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 Madison Vargas and her mother, Jennifer Dayton. Madison is a fourth grader, attending Spring Valley Center for Exploration.
We met up over Zoom back in October. With the Golden Gate Bridge hovering behind them as a virtual backdrop, we popped this quiz on Madison and her mom. [This mother-daughter duo will be featured in the CIS Annual Report, coming out shortly. You won’t want to miss it!]
Alright, Madison and Jennifer: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.
First off, how are you holding up during this pandemic? How has it changed you?
Jennifer: It’s been an adjustment, obviously, from being physically in school five days week, to home all the time.
Madison: Everything’s been good but boring. This weekend my brother is with his dad and for the weekend, right? He’ll be there for two weeks.
Jennifer: Through the weekend.
Madison: Well, that’s like half of two weeks. And my mom and I are going to have salt popcorn and we’re going to watch Hocus Pocus with our dogs, Cookie and Max.
What are you learning about yourself these days?
Madison: That you can do a lot more when you are not out about and going everywhere.
Jennifer: I never thought about that before, Madison. That’s a good point you’ve made. We do live in a face-paced society so we have definitely been able to slow down and do more as a family. We spend lots of quality time together.
Madison: Don’t get me wrong. We still do stuff. We go to the pumpkin patch but you must wear a mask. Though, we don’t go to the water park anymore. [She heaves a big sigh.]
What’s your favorite subject?
Madison: It used to be writing, but now it’s math and reading.
What three words describe you?
Madison: Oh, I know this answer! I got it! For my mom, I’d say she is loving, caring, and amazing.
Jennifer: I’ll take it!
Madison: [Madison holds up a little gray dog that sniffs her computer screen.] This is Cookie. Our dog. So, three words that describe me are funny, smart, and…hum. Creative!
What do you like about virtual learning?
Madison: It’s only like forty-five minutes, and then you can have a break. At school, you have to be there until three.
Jennifer: So you like the flexibility?
Madison: Flexibility, yeah!
What is most challenging?
Jennifer: When the technology is not working.
Madison: When my computer doesn’t want to cooperate.
What are you currently reading?
Madison: I’m reading comics and Dork Diaries[by Rachel Renée Russell].
Jennifer: With my work, I’m reading emails all day. I have a couple books I’ve been wanting to read; they are tucked away in my drawer. I don’t even know their titles!
What is your favorite word or phrase right now?
Madison: I know what it is for you, Mom. “Madison, go brush your teeth!”
Jennifer (laughing): I do say that a lot. Also, “Are you online? Get on your session!”
Madison: I also say, “I’m hungry. What snacks do we have?” And you always say, “You live here. You know what we have!” [Jennifer chimes in on this last sentence so we all laugh that they have said this simultaneously.]
Behind every successful student is a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?
Jennifer: For me, it was my seventh grade teacher at Gull Lake Middle School. She changed my life. Ms. Stacy Noteboom [now Noteboom-Bush]. She was really significant in my life and helped me a lot. She was caring and noticed that I was going through a lot during that time. One day I dyed my hair. It came out terrible. She got permission and took me to her house and fixed my hair for me. She had been a cosmetologist before she became a teacher.
That came in handy!
Jennifer: Yes. Teachers like Ms. Noteboom made such a huge impact on me. That’s why I became a teacher.
Madison: So my caring adult is definitely my mom.
Jennifer: Who else other than me?
Madison: So, my second caring adult is my mom. And then Ms. Martha—she’s so heartfelt. And Ms. [Katie] McKinley. She’s my teacher and she is very helpful with math.
Jennifer: That’s a really good word to describe Ms. Martha. Everything she does is heartfelt. Like when she reached out to us to see if we needed coats and boots.
Madison: I wish you would ask us more questions.
What questions do I need to ask?
Madison: What’s our favorite colors?
So what are your favorite colors?
