Grab a handful of confetti and a beverage of your choice. Now get ready to toast those who will be honored at the 2021 Champs Celebration! Hosted by Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS), this event will be held tomorrow, Wednesday, May 12 at 5 p.m. It will be livestreamed from the Radisson and you are invited to enjoy this annual celebration via the CIS Kalamazoo YouTube channel. Here is the livestream link.
Kalsec is the presenting sponsor for this event which honors community partners who share in the CIS vision— an engaged community where every child fulfills his or her promise— by actively putting forth time, energy, talent and resources to drive this vision to reality.
This year’s Champs who support our Kalamazoo Public Schools students are:
Kathy Hogg, CIS volunteer
Kalamazoo Public School Information and Technology Team, school partner
School Food Services Team, school partner
Dr. Qiji (Jim) Zhu, CIS volunteer
Pam Dalitz will be honored with the Gulnar Husain Volunteer Award which recognizes CIS volunteers who emulate Gulnar’s belief that there is no greater calling than serving children. Prior to the pandemic, Pam Dalitz supported students in Ms. Chyna Campbell’s second grade classroom at Spring Valley Center for Exploration. She continues to support students and families by delivering food packs, technology equipment, and basic need items.
The Late Mrs. Dorothy P. Young will be honored with the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award. This award is named for Western Michigan University President Emeritus Diether Haenicke. Mrs. Dorothy P. Young spent her entire career educating students, empowering families, and developing teachers. Employed by Kalamazoo Public Schools for 37 years with most of those years serving as principal of Hillside Middle School, her impact spans across generations. In addition to nearly four decades serving as an educator, consultant, and administrator for KPS, Mrs. Young also served heavily throughout the community, ensuring that many students, especially students of color and students living in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods had access to the resources to help them succeed academically.
As a new element to this year’s celebration, the following CIS staff will be recognized for their exceptional collaborative work during an unusual year of remote service: Dana Flynn, Samantha Darby, Carli Thompson, Shannon Jones, Katherine Williamson, Phillip Hegwood, and Jane Asumadu.
It’s National Reading Month and a time when we engage in the annual ritual of asking: What are you reading? Here’s what some Communities In Schools (CIS) staff are reading …
[Note: Book titles link to the Indie Bookstore Finder. Should a book peek your interest, this allows you to learn more and easily obain the book from one of our fabulous independent bookstores.]
I’m currently reading Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. The author is a biologist with Potowatomi roots and has the poetic gift of bringing the natural world to its fullest height through her love and connection to her surroundings. It’s the perfect book to take in as we wake up from a long COVID-y winter.
Angela Van Heest, Site Coordinator, Parkwood Upjohn Elementary School
I am reading The Refugees written by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Through short stories, Nguyen explores life after the complications of war, particularly the Vietnam War. This book is making me think deeply about what it means to survive, especially since my own parents came to the US as immigrants.
Jane Asumadu, CIS After School Coordinator, Linden Grove
Felicia Lemons, Development & Marketing Project Manager
I am currently reading Glassblowing written by Mara Rockliff. A beautiful book to read about the shape of glasses and how they look nice.
Khadejah Al Muhaisin, CIS Site Coordinator, Arcadia Elementary School
I’m just finishing up two excellent books. Both have “Yellow House” in their titles. The Yellow House on the Corner is the first collection of poems by Rita Dove. A mix of history and personal poems, they are quite gripping. The other, The Yellow House, is a moving memoir written by Sarah M. Broom.
Jennifer Clark, Special Projects & Initiatives
Stay tuned to Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids and find out what some CIS volunteers are reading.
Born and raised in Kalamazoo, Phillip Hegwood is a proud graduate of the Kalamazoo Public Schools. After attending Lincoln Elementary and Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts (then called “South”), Phillip continued on to Loy Norrix High School. With the support of the Promise, Phillip went to Western Michigan University and obtained a degree in general studies along with three minors: English/Language/Arts, social studies, and music.
As part of the second graduating class to receive the Kalamazoo Promise, Phillip is now Maple Street’s CIS After School Coordinator, giving back in the very school that nurtured him as a youth.
Prior to stepping into his role with CIS, Phillip worked ten years with the YMCA in their before/after school settings and summer camps. During those last three years, he ran the Y’s Prime Time at Winchell, a before- and after-school care for students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Now, with seven years under his belt as CIS After School Coordinator—the first three with Woodward Elementary and the last four with Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts—we wanted to introduce you to this passionate and caring man.
Alright, Phillip: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.
