P.S. Please don’t get rid of after school programs.

The title of this post was inspired by the postscript Izaiah Markel noted in a letter he wrote to the President of the United States. He, along with his peers at Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts, wrote letters to their elected officials during the CIS After School Program at Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts.

CIS After School Coordinator Phillip Hegwood initiated the letter writing project as a way for students to let their voices be heard, advocating in a constructive manner for something they feel passionate about: the importance of extending their learning day through after school supports and experiential learning. As the letters from officials start trickling in, he’s expanding on the writing project by asking students to reflect on the experience of writing the letters as well as discussing the responses they receive.

Students proudly holding responses from several of their elected officials.

Associate Director of Site Services Michael Harrison points out that this project “is not only a creative approach to strengthening literacy skills but it boosts confidence. Learning to communicate with someone who can effect change builds confidence.” That, he says, is a “powerful lesson. It’s something our young people can carry into other aspects of their lives.”

Just what did Kayla, Izaiah, Zi’arra, Jesus, Whysper, Jazmin, Cruz, Renell, Tarqes, Grace, Lisandra, Taisia, Jasmine, Tiana, Navia, KaVon, Aniyah, Walter, Devin, Arielle, Akeelah, and Yousef want their elected officials to know about the importance of the CIS After School program? Here, in their own words pulled from their letters…

Students explain that after school provides a safe place to learn and grow.

“After school program is very important. That is because lots of kids don’t have a safe space to go after school, or a quiet workplace. After school provides that. It is from 2:20-5:30 p.m. here at Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts…”

“Do you know about the after school program? The after school program is a class where you can do your job, have great teachers and students, a class that you can share and help people, and the after school program expects you to be a good person and no one will forget an after school program.”

“After school program is a great way for students to work on homework, to achieve better grades in school so we can go on to 7th grade…”

“The after school program provides a nice environment for us to meet new friends. After school program is a nice way to teach us how to do productive things together, and it teaches leadership skills. It also teaches housekeeping, and everyday useful skills for students.”

“They care for us and they watch over us and they keep us safe.”

Students share the benefits to their own growth.

“It made me a better person because we have art and it shows my talents/artistic abilities. After school gives me a lot of confidence in school.”

“…after school program helped me get smarter and improve my grades and study.”

“…[it] helped me with my homework and any problems I had at school at home (really any problems I had).”

“It helps me improve my grade in ELA (English Language Arts). I had a C- and since they have a big homework system I got a B+.”

“In after school I can talk to someone when I am mad or sad.”

“…and helps us talk to students if we’re too shy to talk. It even makes us feel at home.”

“It helps me focus throughout school, that’s why I love after school. They taught me that it’s okay to get stuff wrong in class. So now when the teacher calls on me in class I answer it with confidence even if I just guess. After school gives me every possibility and every chance.”

Students express appreciation for the CIS staff, partners, and volunteers.

“The coaches help us so much with our homework.”

“…they even teach us other languages!”

“…I can talk to someone when I am mad or sad.”

Students state facts about the benefits of being involved in CIS after school programs.

“…it helps students stay out of the streets and gangs. Research shows more than 70% of kids drop out due to drugs or early pregnancies.”

Students care about the younger students who are coming after them.

“Also I think it will help other kids who want or are going to be in program someday.”

“Please don’t let it end so that the new sixth graders next year will have the same opportunities as us.”

Students express themselves in honest and straight forward ways.

“Honestly, if I never went to the after school program I would just be at home playing video games and watching TV all day. I probably would not like my mom as much because she does not understand how to help me with my homework and we would fight about it. The after school program gives me an opportunity to eat dinner because there are nights where we don’t have any food in our house. We get free transportation so I can also play sports. My mom gets some sleep so she can go to work at night, and that helps the economy.”

“I will be honest, I don’t know who you are but I know you are African American and it makes me happy that there is a black person in power to help make decisions, so please fund after school programs.”

Students urge their officials to continue funding after school programming.

“So I hope you think about this…”

“I hope you can see how important it is to have after school.”

“Students will be happy and we will all remember you did the right thing.”

“So can you try to help us?”

PS. Students pepper their letters with P.S.’s.

P.S. Please don’t get rid of after school programs.

[To Mayor Hopewell] “P.S. I saw you at the chili cook out.”

“P.S. We <3 After School!!!”