Madison: My mom’s is green and mine is purple. And teal, and black, and white. Even though I hate grape things, I like purple. Oh, and you didn’t ask where we lived. We live—
Jennifer: Okay, everybody doesn’t need to know where we live Madison.
Madison: I guess that’s right. What about asking us what our favorite animal is? Mine is a dog.
Jennifer: Mine is the same. Dogs.
Madison: We love our dogs…Cookie and Max.
Thank you, Madison and Jennifer (and Cookie and Max), for hanging out with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids.
Welcome back to the POP QUIZ! This is a regular, yet totally unexpected, feature where we ask students, parents, staff, our friends, and partners to answer a few questions about what they are learning, reading, and thinking about. Today we feature Ashley Serio, who serves as the CIS After School Coordinator for Northglade Montessori.
Ashley began her career with CIS almost six years ago, first as an AmeriCorps VISTA, then as Youth Development Worker (YDW), serving at both Northglade and Edison Environmental Science Academy. She has also worked in CIS Think Summer for five years.
Ashley grew up in Kalamazoo and attended
Spring Valley Center for Exploration and then went on to Milwood Magnet Middle
School. Upon graduating from Kalamazoo Central High School, Ashley used the Kalamazoo
Promise scholarship to attend Western Michigan University. She
graduated in 2016, earning a degree in university studies with a focus in
business, health, and family consumer science.
Back in February, we popped over to Northglade and popped this quiz on her. Alright, Ashley Serio: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.
is one of the best parts about being a CIS after school coordinator?
Getting to know the kids and build
meaning relationships with them. I love helping them grow and seeing that
growth, well they inspire me and my staff in many ways. They help us grow, too.
It’s just awesome to watch.
have the kids helped you grow?
They make me want to be more patient,
more present, and more aware of everything. I’ve come to understand that
everyone’s experience impacts them differently and it’s important to be aware
of those experiences.
is one of the most challenging aspects of being an after school coordinator?
Not feeling like I can ever do
enough for the kids. I want to be there even more for them, provide them more, and
there is a limit to what I can do within the confines of this role.
a graduate of Kalamazoo Public Schools, who were some of your favorite teachers?
My favorite high school teacher was
Mr. [Christopher] Bullmer. He passed away last year. I did slam poetry and had
him for language arts.
had a positive impact on a lot of kids, didn’t he? I’m a little surprised,
though, that you took his slam poetry class.I’m trying to picture you doing slam
Until very recently, talking in front of people was one of
my weaknesses. I’d just get so nervous. But with my work at CIS, I was encouraged
both by Cara [Weiler] and Ms. Stacy [Jackson]
to do this very thing. They both pushed me beyond myself. I’m now doing
trainings and sharing information with others. I’m becoming comfortable with
doing this…The work that I do is
so ingrained in my life now, it comes naturally. We all struggle, no matter how
much we come to know and learn. But, as a CIS after school coordinator, I do
have confidence in what needs to be done and I enjoy sharing that passion with
back to your KPS teachers. In addition to Mr. Bullmer, any other favorite teachers
come to mind?
Oh, yes, definitely! At Spring Valley, it was Ms. Julie Jones, my second grade teacher, and Kairi Hokenmaier, my third grade teacher, and Michelle Larson, my fifth grade teacher. At Milwood Magnet Middle School, two of my favorite teachers were Mr. Atiba McKissack [now principal at Hillside, you can find his pop quiz here] and Ms. Dawn Kahler.
your favorite teachers have any overarching characteristics?
They were each dedicated to their
jobs. They built quality relationships with their students, while also showing us
that they were learning along the way, too.
I also think it says something about
them, the fact that, to this day, they are working with kids one way or another.
The way you just described your favorite teachers reminds me of you—the focus on building relationships and life-long learning.
Oh, my! I can only hope I can be as
good with kids as they have been. To think that I could teach kids as well as
they did…wow. I mean, I’m not a teacher like them, but I’m still helping
students, just in a different way.
