Get Ready To Celebrate Our Award Winners

Grab a handful of confetti and a beverage of your choice. Now get ready to toast those who will be honored at the 2021 Champs Celebration! Hosted by Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS), this event will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, May 12 at 5 p.m. It will be livestreamed from the Radisson and you are invited to enjoy this annual celebration via the CIS Kalamazoo YouTube channel. Here is the livestream link.

For more information about the event visit: www.ciskalamazoo.org/champs

Kalsec is the presenting sponsor for this event which honors community partners who share in the CIS vision— an engaged community where every child fulfills his or her promise— by actively putting forth time, energy, talent and resources to drive this vision to reality.

This year’s Champs who support our Kalamazoo Public Schools students are:

Kathy Hogg, CIS volunteer

Kalamazoo Public School Information and Technology Team, school partner

School Food Services Team, school partner

Dr. Qiji (Jim) Zhu, CIS volunteer

Pam Dalitz will be honored with the Gulnar Husain Volunteer Award which recognizes CIS volunteers who emulate Gulnar’s belief that there is no greater calling than serving children. Prior to the pandemic, Pam Dalitz supported students in Ms. Chyna Campbell’s second grade classroom at Spring Valley Center for Exploration. She continues to support students and families by delivering food packs, technology equipment, and basic need items.

The Late Mrs. Dorothy P. Young will be honored with the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award. This award is named for Western Michigan University President Emeritus Diether Haenicke. Mrs. Dorothy P. Young spent her entire career educating students, empowering families, and developing teachers. Employed by Kalamazoo Public Schools for 37 years with most of those years serving as principal of Hillside Middle School, her impact spans across generations. In addition to nearly four decades serving as an educator, consultant, and administrator for KPS, Mrs. Young also served heavily throughout the community, ensuring that many students, especially students of color and students living in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods had access to the resources to help them succeed academically.

As a new element to this year’s celebration, the following CIS staff will be recognized for their exceptional collaborative work during an unusual year of remote service: Dana Flynn, Samantha Darby, Carli Thompson, Shannon Jones, Katherine Williamson, Phillip Hegwood, and Jane Asumadu.

To access a digital copy of this year’s program, you can find it 2021 CIS Champs Celebration Program – Digital Copy.

While waiting for tonight’s program to start, you can watch two special Champ video messages from our good friends and partners at the Kalamazoo Promise and Kalamazoo Public Schools.

Click here for message from Dr. Rita Raichoudhuri, Kalamazoo Public School Superintendent.

Click here for message from Von Washington, Jr., Kalamazoo Promise Executive Director of Community Relations.

Keep following us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids. In the weeks to come we will bring you more about these fabulous award recipients.

 

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.

 

Family Health Center: Changing the Landscape of Healthcare Delivery

At the 13th Annual Champs Celebration, presented by Kalsec, The Family Health Center was honored with a 2020 Champ Award which was sponsored by Abraxas and Chase. CIS Partner Services Coordinator John Brandon introduced us to this CIS partner who is a true champion for children.

A healthy start in life. That’s one of Communities In Schools’ “five basics,” an essential ingredient to a child’s success. Healthier children make better students. If their tooth aches or they aren’t feeling well, it’s difficult to focus on school. Learning becomes fundamentally compromised.

Accepting the Champ Award on behalf of Family Health Center, Jeffrey Jousma, Mobile Unit Manager

This year’s Champ, the Family Health Center, has always made it their mission to bring quality health care to all members in our community, particularly those underserved. As a long-term, highly committed partner, the Family Health Center has worked with CIS and its many community partners and changed the landscape of the way healthcare is delivered to our children.

As part of their mission, they operate a Mobile Health and Dental Clinic. When their Mobile Health Clinic, a 40-foot-long clinic on wheels, rolls up to our schools, our site coordinators connect students to caring health professionals inside. They provide physicals, immunizations, well-child visits, and more to our students and their family members in the Kalamazoo Public Schools district. In taking on the operation of the Mobile Dental Clinic [that was previously run by Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services], they provide basic check-ups and dental care right on school grounds. And healthy kids, more ready to learn, experience improvements in academics and attendance and problem behaviors decrease.