[Note: <3 = love]

CIS After School serves students in 15 after school sites—11 elementary and 4 middle school sites. CIS After School is available in the Kalamazoo Public Schools thanks to the support of federal dollars awarded through the Michigan Department of Education, 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

Pop Quiz: Lenny Williams

IMG_3000Welcome 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 Lenny Williams, who is about to begin middle school at Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts. We sat down with him at the end of last school year, just as he was preparing to graduate from Arcadia Elementary School.

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

I’ve learned something about history. I’ve learned about slavery and about a man named Jacob who would go claiming lands for his people and then he was mistreating people who were slaves. He’d hit them. He wasn’t a nice guy. I learned that from Ms. [Donna] Judd. She teaches me social studies and science.

What are you currently reading?

The Magic Treehouse series. Right now I’m reading Sunset of the Sabertooth where they find the saber tooth tiger. I really like the Magic Treehouse books.

What’s your favorite word right now?

Go! As in, I go to the car.

What college or colleges are you considering going to and taking advantage of the Kalamazoo Promise?

I want to be a Spartan. And I’ll be a football player for Michigan State.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A football player.

Do you have a backup plan?

My back up plan is to play basketball.

Do you have a backup to your backup plan?

I also could study math, history, and science. I like those things too. Ms. [Ci’Erah] Bell taught me math last year. She taught me stuff I didn’t know, like adding fractions and subtracting fractions.

Even though you don’t have to make those decisions now, it sounds like you have talents and interests in a number of areas so you’ll have some good choices when the time comes.

Yea, I think so too.

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

My whole family. My dad, my mom, and my sisters who are in high school. They help me with my algebra and problems that I do not know. I’d also say my Principal, Mr. [Greg] Socha. He is very nice. He checks on us every day to make sure we’re safe and sometimes he’s even helps us with our work when he’s in the classroom.

Anything else we should know about you?

I like school.

Thank you, Lenny!

Lenny will be featured in our upcoming newsletter, CIS Connections, where he reflects on his elementary years and the school and community supports that helped him succeed. You won’t want to miss it!

 

Team Trailblazers

Front row, from left) Team Trailblazers ______, Elizabeth Weaver, Ryan Tonneson. Back row, from left) CIS Site Coordinator Emily Demorest, Jamie Miller, CIS After School Coordinator Jen Nitz, Team Trailblazer Laura Ruelas. Not pictured, Carol Offerman.
Front row, from left: Lindsay Wilson, Elizabeth Weaver, Ryan Toennessen. Back row, from left: Emily Demorest (CIS Site Coordinator), Jamie Miller, Jen Nitz (CIS After School Coordinator), Laura Ruelas. Not pictured, Carol Offerman.

Today we highlight Team Trailblazers, one of seven school and community partners honored with a 2016 Champ Award.  Team Trailblazers’ Champ award was sponsored by Molina Healthcare of Michigan and CIS Board member Steve Powell presented the award.

William Butler Yeats wrote, Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire. Each school day, Team Trailblazers comes bearing torches to Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts. Jamie Miller, Carol Offerman, Laura Ruelas, Ryan Toennessen Elizabeth Weaver, and Lindsay Wilson are a passionate team led by English teacher Jamie Miller. On behalf of their seventh grade students, they have forged a well-worn path to the Communities In Schools office.

CIS Site Coordinator Emily Demorest and After School Coordinator Jen Nitz both point out that the majority of students they work with are also on Team Trailblazers. It’s not a coincidence, they say. Anytime there is an issue with a student, be it academic concerns, basic needs, or emotional support, Jamie Miller—whom they refer to as “the glue that holds us all together”—quickly makes CIS staff aware so they can work together to support the student and remove barriers to learning. Working as a cohesive team, they’ve supported students confronted with homelessness, domestic violence, struggling with food insecurity, mental health issues, hygiene concerns, among other barriers to learning.

“They know their kids really well,” say Emily and Jen. “And they know what kids need to be successful both inside and outside the classroom. So they make sure to reach out to CIS so we can connect students to the resources they need. Or, in cases where a student is already receiving resources through CIS, they might make a suggestion that helps us do our job better.”

Trailblazers invites the CIS team to participate in parent meetings and special classroom projects. And when Lenise Williams, Lead Youth Development Worker reviews students’ progress on their homework assignments, Trailblazers provides homework packets. And, after a full day of teaching, they can often be found volunteering and offering guidance to students during the after school program.

If this weren’t enough, Team Trailblazers hosted Peer Mediation student leaders. They contributed to CIS’ efforts to support Maple Street families over the holidays and Trailblazer students collected and donated over $200 towards gifts and winter wear. And when new initiatives arise, a Trailblazers’ member is often first to blaze a fresh trail to the CIS office. Recently, when one of Mr. Toennessen’s students couldn’t stop talking about the garden club he popped in and said, “Tell me more about this . How can I help?”