First off, how are you holding up during this pandemic?
I’m learning that I really miss being in school. I really miss being with my students. But, I’m holding up okay. I bought a house in December and have gotten hit with major house things that need to get fixed. I’m also cooking a lot and trying to focus on me and what I can and can not control. Also, staying home has shown me that my outside drama disappeared. I don’t need it and I enjoy it. I’m using this time as an opportunity to work on me.
What is one of the best parts about being a CIS After School Site Coordinator?
For me, the best part is that I’m able to provide different opportunities for the students that they can’t do normally during the school day. I love that we can offer students a variety of clubs. I think back on the trip we did with students and their families to see a Detroit Tiger’s game. Many had never been to a professional sport’s game before. I like that I was able to provide that, and other enrichment experiences, like attending Lion King at Miller Auditorium. It’s great that we can work with different enrichment providers throughout our community to provide our students with these types of experiences.
Plus, I have to say that the food at Maple Street is really good. Our head lunch lady at Maple, Lisa Saville, also helps with planning the menu for the CIS after school programs we have throughout KPS. She is super awesome, supportive of our after school program, and great to work with. Over the years, I’ve learned that to do after school well, you need three main people to help you: secretaries, janitors, and lunch staff.
They make it or break it, right?
Yep! And at Maple, we have a great team.
Given all the challenges we face during this time—school buildings closed and all of us practicing social distancing—what does your CIS work look like now? How have you continued to support students during this challenging time?
I’ve paired up with the other CIS after school coordinators who support our middle schools. Mondays through Thursdays I’m supporting Maple Street students with homework from 12 to 12:30 p.m. For after school, the coordinators and youth development coaches have been working together to provide a variety of opportunities for students. So, from 4 to 4:30 p.m., we offer social emotional support time. For that, I’m focused on just my Maple Street students. And then, from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. it is club time for students from all four of our sites. With all of us working together, we have way more opportunities to offer students.
One thing we’ve learned is that students are on the computer nine to four most ever day so it’s important to make things hands-on as much as possible to keep them engaged. For instance, we have Magic Club right now.
Magic Club! Are you a magician?
No! But I was in contact with this magician who has been on Penn & Teller. With Covid, she has created videos so we’ve been using these videos to introduce the magic tricks and then we practice and perform the tricks in front of each other. It’s been a hit with the students. We’ll have anywhere from 20 to 25 students attending every Tuesday and Thursday.
We also host special evening events for students and their families, like this Friday we will have a magic show. We also have a movie night coming up and a cooking night where everyone will learn to make minestrone soup. We’ll have new clubs starting up next week. Over a period of six weeks, students can choose three clubs every day (Monday through Thursday). Three of our enrichment providers, W.K. Kellogg Biological Station, Kalamazoo Civic Theatre, and BeadVenture will be offering clubs and we’ll also have an engineering club, a college prep club, a fitness & nutrition club, travel club, student advisory council, and gaming club.
The students you work with had already been dealing with other stresses in their lives before this pandemic. And now, this pandemic layers on additional stress for both these young people and their families. How are students coping? Are you seeing any common threads as to how students are responding?
Honestly, it really varies on a case-by-case basis. Some of my students are thriving with virtual learning and some we need to get back in school as soon as possible. The main thing they have in common is that they just miss their friends.
I just saw a Ted Talk Brown did on the power of vulnerability. Does she talk about that in the book?
I don’t know. I’ve only just started it. There is a workbook that goes with the book so I’ll be doing that too. I’m reading it to help make me a better me.
That’s a good goal. If we all strive to be our best selves, the world only gets better. So, what is your favorite word or phrase right now?
Everything is just ducky. How are you doing? Ducky. How’s everything been? Ducky.
When we re-emerge from this pandemic, what is one of the first things you will do?
Knowing me, it’s probably going out for a really nice dinner or to play darts with friends.
Behind every successful person is a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?
My mom. Hands down. My mom, Kathy McIntyre, is truly one of my best friends now. I think also, with her being a former educator—she worked twenty plus years with KPS—anytime I had an issue as an adult in a school setting, I could go to her for advice as to what I should do. Along the way, we’ve been able to trade different skills with each other.
Anything else we should know about you?
I play four instruments. I started playing trumpet in fifth grade. In college, I ended up minoring in music. The bassoon and trumpet are my primary instruments. I’ve also picked up the clarinet and French horn throughout the years.
Oh, and I’m trying to eat a more plant-based diet. One that is more vegetarian/vegan.