Starting with CEO Denise Crawford and with the leadership of COO Ken LePage and Mobile Unit Manager Jeff Jousma, the Family Health Center, works effectively within the CIS model of integrated student services to break down barriers to learning by filling the healthcare gap in innovative ways. The result? Thousands of Kalamazoo Public School students receive outstanding preventative healthcare services each year.

Family Health Center, thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

Howard Tejchma: Inviting Others to Join in the Work

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 CIS volunteer Howard Tejchma, who was recently honored with the Gulnar Husain Volunteer Award.  [If you didn’t get a chance to read about the great work Howard is doing with elementary school students, click here for that post. To learn more about Gulnar, read this post, “A Good Life.”]

Since 2010, Howard has been volunteering at Arcadia Elementary School. He works closely with fifth grade teacher Holly Bishop, supporting about four of her students each year in a small group setting over the lunchtime. Over the years, CIS has noticed that as Howard engages the students in fun activities, he also takes the opportunity to weave in life lessons.

We got a chance to meet up with Howard at Arcadia Elementary School after one of his “lunch bunch” sessions. We popped this quiz on him just days before the pandemic hit and schools were closed.

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

Pop Quiz

From volunteering more than a decade with CIS, what have you learned?

We all have the child that goes through us within life. The kids reawaken that child in me and get me out of my box…I have to think more like a kid to understand them and that’s healthy.

What are you currently reading?

I just read In the Shelter by Pádraig Ó Tuama. A philosopher, poet, and theologian, Ó Tuama talks about living in the shelter of one another. I’ve been running a bookclub on it at my church. It’s a beautiful book about community. It’s about listening, interacting, and creating relationships and the author tells it through his own story.

Currently, I’m reading a book on butterflies. It’s The Last Butterflies by Nick Haddad. The underpinnings of this book help with understanding why we exist in the world. Habitat, for instance, has a direct relationship with the type of habitat we foster for kids to survive and thrive in the world. And what we see on the surface isn’t necessarily what matters. Just like the work we’re doing at CIS, it’s long term work making a world that we are proud for our kids to grow up in, and to feel proud that we had a role in that.

Where is one place in Kalamazoo you love hanging out?

Sarkosky’s. Especially having breakfast there on Saturday morning.

What is your favorite word right now?

Hope.

What question have you asked recently?

Interesting you’d ask that. Pádraig Ó Tuama goes into the quality of questions we ask ourselves and others. I’ve been thinking about the quality of questions. High quality questions can’t be answered with a simple yes or no response. Sometimes, it’s both yes and no… I think it’s worth wondering: what are those questions we are not thinking about? What questions aren’t we asking ourselves? What are the questions I’m avoiding in my life? Whatever question or questions I’m running away from, those are the ones I need to ask.

Why am I not considering tutoring? What are my barriers to getting involved? Why might I be afraid of it? What are our barriers to inviting others to join us in the work?

Speaking of barriers, Gulnar had no barriers when it came to inviting others to join in the work.

That’s right. Gulnar was magnificent with reaching out and asking others to join her in this work. When I think about Gulnar, she was on a mission and as the CIS site coordinator at Arcadia, she first engaged me in this work. Her mission was not only to make the world a better place—creating greater harmony and peace—but to also get other people to do that as well, to be an agent of change.

It’s amazing to think about the effect she had on my life. What she got me to believe in.

And what did she get you to believe in?

That I can make a difference. I can make a difference by working in schools and helping kids. I’m needed. We need you was her message. And I can say that, too. We need you. We need you for tutoring and mentoring. Join us.