[A CIS volunteer enters the CIS room. Ashley immediately rises to greet Ariel Slappy to see how everything is going. Ariel, a student at Western Michigan University, came to volunteer with CIS through her “Teaching as a Profession” class.]
colleague, Steve Brewer, gave us a glimpse of what his work as CIS site
coordinator looks like during the daytime [his interview here]
at Northglade. Can you give us a glimpse of what an average afternoon in the
life of a CIS after school coordinator is like?
Every day is different! I should also say that while Steve and I have different roles within the school, we work well together and we’ll each step out of our own role to step into each other’s role to get things done. For instance, you could see he was busy elsewhere in the building so I stepped in to assist our new volunteer. He does the same for me.
term “after school’ is in your title, so the assumption might be that you are
just in the school after the school day is over. But here you are, and it’s not
Yes, typically I’m checking in with students
during day, to see if they are okay and if they are able to get their work done.
I want to be fully present with the kids and after school staff so I use this time
for program preparation and doing data work, planning for field trips and
lessons and activities—all before program time begins. And then, it’s two and a
half hours of after school programming with the kids.
does that look like for you?
When the school day is over, our
students—we have about 50 in the program—come into cafeteria and the staff and
I greet them. I’m always with students during dinner time. I take attendance, the
students wash their hands and have dinner. For Black History Month, we decided
to try something new, so I’ve been reading a book aloud to the students for ten
minutes each day. We’re reading Gone
Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia.
After the students finish eating
they go to recess. I take that time to clean up, go back to the CIS office and
catch up on paperwork. Following recess, the students split up into three
groups and go into their classrooms for their Core Time. I float around, going
in and out of each of the rooms, and supporting however necessary. Sometimes, a
kid may need some time away from their group so I might bring them back to the
CIS space and they can do what they need to do to regulate themselves and then
get back to their room.
us more about what Core Time looks like for Northglade students.
On Mondays, our focus is on SEL [Social and Emotional Learning], Tuesdays it is STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering and Math], and Wednesdays is ELA [English Language Arts], and then, on Thursdays, the students participate in clubs.
Each class is focusing on something
different. But across the board, we’re all focused on self-management and
relationship building. We’re exploring our personal emotions and what they look
and feel like, how we can interact kindly and help each other. This has become a
regular part of what we do on a weekly basis. We’ve found, through trial and
error, some great ways to engage students in ways they find meaningful.
you share an example?
Sure. Last week, in [Youth Development Worker] Ms. Paige’s group, the students did a bucket-filling activity. The idea behind this is that we feel good about ourselves when we are kind to others. We can build up others by filling them with kindness. When others’ buckets are filled up, that helps to fill up our own bucket. If we are mean to others, it not only spills out their bucket, but it spills out our own as well.
So, for the activity, the kids each
made their own buckets and randomly selected the names of three other students.
They then wrote something positive about each student and put the slip in their
bucket. This was all done anonymously.
That makes sense. The anonymous bucket activity encourages the kids to respond in a more intrinsic way, rather than being driven to “be kind” for some external reward. It’s not about “Oh, look, see what I wrote about you!” It’s more about, “I felt good writing something nice about you.”
Yes! And the kids love doing this
and reading what is in their bucket!
So after Core Time in which we are
doing various activities like what I just described, the kids move into Homework
Time. Again, I’m checking in here and there. I’m helping wherever necessary. Kids
have all different kinds of needs, so you need to meet those needs in different
ways. I might find I need to work one-on-one with a student or work with a
group of students who might be confused about something related to their
mentioned Thursdays are club days. What clubs do you currently have going on?
The kids get to select two options for their clubs. Right now we have “Around the World” which focuses on learning different places and cultures food, languages, customs, and traditions. We have “Olympic Club” where kids can learn about different winter Olympic sports and how to play them. We also have “Animal Club” where kids are learning about different animals. The Kalamazoo Nature Center is partnering with us on this and coming in to help us learn more about animals.
