Since 2011, students who participate in Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) After School Programs have been coming up with their own ways to shine the spotlight on quality after school support. This year is no different. In anticipation of National Lights On Afterschool Awareness Day, Thursday, October 24, 2019, Kalamazoo Public School students are once again reminding grownups about the importance of investing in and advocating for after school programs.
“Students have been busy researching and discussing the importance of after school programs,” says CIS Senior Director of Site Services Dr. Tamiko Garrett. “At the secondary level students are writing letters to public officials to raise awareness about the need for after school opportunities. Kids experience first-hand the benefits from an extended learning day and they want to remind adults that after school programming affords them a safe place to learn, to make positive connections with their peers and adults, have opportunities to work on and receive assistance with homework, create friendships, and more.”
Kids want their elected officials to know that a significant body of research demonstrates that students who regularly attend after school programs are more likely to improve their grades, tests scores, attendance, and overall academic behavior. To glean highlights from what students shared last year with public officials, you can click on this post: P.S. Please don’t get rid of after school programs.
“Our elementary students are also looking forward to participating in the Lights On rally,” says Dr. Garrett. The rally, organized by KYD Network, will be held on October 17th at the Arcadia Festival Site. “All CIS after school elementary sites will be represented,” says Dr. Garrett. “Washington Writers’ Academy and Woodward School for Technology and Research will be on a short break during this time [as part of the Kalamazoo Public Schools’ Balanced Calendar Pilot which provides a year-round school experience]. However,” Dr. Garrett points out, “the students have been busily making signs and posters for their peers to use during the rally.”
Nationwide, 11.3 million children are alone and unsupervised from 3 to 6 p.m. After school programs offer not only a safe place to learn and grow, but can serve as a strategic way to address both academic achievement and opportunity gaps. The achievement gap between students from lower- and higher-income families has grown by 40% over the past 30 years. By the sixth grade, middle class students have spent 4,000+ more hours in after school and summer learning opportunities than their low-income peers. Consistent participation in high-quality after school programs can help close and eliminate these gaps.
In Kalamazoo, CIS relies heavily on local resources and partnerships for its core work during the school day to identify needs and connect students to the right resources to remove barriers to school success. The CIS After School Program is able to extend the learning day Monday through Thursday in 15 KPS schools thanks to the support of federal dollars awarded through the Michigan Department of Education (21st Century Community Learning Centers).
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 Viridiana Carvajal, CIS After School Site Coordinator at El Sol Elementary. El Sol functions similarly to a magnet school, accepting students from throughout the Kalamazoo Public School district. Approximately half of El Sol’s students come from homes where Spanish is the primary spoken language and half from English-speaking homes.
Viri was born and raised in Los Angeles, California. When she was six, she and her family moved to Mexico, returning back to her California home when she was 12. Upon graduating from high school, she would make yet another journey, this time to Michigan for college.
A versatile and talented young woman, she has held various roles with CIS, supporting elementary, middle, and high school students across five different schools. Viri now lives in Kalamazoo with Moises, their four-year-old son Gael, her mother, and sisters.
Throughout the interview, Viri not only answered questions for Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids but periodically excused herself to field programmatic and kid questions from youth development coaches. She met briefly with a parent who stopped by, passed out a couple band-aids, rounded up an ice-pack, and helped a student who was struggling with staying focused in the classroom. Her leadership on display through her attitude and actions, Viri’s calm, positive, and open-minded approach washed over kids and grownups alike, setting just the right tone for the CIS Think Summer! program.
Alright, Viri: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.
From California to Kalamazoo! Kalamazoo College brought you to Kalamazoo but how did you come to learn about Kalamazoo College?
I went to Camino Nuevo High School in L.A. and because a former principal from one of the Camino Nuevo Schools had graduated from Kalamazoo College, the counselors were also familiar with K, as well as Hope College. I applied to visit the college to see if it would be a good fit for me. Turns out it was! I came from a very small high school and wanted a small campus.
I went to Kalamazoo College with the goal of becoming a math major. During my junior year, because of my experience with CIS through the Center for Civic Engagement, I changed my major to psychology.