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

Oh, so many. My partner Steve of 25 plus years. My church family. I can’t imagine life without them. My high school English teacher Christine Bettese. She was also in the theater arts program and got me involved with that. I was really reserved in high school. I was planning to go to Michigan Tech and she said I should apply to Kalamazoo College. I visited the campus and then decided to go to K. So if it wasn’t for her, I wouldn’t be here in Kalamazoo.

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

Howard accepting his award at 2020 Champs

 

Leslie Lami-Reed: Keeping Kids Warm for over Three Decades

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 Leslie Lami-Reed. A retired Kalamazoo Public Schools teacher, Leslie is the warm heart behind the Warm Kids Project, a non-profit dedicated to providing new winter outerwear to children in need within our community. We wanted to bring you more about Leslie and a behind the scenes glimpse of how this organization has been beating strong for 34 years. [More information about Warm Kids can be found on their website, here.]

Leslie was born and raised in a once thriving steel town near Pittsburgh, PA. She holds a Bachelor of Arts/Art Education degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She also received a Masters in Education from Marygrove College. We popped this quiz on Leslie a few months back, just as she and Warm Kids were gearing up to provide over a 1,000 new coats and 1,000 new boots to kids throughout Kalamazoo County.

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

Pop Quiz

What brought you to Kalamazoo?

What brought me to Michigan 47 years ago, was my interest in alternative schools and cooperative education, which was a concept evolving in the 60’s and 70’s. I got my first job out of college at a co-operative summer camp, named Circle Pines Center in Delton, Michigan where I was the Arts Director. That led to my first KPS job as a teacher in the preschool and high school at CEYW (Continuing Education for Young Women) at Old Central High School on Westnedge. This was an alternative high school for pregnant teenagers, which supported pregnant teens who wanted to finish high school instead of dropping out. There they would learn parenting skills, nutrition, receive pre-natal care and continue their schooling while preparing to become a parent. I moved on to become an art teacher at Northeastern Junior High, then taught in many KPS elementary schools, usually traveling between two schools each week. Oh, the changes I’ve seen! Kalamazoo Public Schools is always innovating. I taught at Washington when it became a magnet Writers’ Academy, experienced “open classrooms,” and team teaching. I saw computers work their way into every classroom, and then, the Kalamazoo Promise!

It was during your years as a teacher that inspired you to start Warm Kids Project. Can you tell us more about that?

Every public school in every town has children who come to school without warm clothing in winter. They wear layers of sweaters and go out in the snow at recess wearing sneakers. I was teaching at Greenwood Elementary in 1984, when a friend and I decided to “adopt” a Greenwood family and purchase winter clothing for the children at Christmas time. The next year, we asked ten friends to give $100 to purchase clothing and the Project was born. I credit Nancy Mackenzie for having the initiative to start the Project and do the work of incorporating Warm Kids Project into a 501.c3 in 1986. I have been the person continuing Warm Kids Project with a small team for 34 years. I could not do this work for so long without the strong support of my working Board and my husband Bill. We are all dedicated volunteers.

What are you learning about yourself and/or the world during these challenging times?

Many people support Warm Kids Project because they know they are helping LOCAL children in need. I keep a close eye on the poverty rates for each of the 50 schools we serve in the eight school districts of Kalamazoo County and the amount of clothing each school receives is based on that number. In our county, 49% of school-age children qualify for free or reduced lunch! If we can help out a family that is having a rough time by providing a warm coat and boots for their kids, it is a blessing for everyone. I think of it as a big warm hug! I’m proud of the fact that schools can rely on Warm Kids Project to be there year after year, offering warm clothing. I can’t imagine a time when the Project would not be needed. Can you?

No! And we are so grateful for your commitment to kids. And to all those who support your mission to ensure that every child is warmly dressed and prepared to meet the bus or walk to school. [Even though many students in our area are learning virtually from home due to the pandemic, schools in our area, having quality outerwear has never been more important. If kids are dressed warmly, this winter they can take a break from their screens and spend some time outdoors, getting some sunshine and exercise.] Warm Kids is one of the critical “tools” CIS site coordinators pull out of their tool box of resources to help students meet their basic needs. [Two students, Charlotte (top) and Omar (bottom), happily trying on their new coats and boots from Warm Kids Project.]