Principal Mogaji, whom we recently interviewed [interview can be found here if you missed it] said that she appreciates how you take the Montessori philosophy into account when running the CIS after school program, so that children receive a consistent message as their learning stretches into the after school hours. Can you share an example of how you do that?
I do work hard to extend what they
know in the school day into after school as much as possible. We avoid extrinsic
awards, for example. Also, the rules and norms we go by are aligned with the
school day. The Northglade students worked to develop these so we are essentially
going by what they chose to develop, such as being peaceful with our bodies,
respecting each other, the environment, and the school. We talk a lot about
What are you currently reading?
Becoming by Michelle Obama. I’m not very far in yet,
but it’s good. It’s interesting to hear about her life from her own perspective.
What are you becoming?
A better version of myself, although I don’t know what that means yet.
What is your favorite word right
What do you love?
The kids that I work with. Food. Sleep. My friends and family.
Where is one place in Kalamazoo you love hanging out?
In the summer and spring I like to be outdoors, so I enjoy visiting Asylum Lake. Also, I like to go any place that has good food. I like to be comfortable warm, and fed.
Behind every successful person is
a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?
My mom. She’s always been there for
me. Most of my life it’s just been her and me. She’s supported and encouraged
me. And obviously, I’m a lot more like her than I ever thought I’d be! We both
do the same job and love it! [Ashley’s mom, Martha Serio, is on her thirteenth
year as the CIS Site Coordinator at Spring Valley Center for Exploration. In
2015, she received National
CIS’s Unsung Hero Award.] I never thought I’d want to do the same
work as my mom. I grew up watching her be stressed out worrying about the kids.
But as soon as I started working the CIS summer program, I loved it. And
working for Ms. Stacy
[Jackson] during that time helped me definitely figure that out.
Anything else we should know about you?
I’m not usually very good talking about myself, I guess! I mostly work,
sleep and eat. I do like to travel. I want to go to Italy within the next year.
It’s beautiful from all the pictures I’ve seen. I’ve been to Paris,
London, and Berlin. I studied abroad in college and loved Europe in general.
So, Italy is next!
Thank you, Ashley, for hanging
out with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids.
We know you love seeing kids succeed. We do too! What else do you love? We polled a few CIS staff. Here is what they said:
“I love my new apartment, my independence and all these new possibilities that come with that: with designing and laying things out just how I want. I get to be unapologetically me.”
-Laurin Mathis, Administrative Assistant
“I love spring board and platform diving. I was a diver in high school and college. I’m soon to be training for tower diving.”
-Phillip Hegwood, CIS Afterschool Coordinator
-Nicky Aiello, Volunteer and Development Coordinator
“Music and playing guitar.”
-John Oliver, Director of Quality and Evaluation
“A really good book. As I look over the course of my life, it is so enriched by reading.”
-Pam Kingery, Executive Director
“First of all… I love my daughter with all of my heart and soul and am very proud to be her mother. I love all of my family, even with our differences. I love my friends who have become part of my family. Last, but not least, I love each and every one of the students I have and continue to come in contact with and support through my work at KPS and with CIS.”
-Martha Serio, CIS Site Coordinator, Spring Valley Center for Exploration
As long as we’re on the subject of love, we love you, dear reader and CIS friend! Thank you for putting love into action by sharing your time, talents, and financial gifts with Communities In Schools. Thank you for working with us to help students stay in school and achieve in life.
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 Pam Dalitz, a CIS volunteer at Spring Valley Center for Exploration, or, as she refers to the school, her “second home.” Pam also serves on the CIS Volunteer Leadership Advisory Council (VLAC), advising CIS on such things as volunteer recruitment and retainment.
Pam, who is originally from Ann Arbor, Michigan, retired one and a half years ago “from a bunch of careers.” She started as a recreation therapist, went back to school and became an exercise physiologist working in the physical therapy department at Borgess. Eventually, she attended Kalamazoo Valley Community College’s nursing program. She worked 12 years as a registered nurse and then retired from the health field.