Can you share more about your experience of connecting with CIS? You’ve worn several hats with the organization, haven’t you?
Yes! I was first introduced to CIS during my first year of college through my involvement with the Mary Jane Stryker Center for Civic Engagement. As a college freshman, that first year I worked on campus, involved with a tutoring program focused on math and science. It was in my sophomore year that I learned about the CIS and Kalamazoo College partnership at El Sol Elementary and Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts. As one of Kalamazoo College’s Civic Engagement Scholars [more on the Scholars and their involvement with CIS here] I tutored students at Maple Street, and then later, as part of my psychology class, did some volunteer work with CIS at Woodward School for Technology and Research.
During my last year at Kalamazoo College, [Senior Director of Community Engagement & Student Investment] Artrella Cohn brought me on board to work in the math tutoring program at Kalamazoo Central High School. That summer, I applied with CIS to be a YDC [Youth Development Coach] and went to work at El Sol in the fall of 2015. In January, I went back to LA but when I returned in 2016, I stepped back into my role as a YDC and worked with Kids in Tune during CIS Think Summer! I continued to support students as a YDC both during the school year and throughout CIS Think Summer!
In the fall of 2017, I transitioned to yet another role, serving as the interim CIS After School Coordinator at El Sol. That position became permanent for me. And in the summer of 2018, I was also the CIS Site Coordinator for the Kids in Tune portion of summer programming. I feel fortunate that I had the opportunity to work with Stacy Jackson who had, for the elementary level, been the Director of CIS Think Summer!
And now you have are here at Arcadia Elementary School serving as the Director of CIS Think Summer! Is there a school or CIS position that you haven’t been connected with in some way?
What do you love about working at El Sol as CIS After School Coordinator?
The kids! I love the kids. I’ve known many of these kids since I came on with CIS as a YDC. When I arrived, they were in kindergarten. Now those same kids will be going into fourth grade this fall. It’s amazing to see them grow and change. Also, it’s been wonderful coming to know and be with their families. Because the parents are very involved and I’ve been a consistent presence, the families know me. We’ve built relationships and they trust me.
Trust plays a huge part in your work with families, doesn’t it?
Yes, through the relationships we have built, and working together to support their children, that trust has grown. In some cases, families may come to me for other things, such as helping to translate things for them. Knowing that the kids want to return to CIS and parents want their kids to return and be involved with CIS tells me they want their kids with us and are trusting me to keep them safe.
What is one of the most fulfilling aspects of being a CIS after school coordinator?
Hearing kids want to return to CIS. They are excited for tomorrow and what it will bring. Our coaches work hard preparing for them and having a schedule for them to follow. Just like during the day, there are expectations we have for students in the after school program. While the students may grumble about it, at end of the day, they really appreciate the structure we provide.
Also, if I’ve been gone for a day, I love hearing them say, “We missed you!”
What do you find most challenging about your work?
Recognizing that some things are out of my control things and learning to be okay with that—it has been hard. I’m a person that always wants to have answers and help however I can. So I am out of my comfort zone when I can’t do something about a given situation. It’s hard to be okay with that. So while I’ve had that challenge in my role at El Sol, I find I am having similar feelings in a different setting as I adjust to our summer program. We have different kids are coming from different schools, all with different experiences, and I don’t have control over that.
What are you currently reading?
George by Alex Gino. It was recommended by one of my coaches [also referred to as youth development coaches] and I just started it. It’s about a transgender student who is in fourth grade.
What is your favorite word right now?
Grateful. I feel grateful and am grateful. I’m serving in this summer position as director and that is new for me. It’s not easy and I am grateful to have the support I do in this position, both in my professional and in my personal life.
Behind every successful person is a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?
My mom, Elena. She’s been a single mom raising three girls. She worked so hard and sacrificed so much for us. She taught me a lot. She always has a lesson to teach me, even now. If I have a hard day at work she calms me and helps me look at things differently. I look up to her, my role model.
Thank you, Viri, for hanging out with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids.
Do you or someone you know speak Spanish? Consider becoming a volunteer with CIS today. Our students at El Sol and at other CIS sites throughout Kalamazoo Public Schools can use your support. Start the process by going here today!