I still like cheese and a good steak from time to time. I can’t give that up, but I try to eat this way three to four days a week.
And I love my middle school team! I’m also a work in progress: I’m just trying to be a better me.
Thank you, Phillip, for hanging out with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids.
During this time of isolation and social distancing, it’s more important than ever to read. Did you know that reading can reduce stress in both children and adults? It’s good to know that during these anxious times, choosing to reading can be a powerful strategy to positively impact our emotional and physical health. When we open a book and read, our heart rate slows and we reduce tension that has built up in our bodies. A 2009 University of Sussex study discovered that reading reduced stress as much as 68%.
We asked CIS staff what they are reading during this most challenging time. Here’s what some of them shared:
–Shannon Jones, CIS After School Coordinator at Milwood Magnet Middle School
I’m currently (re) reading Blinkby Malcolm Gladwell. On a more personal note, I also just finished audio taping several children’s books to send (along with an “old fashioned” tape recorder) to my new grandson in Seattle – born last Friday. We included some of our daughter’s favorite books when she was a child – and one we knew her husband loved! Lastly, we included one of my favorite books, which my husband and I read together: The Invisible String by Patrice Karst – – which has never been more timely.
-Lauren Smirniotopoulos, CIS Site Coordinator, King-Westwood Elementary School
I’m reading state and federal legislation resulting because of COVID-19!
–Colleen Loc, Human Resources Manager
As a family we just finished reading Wonder by R.J. Palacio. We are also reading the Portage Public School’s “One School, One Book” and are reading The Adventures of a South Pole Pig: A Novel of Snow and Courage by Chris Kurtz.
–Nicky Aiello, Volunteer Services Coordinator
I am currently reading Core Knowledge and Competencies (Levels 1-4). They are standards set forth by the National Afterschool Association (NAA) that are categorized into 10 different content areas. I’m working on my AfterSchool Accreditation.
–Phillip Hegwood, CIS After School Coordinator, Maple Street Magnet School
–Joan Coopes, CIS Site Coordinator, Arcadia Elementary School
I’ve started Grief’s Country: A Memoir in Piecesby Gail Griffin. (She taught at Kalamazoo College for 36 years.) I love it when books hook me from the first page and this one caught me with its first line.
–Jennifer Clark, Special Projects & Initiatives
I am reading Americanahby Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
–Jane Asumadu, CIS After School Coordinator, Linden Grove Middle School
I usually pick a fiction and expository (usually about bees) to enjoy. Right now I’m reading Crossing the Tiber a journey of sorts and, optimistically looking ahead to summer, Under the Radar Michigan/The First 50.
–Maureen Cartmill, CIS Site Coordinator, Woods Lake Elementary
–Maria Chalas, CIS After School Coordinator, Arcadia Elementary School
I am rereading The Book Of Joy by the 14th Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. I love this book and have read it in part and whole many times. It helps me keep perspective in times of change.
-Carli Thompson, CIS Site Coordinator, Prairie Ridge Elementary
Click here to read what a few of our CIS board members have been reading. Within this same post you will also find information on where to obtain fresh reading materials during this time of isolation. Take care of yourself and read!
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.
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 sharethe 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.
It was exciting to learn that this year’s Reading Together book is written by author Angie Thomas, the inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Myers Grant 2015. [Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids featured Walter Dean Myers and his 2013 “Reading is Not Optional” visit to Kalamazoo in this post, “Finding Words in Your Pockets.”]
Even more exciting is that Thomas’ book, The Hate U Give, is resonating with our youth. CIS After School Coordinators Phillip Hegwood, Shannon Jones, and Katherine Williamson incorporated the Reading Together Book as part of CIS programming. Hegwood, who oversees CIS afterschool at Maple Street Magnet School says part of the reason for such a strong and positive response from students is due to the powerful themes woven throughout The Hate U Give, themes such as isolation, privilege, racism, violence, and activism.
Here’s what two students from Hillside Middle School told us about how the book has impacted them and what, if given the chance, they would ask the author. (Their school also selected The Hate U Give as their all-school read.) And they just might get the chance! Angie Thomas will be in Kalamazoo on Wednesday, April 17, 2019 at 7 pm to talk about her book. More information on this event noted below.
I’d ask, “Is this a true story? What aspects of this story happened to you?”
I’m gaining some insights from reading her book. You know, like the main character in the book, she is scared to speak up at first. But something I’ve discovered is that it’s important to speak up. Don’t be scared to say what’s right!
