Teen Living Life With Courage and Hope

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 Annie Jett, a seventh grader at Hillside Middle School.

Prior to Hillside, Annie attended fifth grade at Lincoln and kindergarten through fourth grade at Northglade Montessori Magnet School. Annie is “loving my educational experience at Hillside.” With her positive attitude, this student who thinks deeply about many subject matters has a bright future ahead of her.

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

Pop Quiz

What is your favorite subject?

Life skills. It is helping me become a more advanced person. The class helps me not only now with how I can see and do things but, how in the future, what I’m learning will help me in the different environments I find myself in when I’m out in the world.

Any favorite teachers?

In elementary school it was Ms. [Carla] Waller. She’s retired now, but she was my teacher at Northglade Montessori Magnet School. Also, Ms. [Suezann] Bennett-Sheldon. She teaches life skills here at Hillside. She’s really helpful and teaches you different ways to approach things. She also is able to figure out different ways to help you learn.

How has CIS figured into your educational experience?

CIS has been there for me. The people care. When I was at Northglade, Mr. [Derek] Miller was my site coordinator. And when I got to Hillside, his wife, Ms. Precious [Miller] was my site coordinator.

You had the Miller team!

Yes, they were both very helpful, responsible, and respectful. They especially help me calm down my anger when I was mad. And when my father passed away in 2017, Ms. Precious was there for me. We had just finished doing a Prevention Works program when my granny came down to the school that day and told me my father had passed in a car crash on the highway… I went into a coma…I felt paralyzed. I felt that way for weeks, like I couldn’t move.

Ms. Precious was there. She even came to my classes when I was sad and down. She helped me get through it before she went to Western.

And now Ms. Jody Sikkema is your CIS Site Coordinator.

Yes, and I have found the same connection with her, just in a different way. Ms. Jody helps me find different ways to handle my emotions. She’s gotten me involved in Grief 101 with Ms. Cate. Ms. Cate has helped me a lot. The Grief 101 group [offered through Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan] has connected me with more people who have the same thing. At first, I was even scared to talk about it, was going to bust down……It helps to be surrounded by other people that have similar situations. I was stuck in my shell and Ms. Cate has helped me open up.

I know how to handle things, but I also know that some times are just going to be hard, like the 13th of every month…[the date of her father’s death]. All together, Ms. Precious, Ms. Jody, and Ms. Cate have really, really, really helped me a lot with this.

Your father’s death is such a huge thing to deal with. In talking with Ms. Cate recently for the upcoming CIS newsletter, she said that grief is something that never goes away. You learn to live with it.

That’s right. And that’s what I’m doing every day.

Annie with Ms. Mariah Adamy, WMU School of Social Work student interning with CIS. “Ms. Mariah is very open and it’s easy to talk to her,” says Annie.

What is something you’ve recently learned?

That I can make more connections with others and that is good to do for me. I might be afraid to talk to you because I don’t know you, but I still am talking to you.

You are putting yourself out there.

Yes. And I’m becoming more mature and more wise about my decisions. When my dad was here, he always knew how to put me in check. Now I’m learning how to do that.

What is your favorite word right now?

Courage. If it wasn’t for courage, I’d still be down and wouldn’t have others to lift me up. I think about courage every day. It comes up in different forms, you know? Like, I might call my granny and she helps me, lifts my spirits up.

I love my family and education, but at the end of the day I still have to deal with one of my parents gone. I’m moving along and finding new paths every day to take. That is the way of courage.

What are you currently reading?

The Hate U Give. It’s our all school read at Hillside.

What would you ask the author, Angie Thomas, if you got the chance?

I would ask Angie Thomas, “How were you able to do this so well? How were you able to compare real life to the life you have created in your book?” She really was able to capture real life—and the world of black and white—so real, like. How was she able to do that?

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

Every adult I know and see. Even if I don’t know you, I can see how you are caring. That’s one of my special abilities.

Also, my principal, Mr. McKissack. I think of him as my uncle because he knows me and has known my family a long time. He was a teacher when my mom was here at the school. And even though he’s not my real uncle, he cares like a real uncle. He’s helped me through things, too. He’s the kind of person I like to be around.

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

In our Spring 2019 CIS Connections, you can learn more about Annie, Ms. Cate, and the partnership between CIS and Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan.