My mom and the Kalamazoo Promise.
-Nataviah, 5th grade, future doctor or nurse
-Sammie, 1st grade, future video hacker and ninja.
Playing with Legos, and my family.
-Christopher, 2nd grade, future police officer.
-Kadesha, 1st grade, future doctor.
-Liadreas, 5th grade, future singer
My mom and dad, sisters and brother.
-Ashley, 5th grade, future doctor or teacher
-Kemoni, 5th grade, future professional football player
-Ysabella, 2nd grade, future artist
-Walter, 4th grade, future basketball player
-Mariah, 4th grade, future wildlife rehabilitator
Spending time with family and friends.
-Samiya, 4th grade, future vet or makeup artist
Race cars and toys.
-Jayden, kindergarten, future police officer
Pizza, my mom and dad and brother.
-Dean, 1st grade, future cop
-Brandon, 1st grade, future cop
And just what is love?
Aaliyah, a kindergartener who loves having her own bedroom and wants to be a teacher one day, says love is “kisses and hugs.”
According to Gabriel, a 4th grader who loves his siblings and plans to be a police officer when he grows up, “Love is not something you can take.” Love is a “symbol of care and means you matter to the world.”
CIS After School is made possible thanks to the support of the Michigan Department of Education (21st Century Community Learning Centers). Special thanks to the CIS youth development workers (YDWs) at Milwood Elementary School for helping to solicit these responses: Karen Hill, Marla Sykes, Autumn Lumpkin, Marshera Ogletree, Lexi Chie, and Sam Gbadamosi. Their help not only made today’s post possible, but they, as do other youth development workers in CIS after school programs throughout Kalamazoo Public Schools, work hard to develop the strengths and talents of our youth by involving and empowering students in their own growth.
Our kids need more youth development workers, enthusiastic and energetic individuals to serve in an after school setting (Monday through Thursday). If you or someone you know might be right for the job, go here.
Did you know that it’s Afterschool Professionals Appreciation Week? Did you know that, throughout the U.S., an estimated 10.2 million children participate in afterschool programs each year? Did you know that for the past 13 years, CIS of Kalamazoo has helped students succeed in school through the 21st Century Community Learning Centers and currently serves 750 students in 15 after school sites—11 elementary and 4 middle school sites? CIS After School is available thanks to the support of federal dollars awarded through the Michigan Department of Education, the 21st Century Community Learning Centers.*
Thanks to all of our wonderful Afterschool Professionals. Whether you are a CIS After School Coordinator, a Youth Development Worker, an Instructional Lead, an Evening Custodian, Bus Driver, Food Service Worker, a CIS Volunteer or Partner supporting our kids in one of the 15 after school sites, we thank you for extending our reach as a community into after school hours. None of us could not do this work without the support of Kalamazoo Public Schools: the KPS Administration, Transportation, Food Service, and the many Principals and Teachers. Thank you for supporting us as we provide high quality programs that focus on student success.
One way to honor and lift up the great work being done with kids by all afterschool professionals is to shine the spotlight on one of our own. So today, we feature Jenee McDaniel. She’s been with Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) since 2010 and is the CIS After School Site Coordinator at Linden Grove Middle School.
A proud graduate of Kalamazoo Public Schools, Jenee attended Lakewood Elementary ( K-3 school that closed back in 2004), Edison, Milwood Middle, and graduated from Loy Norrix High School. Jenee moved to Detroit and obtained an associate’s degree at Wayne County Community College. She also lived in Cincinnati for a time. She moved back to Kalamazoo when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. We’re glad her mom’s doing great—and has been in remission for a long time now—and we’re glad Jenee chose to stick around Kalamazoo. Jenee continued to further her education, obtaining both her BSW and MSW in the School of Social Work at Western Michigan University.
Alright, Jenee: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.
What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?
I keep learning more and more about myself. Just how to be more in tune with what is really important, and sweating the small stuff less.
What are you currently reading?
I’m studying for my clinical licensing exam so I’m looking over materials that relate to theories, medication, best practice, that kind of stuff.
What is your favorite word right now?
