Phillip Hegwood: Becoming His Best Self

As Phillip is now spending lots of time in his home office connecting with kids, he designed and painted a fun backdrop that you can see in this photo we took during this Zoom interview.

Born and raised in Kalamazoo, Phillip Hegwood is a proud graduate of the Kalamazoo Public Schools. After attending Lincoln Elementary and Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts (then called “South”), Phillip continued on to Loy Norrix High School. With the support of the Promise, Phillip went to Western Michigan University and obtained a degree in general studies along with three minors: English/Language/Arts, social studies, and music.

As part of the second graduating class to receive the Kalamazoo Promise, Phillip is now Maple Street’s CIS After School Coordinator, giving back in the very school that nurtured him as a youth.

Prior to stepping into his role with CIS, Phillip worked ten years with the YMCA in their before/after school settings and summer camps. During those last three years, he ran the Y’s Prime Time at Winchell, a before- and after-school care for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Now, with seven years under his belt as CIS After School Coordinator—the first three with Woodward Elementary and the last four with Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts—we wanted to introduce you to this passionate and caring man.

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

Pop Quiz

First off, how are you holding up during this pandemic?

I’m learning that I really miss being in school. I really miss being with my students. But, I’m holding up okay. I bought a house in December and have gotten hit with major house things that need to get fixed. I’m also cooking a lot and trying to focus on me and what I can and can not control. Also, staying home has shown me that my outside drama disappeared. I don’t need it and I enjoy it. I’m using this time as an opportunity to work on me.

What is one of the best parts about being a CIS After School Site Coordinator?

For me, the best part is that I’m able to provide different opportunities for the students that they can’t do normally during the school day. I love that we can offer students a variety of clubs. I think back on the trip we did with students and their families to see a Detroit Tiger’s game. Many had never been to a professional sport’s game before. I like that I was able to provide that, and other enrichment experiences, like attending Lion King at Miller Auditorium. It’s great that we can work with different enrichment providers throughout our community to provide our students with these types of experiences.

Plus, I have to say that the food at Maple Street is really good. Our head lunch lady at Maple, Lisa Saville, also helps with planning the menu for the CIS after school programs we have throughout KPS. She is super awesome, supportive of our after school program, and great to work with. Over the years, I’ve learned that to do after school well, you need three main people to help you: secretaries, janitors, and lunch staff.

They make it or break it, right?

Yep! And at Maple, we have a great team.

Given all the challenges we face during this time—school buildings closed and all of us practicing social distancing—what does your CIS work look like now? How have you continued to support students during this challenging time?

I’ve paired up with the other CIS after school coordinators who support our middle schools. Mondays through Thursdays I’m supporting Maple Street students with homework from 12 to 12:30 p.m. For after school, the coordinators and youth development coaches have been working together to provide a variety of opportunities for students. So, from 4 to 4:30 p.m., we offer social emotional support time. For that, I’m focused on just my Maple Street students. And then, from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. it is club time for students from all four of our sites. With all of us working together, we have way more opportunities to offer students.

One thing we’ve learned is that students are on the computer nine to four most ever day so it’s important to make things hands-on as much as possible to keep them engaged. For instance, we have Magic Club right now.

Magic Club! Are you a magician?

No! But I was in contact with this magician who has been on Penn & Teller. With Covid, she has created videos so we’ve been using these videos to introduce the magic tricks and then we practice and perform the tricks in front of each other. It’s been a hit with the students. We’ll have anywhere from 20 to 25 students attending every Tuesday and Thursday.

We also host special evening events for students and their families, like this Friday we will have a magic show. We also have a movie night coming up and a cooking night where everyone will learn to make minestrone soup. We’ll have new clubs starting up next week. Over a period of six weeks, students can choose three clubs every day (Monday through Thursday). Three of our enrichment providers, W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, Kalamazoo Civic Theatre, and BeadVenture will be offering clubs and we’ll also have an engineering club, a college prep club, a fitness & nutrition club, travel club, student advisory council, and gaming club.

The students you work with had already been dealing with other stresses in their lives before this pandemic. And now, this pandemic layers on additional stress for both these young people and their families. How are students coping? Are you seeing any common threads as to how students are responding?