Alright, Pam: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.
What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?
How to teach kids to read. I didn’t really know how to do that until taking this SLD reading class. The SLD way is so different than how I learned to read as a kid. I’ve tutored multiple students and I’m currently only working with one SLD-mentored student. [To learn more about SLDRead, go here.]
Any tips you can impart when it comes to helping kids read?
Take the SLD reading course! Be open-minded. It is amazing.
‘You’ve got to be kidding.’ That’s my favorite phrase at the moment: ‘You’ve got to be kidding,’ and I’ve been saying it a lot. But a favorite word? ‘Unbelievable!’ For a while, I was into ‘macabre.’ I’m off of that one now. Oh, ‘Whoa’ is another favorite. I like words!
Tell us a bit about your volunteer work with CIS.
I’m the kind of person who bores easily, but the kids make it so interesting and the work is really inviting. [CIS Site Coordinator] Martha Serio is a great boss! Also, it’s nice that there isn’t tons of paperwork.
Do you help Martha with paperwork?
No, I just go in and work with the kids, tutoring them. I also help in Ms. [Chyna] Campbell’s second grade classroom. Sometimes I’ll help with classroom papers, but now paperwork is much more fun than when I was a nurse and charting to help the hospital get reimbursed for units of morphine. By the way, Ms. Campbell is an amazing teacher and I admire her so much. She has her stuff together, and at such a young age!
I also like working with Martha. She is energetic and I find her easy to get along with because she’s very direct. I don’t have to guess what she wants. I get anxious if I don’t know what is expected of me and she lets me know. Martha goes above and beyond. She really cares, making sure students’ needs are met, whether it’s for academic, or social and emotional support. She’s always getting hold of their parents so everybody is working together to attend to the needs of the kids.
How often do you volunteer at Spring Valley?
I help in the second grade classroom two days a week. I also tutor several children two days—sometimes three—a week. I have a warm spot for kids that struggle in school. I really like working with them.
Where does that warm spot come from?
As a kid, I was given the diagnosis of ADHD [attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder]. I struggled, too. It was hard for me to stay focused, stay quiet, and stay in my seat. I would try and work in my seat and then I’d find myself across the classroom. Oh, there I go again, I’d think. I knew what was expected of me, but I just couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to be seen as “the bad kid,” but I was…
Those that have struggled in school sometimes end up being the best support for kids. So tell us, what made you decide to choose CIS as a way to share your time and talents?
I got into volunteering with CIS thanks to my hair salon, Honoré! They really should get credit for it.
I go to Kristin Peterson who—every time—does a wonderful job. I recommend her and Honoré to everyone in our community. Shaun Moskalik, the owner, I love him! Anyways, Honoré collects coats each year for CIS. I started buying up a few coats and bringing them into the salon and donating them to the cause. Then, one time, while getting my bangs cut by Mindy [Meisner], she started telling me about her volunteer work with CIS. You should talk to CIS about volunteering, she said. Kristin, Shaun and Mindy, they all encouraged me to follow up with CIS.
Even though you’ve retired from nursing, you still carry that health background with you when you work with kids. Do you have any thoughts on the health of children these days?
Yes, I worry about our kids’ health. When kids don’t have set bedtime hours, they often come to school exhausted. I’ll ask kids what their bedtime is and some say 7:30 or 8 o’clock. But others, the tired ones, are staying up late and playing video games.
I also ask students what they like to do, and while some mention playing sports, many—far too many—identify sedentary activities, like video games and watching television. You don’t hear much more about kids gathering informally to play outdoor games. I’m a huge Red Rover fan and I probably still have ruptured organs from playing that game! But seriously, that sedentary lifestyle worries me. I wonder about the heart disease and diabetes we’ll see in the future.
I must say, though, I do love seeing the healthy snacks, like fruits and pretzels, available in the school. That’s a good thing.
As a former exercise physiologist, do you see a connection between learning and movement?
