Giving Up Recess to Give Back

Kids deserve a chance to give back. We must create environments for young people in which everyone’s gifts are nurtured, and service to others is both expected and rewarded.

This opportunity to give back to peers and community is one of five basic principles underlying the work we do at Communities In Schools (CIS). [You can learn more about the 5 CIS Basics here.] At the end of last school year, we met up with four students doing just that, giving back. Here’s their story.

Every Tuesday this past school year, when the Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes truck pulled up to Woodward School for Technology & Research, four volunteers were ready to help: Kensavion, Andrew, Dawon, and Lashaun.

Woodward students working hard and giving back.

These dedicated elementary students volunteered during their lunchtime and chose to give up recess (which they love!) to help with the food pantry.

Matthew Krieger, a Western Michigan University student working towards his Masters in Social Work, interned with CIS during the 2017/18 school year and provided the boys with guidance and direction. His favorite part of working with the boys? Seeing the look of pride that comes with mastering skills. “They have many skills now that they did not know before,” Matthew said. “Now they know to face food to the front, to place food with the same type, and to make room by consolidating items.”

These skills extend beyond organizing a pantry. “There is also a sense of group togetherness,” he noted.  “We are always working on vocalizing our needs in a clear way. I have seen improvements in their ability to express their feelings and needs to each other, which helps them to avoid conflict. I really enjoy seeing them use their words to communicate what they’re feeling.”

Ask any of the students why they volunteer and they will tell you, “Because it’s fun!”

Kensavion said he has looked forward to being part of the team that keeps the pantry up and running for his school. “Kids need food,” he said. Along with his three other peers, he has been part of the team that makes sure Woodward’s pantry is well-stocked.

“There is a lot of food that comes off the truck,” explained Andrew, “and we get to take it out of the boxes and put it in the cabinets.”

“We help put food away and people come and get it because they are hungry,” said Dawon, “and then they won’t be hungry anymore and won’t be starving and can do better in class and do a good job.”

“So they can survive,” added Lashaun. He is right. Food is a basic, human need and in living out the CIS basic of giving back to peers and the community, these students have been doing all they can to make sure hungry students and families have what they need.

To learn more about how Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes partners with CIS in the schools to combat hunger, check out this conversation we had a few months back with Jennifer Johnson, Executive Director of Kalamazoo Loaves & Fishes.  


Pop Quiz: The CIS Interns Of 2013!

(From left) Pictured are MSW students Kent Craig, Lenia Harris, Mallory Horein, and Shelby Plichota, meeting with Deb Faling, CIS Director of Social-Emotional Health Initiatives for group supervision.
(From left) Pictured are MSW students Kent Craig, Lenia Harris, Mallory Horein, and Shelby Plichota, meeting with Deb Faling, CIS Director of Social-Emotional Health Initiatives for group supervision.

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 have compiled some answers from the newest members of our CIS family: our 2013/2014 interns! We have 10 fabulous students from Western Michigan University School of Social Work (six working on their Masters and four working towards their bachelors). Here they are, in no particular order (drum roll, please): Kenneth Craig, Shelby Plichota, Emily Hershberger, Mallory Horein, Lenia Harris, Ashley Seitz, Molly Tule, Lauren Knibbs, Kali Wood-Schrantz, and Jamie Anderson.

Alright, interns: pencils out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

  • I am currently learning how to write a research proposal.
  • 70% of treatment outcomes are based on common factors.
  • There are sensors at the turning light by Howard Street and Stadium Drive.
  • I’ve learned about the history of mental illness and important people in the history of treatment.
  • I recently watched a movie about incarceration. It showed a life story about a young boy being mandated to serve ten years for drugs. I am learning about minimum sentences in prison and how it affects people.
  • That there’s a crazy amount of people who are uninsured. Crazy and scary!
  • Epistemology means the study of knowledge.
  • I’ve recently learned (in my policy class) that the unemployment rate in America is 7.4%.
  • The unemployment rate recently went to 7% for women and 8% for men because of the number of females graduating from college.
  • All the various programs offered through CIS, including the difference between level one and level two supports for students.

What are you currently reading?

  • Research Methods for Social Workers
  • Rhythm, Music and the Brain
  • Girls in White Dresses/Game of Thrones
  • Textbooks for my classes
  • School books
  • A Walter Trattner book
  • In the Shelter of Each Other by Mary Pipher
  • Heaven is for Real
  • The Patron Saint of Liars by Ann Pachett and The Working Poor
  • A Mystery by James Patterson

What do you want to be when you grow up?

  • A social worker who works with young people
  • A happy person
  • School/medical social worker
  • School social worker
  • I am not sure. I was considering school social work but I am also interested in medical social work.
  • A social worker in schools or geriatrics
  • Social worker
  • I want to be a child counselor
  • A counselor
  • I  am unsure what I want to be when I grow up, but I am pretty sure it involves working in a nursing home/assisted living facility.

What is your favorite word right now?

  • Irk or discombobulate, it’s a toss up
  • Empathy
  • Bummer
  • Graduation
  • Keep trying
  • Organize
  • Putrid
  • Faith
  • Energy
  • Blasphemy

Will you share with us something that has been on your mind lately?

  • I have been thinking about learning to cook or maybe bake.
  • Balancing school, work and family.
  • Planning birthday parties (I have three in September.)
  • I’ve been thinking ahead to where I want to go and what I want to do once I’m done with school this spring.
  • How am I going to handle my load?
  • How will I make everything work? I’m too busy!
  • What I want to do after I graduate with my degree.
  • I am eager and excited to begin interning at CIS!
  • Microagressions, the small discriminations we all face on a daily basis although we may not realize it.
  • The Masters program at WMU.

Behind every successful student—and grownup— is a caring adult.  Who is one of your caring adults?

  • My high school softball coach. She has supported me long past high school.
  • My percussion teacher, Dr. Mueller. He taught percussion at Ball State for 50 years. He taught me about having a positive attitude and believing in the potential of every student.
  • My mom. I can always get advice from her and she always supports me.
  • My homeroom teacher in high school, Ms. Taylor. She was always interested in what was going on with me, encouraged me to try new things, and always had snacks available.
  • My aunt and parents.
  • My mother-in-law. She is selfless and knows how to make everyone feel loved and welcome.
  • My parents.
  • My mother.
  • My parents. They home-schooled me as a child, putting much care and time into raising my siblings and me.
  • My mother. She has always been my support system and my best friend.