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.

Ms. Annie Brown: A Tree with Many Branches

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 Ms. Annie Brown. She has been a CIS volunteer for the past three years and is the proud grandparent of Reniyah Gillam, a second grade student at Woodward School for Technology & Research.

Originally from Tennessee, Ms. Brown came to Kalamazoo in 1968 and began working at the Shakespeare Company. Most locals know this art-deco building located in downtown Kalamazoo as Shakespeare’s Pub. However, when Ms. Brown came to town, the building housed a business that manufactured and supplied fishing equipment and other sporting goods. Ms. Brown worked for the company, helping them with cars and jeeps equipment. [If you are interested in learning more about the history of this former Kalamazoo company, go here.]

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

Pop Quiz

What do you love about Kalamazoo?

Kalamazoo is a special place, because there are people who LOVE to help others. I love doing things for people. I have a prayer group, I love going to church and doing reach out ministry. I go to the Tabernacle Church of God in Christ. My Pastor is Dr. Charles G. Charles.

Favorite word?

Praise Him! All the sickness I’ve been through and I’ve survived!

How did you come to be involved with Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo?

I thought I came to help my granddaughter out but God was wanting me to do something else!…I guess you could say Reniyah was the seed and it just grew from there!…I was doing a little walk through of Woodward and to see how my granddaughter was doing. I saw the principal, Mr. Rocco, and said, Mr. Rocco, do you need me to do anything here? And he said, Yea! Come on down to the Communities In School’s room. So ever since, that what I’ve been doing! I’m an organizer and I love to organize things! I’ve been organizing clothes for CIS Kids’ Closet, sorting and folding. I organize items in the cabinets as part of the Loaves & Fishes food pantry we have here. I just do whatever [CIS Site Coordinator] Jen [DeWaele] needs me to do.

Ms. Annie Brown with her granddaughter, Reniyah, who enjoys school, especially reading and working at math.

Your thoughts on the volunteer work you do with Communities In Schools?

This is right in the schools, and I tell people we are here for them, we are an organization that can help people. Sometimes, people don’t know we can help or maybe they don’t like to share about their situation. Even though they might need some help, they don’t like to admit it. But we can help them by providing them with information about what we have—right here at Woodward!—that they might need. We have a food pantry, a closet of clothes, backpacks, and a whole lot of other things we can help students and their families with, like help with tutoring. They don’t always know about it so I tuck a flyer, say about the Loaves & Fishes pantry, in their backpack.

So you have been serving in this role for the past three years now? Any other insights?

Yes, it has been three years…With the children, sometimes they don’t want you to pick them out as needing help. I just spread my love and the children don’t feel so bad about needing something. And they know me. Ms. Brown, she’s Reniyah’s grandma and she works with Ms. Jen, they say, so it’s okay. Everybody has gotten used to me here so it’s easier for them to accept the help. There comes Ms. Brown! they say, once they got used to me. So I come in on my good days and help out however I can, whether it’s organizing things or connecting with a student and doing one-on-one work with them.

What are you currently reading?

I love to read and pray. Right now I’m reading Romans in the Bible.

Is that your favorite book in the Bible?

I prefer James.

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

My mother. She raised five children. She was the backbone of us. She was a good mother and gave us structure and balance. She instilled in us that you can be whatever you want to be. She taught us to love and also to do whatever you can do—but don’t talk about it.

Well, both CIS and the Woodward family are so grateful for all you do for kids here at the school. We can’t help but talk about what you do. You really do a lot!

I’m like a tree and I have so many branches. Hey, that’s your closing right there! That’s what we’re all supposed to be about, trees and branches, nurturing each other.

That is a good closing! Thank you, Ms. Annie, for hanging out with us at Ask Me About My 12,000+ Kids.

In the next issue of the CIS  newsletter, “CIS Connections,” you can learn more about Ms. Annie and what Woodward’s Principal Frank Rocco and CIS Site Coordinator Jen DeWaele have to say about Ms. Brown!

Radiant Church

20140506-DSC_7611Today we celebrate the work of Radiant Church. An emerging faith based partner with CIS, Radiant was honored this past May at the seventh annual Champ Celebration. CIS Board Member Dr. Randall Eberts along with Jen DeWaele, CIS Site Coordinator at Woodward School for Technology and Research, presented the award.