What is your perspective of CIS working with Warm Kids over the years in the KPS elementary and middle schools?

There are only eight people (our Board) involved in the total operation of Warm Kids Project. The only way Warm Kids Project can provide 1200 coats and 1200 boots to county schools is because of the volunteers, such as CIS workers, at each site. Each site determines who will receive clothing, measures kids, contacts parents, gets the order forms in on time, distributes the clothing, exchanges the clothing. Your participation is the vital link we need to accomplish this important work. We are so glad that you, CIS, have taken that responsibility to heart. Our donors don’t get to see the look of happiness on a child’s face when they get their new coat, hat and boots, but you do. Thank you for being the important link between Warm Kids and the children you serve.

You’ve been engaged in this project for over 30 years now. When it comes to keeping kids warmly dressed, what have you noticed to be the biggest challenge? Or perhaps the most surprising?

I’ve been retired from teaching for ten years and it seems as though running Warm Kids Project is a part-time job. It is a lot of work during the fall. My challenge is pondering how the Project will continue if I can no longer do the work. Surprisingly, good people have always shown up when the need was expressed and currently, things are going smoothly. So, you can expect Warm Kids Project will be back in 2021. Right now, in November 2020, I am already deep into purchasing warm clothing for next year … Black Friday prices, you know!

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

Leslie and Bill

I’m so fortunate to have the support of family and friends. My husband, Bill, is on the Board and has helped so much in so many ways. My mother, who is 92 years old is very proud of my involvement in Warm Kids Project. She talks about it to all her pals at Friendship Village (in Pittsburgh). We have eight women who like to knit hats for us, one who sends boxes from Colorado! These personal relationships mean a lot to me and I am grateful for everyone who helps us get those coats and boots out to children. Thank you, CIS, for all the work you do to make it happen in Kalamazoo Schools. I hope it is rewarding for each of you, too!

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

3 Easy Science Projects Students Can Do At Home

Guest blogger Chris Hybels is helping us kick off our new blog series in which we will cover topics and resources that we hope will provide support to students and families during these challenging times. Chris is one of our Marketing and Development Interns, and he graduated from Kalamazoo Public Schools in 2016. After graduating from KPS, Chris went to Michigan State University using the Kalamazoo Promise and graduated with his bachelor’s degree in 2019. He is now pursuing a master’s degree at MSU in advertising and public relations.

Science projects are a great way for students to take what they learned from textbooks and bring it into the real world. They get to use their hands to explore problems and find the solution to them. However, science projects don’t always have to be about finding solutions, they can just be fun ways to discover how things work! Below are 3 awesome science projects that can easily be performed at home and rely on the skills students have learned from textbooks.

Build A Lava Lamp

Materials:
• A clear plastic bottle, preferably with smooth sides
• Water
• Vegetable Oil
• Fizzing tablets (like Alka Seltzer)
• Food coloring

Instructions:
1. Fill the up to a quarter (1/4) of the way with water.
2. Add a few drops of food coloring into the bottle then swirl around till the water has changed colors.
3. Pour the vegetable oil into the bottle until it is almost full.
4. Break the fizzy tablet into two pieces and drop one of the halves into the bottle and get ready for the colorful bubbly blobs to appear!
5. And you can repeat Step 4 once the tablet is completely dissolved in the bottle.

To a watch video tutorial for this experiment click here.