Definitely. Activity is huge for learning. It gives the brain a boost in oxygen, it reduces stress, and can help kids rest their eyes a bit. There is this Go Noodle program that Spring Valley uses and the kids love it.
They are little videos, about two minutes each, that can easily be played during the school day. It lets kids take a small break, get up and Go Noodle to burn off some steam. I think they have videos geared to all grade levels, maybe even for grown-ups. Basically, kids “noodle” for relaxation and can then re-focus. The kids love it and so do I!
Where is someplace you like to frequent in the community?
Behind every successful person is a caring adult. Who has been one of your caring adults?
My dad was definitely one of my caring adults. He was a huge role model for me. He ran an industrial laundry. He worked 12-14 hour days but always had time to do fun, recreational activities.
Bertha Walker also comes to mind. She was a community mental health social worker and we worked together at Crisis Stabilization (which is part of Kalamazoo Community Mental Health & Substance Abuse Services but was affiliated with Borgess Hospital at that time). She was the senior staff. She was no nonsense and was all about our team getting the work done. We never doubted that she cared about us or the patients we served. She’s been gone now over eight years.
When you think back on 2018, what is one of your fondest memories that you carry with you into this new year?
My first year following retirement was last year, so I got out the bucket list. As part of a mission trip, I got to go into the gypsy camps of Romania last year and that amazed me. I also went dog sledding in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. That is something I wanted to do my whole life!
What are you most looking forward to this year?
My other volunteer is with the Sierra Club and I’m looking forward to some local and national trips with them. When I see a hint of spring, that means we’re getting closer. I can’t wait! I also love walking my dog. It’s a simple pleasure, just walking my little dog.
Thank you, Pam, for hanging out with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids.
Just last week, the national CIS office unveiled What We are Made Of. This collaboration between pop artist Jason Mecier and CIS students has resulted in 3-D mosaic portraits of students that are currently on display at Touchstone Gallery in Washington D.C. To bring this unique project to everyone, a virtual, interactive version is available here. It’s worth checking out!
We love thinking about what we’re made of. We invited CIS staff to be part of this project. We asked them to tell us what item represents part of what they are made of. Here’s what a few of them said:
Hiking boots and bologna sandwich
My well-worn, hiking boots have been a trusted support, emotionally, as well as physically—encouraging my love of travel and immersion into various communities, along with my best pal, Lisa. And, of course, without the grounding of a bologna sandwich, all experiences would be less than.
-Jenn Miner, CIS Site Coordinator, Kalamazoo Central High School
I made my first journey as an infant with my parents to come to the United States after being adopted by them. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to travel to other places and those experiences have helped me grow as a person and learn to appreciate differences and other points of view.
-Emily Kobza, Sr. Director of Development & Business Engagement
Photo of family
I come from a large family with a supporting and loving mother who I know has shaped the person I am today…caring, giving and loving. Because of the strong love and relationships I have with my family, it makes me the mother and Site Coordinator that I am today.
-Martha Serio, CIS Site Coordinator, Spring Valley Center for Exploration
I’m made up of coffee. With a four-year-old and nine-month-old, this mama needs all the help she can get.
-Felicia Lemons, Development Coordinator
Its simple shape reflects who I am – what you see is what you get, nothing is hidden. It especially connects me to the salty waters of my Caribbean roots and reminds me of who I am and where I came from. I have a sand dollar pendant that I always wear and has been with me since I left my home and family many years ago to explore “new waters”… a challenge bigger that I ever imagined… It also reminds me of our human nature and how it doesn’t matter if we are fragile and quiet, we still strive to be resilient, beautiful and unique in our own special way.
-Nazlhy Heredia-Waltemyer, Success Coach, Loy Norrix High School
This article was featured in our CIS Connections newsletter, The Double Issue. You can find the full publication here.