When volunteers from Radiant Church plan on giving, they think BIG…so big that their BIG Give Winterfest at Edison Environmental Science Academy involved over 250 volunteers who created a special holiday experience for the elementary students. The centerpiece of the event was a free shopping spree that gave every student a new winter coat, hat, boots, and gloves. No detail was left to chance.

The night before the event, a semi-trailer truck full of merchandise and department store racks pulled up to the school. Volunteers literally decked the halls, creating a winter wonderland to greet the students the next morning. They transformed the gym into a department store with separate sections for boys and girls. Each child was assigned a personal shopper to assist them with finding just the right winter wardrobe. At lunchtime, students were treated to pizza and holiday songs. The teachers were not left out. They enjoyed a special lunch and each received a holiday gift bag. Every child left school that day with a shopping bag filled with beautiful winterwear. But they left with much more than that—a feeling that despite the polar vortex we all endured this past winter, they were cared for by their community.

100_4402Radiant’s warmth spread beyond the walls of Edison and entered Woodward School for Technology and Research, providing winterwear for many more students. Jen DeWaele, CIS Site Coordinator at Woodward, said “We were simply overwhelmed by the generosity of Radiant Church. They were so genuine, not to mention super organized. In addition to providing coats, boots, hats, and mittens for the students, they cooked a delicious, homemade meal for teachers and staff, welcoming and serving them over the course of the afternoon.”

Radiant Church also helped make sure students got off to a great school year by providing mountains of school supplies. CIS Site Coordinators throughout were able to make sure that all students were able to start the new school year with the tools they needed to be successful.

What Radiant Church provides is more than the material things many of our students need for school success. It is the abundant spirit that their volunteers generously impart to our children that is the true gift.

Radiant Church, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

 

20140506-DSC_7707

If you didn’t get the chance to read the blog post, “A Gift of Warmth for Edison” by Donna Carroll, Director of Health Initiatives for CIS, then do yourself a favor and read it now. It really captures the beautiful work of Radiant Church in our schools.

Pop Quiz: Jen Dewaele

PhilHegwood-dk-m_7Welcome 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 Jen DeWaele, CIS Site Coordinator at Woodward School for Technology and Research. Her Principal, Mr. Frank Rocco, was interviewed a few months back by Daquayveon Edmonson and you can read that post here.

An interesting fact about Jen is that she is one of four individuals who founded Peace House, an intentional community in the Eastside Neighborhood of Kalamazoo dedicated to nurturing the next generation of peacemakers.

Alright, Jen: pencils out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

I’ve recently learned about elephant memory. Elephants can remember where water has been decades later when there is a drought or areas have been planted over. Each elephant has a personal greeting that they recognize each other with, and they can remember these long after an individual has passed.

WhatisthewhatWhat are you currently reading?

What is the What by Dave Eggers. It is the story of one of the lost boys from Sudan.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Patient.

What is your favorite word right now?

Community. I believe that we are all better when we can work together. When we have our shared wisdom and experience, we can go further and deeper towards more creative ideas and solutions.

Will you share with us something that has been on your mind lately?

I’ve been noticing lately that there’s a lot of anger in our culture. I’ve been thinking a lot lately of how I can, and should try to, be a part of changing that in a positive way, even if it seems small.

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

My husband. We take on each day together as a team. He is my sounding board and support for everything. I’m daily grateful for his wisdom.

Jen D reading with a friend
CIS Site Coordinator Jen DeWaele (right) with friend, Jordan Martin

 

What Are You Reading?

In anticipation of National Reading Month, we’re posting a series of emails that have recently flown between CIS staff. We did this last year and once again, it’s been fun to see what my colleagues are reading. We’ll begin with Artrella’s email that started it all…

A month from now (give or take a few days) Kalamazoo Public Schools will be kicking off its Literacy Month activities at the various schools (National Reading Month is March). I personally think that it is always fun to see the READ posters out at the sites and various KPS buildings when I am out. My curiosity leads me to ask the question…WHAT ARE YOU READING???  

I just received my book via Amazon today, which is a part of my Book Club (The Lovely Ladies of Literature). It is 32 Candles by Ernessa T. Carter. Do share…

-Artrella M. Cohn, Director of Secondary Sites

 

I’m reading Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital by Sheri Fink. “In the tradition of the best investigative journalism, physician and reporter Sheri Fink reconstructs five days at the Memorial Medical Center and draws the reader into the lives of those who struggled mightily to survive and to maintain life amid chaos.” Challenging subject material, but excellent writing.