Young Leader Oriented Towards the Future

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 Zechariah, an eighth grader at Hillside Middle School.

Zechariah and his family moved from Noblesville, Indiana, to Kalamazoo when he was in third grade. He finished out his elementary education at Lincoln Elementary School and now, as an eighth grader, is looking forward to starting Kalamazoo Central High School this fall.

CIS Site Coordinator Jody Sikkema has known him since his elementary years. She says, “Ever since I’ve known Zechariah, he has been a respectful, thoughtful, and nice kid. It is wonderful to see how he has grown into a leader.” In addition to working hard in school, Zechariah is a WEB [Where Everybody Belongs] leader, using his leadership skills to orient and support sixth graders at his school.

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

Pop Quiz

What is something you’ve recently learned?

I learned this a couple days ago, that when people talk to me, it’s good to be patient and wait. You don’t want to rush it.
I have patience, but when I’m mad, I get really mad. But not for long, though.

Favorite Subject?

Math.

Any favorite teachers?

Ms. [Heather]Hart [now Heather Ballines], my fifth grade teacher at Lincoln. Also, Mr. [Gregory] Orr. He’s been my social studies teacher in sixth and seventh grade. I really like how, when he gave us assignments, he’d break down the work to where everybody could understand it.

How has CIS figured into your educational experience?

In lots of ways it has. Mentor-wise, work-wise, and how I’m feeling-wise. CIS asks you how you are and make sure you have what you need. If I need something, I can turn to Ms. Jody. She’s like a mentor to me. She is very caring, respectful, and has a lot of patience. Also, she’s hard working. She is a person I can go to for anything.

I really appreciate the focus on careers. With Ms. Jody, we’ve had some good discussions. She’s open-hearted, gives honest feedback and I like that. We talk about career stuff, she’ll ask questions, share steps we need to take, and based on what we want to pursue, will tell us about different colleges.

What are you currently reading?

The Hate U Give, as part of our all school read.

[In a few weeks, find out right here at Ask Me About My 12,000+ Kids what Zechariah and other students would ask the author, Angie Thomas, if given the chance. And they just might! The Hate U Give was also selected as the 2019 Reading Together Book. Thomas is coming to Kalamazoo on Wednesday, April 17 to talk about her book with the community at 7 p.m. at Miller Auditorium. A book signing will follow. Admission is free.]

What is your favorite word right now?

Technology. I want to eventually go to school for computers and technical engineering. I was thinking Western Michigan University, but I’m not sure yet.

Any particular interests or hobbies?

I like to be on the go, to travel and go places, like to Indianapolis. Sometimes, I just like to hang out and be on my electronics.

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

My mom, Ms. Jody, and my grandma. My mom, she keeps me going and motivates me. She went to college, she’s succeeded and wants me to do the same. As for my grandma, I like that she likes to see the good in me. And just like my mom, she also succeeded in school and college.

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

Zechariah with CIS Site Coordinator Jody Sikkema

New World Flood Filling the World With Love

New World Flood founder Todd “TJ” Duckett surrounded by students at CIS Transformative Youth Summit
New World Flood founder Todd “TJ” Duckett surrounded by students at CIS Transformative Youth Summit

Over the next few months we will be introducing you to our award winners honored at our recent annual Champ Celebration. You won’t want to miss these special installments to our blog. Today, we officially kick this series off with New World Flood, one of eight organizations and individuals honored with a Champs award. Moses Walker, CIS Board Member and Lauren Longwell, Lead AmeriCorps VISTA (based at Washington Writers Academy) presented the award. 

Presence is a powerful change-agent. Presence combined with a downpour of passion is unstoppable. That gets to the heart of our next Champ, New World Flood. This partnership, which started four years ago began, as most floods do, with a single drop: supporting students in the CIS Think Summer Program. Loy Norrix graduate and New World Flood founder Todd “TJ” Duckett rained hope, kindness, and passion upon our kids during a family barbeque picnic.  He spent time connecting, listening, taking pictures with the kids, and talking about the importance of school and learning.

New World Flood has kept right on raining—through fall and winter, and summer after CIS Think Summer. Showering support by speaking to over hundreds of CIS Think summer students to conducting student focus groups, co-facilitating discussions for a young men’s empowerment group, to reflecting with young men on the value of service and giving back at the past two CIS Transformative Youth Leadership Summits.