Congratulations to CIS volunteer Mary Aldrich who, along with her husband, Scott, has recently been awarded the prestigious Andrus Award for Community Service. Given annually, this award is named for AARP founder Ethel Percy Andrus. Mary has volunteered with CIS for the past four years as a Senior Services RSVP member. In addition to her fine volunteer work at Spring Valley Center for Exploration, she and her husband are involved in many other volunteer efforts throughout the community. They’ve clearly doubled up to extend their reach and make a difference in schools, hospitals, nursing homes, and elsewhere.
“Mary has become a part of the Spring Valley family,” notes Spring Valley’s CIS Site Coordinator Martha Serio. “She not only tutors our students, but she is there for them when they need a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear.”
KPS Teacher Jaime Hall says that “Ms. Mary has not only improved students’ confidence in themselves, but in their learning as well. She has worked with students in both math and reading. Many students have shown an improvement in their reading and math abilities after receiving one-on-one time with her. Ms. Mary is very thorough; she does her “homework” and comes in each week with new ideas and tools to help kids learn to the best of their ability…Ms. Mary is amazing. I am grateful for her each and every day, and I know that my students are as well.”
You can change the life of a young person by volunteering. To find out more, visit our website,
The annual STAR awards were held last week. STAR, which stands for Sharing Time and Resources, is a partnership between Volunteer Kalamazoo and the Kalamazoo Gazette which, since 1986 has been recognizing the contributions of outstanding volunteers who exemplify the spirit of volunteerism.
This year, 3,292 volunteers were nominated for STAR Awards. Their 2014 combined giving was 70,949 hours. What a wonderful community we live in!
Here at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids, we share with you one of those nominations: Literacy Buddies, nominated within the “Youth Group Volunteer” category. Come back in two weeks, when we’ll feature CIS volunteer Patrick “Pat” Early, nominated within the “Adult Volunteer” category. The final winners within each of the 14 volunteering categories can be found here.
Actually, come back this MONDAY. For the past three years we have run our posts on Tuesdays but are making an exception to run a special Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids post from two passionate people who put kids first. You won’t want to miss it.
Literacy Buddies, which began in 2011 thanks to a State Farm grant awarded to CIS, pairs high school students with second grade students in order to improve reading, writing, homework, and vocabulary skills. Acting as positive role models, high school students offer one-on-one support to help motivate success for younger kids.
An opportunity to give back to peers and the community is one of the five basics CIS believes all kids need and deserve. Literacy Buddies does just that. Older students see themselves as leaders; they see themselves as having something to offer their community and as part of that community. While the program provides younger students with a learning link to what high school might be like for them, it also teaches older students lessons in responsibility and commitment.
Demond Jackson, a high school student and third year participant in Literacy Buddiesat Arcadia, said, “It’s a really great program. I recommend it to anyone. It’s been a great experience. I didn’t have anyone to help me at this age. Now I’ve been giving back and have grown attached to working with these kids. I love seeing their smiles. I love helping them understand their work and giving them someone to look up to. I don’t plan to stop.”
Deborah Yarbrough, CIS Site Coordinator at Kalamazoo Central, echoes the tremendous growth she’s seen in her students after participating in this program. “They come back year after year. They stand a little bit taller when they see themselves giving back to their community. A student just told me today ‘This is the best year yet!’”
Dominique Edwards, a Kalamazoo Central High School graduate and former CIS Board member, attended a three-day CIS Leadership Town Hall recently held in New Orleans. Sitting on a panel there, she stated her experience in high school: “I’m not a leader, I’m a shy introvert—no one is going to follow my lead…. Communities In Schools told me, ‘You do have leadership qualities, you are a leader.’ But I didn’t embrace that until [participating with] Literacy Buddies.” Given the opportunity to work through her fears in order to emerge as a role model, Dominique, like many of the current high school buddies, has developed self-confidence and owns her leadership skills.
Literacy Buddies is lifting the self-esteem and confidence of all students who participate in the program. As Martha Serio, CIS Site Coordinator at Spring Valley says, “The impact goes beyond the academic piece. Relationship building made a difference on both sides…The program also teaches high schoolers how to give back and shows young children that it’s not just older people who can participate in community service.”
