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CIS Seniors at Board Meeting

This article was featured in the latest issue of our newsletter, CIS Connections. Read the full issue here.

Five graduating seniors, Quinntonia, Zion, Arrion, LaStarra, and Dorian participated in a panel discussion at the CIS Board Meeting in June. All five Kalamazoo Public School students are headed to college. Here are a few insights and hard-earned wisdom they shared.

“What am I most proud of? Accepting help. I like to be independent, and I couldn’t be because of my situation. I’m proud I could accept help from CIS.”

“I liked being able to run down to [CIS Site Coordinator] Ms. Yarbrough. She always let me know where I was and what I needed to do to stay on track. Working with CIS and all my teachers, I was able to turn myself around.”

“Without CIS, school would have been way, way harder. All the support you receive makes you feel good and want to graduate and be something in life.”

“I’m looking forward to college and putting to use what [CIS Site Coordinator] Mr. Baker and [CIS Success Coach] Mr. Ollie taught me—and making my own success plan.”

What would be your advice to help students succeed in school and use the Kalamazoo Promise?

“Find a support system and keep believing in yourself.”

Seniors at CIS Board Meeting“Talk more about possible futures and careers. By having a better understanding of what the future could look like, it helps students set their goals.”

What barriers did you encounter to attending school and performing academically?

“I’m a last-minute kind of person… and I’d forget to turn stuff in. CIS helped get me organized.”

“I talked too much and got distracted. I was terrible my first year. Mr. Ollie helped me get it together.”

Students shared how the decision to focus in on school impacted friendships.

“I lost friends. But you only need a few good friends, even just one friend who strives for the same success.”

“When you get serious about school, you can end up bringing your friends along. They start thinking, ‘Maybe I should start getting serious, too’ and you can get on track together and get your diploma.”

“I lost friends too, but I gained new friends and we helped each other in class. Also, losing a friendship doesn’t mean you can’t gain it back.”

How can CIS be better?

“Help more students who are struggling.” –Resounding response from all panel members.

KPS seniors and CIS staff after the CIS Board panel discussion.
KPS seniors and CIS staff after the CIS Board panel discussion.


Read more in our in our newsletter, CIS Connections: Graduation, Beginning with the End in Mind.
Read more in our in our newsletter, CIS Connections: Graduation, Beginning with the End in Mind.

CIS Connections: Graduation

Graduation: Beginning with the End in Mind

“1.2 million students drop out of school every year. These students will cost taxpayers roughly $292,000 each, as they’re more likely to need community assistance.” -Communities In Schools 2016 National Impact Report

Keeping students in school and on track for graduation is serious business. Researchers Katherine Larson and Russell Rumberger have found that for students who are struggling and at risk of dropping out “interventions must be intensive, comprehensive, coordinated, and sustained. Anything less is naïve and will sow only marginal results.”

With your support, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo surrounds students in 20 Kalamazoo Public Schools with whatever it takes so they can start strong and keep moving forward. In Kalamazoo Public Schools, things are moving in the right direction. The four-year district-wide graduation rate for 2015 was 71%. It was 69% in 2014 and 65% in 2013. For the four years ending in 2015, the dropout rate was 12.7%, the lowest rate since 2008. We still have work to do and with your continued support, CIS will overcome the barriers that derail kids, giving them hope and the belief they can succeed in school, graduate and be prepared for life.

So as we embark on a new school year, let’s take to heart the words of Dr. Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and “begin with the end in mind.”

Read more in our latest issue of CIS Connections here. If you are not signed up to receive our newsletter, you can do so on our contact page.

Read more in our in our newsletter, CIS Connections: Graduation, Beginning with the End in Mind.


Photo of Students at Arcadia
Twelve 5th graders celebrate their Arcadia Elementary School graduation in CIS-style. They wore CIS sashes and caps, and received certificates for their successful involvement in CIS. They also received a CIS bag with school supplies to use during the summer as well as the book, The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Middle School by David Borgenicht, Ben Winters, and Robin Epstein. The book has some great tips for helping with the transition to middle school, such as how to survive the first day as well as navigating homework overload and handling bullies and cliques.

CIS Connections: Why Boys?

These days, the road to becoming a man is fraught with peril. Throughout our nation:

  • Boys are suspended at roughly twice the rate of girls.
  • Two-thirds of the D’s and F’s given out in school go to boys.
  • Boys are one-third more likely to drop out before finishing high school.
  • African-American males are particularly vulnerable; one in five receives out-of-school suspension compared with one in ten white males.

These are just a handful of the somber statistics when it comes to boys and education. So, why a newsletter devoted to boys? It’s a good reminder to keep our eyes and hearts open to boys so that we can close the achievement gaps that exist. At CIS, we believe that when we take time to reflect on boys we all benefit.