Artrella Cohn and Todd Duckett at Champs
Artrella Cohn and Todd Duckett at Champs

Artrella Cohn, CIS Director of Secondary Sites says this about the founder of New World Flood. “TJ has always been the biggest man on campus, in personality and celebrity. Despite all the glory and attention he receives, he is just the same as he ever was—humble and approachable.” Artrella should know. When both were students at Loy Norrix, she literally cheered for him on the sidelines through four seasons of basketball and one season of football. Artrella, who then went on to U of M, admits she stopped cheering when Todd played for MSU, but she picked right back up again when he was later drafted by the NFL. “One of his greatest gifts,” says Artrella, “is that he has a way of making people feel important. He makes time for people, particularly our youth. Loy Norrix is our home and the students are always on his radar. He’s always asking, “What more can I do? How can I give back?”

Todd-at-Summitt-300x198For the past several years, New World Flood has promoted literacy alongside CIS as part of the First Saturdays at the Kalamazoo Public Library. One grandmother confided, “We only came to the library so the boys could meet Mr. Duckett.” And here, we thought it was our catchy flyers. “Do you think he’d let me take a picture of him with the boys?” she asked. Todd politely obliged to this common refrain and after the cameras went away, he was in deep conversation with the family. Soon, both boys were checking books out of the library.

When CIS AmeriCorps VISTAs, charged with promoting a college going culture, organized a Ready, Set, College! event for the first Mayor’s Day of Service, Todd’s organization flooded city hall with college gear from his alma mater, MSU. VISTAs and their site teams were then able to distribute these and
other college items to grateful graduating seniors, many who would be the first in their family to attend college.

Flood-KM-11-300x199And, on the day before Thanksgiving, you will find Todd Duckett championing the hungriest children in the very halls he once attended as a student: Parkwood UpJohn Elementary School. Along with Parkwood’s Principal Robin Greymountain, CIS Site Coordinator Jody Sikkema, and others he welcomes families to the High Five Turkey Drive and helps them gather up a turkey and a grocery bag full of all the fabulous fixings for a Thanksgiving dinner. This year, CIS Site Coordinators and their site teams were able to identify 200 families who, were it not for the generosity of New World Flood, would have little, if anything to eat. This distribution was just part of New World Flood’s larger effort to ripple beyond the boundaries of Kalamazoo and into Lansing, this year reaching over 800 families.

 

Champs-20151-300x213
CIS Board Member Moses Walker congratulating Todd Duckett on New World Flood’s Champs award.

“People,” Todd reminds us, “are in need all over and we have an opportunity to take care of a few of them, if just for one day.”

New World Flood, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

 

And if you missed Todd Duckett and Artrella Cohn on the Lori Moore Show (or if you saw it but just want to watch it again), click here, to watch.Todd-Duckett-and-Lori-Moore-300x225

 

One Fabulous CIS Cheerleader

Today, we highlight the work of KPS Principal Carol Steiner.  She was recently honored at the seventh annual Champ celebration. Retired Judge and CIS Board President, Carolyn H. Williams presented the award. 

 

Carol SteinerCIS Site Coordinator Jody Sikkema describes this Champ’s presence as “positively contagious.” Carol Steiner’s enthusiasm, zest for life, and positive leadership set the tone at Parkwood Upjohn Elementary School for students, parents, and staff alike. As the school’s principal, Carol embraces EVERY opportunity to reinforce a college going culture. Whether in the hallway, on the playground, or before a large school assembly, she will remind the children and their parents that because they are in theKalamazoo Public Schools, each child has the, now what is it? She’ll cup her ear and smile as the crowd shouts out: THE KALAMAZOO PROMISE!

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of being at Parkwood during the morning announcements, you will hear this Principal reminding everyone to “Choose to make it a good day!” Carol is one of those rare creatures who heeds her own advice. For the past 29 years, Carol has chosen to make every day a good day as she serves well the children in the Kalamazoo Public Schools, the last ten of those as principal and chief cheerleader at Parkwood Upjohn. In a school of 530 students, she knows practically everybody’s name. Rain or shine, she is out greeting the children, welcoming them or sending them home safely.