Honestly, it really varies on a case-by-case basis. Some of my students are thriving with virtual learning and some we need to get back in school as soon as possible. The main thing they have in common is that they just miss their friends.

What are you currently reading?

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. I just started it.

I just saw a Ted Talk Brown did on the power of vulnerability. Does she talk about that in the book?

I don’t know. I’ve only just started it. There is a workbook that goes with the book so I’ll be doing that too. I’m reading it to help make me a better me.

That’s a good goal. If we all strive to be our best selves, the world only gets better. So, what is your favorite word or phrase right now?

Ducky.

As in…

Everything is just ducky. How are you doing? Ducky. How’s everything been? Ducky.

When we re-emerge from this pandemic, what is one of the first things you will do?

Knowing me, it’s probably going out for a really nice dinner or to play darts with friends.

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

My mom. Hands down. My mom, Kathy McIntyre, is truly one of my best friends now. I think also, with her being a former educator—she worked twenty plus years with KPS—anytime I had an issue as an adult in a school setting, I could go to her for advice as to what I should do. Along the way, we’ve been able to trade different skills with each other.

Anything else we should know about you?

I play four instruments. I started playing trumpet in fifth grade. In college, I ended up minoring in music. The bassoon and trumpet are my primary instruments. I’ve also picked up the clarinet and French horn throughout the years.

Oh, and I’m trying to eat a more plant-based diet. One that is more vegetarian/vegan.

Trying?

I still like cheese and a good steak from time to time. I can’t give that up, but I try to eat this way three to four days a week.

And I love my middle school team! I’m also a work in progress: I’m just trying to be a better me.

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

 

Pop Quiz: Katherine Williamson

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 Katherine Williamson, who is in her second year as the Communities In Schools After School Coordinator at Hillside Middle School. We had a chance to meet up with her several weeks ago.

Katherine has strong ties to the Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS). All four of her children attended Hillside and all graduated from KPS. Upon retiring from teaching—she taught English for 18 years in KPS (15 years at Loy Norrix and three at Phoenix High School)—she found herself drawn to Communities In Schools (CIS).

“I felt like I could use my background as an educator in the CIS After School Program. It’s very different from teaching and I’ve had to get used to that. I’m enjoying working with my Youth Development Workers. They are very creative in coming up with ways to help the kids. I enjoy working with them on how to structure a lesson, how to work with the kids, and plan for the enrichment clubs we offer. Right now we have weight training, recycling, and we also always seem to have a creative arts program going. Thanks to a partnership with the Kalamazoo Civic Theatre, Nick Thornton comes on a weekly basis to work with students on things like improvisation, body movement, and voice projection. The students love it.”

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

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POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

I was very interested to learn that the State EPA in Flint knew about the lead poisoning in the water and didn’t do anything about it. I’m really dismayed by all the information coming out. I keep thinking about all those children.

What are you currently reading?

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. While it’s very interesting, I’m not as in love with it as everybody else I know is. But the Gaelic in it, the language, that makes it appealing to me. I also read We Beat the Streets over break and liked it very much. I’m excited that we are reading it as a school.

What’s your favorite word right now?

The word I keep thinking this week is egregious, especially in light of all that’s coming out about Flint. I also learned a new word while reading the book Outlander. Reticule.

Never heard of it.

It’s a net purse that women used to carry.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I want to be a wise old woman. That’s my aspiration. I was listening to a Toni Morrison interview on NPR recently and she mentioned being a grouchy old woman. She’s 84 and still writing. I don’t want to be grouchy but I’d like to grow up and be as wise as Toni Morrison.

She wrote The Bluest Eye. Did you read that?

Yes, I’ve read most of her books. She’s one of my favorite authors. I read Home, one of her newer books, over break and that was really good.

Her writing is beautiful and complicated. She’s not an easy read.

Right. She’s very much of a scholar. She taught at Princeton for many years.

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

My partner, Deb Rhinard. She’s a social worker so I feel like I’ve learned a lot about what I do from her. She’s amazingly compassionate. She helps me remember to be compassionate. I can do that for her, too. There’s a lot of bad stuff in the world and she helps me refocus on the things that we can do to help.

Thank you, Katherine!

In the weeks to come you can look forward to learning more about other members of the wonderful CIS Site Team at Hillside. If you missed the recent post about Principal McKissack, you can read it by clicking here.