-Zechariah, 8th grade, Hillside
I would ask Angie Thomas, “How were you able to do this so well? How were you able to compare real life to the life you have created in your book?” She really was able to capture real life—and the world of black and white—so real-like. How was she able to do that?
Reading and seeing the movie, The Hate U Give, is the luckiest thing that has ever happened to me. That book by Angie Thomas has really helped me and has given me more courage…I have two copies of the book and watch parts of the movie almost every day!
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.
It’s National Reading Month and a time when Kalamazoo Public Schools hosts literacy activities throughout the schools. We prepare ourselves by engaging in the annual ritual of asking: What are you reading?Here’s what some Communities In Schools (CIS) staff are reading…
-Maggie Walters, CIS Success Coach, Loy Norrix High School
I’ve just started reading The Shack by Canadian author William P. Young. This was a favorite of my Mother’s. She had me buy extra copies a few years back, before she passed, so she could share them with others who also lived at her nursing home. I saw the movie when it came out and loved it.
-Kelly Cedarquist, CIS Site Coordinator, King-Westwood Elementary
Also reading The Bee: A Natural History by Noah Wilson-Rich. It’s that time of year to continue to educate myself, prepare, and network with other beekeepers before the first nectar becomes available. Great information.
-Maureen Cartmill, CIS Site Coordinator, Woods Lake Elementary: A Magnet Center for the Arts
My book club (The Lovely Ladies of Literature) is reading The Patternist series by Octavia Butler. We are on Book 1, Wild Seed. The interesting thing about the series is that she wrote them in the opposite order that you read them in. So, the last book that she wrote is the first book that you read. Also, there was a fifth book, but she shelved it because it didn’t really flow the way she had hoped for.
-Artrella Cohn, Senior Director of Community Engagement & Student Investment
I recently finished a fascinating, but tragic story called Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline. It is a fictional story but is based on a little known historical event that took place between 1854 and 1929, where over 200,000 orphan children were sent across the Midwest by train to be placed with families, often to be used as free labor. It was excellent. I am presently reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown. I learned of this author at Cara’s SEL [Social Emotional Learning] training and so far am really enjoying it!
–Joan Coopes, CIS Site Coordinator, Arcadia Elementary
The NarrowRoad to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan. It’s historical fiction. And this, from the NYT’s book review: A finalist for this year’s Man Booker Prize, The Narrow Road to the Deeper North portrays a singular episode of manic brutality: imperial Japan’s construction of the Thailand-Burma Death Railway in the early 1940s. The British had long investigated this route, but they deemed the jungle impenetrable. Once the Japanese captured Burma, though, its army needed a more efficient resupply route, and so the impossible became possible in just over a year by using some 300,000 people as disposable labor. Flanagan’s late father was a survivor of that atrocity, which took the lives of more than 12,000 Allied prisoners.
–Keely Novotny, CIS Site Coordinator, Edison Environmental Science Academy
I am usually reading three to four books at a time. I always have one book I listen to in the car, one I can pick up and put down easily, one I read before I go to sleep, and one I can’t put down. The car book at present is The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommendby Katarina Bivald. It is the story of a young woman from Sweden who loses her job in a bookstore and decides to visit her elderly pen pal in a dying town in Iowa, and what happens next.
The pick up/put down book is often short stories or essays. Currently it is Spoiled Brats, a book of short stories by Simon Rich. The summary on the back of the book starts out with “Twenty years ago, Barney the Dinosaur told the nation’s children they were special. We’re still paying the price. From “one of the funniest writers working today (review from Rolling Stone) comes a collection of stories culled from the front lines of the millennial culture wars.” I have only read the first story in which the narrator is a guinea pig living in a second grade classroom.
My bedtime book is from the Flavia de Luce series by Alan Bradley, The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place. Flavia is an eleven-year-old girl growing up in England in the 1950s. She is fascinated with chemistry and uses her extensive knowledge of poisons and decay to help the local inspector solve murders. This is the ninth book in the series.
And, finally, the book I can’t put down is Need to Know by Karen Cleveland. The protagonist is Vivian who works for the CIA who, while trying to find out more about a Russian handler and the agents he handles, finds information that threatens everything that matters to her. I read the first chapter of this book online in an email I get about books. The sender takes the first chapter of a book and breaks it into five segments and sends each segment daily for a week. At the end of the week, this one got me….
-Barbara Worgess, Project Manager of School Based Health Initiative
Keep up with us at Ask Me About My 12,000+ Kids and you’ll soon find out what our volunteers have been reading!