Kids don’t care what team grownups are on—whether it’s CIS or KPS or day or after school. What they see at Maple Street is one team, on the same page, refusing to let them fall through the cracks. And, even though the school year is winding to a close, the Trailblazers only burn brighter.

Team Trailblazers, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

(From left) Emily Demorest, Laura Ruelas, Maple Street Principal Dr. Jeff Boggan, Jamie Miller, and Ryan Toennessen.
(From left) Elizabeth Weaver, Emily Demorest, Laura Ruelas, Maple Street Principal Dr. Jeff Boggan, Jamie Miller, and Ryan Toennessen.

 

                             

 

Maple Street’s Duo: Emily Demorest and Jen Nitz

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.

On a drizzly day in late March, we were out at Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts. CIS Site Coordinator Emily Demorest and CIS After School Coordinator Jen Nitz were both on hand so we thought we’d pop our quiz on them. These two passionate and talented women work closely with the Maple Street team, including teachers, staff, and the principal to help students succeed in school and life.

Alright, Emily Demorest and Jen Nitz: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

Emily: I learned that the Michigan State Board of Education has just put forth new guidelines that would allow transgender students to have greater recognition of their gender identity. [Emily has since written a blog post about this and you can read it by going here.]

Jen N: What have I learned? My mom just went to the Maldives, which is a Muslim country. What she learned from her time and now what I’ve learned from her is that Maldivians are very accepting and loving. They come to people with compassion. This is in sharp contrast with what is presented in the media these days, with the bomb that just went off in Brussels. That Malldivian message—approaching others with compassion and love—needs to be heard. That is what they, and we all want, for humanity. People really can be good in the face of bad.

 

Favorite word right now?

Jen N: Extrapolate. I’m the queen of extrapolating information from people.

Emily: You are also the queen of the power pose. That’s a technique that falls under that mindfulness umbrella.

Jen N: [To demonstrate, Jen stands up, places hands on hips.]It’s a grounding pose that calms. I use it to help calm and focus kids. They love doing it.

Emily: You used it just yesterday with that student who came in with anxiety.

Jen N: That’s right. I showed him the power pose, he did it with me, taking deep breathes. He quit hyperventiling and calmed to where we were then able to talk about what was going on for him. Doing the pose—being able to calm himself—helped him achieve a sense of personal power. He left calm, and went back to class.

Emily: My favorite word is multiverse. I recently went to see Neil Degrasse Tyson when he was in town.

Jen N: I wanted to see him! Was it good?

Emil: Really good. So multiverse is this idea in physics that in the universe there are multiple universes occurring at the same time.

Jen N: So, like for instance, our alter egos are meeting right now at another Maple Street Magnet School? Wow. You really love science, don’t you, Emily?

Emily: I do!

Jen N: As long I don’t have to convert joules to kilojoules in chemistry, science is fun.

 

What are you currently reading?

Emily: I’m studying for my social work clinical exam/license. I’m currently reading the Complete Guide to the National Social Work Exam.

Jen N: I’m reading How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk.

 

What are you learning from the book, Jen?

Jen N: Have kindness and empathy. I have short patience and I need to be better with that. I always want to come at kids in a positive, supportive manner.

 

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Jen N: A world traveler. I want to experience different cultures. I’m interested in anthropology. I’m interested in people and want to see how they live.

Emily: Honestly, this may seem super cheesy but I love being a CIS Site Coordinator. This is 100% what I want to be doing.

Jen N: But if someone plunked you down and said you could be anything, wouldn’t you want to travel? Who doesn’t want to travel?

Emily: I’ve traveled. I spent time in South Africa. I got there and realized it wasn’t my community. You can only do so much when it’s not your own community. Here, [Emily waves her hands around the school] this is my community. I can make a real difference here.

 

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

Emily: Adeline Sichterman. She was my neighbor when I was growing up in Paw Paw. She was this extremely cool and eccentric English teacher who had lived in Japan for a long time. She took me to Barnes & Noble and bought me books. She took me to plays. She taught me that it’s okay to be smart and weird. Later, when I grew up, she even did the flowers for my wedding!

Jen N: For sure my parents, both of them. They both work to educate and help people. They help the underdog. Their example taught me cultural sensitivity and that you can’t judge others. You must take every person that comes at you as they are, no matter what.

 

You two make a great team. You’re both funny and deep.

