public Schools had to say:

 

What a great idea! I’m an avid reader myself. I am currently reading Memories by Lang Leav. She is a talented poet my friend recommended to me and I adore her beautiful poetry.

-Danielle Favorite, Linden Grove Middle School

 

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley and How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.

-Jim Laurain, Maple Street Middle School

 

I just finished The Mayor of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy; good story. I don’t read a lot of books because I read a newspaper every day and subscribe to two magazines, and then there is all that mail, both snail and electronic.  Also, I read stories off the Internet.

-Karen Tinklenberg, Lincoln International Studies School

People’s Church

 

I am currently reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. It is a book we are considering for our Honors College common read for next year!

-Jane Baas, Milwood Street Magnet Middle School

Coordinator of Medallion Scholars

 

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Photo taken by Kaitlin Martin, CIS Volunteer Services Coordinator and Kaitlin LaMoine Photography

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and Tillyweed by Mary Anne Kelly.

-Jennifer Grace, Milwood Elementary

 

I just finished reading The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger, which I loved even more than the movie. I am now reading salt.by Nayyirah Waheed; a book of her poems. It’s pulling on the strings of my heart.

-Tanequa “Te” Hampton, Maple Street Magnet Middle School

Pretty Lake Camp Director

 

Currently, I’m reading The Help by Kathryn Stockett. Once I’m finished, I plan on starting Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan.

-Kailee Smith, Northglade Montessori Magnet School & Prairie Ridge Elementary

 

I finished Orphan Train by Christine Baker-Kline a few weeks ago:  interesting and heartbreaking novel based on true events between 1854-1929 depicting the lives of abandoned children from East Coast cities put on so-called orphan trains carrying thousands of them to the farmlands of the Midwest where their fates would be determined by pure luck; intermixed with a storyline set in modern day foster care.

I am now well into Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a fascinating novel about immigration, American dreams, the power of first love, and the shifting meanings of skin color. A full immersion opportunity to think outside the American box.

-Mary Reaume, Prairie Ridge Elementary

 

Photo taken by Kaitlin Martin, CIS Volunteer Services Coordinator and Kaitlin LaMoine Photography
Photo taken by Kaitlin Martin, CIS Volunteer Services Coordinator and Kaitlin LaMoine Photography

I am always reading multiple books at a time. Currently, my books of choice are:

1) The Nez Perce Indians and the Opening of the Northwest by Alvin Josephy

2) I Shall Not Hate by Izzeldin Abuelaish

3) The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay & James Madison

4) The End of Nature by Bill McKibben

-Richard Thompson, King-Westwood Elementary School

 

I just finished The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline.

-Roberta Sportel, Northglade Montessori Magnet School

 

No Easy Day by Mark Owen and Cell by Stephen King.

-Lisa Holmes, Prairie Ridge Elementary

 

Just this very moment, I am on Anna Maria Island looking at the Gulf and reading Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

-Rosalie Novara, King-Westwood Elementary & Maple Street Magnet School

 

The Outsider by Richard Wright after finishing Native Son by the same author.

-Nanette Keiser, King-Westwood Elementary School

 

Photo taken by Kaitlin Martin, CIS Volunteer Services Coordinator and Kaitlin LaMoine Photography
Photo taken by Kaitlin Martin, CIS Volunteer Services Coordinator and Kaitlin LaMoine Photography

I belong to the International Murder Mystery reader’s group at the Portage Public Library. Our selection for this month is Night Soldiers by Alan Furst.

-Judy Riccio, Woods Lake Elementary

 

I just finished the Orphan Train which was the community read by Kalamazoo Public Library.

-Stephen Ohs, Lincoln International Studies School

 

Yesterday, I finished reading Mitch Albom’s The First Phone Call From Heaven. I am about to start reading Encountering God, written by an old friend of mine, Mark A Johnson, with a major assist from his parents.

-Dewey Walker, Prairie Ridge Elementary

 

I am reading The Boston Girl by Anita Diamant.  It is a good read and starts back in the early 1900’s about a Jewish family and their relationships and how they cope with life and world events.

-Nancy Laugeman, Prairie Ridge Elementary 

 

I am currently reading the entire series of Dune. A great sci-fi series that has great insight into life and is also a great and easy read.

-Paul Ferguson, Washington Writers’ Academy

 

Photo taken by Kaitlin Martin, CIS Volunteer Services Coordinator and Kaitlin LaMoine Photography
Photo taken by Kaitlin Martin, CIS Volunteer Services Coordinator and Kaitlin LaMoine Photography

I am reading:  Newspapers – Kalamazoo Gazette, Detroit Free Press, New York Times;  Magazines- Time, National Geographic, Military History; Books – Budapest 1900/A Historical Portrait of a City and its Culture by John Lukacs, Ardennes 1944 by Antony Beevor, and One For the Money by Janet Evanovich.  With my Bible study group I am also reading Jeremiah, the 24th book of the Old Testament.

-James (Jim) W. Smith, Woods Lake Elementary

 

A series written by English author, Jacqueline Winspear. These books are set in England and France between WWI and WWII. They are historical mysteries. The main character is Maisie Dobbs, psychologist and investigator. The storyline contains delightful characters, many of whom continue from book to book. Besides the plots being well developed and interesting, Winspear’s use of the very rich vocabulary of the English is fun to explore. My Kindle allows me to find word meaning and usage on the spot! The historical settings are well researched.

-Diana Spradling, Woods Lake Elementary

 

I received your email and thought it was an interesting project to list what CIS folks are reading.  Right now, I am reading The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean by David Abulafia. It is a fascinating history of civilization as it developed on the Mediterranean from 22000 BC to the present. It will be interesting to see what others are reading.

-Bob Spradling, Woods Lake Elementary

 

Reading Love Will Steer Me True by Jane Knuth and Ellen Knuth; and Mothers, Tell Your Daughters by Bonnie Jo Campbell.

-Amy Morris, Northeastern Elementary School

 

Right now I’m reading John Adams by David McCullough.

-Diane Tultz, King-Westwood Elementary School

 

I am currently reading Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates and The Dogs of Littlefield by Suzanne Berne.

-Susie Knox, Kalamazoo Central High School

 

Photo taken by Kaitlin Martin, CIS Volunteer Services Coordinator and Kaitlin LaMoine Photography
Photo taken by Kaitlin Martin, CIS Volunteer Services Coordinator and Kaitlin LaMoine Photography

Dead Wake by Erik Larson—about the sinking of the Lusitania. Strangers in the Bronx by Andrew O’Toole—about the transition from DiMaggio to Mantle in the Yankee dynasties. The Wright Brothers by David McCullough—about the development of the first successful airplane. A Man and His Ship by Steven Ujifusa—about the man who conceived and supervised the building of the ocean liner “United States.”

-Wayne Connor, Edison Environmental Science Academy

 

Our Unitarian Universalist Association suggests a “Common Read” each year and People’s Church accepted the recommendation of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative. Recently, we held a group discussion of this book and related themes. My own book club is reading The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing and we also participate in the Kalamazoo Common Read, currently The Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline.

-Kay Spade, Lincoln International Studies School
People’s Church

 

Thank you for sharing! And if you missed some of our CIS staff and board members are reading you can find them here and here.