Carol “gets” CIS. She is the cheerleader for integrated student services. Because she knows what her kids need, she takes full advantage of the community resources CIS leverages for the school. When parents reach out to Carol for support and she sees that their need for their child can be addressed through CIS—such as therapy, tutoring, basic needs—she links that parent to the CIS Site Coordinator. Principals are busy people. Yet, she makes a point of welcoming volunteers and partners so that they feel a part of the school family.

Because of the high standards she sets, the model she upholds, Carol Steiner inspires us all not only to do the work needed for our kids, but to do it better. Call her unconventional, a free spirit, these are parts of Carol we love and cherish. You may be retiring, Carol, but you have taught us well. Like you, we choose to make it a good day for all our kids.

Carol Steiner, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

Carol Steiner

A Dynamic Duo

_DSC0793Today we highlight the work of Joyce and Doyle Crow. These CIS volunteers were honored this past spring at the sixth annual Champ Celebration.  (This is the seventh installment of a nine part series.)

Joyce and Doyle Crow: a dynamic duo if there ever was one. For the past six years, CIS Site Coordinator Jody Sikkema has been turning to them to help tutor children in both math and reading at Parkwood Upjohn Elementary School. Trust, she points out, is vital to empowering children to open up and change. The Crow’s establish trust early on by showing up on time each week, committing to working with the same children year after year. When one of Doyle’s student recently changed schools Doyle followed the child to Arcadia Elementary where he continues to support the student and was convinced by Arcadia’s CIS Site Coordinator, Gulnar Husain, to pick up an additional child in need.

The Crows unleash their powers upon children, showering them with abundant kindness, caring, patience, and love. Under their tutelage, children who are struggling academically, behaviorally, or emotionally, blossom.

When Jody recently called a parent to find out how she felt the tutoring with Mr. Crow was going for her son, the mother was stunned by the changes she was seeing in her child. Once disengaged with learning, her son was opening up at home, his attitude towards school improving along with his academics. “He can’t stop talking about Mr. Crow,” she said. Her son, realizing whom his mother was talking about, shouted out, “He’s amazing!”

_DSC0544Last year, one of Joyce’s students suggested that Joyce change her tutoring schedule so that she could come earlier in the week. This would give the student a chance to practice the skills she was learning from Mrs. Crow throughout the week. Joyce didn’t hesitate to rearrange her schedule. And when summer arrived and the student worried that she would lose the gains made, Joyce arranged to tutor her throughout the summer. This past fall, this young lady received her first ever ‘A’ in math.

Between them both, they have helped more than a dozen kids. Kids are smart. They know that Joyce and Doyle Crow, caring and committed adults are part of the secret to their growing success.

Joyce and Doyle Crow, we thank you for helping students stay in school and achieve in life.

A Shout Out To Secretaries

Secretaries make the world go ‘round. If you are a parent, volunteer, or partner with us you know that the secretary is often the first face you encounter upon entering a school building. The role of the secretary is key not only to the overall functioning of a school, but to the success of our community partnerships and volunteer efforts. Toall administrative professionals sprinkled throughout theKalamazoo Public Schools, thank you for all you do. You help us surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.

Given that Wednesday is Administrative Professionals Day in the United States, here are what a few of our Site Coordinators have to say about their schools’ secretaries:

A huge thank you to Clar Pillsbury and Cherie Buell, two women who work tirelessly for all of us at Lincoln International Studies School. Their job position and responsibilities are enormous. I appreciate all of their hard work and sacrifices they make for me and the rest of the staff here. Thanks so much for what you have done and continue to do for staff, students, and families!!!!

-Bonnie Terrentine, CIS Site Coordinator, Lincoln International Studies School

Julie Davis is kind, compassionate and her patience has no limits…when all the phone lines are ringing simultaneously, a deadline for a report has to be met, a sick child has to be taken care of, a dose of medicine, ice pack, or band aid has to be given to a student, visitors have to be greeted, or a teacher’s question has to be answered, Julie is there to take care of everyone’s needs. It would be understandable if she lost her cool, but she doesn’t! She remains calm and composed and has the uncanny ability to keep everything under control. She is an invaluable asset to Arcadia and my job as a Site Coordinator.

