Last week, more than 420 guests attended the 11th annual CIS Champs Celebration, presented by Kalsec. Before guests even entered the Radisson’s Arcadia Ballroom, they were treated to a live performance by the Kalamazoo Kids In Tune Middle School Ensemble, under the direction of Ben Gudbrandson and sponsored by Warner Norcross + Judd. It was clear these young musicians had practiced and practiced as they performed at their best.
What about you? Do you do your best and try hard, too? That is one of the questions fourth graders from Woodward School for Technology and Research asked the grown-ups in the room. Kyla Clark, Isaac Dyer, Kiana Gill, Kieara Virgil, and Curtis Whitfield, representing their Woodward peers, recited “The Kalamazoo Poem” at Champs (their presence sponsored by Borgess). As part of Mrs. Calloway’s English class at Woodward, these KPS students were five of the 60 fourth graders from Mrs. Rice, Mrs. Polsco, and Mrs. Calloway’s classes who participated in poetry workshops facilitated by CIS. The poem also incorporates several lines written by students involved in the CIS After School Program at Milwood Elementary School. On April 7, 2018, “The Kalamazoo Poem” premiered at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts as part of the 5th Annual Kalamazoo Poetry Festival.
We share with you, this week, their poem and hope you’ll keep up with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids to discover the Champs experience. We’ll be publishing the two inspiring speeches given by representatives of the Class of 2018, Kanequewa Steward, Kalamazoo Central High School, and Dreon Smith, Loy Norrix High School. Over the coming weeks you’ll also be inspired (for the first time, or all over again!) by learning what each one of the eight award winners is doing to help kids stay in school and achieve in life.
Thanks to CIS volunteer Don Kingery and CIS youth development worker Nae Williams, you’ll also be able to see what guests saw (and missed!) through their photographic lens.
The Kalamazoo Poem
We love Kalamazoo.
All the wonderful places you can go,
like home, the Kalamazoo Public Library,
and all the schools.
I love going to school and learning.
Kalamazoo can be loving and caring,
even to people who aren’t always nice.
This big, wonderful city has all my friends in it.
In this city that is not too big and not too small
people can be themselves.
Did I mention I love the schools?
That teachers are teaching?
Kalamazoo does not have hurricanes.
Get this: it has a banana car!
My head feels like it will explode
because Kalamazoo is so cool.
I love the way people handle their biz.
I love the summer and wind.
My family is here. My friends.
My school. My teachers. Me!
Kalamazoo is the best city I’ve ever been to,
it’s our home, we have the Promise–and college is free!
You see, people here treat each other with kindness.
Kalamazoo can be so kind.
Kalamazoo gives presents and parties on cold, Christmas mornings.
It gives us teachers and tutors who help us with our work.
People say kind words. Someone says hi.
Students listen to their teacher.
We play together. We clean up. We get along.
When people are put down, Kalamazoo help them get back up.
We get together and help the homeless, the poor,
and those who are feeling sad.
We fix each other’s houses.
I wish everybody had a home
and that it never snowed.
Yes, there are things we wish were true about Kalamazoo.
We need more good jobs.
If only everything cost a penny!
I wish the river wasn’t polluted,
that I could see my dad.
I wish we always remembered to treat others
how we want to be treated.
I wish we had a robot.
If only rappers lived in Kalamazoo
and there was no such thing as the flu.
I wish Kalamazoo was 5,000 miles long and 5,000 miles wide.
I wish everybody-and I mean everybody-could be in my family.
I wish I could help everyone
and that we wouldn’t stop helping each other—
even when we don’t always get it right.
I wish that the power wouldn’t get shut off.
I wish everyone had a place to live and I had a bed of my own.
There should be a waterpark in the middle of town.
If only Kalamazoo was California. I miss my cousins.
I miss my mom. I worry and wonder where she is.
We need more bikes and shooting stars.
No shootings! There is a scared little street
that worries someone could get hurt today.
Will you keep me safe forever?
I dream I will become ….
A firefighter, a doctor, a teacher, an artist,
a football player, a wildlife technician…
Will you take care of me?
Help me learn today?
Be there when I grow up?
Will you do your best, like us, and try hard, too?
-a group poem by 4th graders of Woodward
At the conclusion of the poem, Kiana asked emcee, Dr. John Oliver, if they could introduce the next speaker. Dr. Oliver graciously agreed. Kyla then called Dr. Michael Rice to the stage and Curtis let everybody know that Dr. Rice is their superintendent. Kieara shared that “he likes poetry, just like us!” Isaac pointed out that every day, “and I mean every day—Dr. Rice does his best, and like us, he tries hard, too.”
The students then gifted Dr. Rice with a book, the completed works of Langston Hughes, signed by the fourth graders of Woodward.
What about you? Are you working hard for kids, too?
If you believe in our efforts to ensure that ALL kids stay in school and achieve in life, you can learn about volunteer opportunities here, or go here to learn more about other ways to support kids, or call us at 269.337.1601.