I honestly don’t have a favorite word.
You’re the first person we’ve interviewed who hasn’t had a favorite word!
[Jenee’s teammate Tamiko Garrett has briefly entered the room.] What about, “Hey, boo?”
Thinking back to your student years with the Kalamazoo Public Schools, who was one of your favorite teachers?
In elementary school, when I went to Edison, my favorite teacher was my fourth grade teacher, Ms. Pulley. I believe she is still teaching or just retired from Spring Valley but she had been my teacher at Edison. I really connected with her. As an African American teacher, she looked and talked like my family and me. She was relatable, firm but fair, and you just knew that she cared. Not just that, but she would check up on me throughout my life; she’s the kind of person that remembers you after you’ve left and grown.
At Milwood Middle, it was my science teacher, Mr. Chuck Pearson. I’ve always liked science but the way he facilitated our class, he just made science so fun. In high school, my favorite teacher was Coach [Dob] Drake. I hated history and he taught history. The way he presented it, though, you couldn’t help but enjoy the class. He jumped on tables, things like that, and made it fun to learn. It was always a show and you always learned something. He was a good teacher. I never minded going to his class and I never once fell asleep. Still, today I hate history but I loved that class. Besides learning history, I learned something else from him: it’s the way things are presented that can make the difference.
Can you tell us something about yourself that people may be surprised to know?
I’m a sensitive person. Some people would find this really hard to believe!
Behind every successful person is a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?
My caring adult has been a combination of my mom, dad, and grandma. My mom was very structured and consistent. She may not have been a hugger, but she taught us how to be independent, responsible, accountable, and to maintain things. My grandma—she was a Southern woman and lived with my mom—she was business-like, and even though she had a lot of health issues, she taught me so many lessons and life skills, such as cooking, cleaning, self-respect, morals, and compassion. My dad did not live in the home with us but he was always just around the corner. Some would consider him more “street” but he was always available to us and always involved—which I consider a blessing—because that was not the case for so many around me growing up. He has always been about family. He was also the kind of dad who shows up for things. He came to all my school events, cheered the loudest, which was embarrassing then, but I appreciate it now. He was a man’s man, but I learned about feelings and emotions from him. He was affectionate, gave me compliments, told me he loved me, and it was always okay to not be okay.
Outside of my family, I would have to say Barb Howes has been that caring adult for me. School has always come easy to me but after getting my BSW, I was tired. I had a family situation that was going to require a lot and I didn’t want to go on to graduate school at the time. But because of Barb Howes, I did. She believed in me, knew I was capable, and expected nothing less from me. Knowing all the obligations I had with family, she offered me a graduate assistantship and was an advisor, mentor, confidant, and still is one of the best people I have ever met.
Jenee, thank you for hanging out with us at Ask Me About About My 12,000 Kids! And thanks for your on-going committment to helping our kids learn and grow in an after school setting!
We continue to talk with Jenee in our recently released newsletter, CIS Connections. Jenee and her CIS site team member, CIS Site Coordinator Tamiko Garrett, share insights into what it takes to work together to help students stay in school and be successful.
*The federal budget for 2017-18 proposed by the President completely eliminates funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers. To learn more and find out what you can do to assure our kids can continue to learn in the after school hours, read the latest “Double” themed issue of CIS Connections.
A safe place to learn and grow. This is one of five CIS basics that we believe every child needs and deserves. Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo Site Coordinator and today’s guest blogger, Emily Demorest, works closely with other CIS staff, the Kalamazoo Public Schools, volunteers, and community partners to create a safe and nurturing learning environment for all children. Here now is Emily’s open letter and reaction to a recent draft statement put forth by the Michigan State Board of Education.
I applaud the Michigan Department of Education for their bold step to support the rights and safety of LGBTQ youth in Michigan public schools. The State Board of Education’s Statement and Guidance on Safe and Supportive Learning Environments for LGBTQ Students is a crucial step in ensuring all students in the state receive the education they deserve. We are tasked with supporting all students regardless of our personal feelings regarding individual identity issues.