Make Your Own Rock Candy

Materials:
• A wooden skewer, or popsicle sticks
• A clothespin, or clip wide enough to sit on the glass
• 1 cup of water
• 3 cups of sugar
• A tall narrow jar or glass
• Food flavoring (optional)
• Food coloring (optional)
• A pot

Instructions:
1. Place the water into the pot, then pour in the sugar. And mix them together to create a sugar solution.
2. Next, dip your skewer into some water, and roll it in sugar. Set aside until it dries
3. Move the pot onto the stove and turn the heat up to high. Stir the solution as it warms up.
4. Once the solution begins to boil, stir rapidly until all the sugar has dissolved into the solution.
a. Stir in food coloring and/or food flavoring at this time.
5. Then, take the sugar solution and pour it into the glass you will be using to grow your rock candy, and let the solution cool for ten minutes.
6. Next, place the wooden skewer coated in sugar into the glass and clip it using the clothespin or clip so it is submerged in the solution without touching the bottom or sides.
7. Place the jar in a warm, dry place to cool. Sugar crystals will begin to grow
8. The process of growing the sugar crystals can last from a couple of days to a couple of weeks.
9. Check daily to make sure the crystals from the stick aren’t touching the crystals on the bottom. Reposition the stick as needed.
10. Once the crystals have stopped growing, use a knife to break the top shell of your solution, and remove your skewer and place it into another a jar to drip and dry.
11. When the skewer is dry you can then enjoy your rock candy!

To a watch video tutorial for this experiment click here.

Build A Soap Powered Model Boat

Materials:
• A toothpick
• Liquid dish soap
• A cookie sheet, tray, or boat filled with water
• A foam tray (like the kind meat comes in) of non-corrugated cardboard

Instructions:
1. Cut the foam tray or cardboard into a boat shape, about two inches long.
2. Dip the toothpick into the soap, and use the toothpick to place soap on the sides of the notch at the back of the boat.
3. Place the boat in the water and watch it glide across the surface for several seconds.
4. To make the boat move again, rinse off the soap from the boat and start again from Step 2.

To a watch video tutorial for this experiment click here.

Can’t get enough science? Check out some these awesome resources for more fun experiments:

Science Bob
Science Fun for Everyone
We Are Teachers
• The Sci Guys
• Science Max

 

A Parade of Ugly For a Good Cause

We may not have the annual holiday parade or the Holly Jolly Trolley this year, but Kalamazoo has a parade of ugly sweaters! If you follow this blog or have walked around downtown enjoying the Christmas lights, you probably already know about the 2020 Ugly Sweater Contest and Exhibit.

“Given these challenging times, we had to reimagine this event,” says Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) Executive Director James Devers, in referencing the ugly sweater party that CIS has hosted for the past five years. The event brings awareness to the CIS “whole child” approach of supporting students, which includes providing essentials that—when missing—can get in the way of learning. “We had to figure out a new way to raise both awareness and funds for the work we do throughout 20 Kalamazoo Public Schools.”

Reimagine, indeed. Toss in loads of creativity, a handful of mannequins, and a host of elves, er, sponsors, and you have one friendly, yet ugly competition and exhibit to help support the 12,000 students CIS works with throughout the year.

Kalsec is the presenting sponsor helping to transform this Ugly Sweater event into a new and beautiful thing. Kalsec CEO Scott Nykaza says, “There is, quite simply, no better way to support the success of students in Kalamazoo than through supporting efforts performed by everyone at CIS.”

In addition to presenting sponsor Kalsec, the following sponsors have each designed and hand-crafted ugly sweaters for CIS virtual and storefront exhibits to help raise vital funding for students: Abraxas/YMCA of Kalamazoo, Edwards Garment, Fifth Third Bank, First National Bank of Michigan, Friends of Poetry, Humphrey Products, Husted’s Farm Market, Rotaract of Kalamazoo, Unifab Corporation, VIP team at CIS, and WMU Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Some of the ugly sweaters on display at the Exchange Building.