-Deb Faling, Director of Social Emotional Health Initiatives

 

I just got a box delivered from a friend living in India, and she sent me: Ayoni and Other Stories, a compilation of stories written by various Indian writers “who have focused on women’s issues…and altered the Telugu [Indian ethnic group] literary scene…. These stories deal with the dilemmas and problems faced by women, both on the physical and emotional levels.”

So far, I like how one of the writers captures one of my personal gestures, a blank stare, via writing by the usage of “…”. Tis awesome!!

-Haley A-bel, CIS Site Coordinator, Milwood Magnet Middle School

 

I’m reading Tenth of December, a collection of short stories by George Saunders and have recently finished A Woman in the Polar Night, by Christiane Ritter, the story of a year spent by a woman in a tiny hut on an island in the arctic circle which makes our recent Polar Vortex look like a walk in the park.

-Donna Carroll, Director of Health Initiatives

 

The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts. A classic introduction to Taoism I have read a few times and it’s always soothing for me.

-Emily Demorest, CIS Site Coordinator, Maple Street Magnet

 

I am reading Affirming Your Greatness Through The Power of Words by Burnette Clingman and Strengths Finder 2.0 by Tom Rath.

-Deborah Yarbrough, CIS Site Coordinator, Kalamazoo Central High School

 

I’ve just finished gorging myself with Fried Walleye and Cherry Pie: Midwestern Writers on Food, edited by Peggy Wolff. I’m on to the next course, a combination ofTell Me, poems by one of my favorite poets Kim Addonizio and Traveling Sprinkler, a novel by Nicholson Baker, one of the most uninhibited, funny writers I’ve ever read. Take page 96, for instance. I wanted to tell the Quakers about Debussy’s sunken cathedral. I kept formulating an opening in my head. “A little more than a hundred years ago, a composer named Claude Debussy wrote a piece for piano called ‘The Sunken Cathedral.’ He was a man with a big forehead who loved the sea.

-Jennifer Clark, Director of Community Relations

 

I just finished Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain. Just started a novel called The Daughters of Mars by Thomas Keneally.

–Pam Kingery, Executive Director

 

I am reading Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women, by Melissa Harris Perry and just started the third book in the Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin. Yes, #nerdpoints.

-Kaitlin Martin, Volunteer Services Coordinator

 

I am currently reading one of this year’s “Reading Together” books: The American Way of Eating by Tracie McMillan. I also just finished reading a book called Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant.  It is a historical fiction on the Borgia family in Italy.

-Emily Kobza, Director of Development & Business Engagement

 

I am listening to Winter’s Tale by Mark Helprin and just finished listening to MansfieldPark by Jane Austen. I just finished reading the first two books in the Divergent Seriesby Veronica Roth and am impatiently waiting for my daughters to finish the third.  At one point during reading the first book there were 3 book marks in it.  I love it when we all read the same book- The Newsome Girls Book Club!  It’s really great when we get my mom to join in, too!!

Next in line are Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland and Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmakerby Jennifer Chiaverni, both historical fiction.

-Debra Newsome, Finance Coordinator

 

Wild Things by Dave Eggers!! Check him out if you haven’t; he’s fantastic.

-Jen DeWaele, CIS Site Coordinator, Woodward School for Technology and Research

 

America’s Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines by Gail Collins. I highly recommend!

-Abby Nappier, Director of Volunteer Services

 

I’m reading A Dance with Dragons, the 5th book in the Fire and Ice/Game of Thrones series by George R.R. Martin. They’re amazing – you guys should just stop reading your current books and switch to these.  🙂

-Donielle Hetrick, CIS Site Coordinator, Woods Lake

 

Currently reading Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, and Sharpen Your Creative Mind by Jocelyn Glei. Great book for learning how to work smarter and find creativity even when you have no time or energy for it.

P.S. I love seeing what everyone is reading.

-Korrine Wojcik, CIS Site Coordinator, Milwood Elementary

P.P.S. We hope you also loved reading what we are reading. We’d love to hear what you are reading. Let us know! We may just publish what are readers are reading in the near future.