Any LGBTQ students can share stories of marginalization or open hostility because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. At a time when young people are most vulnerable in their personal development, youth are experiencing issues with bullying, physical harassment, and difficulties accessing safe use of a toilet during the school day. Most are careful to share their true identities even with those they trust. As a CIS Site Coordinator, I work daily with students facing these challenges. All these young people want is to be safe and supported in their learning environment.
Students who do not feel that school is a safe and supportive environment have worse educational outcomes. According to research published by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network in 2013, LGBTQ students who perceive a hostile school climate are three times as likely to miss school and twice as likely to report a lack of interest in pursuing post high school education. Tragically, over half of students experiencing discrimination and harassment at school do not report the abuse due to feeling that exposing their identity to school staff will lead to further problems.
Do not all children deserve equal opportunities to quality education?
The full report is available by going here. Members of the public who wish to comment on the guidelines have until April 11th to express their support before the vote on May 10th.
If you follow our blog, you know that CIS has been asking caring adults to think back to when they were young and in school and recall that caring adult they felt especially connected to. Maybe it was in elementary school, or perhaps it was middle or high school. Who is that special person, that, even after all these years, they still carry within their hearts?
Members of the CIS team at Edison Environmental Science Academy were up to the challenge and in the weeks to come, we’ll find out who their caring adults are as we will publish each of their letters.
Today, we are excited to share a letter written by one member of the passionate, talented, and dedicated team who infuse Edison Environmental Science Academy with hope, love, and learning.
Dear Mr. Blink,
Many people do not believe I was ever a shy person. Thirty six years ago, you had that shy 7th grader in your social studies classroom and on your volleyball team. My brother was a star football player at the high school, breaking all sorts of records. I was known as “Dean’s little sister” or “little Sharick.” I was 12, trying to figure out who I was, what I stood for, and who my friends were.
Honestly, I don’t remember you doing anything particularly special just for me, but you made me feel special, gave me my own voice and always called me by my first name. You allowed me to be a typical 7th grade girl – moody and well, a 7th grade girl. You would talk about choosing friends wisely and being true to yourself. As an adult and an educator, I now see that you took every advantage of “teachable moments.” By the time I started 8th grade, I was a new person, no longer as shy, knowing who I was (at least as much as a teenager can), and chose my friends wisely. Most of my best friends are friends of 30+ years!
Thank you for taking this shy, 12 year old under your wing and allowing me to fly. You were an integral part of my decision to become a teacher. I hope I have made a difference in my students’ lives just as you have mine.
Who is your Mr. Blink? If you are up to the challenge of reflecting on and writing a letter to your caring adult, email it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we just might publish it!
And, if you haven’t yet had a chance to read the Story of Success within our freshly published annual report, take a few minutes to learn how KPS Principal Julie McDonald, her fabulous teaching staff, CIS staff, and other caring adults are helping Johnny succeed. Hint: To address the needs of the whole child, it often takes more than one person, one organization or resource. Johnny identifies a number of caring adults that have empowered him and gives a special shout out to: The Kalamazoo Promise®, Friday Food Packs (made possible thanks to Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes), First Day Shoe Fund, the Edison School Based Health Center (staffed by Family Health Center), Open Roads, and WMU College of Aviation. These last two resources are offered as part of CIS After School Programming funded through the Michigan Department of Education, 21st Century Community Learning Centers.
Did you know that throughout our nation, 15.1 million school-age children are alone and unsupervised in the hours after school? I knew it. But only because Melissa Holman shared that statistic with me. As the CIS Coordinator of Extended Learning, Melissa works behind the scenes with licensing, programming, and basically doing all-things-after-school for CIS. She says after school programming “gives kids a safe and supervised environment in which they have exposure to a broad range of things they might otherwise not have. It can be spending some time with a caring adult, a member of the community who provides academic support, or participating in an enrichment activity like karate or dance. It can be the safe space they need to complete homework, to make friends, to learn more about their strengths and talents.”
In conjunction with Lights On Afterschool events across the nation, Kalamazoo Public School students who participate in CIS afterschool programming—a resource available thanks to the support of the Michigan Department of Education (21st Century Community Learning Centers)—have once again been coming up with their own unique ways to shine the spotlight on quality, after school programming. Students have been busy researching and posting after school facts, creating public service announcements, working on posters, creating chants, a movie, and preparing to march through downtown.