Emily: Funny but deep, I like that.

Jen N.: Just so we’re not funny and peripheral.

 

Thank you, Emily and Jen N.!

 

Pop Quiz: Omarion

2015-03-26 03.23.51-editWelcome 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 Omarion Morgan, who is in seventh grade at Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts. Omarion is featured in our recent CIS Connections. You can find out more about Omarion, what colleges he is considering and how he uses mindfulness techniques he’s learned in CIS after school to help him be a successful student in the latest issue of CIS Connections.

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

In science, we learned about cells and how they make up the human body.

What are you currently reading?

I’m re-reading this book called A Long Walk to Water. It’s our all-school read.

What do you consider one of your strengths?

I never give up and I make people laugh.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A lawyer or a teacher.

What is your favorite word right now?

A. Just A.

Any reason?

No, it just popped in my head. But my favorite phrase is ‘Never give up.’

2015-03-26 02.46.04-editBehind every successful student is a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?

My mom and my dad and my two aunties and my grandma.

You have a lot of caring adults in both your school and home life. Tell me a little bit more about your family and how they help you succeed.

My mom encourages me to do my work. My dad helps me with my homework, too.  My grandma she never gives up—that’s where I get that from—and my two aunties are both loyal and nice.

Thank you, Omarion! 

 

Shout Out To Secretaries

Here’s a not so well-kept secret: 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. To all administrative professionals sprinkled throughout the Kalamazoo 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, we thought we’d share what a few of our CIS staff have to say about their schools’ secretaries:

Angie Boyd and Karen Brooks provide me with prompt and accurate information whenever I need it, have a great sense of humor, communicate with me when they notice students in need of services, and always do what they can to support the services offered through Communities In Schools.

Laura Keiser, CIS Site Coordinator at King-Westwood Elementary

 

Our secretaries are amazing! Mrs. Zook and Mrs. Vandyke are thoroughly committed to our students and they take every opportunity to connect them to CIS and other resources. We couldn’t do it without them.

Emily Demorest, CIS After School Coordinator at Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts

 

Spring Valley’s secretary, Mrs. Prevo, is very supportive of CIS and we appreciate all of her assistance.

Martha Serio, CIS Site Coordinator & Jay Gross, CIS After School Coordinator at Spring Valley Center for Exploration

 

A special shout out to Gail Bunschoten:  Northglade Montessori Magnet Elementary has a very caring secretary. She delivers superior customer service and always has a smile on her face. She’s a fantastic caregiver for the students who visit! Thank you.

Brenda Johnson, AmeriCorps VISTA, on behalf of CIS Site Team at Northglade Montessori

 

Julie Davis is a lot of things to students, staff, and parents, at Arcadia. When it comes to CIS, she is there for whenever and whatever we need. When we seek her wisdom, she always offers her full attention. She provides proof-reading skills to notes we send home to parents. She is always helpful. We can’t help but leave her office laughing and feeling lighter. Thank you, Julie, for all things tangible as well as invisible that you provide!

Gulnar Husain, CIS Site Coordinator and Calli Carpenter, CIS After School Coordinator at Arcadia Elementary School

 

Pam Storher and Joy Vandepol are amazing at their jobs and all the in between. During our massive all-building move they were instrumental in keeping everyone on track with information that we needed to know. Once in the new building they worked hard to make students and parents feel welcomed and reassured about the changes. Pam and Joy are always willing to put their work on hold to hear what we need and are always on top of getting us the information quickly. Our day to day lives would not run as smoothly or efficiently without their help. We appreciate their tireless work to help our students, families and staff be successful!

Elisabeth Finch, CIS Site Coordinator and Deondra Ramsey, CIS After School Coordinator at Washington Writers’ Academy

 

A special shout out to Ann Campbell and Sheri Ferrari: Parkwood Upjohn Elementary has the best “Dynamic Duo” in the world. They demonstrate compassion and deliver superior customer service to everyone who comes through the front doors. They greet everyone with a warm smile and have a warm approach to whoever graces their presence. They always carry themselves in a professional way. Thank you both.

Brenda Johnson, AmeriCorps VISTA on behalf of Parkwood CIS Site Team

 

Mrs. Carol and Mrs. Peggy of Edison elementary

You know the names of 386 kids by face
teachers, staff, volunteers and all others who’ve tread
the path from silver door button to sign in sheet.
You answer an endless amount of questions with a smile.
Those you know not are looked into honestly
and you lend your aid without batting an eye.