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 Mr. William Hawkins, who has been serving as principal at Spring Valley Center for Exploration for the past two years. Prior to this he was at Woods Lake for the past fifteen years, five as principal and the first ten as a teacher. What you may not know is that he comes from a long line of educators. He grew up in Flint where his mother was a principal. His grandmother was a teacher as was his great grandmother. His own mother encouraged him not to go into education! It was a hard job then and it is a hard job now. In this instance, our 12,000+ kids are fortunate that a young man didn’t listen to his mother! (Mr. Hawkins said his mom is now happy with his decision to enter education.)
We popped this quiz on Mr. Hawkins back in November, during the first snow day of the season.
Alright, Principal Hawkins: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.
What is something interesting you’ve recently learned? I’m always looking for facts. My wife tells me I should be on Jeopardy. “How did you know that answer?” she’s always asking as we are watching the show. I do enjoy learning interesting facts and trivia. One day I might apply to appear on Jeopardy. I’d probably be in second place by the end of the show.
Tell us an interesting fact or piece of trivia.
There is a new tree planted at the capital of Washington D.C. in honor of Emmitt Till.
What kind of tree is it? Do you know?
What are you currently reading?
Currently I’m reading Charlotte Danielson’s Framework for Teaching Evaluation Instrument. It’s that time of year when I’m in classrooms doing evaluations. I want to make the process meaningful for teachers and myself. The Charlotte Danielson model helps with that. It is a collaborative structure where there’s both a pre-observation and post observation conference. The process is reflective for the teachers. It’s not just me going through classrooms with a checklist. It is a collaborative process; teachers have input. The tool is designed to create an environment where you reflect on your process, improve in areas of weakness and build upon your strengths.
Speaking of strengths, what is one of yours?
For me? Dealing with parents. Communicating with parents and students and being the link that connects parents to the school.
What do you want to be when you grow up?
Originally, I was going to be a professional football player and play for the Pittsburgh Steelers. They were my favorite team growing up. Lynn Swann, “Mean” Joe Greene….all the greats.
I’ll tell you a little bit of trivia about the Steelers. Did you know that they were the first NFL team to have a cheerleading squad?
I didn’t know that. You need to be on Jeopardy.
I wouldn’t do well with geography questions. And I only know that bit of trivia because I lived in Pittsburgh for a time and one of my best friend’s mom—Norreen Modery—was a Pittsburgh Steelerette. So, back to you. What is your favorite word right now?
Tell us something more about you.
My experience in education—elementary all the way through high school –was a positive one. It is my goal to help the children that I serve have a positive learning experience as well. That is why I am in education. And being in the Kalamazoo Public Schools, the home of the Promise, there is an extra added incentive to make education an enjoyable experience for all students.
Behind every successful student is a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?
First and foremost my family: my mother, father, and grandparents. And then there was my first grade teacher, Mrs. Hall. I remember we read the The Hobbit.
She read it to you?
No, we read it. “He can’t read that,” said a bookfair representative who was visiting the school. I read some of it to him and he was amazed. “I guess we have to get him the book, Lord of the Rings, now.” And he did.
That’s wonderful having caring adults encouraging you to really push yourself when it came to reading.
Yes. And then there was Mr. Alexander, my sixth grade teacher and the first male teacher I had. He motivated me, got the best out of me. High school was Mrs. Foster. She was my Spanish teacher and also the cadet teaching program teacher. This program gave me the opportunity to do a pre-teaching internship while I was still in high school. Mrs. Foster encouraged me to go further into education and encouraged me to minor in Spanish and it is because of her I am also certified to teach Spanish.
Thank you, Mr. Hawkins!
Mr. Hawkins is one of the people featured in the video that was created to celebrate the work of his CIS site coordinator, Martha Serio on her Unsung Hero Award. You can watch it here.