For example, when reviewing the CIS After School Program data from 2012-13 and 2013-14, we noticed a trend that female participants outnumbered their male counterparts. To meet the needs of boys, we must connect with them. By setting goals of enrolling more boys to reflect the overall population of the school and offering services directed at their interests, we have made significant progress in engaging young male students. In the 2014-15 school year, a majority of the CIS After School Programs have met their goals in increasing male students. There is still more work to be done, but CIS will continue to look at ways to make a difference for boys including engaging our community to join with us.

Thank you for showing you care for all kids by supporting CIS with your time, talent, and resources.

Read more in our in our newsletter, CIS Connections: Why Boys?
Read more in our in our newsletter, CIS Connections: Why Boys?


2015-11-25 23.44.27
“A chance to give back to peers and community” is one of Communities In Schools’ Five Basics. That is what these young men from Loy Norrix High School did. Together, they helped to distribute over 300 Thanksgiving meals to community family members as part of the Community Feast at Parkwood-Upjohn Elementary School. This event is held in partnership with New World Flood. Pictured from left to right: CIS Success Coach O’Neal Ollie, Loy Norrix students: DeAndre Buchanan, Xavier Gillon and Quay Evans & CIS Site Coordinator Montrell Baker.

The Promises You Keep: CIS Connections

20150815-DSC_6724On Saturday, August 15th in beautiful downtown Bronson Park, this community celebrated the ten year anniversary of The Kalamazoo Promise®. At our CIS station we heard a mantra of thanks offered throughout the day:

“I wouldn’t be in college right now if it wasn’t for The Promise.”

“I still can’t believe we have this awesome gift in our community.”

“How can I help support The Promise through CIS? Can I volunteer? What can my business/organization do?”

But, it was what happened before the event, even before the park filled with people, that underscored the beauty of this tremendous gift.
While attempting to put up the tent, we were approached by a stooped, old man in dingy clothes. After explaining the event, the man replied: “I’m just a street person,” as if to apologize for his presence. “I don’t have kids in the Kalamazoo Public Schools. Am I even allowed to come to this event?”

“You are a part of this community,” we told him. “That means that you are also a part of The Promise. Help us celebrate!” His face lit up. He seemed to stand a little straighter. Before he left, he gave us the one gift he had—he generously blessed us.

There were a variety of community volunteers working together and our tent would not have been set up without their help. The recent words of Von Washington Jr., Executive Director of Community Relations for The Kalamazoo Promise® came to mind. He said, “The celebration in the park is designed for everyone in the community to come out, have some fun and revel in being a part of a city that enjoys this wonderful asset.”

No city, like no person, is perfect. We need each other to lift the tents that separate us from each other. The Promise is a wonderful reminder that we too, must be generous and give, however and whenever we can. We are responsible for each other and for making sure all of our kids can take advantage of the profound gift of The Kalamazoo Promise®.

So many of you work together with us to overcome the barriers that derail kids, giving them the hope and belief that they can succeed in school, graduate, and be prepared for life.

We thank you!

If you are reading this newsletter, you are a part of The Promise. Want to play a bigger role in helping Kalamazoo Public School students stay in school, graduate and be prepared to take advantage of the gift of The Kalamazoo Promise®? Volunteer, donate, or, partner with CIS today! Help us keep our promise.

Download the full version here:

Fall 2015

Nourish: CIS Connections 14-15 Vol III

IMG_3700-editShow me a nourished student and I will show you a student who, because of a healthy appetite for learning, lives each day to their fullest potential. Students, just like any of us, must have their basic needs met (ie. food, shelter, sense of emotional and physical safety) before they are motivated to a higher level of need. Hunger, by its very nature, takes bites out of academic success. An emotionally or physically hungry student, worried about where they will sleep, if or where they will get their next meal, can’t fully be present in the classroom. Survival, not learning, is utmost on their mind. As third grade Kalamazoo Public School teacher P.J. Bucholtz puts it, “No amount of love in the world can fill an empty tummy.” Only food can do that. And it is only because of the efforts of Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes that CIS Site Coordinators, with the support of many organizations and volunteers, can get Friday food packs into the hands–and tummies–of our hungriest of children.

CIS staff find that physical hunger is all too real for many of our children. Just as real is emotional hunger, which can, research has shown, leave students feeling depressed, confused, and physically sick more often and longer than emotionally fulfilled students. There is no better emotional food for students than the belief that adults in their school care about their learning and about them as individuals. This emotional satisfaction helps them academically engage and feel an increased sense of connectedness to their school. This is a good thing because connected students are more likely to have higher attendance rates and stay in school longer, increasing the likelihood of academic, occupational, and life success (Battin-Pearson et al., 2000).

Because CIS focuses on the whole child, our partners and volunteers are feeding our children in many ways. By both their caring presence and resources offered, they dish up hope, often offering students a taste of opportunities they might not otherwise have. Some (including CIS Kids’ Closet donors) are making sure staple ingredients, like underwear, shoes, food, glasses, coats and more are on the menu.

We are thankful for the ongoing commitment of members of this community who, in their roles as teacher, educator, parent, partner, volunteer, or donor, make it possible for our children to arrive each day to school more focused and hungry to learn.

Read more:

CIS Connections: 14-15 II