Last year, more than eighty student representatives filled the Chamber of City Hall and shared with their commissioners the importance of extending the school day. “The afterschool program provides us with food, clothes, and other things we need,” said one fifth grader. “The afterschool program helps us stay away from drugs and off the streets. The staff help us with our homework and any issues we struggle with. The staff will do anything to make sure we are respectful, responsible, and safe so we can grow up to be anything we want to be and are treated equally. This helps us so we can do the same for others who need help and think they can’t find it.”
This year, through a variety of creative approaches—speech, dance, poetry—students are sharing the importance of having after school support in their lives and how they think it impacts the community. Thanks to the talented Ja’male Jordan, former CIS Youth Development Worker turned CIS Volunteer, some of their messages have been made into a short movie. Students, along with their parents will soon have a chance to watch Afterschool: The Movie on the big screen, downtown at the Alamo. In preparing for the project, students emphasized different aspects of after school which Melissa didn’t find surprising “because every child is special and has their own unique strengths and needs, so the benefits resonate differently for each student.”
One Woods Lake student who participates in the Kalamazoo Kids in Tune program (a joint partnership between the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Communities In Schools and Kalamazoo Public Schools) recognizes how “fortunate I am to be learning an instrument, a skill that will be with me the rest of my life.”
For many middle school students at Maple Street it’s the opportunity to get their homework completed. “Ms. Emily and her staff make sure I get my homework completed. No excuses!”
For an Arcadia student, after school is a chance to develop friendships. “You love your family but sometimes you just need to see your friends.”
Melissa says students “attend programming because they appreciate the support and supervision as well as the range of activities they get to do every day after school.” What keeps Melissa showing up day after day? ”Just seeing the impact,” she says with a smile. “We are literally changing lives. As a child, I had that happen for me when a caring adult changed my life. I want that for all of our kids in Kalamazoo.”
Today’s post is written by Pam Kingery, Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo. Her words can also be found on the front page of our latest CIS Connections.
No one orders gravy without the mashed potatoes. No one buys a set of special tires without owning a car to put them on. You don’t buy an extra gig of memory when you don’t possess a computer. Likewise, Communities In Schools wouldn’t seek after school grants if it didn’t have basic core services within the schools—whole-child, integrated student support.
Communities In Schools was recently notified that ALL THREE after school grants for which it applied have been selected for funding by the Michigan Department of Educationbeginning the 2014-15 school year. Those grants, funded for five years, will provide significant extra learning support in fifteen schools—nine out of its ten current after school sites and six new elementary sites. And, yes, the grants do represent a substantial dollar amount—more than ten million over the five year period. Of course, this is a huge accomplishment for CIS, Kalamazoo Public Schools and the partners who collaborate with us. We couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity!
BUT, after school services are not the CIS core integrated student support strategy that is basic to our mission—to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life. After school services are an example of a very important, narrow but intensive strategy for providing critical academic support to a targeted group of students within each selected school. It does give us a critical opportunity for daily contact with students to support homework completion, provide tutoring and practice for key academic skills and a safe, supervised setting while parents are working. It makes a substantial impact on the students who participate.
Core to a whole-child, coordinated service strategy, is a site coordinator who is available to organize and connect the community’s resources to a wider group of students within a school, students who have needs beyond academics, and who most often have very limited socio-economic means to meet those needs—dental, vision, food, clothing, school supplies, mental health, etc. Why do I point this out? Because it is our KALAMAZOO FUNDERS and DONORS who make possible the core of what Communities In Schools is and does. If you are one of those funders and donors, your support is essential in allowing us to leverage other resources—the gravy if you will—to provide critical extra support to some students, while maintaining the basics to greater numbers of children.
Yes, ten million dollars, even over five years, is a lot of money. But it goes to a very specific and narrow purpose—the special set of tires—and cannot be used to support our core services. For that core set of services, we are continuing our Promise Me Campaign. For that core, we are dependent on you, Kalamazoo. For that, we thank you for being the mashed potatoes.