Any parent or disgruntled child can be calmed,
any hungry late-comers fed from your secret goodie drawer,
any creature loved, even our therapy dogs,
any phone calls taken, made or transferred,
any accident or problem solved.

Mrs. Peggy, dear, you’ll be missed.
To stay, we wish you could be convinced.
From your colleagues and kids
we love you and will never forget you, even off the grid.
Our own Edison awesome, always remembered, our best.

To the two on the front lines—
both dearly beloved, one nearly retired—
thank you both for being amazing.
Shout out to you two, our favorite secretaries.
You both have caring hearts, positivity, and give of your time.
You’re both truly cherished and inspire our lives.

Nick Baxter, VISTA, took the sentiments of his CIS Site Team at Edison Environmental Science Academy Gerald Brown, CIS Site Coordinator & Stacy Salter, CIS After School Coordinator and wrote the above poem. 

These (photo below) are the secretaries that we adore at Woods Lake. We could never navigate a day without them. XXOO

Maureen Cartmill, CIS Site Coordinator and Donielle Hetrick, CIS After School Coordinator at Woods Lake Elementary: A Magnet Center for the Arts

Fabulous-Secretaries

Pop Quiz: Missy Best

(From Left) Judy Moran (Title 1 Achievement & Behavior Support Specialist), Victoria Kiel (CIS Intern from WMU School of Social Work), and Missy Best (CIS Site Coordinator).
(From Left) Judy Moran (Title 1 Achievement & Behavior Support Specialist), Victoria Kiel (CIS Intern from WMU School of Social Work), and Missy Best (CIS Site Coordinator).

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 Missy Best, CIS Site Coordinator at our newest site, Northeastern Elementary School. Prior to her work with CIS, she lived in Mount Pleasant, Michigan and was a Human Resources Generalist for Fabiano Brothers, a wholesale beverage distributor. During this time, she got her associate’s degree from Central Michigan University. When her husband, John, was transferred to Kalamazoo, she and their daughter, Isabel (now an 8th grader in the Kalamazoo Public Schools), naturally followed. “My favorite aspect of human resources was working with people. I wanted to do more of that.” Approaching the move as an opportunity for growth, Missy applied to WMU School of Social Work. “I ended up doing an internship with CIS in 2010 and I never left you guys.”

In our most recent CIS Connections, Missy contributed a great article on the important skill of organization. You can read that here.

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

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned? It’s creepy. You still want to know?

Yes.

There are more living organisms living on your body than there are people in the world. [Missy shivers. So do I.] I have a happy one, too. I discovered that there is actually a radio station that plays Christmas music from October to New Year’s Day. It’s become my go-to. It’s hard to have a bad day if you listen to Christmas music, like Frosty the Snowman. I know it’s early and I might be burnt out on Christmas by the time it gets here, but right now it works for me.

The GiverWhat are you currently reading?

I’ve just finished The Silkworm. I can’t say enough good things about it. J.K. Rowlings—who wrote the Harry Potter series—wrote it under the pseudonym Robert Galbraithl. It’s part of her Cormoran Strike detective stories for grown ups. It is really good. Lots of humor. I now plan to read The Giver. My daughter, who attends Maple Street Magnet Middle School, is reading it for school right now.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Wise.

You already are.

I wish. Every day I realize how much I don’t know. I rely on my instincts in a lot of situations. I wish I had all the answers.

What is your favorite word right now?

Tenacity. It’s fun to say. It’s fun to spell. I just have to keep reminding myself to be tenacious, to keep on chipping away at a problem until it erodes away.

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

My grandma. When I was young, I spent all my free time with my grandma. I can honestly say she is one of the few people who truly believed in me. Always. No exceptions. If I had an idea, she didn’t tell me it was stupid. She asked questions, she encouraged it. We had conversations; real conversations. My opinion mattered. Grandma Z—the Z stands for Zeoli—was a very unusual woman for her time. She contracted polio when she was young but still managed to become educated.  She worked as a teacher even though her parents wanted her to become a nun.

She sounds like she was a special lady. Who is your caring adult these days?

Without a doubt, my husband. He’s my best friend. He was my best friend before we married and someone who still is. I’m really lucky.

CIS—and the three hundred plus students at Northeastern—are fortunate to have Missy and a fabulous team of caring adults—like Principal Vanessa Carter, Secretary Tonya Orbeck, Title 1 Achievement & Behavior Support Specialist Judy Moran, the dedicated KPS teachers and staff, Kids Hope mentors from Second Reformed Church, parents, and many others. Go Northeastern!

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