-Gulnar Husain, CIS Site Coordinator,  Arcadia Elementary School

Pam Storher knows everybody and everything. She is sweet, caring and loves the kids. She goes above and beyond. The same can be said for Joy VandePol, my   go-to-person for attendance. She and Pam are always busy but they never make me feel like I’m bothering them.

-Larry Manley, Jr. CIS Site Coordinator at Washington Writers’ Academy

At Edison Environmental Science Academy, Mrs. Carol Stoeffler is the glue that holds us all together! She works compassionately in serving not only the students at Edison but the staff also! She is AMAZING in dealing with parents and students! Mrs. Carol is an AWESOME representation of all the staff at Edison and I am grateful to have had an opportunity to know and work with her!

-Stacy Salters, CIS Site Coordinator ot Edison Environmental Science Academy

Yvonne Steffler is so wonderful and patient with the students at Milwood. She takes care of business and always has a smile for the kids! We want to thank Yvonne for all of her hard work!

-Abigail Nappier, CIS Site Coordinator, Milwood Elementary School

Sheri Ferrari and Ann Campbell not only keep this building running smoothly, but they greet our volunteers, partners, and children with a smile. I can depend on them to funnel new volunteers to me.  Their support of CIS helps make Parkwood a more caring community.

Jody Sikkema, CIS Site Coordinator, Parkwood Upjohn Elementary School 

 

Cast Your Vote For Kids

Remember to vote today!

As Dr. Pierce said, “This may be the most important vote of your lifetime. This is a big choice. Really big. It ranks up there with what cereal you should eat in the morning.”

I guess I should mention that Dr. Pierce wasn’t referring to the 2012 elections being held throughout the United States. As Parkwood’s Behavioral Specialist, Davonne Pierce served as moderator for a recent debate held in the school’s gym. He was referring to the decision facing all Parkwood-Upjohn Elementary students, staff and families: what book should represent the school?  The two nominees were Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone vs. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the first in the series.

CIS Site Coordinator Jody Sikkema credits Maureen Cartmill, Title One Tutor, with coming up with the idea and deepening students’ understanding of the election process. “It’s a great way,” she said, “to involve families and the students are more enriched from the experience.”

Because our son attends Parkwood, my family has been paying close attention to this particular campaign. If we (both citizens and politicians) approached campaigns more like Parkwood students, we would be an even stronger country. By seeing how well the elementary students conducted themselves, I have learned three lessons I want to share with you.

Manners count.

How we conduct ourselves with our friends and opponents matters. Just because we believe our book is better than yours doesn’t mean the other book isn’t a fine book worth reading, too. Heated, yet healthy, debates were going on at lunchtime and on Parkwood’s playground, yet there was a noticeable absence of fingerpointing and smearing the other side. Maybe if we played more on each other’s turfs, like the Parkwood students do, we would be more respectful of each other’s opinions.

As grownups, we can get wrapped up in the winning. The most important part of voting isn’t necessarily who we elect to public office. What matters most is what they do once they get there. As citizens many of us have already moved on to the next contentious election.

Neatness counts, too.

Principal Carol Steiner encouraged the children to run clean campaigns and they did. Parkwood students didn’t litter their hallways with sloppy signs, careless comments, and messy truths woven with lies. We shouldn’t either. They drew beautiful pictures, wrote legibly and asked their fellow students to “Vote For Our Book, Please!”

Go simple and save.

At the end of October, the Center for Responsive Politics projected that the cost of this 2012 elections will exceed six billion dollars. Say what? SIX BILLION??!!! I can’t even wrap my head around that figure.

We could save a lot of money (and perhaps divert some of it into education) if only we  rolled up our sleeves, pulled out the poster board, crayons and washable markers. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see home made signs by politicians hanging in the entrance way to a grocery store or on the doors of a public library instead of invading our homes through television, computer, radio, and mail?

As this election is shaping up to be the most expensive election in U.S. history, I’ve been gathering ingredients to bake brownies to help raise funds for my son’s school. I’ve been thinking how easy it seems to spend six billion dollars on elections whereas public education in our country struggles to get the stable and adequate funding it needs to educate our youth. Even if my brownies are a bestseller, they won’t, no matter how fabulous they taste, rake in the kind of dough that our kids and their schools deserve.