Thanks to in-kind sponsors PlazaCorp (providing the storefront window) and Memories Bridal & Evening Wear (providing the mannequins), the community can visit these unique sweaters in person now through December 18th. The window display is located downtown at the Exchange Building, on the southeast corner of W. Michigan and S. Rose, across from Bronson Park. These ugly creations are also being featured on the CIS Facebook page during “12 Days of Sweaters.

The sweaters are also on virtual display, here on the CIS website through the end of December. You can visit the sweaters virtually or in person and then cast your vote for the ugliest sweater. Each dollar donated in support of a sweater is considered a vote. The first $2,500 raised will be kindly matched by Kalsec. Voting concludes on the last day in December and, at that time, the sweater with the most in donations/votes will be crowned the winner.

“The sweaters may be ‘ugly,’ but the cause is beautiful,” says Devers. “Every vote, which translates into every dollar given, supports students in our community, empowering them to stay in school and succeed in life. It doesn’t get more beautiful than that.”

[You can catch this recently aired video of Devers speaking about the event with Fox 17 here.)

Cultivating Future Scientists: The Edison Science Club

Zoetis Senior Scientist Dom Pullo during the virtual Champs Celebration.

At the 13th Annual Champs Celebration, presented by Kalsec, The Edison Science Club was honored with a 2020 Champ Award which was sponsored by BASIC Benefits and Miller-Davis Company. Edison Environmental Science Academy’s CIS Site Coordinator Cameron Massimino introduced us to these Zoetis-led volunteers who champion children. [If you missed this virtual event, you can click here to watch the Champs Celebration. This video will remain accessible throughout November.]

 For 16 years now, science-minded volunteers make monthly visits to Edison Environmental Science Academy. Initiated by Zoetis Senior Scientist Dom Pullo, the volunteers enhance about 27 fifth graders’ learning of science through inquiry and hands-on activities.

Photo credit: Freshwater Photography
Photo Credit: Freshwater Photography

In Science Club, students become scientists! Wearing lab coats and lanyards, and occasionally donning goggles and gloves, students extract DNA from peas, investigate circuit theory, study water filtration, and more. Thanks to a grant from Zoetis, CIS was able to purchase state-of-the-art microscopes so students can view specimens close-up.

The Science Club even recruited Cash, a very friendly and hairy, 105-pound volunteer. Cash assists Zoetis veterinarians (Dr. Theodore Sanders, Jr. – DVM, MS, MBA, DACLAM Executive Director Animal Research Support, Dr. Marike Visser –  DVM, PhD, DACVCP , and Dr. Paul Reynolds, DVM – Retired) in demonstrating animal check-ups. [Cash sat down for an interview with us and we’ll be publishing that conversation in the near future.]

As Edison students look on, Dr. Theodore Sanders, Jr. demonstrates an animal check-up (photo taken last school year).

In addition to Dom Pullo and the three veterinarians noted above, the Edison Science Club has been supported by a number of dedicated volunteers over the years, including: Blair Cundiff, Jacqueline Killmer, Shannon Smith, Teresa Miller, Joshua Kuipers, Stacey Wensink, Sherry Garrett, Kelsey Lammers, Kelly Turner-Alston, Kelly Kievit, Matthew Krautman, Brianna Pomeroy, Tiyash Parira, Tobias Clark, Lisa Yates, Elizabeth Graham, Ben Hummel, Clark Smothers, Adam Schoell, Rose Gillesby, and Thomas Berg.

Dr. Paul Runnels accepting the Champs award for his team.

Fifth grade teacher Mrs. Rocann Fleming says both students and staff LOVE the science club. These dedicated volunteers, some who’ve now retired or moved on from Zoetis, still show up and inspire young minds. Their passion for science is contagious.

“I’ve learned,” says one student who dreams of becoming a veterinarian, “there’s a lot you can’t see in this world that is real—like bacteria!—so wash your hands.” “Well, I’m going to be a scientist,” says another girl. “I’m not sure what kind yet, but probably a woman scientist!”

Edison Science Club, thank you for helping kids stay in school and succeed in life.