Today we highlight Team Trailblazers, one of seven school and community partners honored with a 2016 Champ Award. Team Trailblazers’ Champ award was sponsored by Molina Healthcare of Michigan and CIS Board member Steve Powell presented the award.
William Butler Yeats wrote, Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire. Each school day, Team Trailblazers comes bearing torches to Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts. Jamie Miller, Carol Offerman, Laura Ruelas, Ryan Toennessen Elizabeth Weaver, and Lindsay Wilson are a passionate team led by English teacher Jamie Miller. On behalf of their seventh grade students, they have forged a well-worn path to the Communities In Schools office.
CIS Site Coordinator Emily Demorest and After School Coordinator Jen Nitz both point out that the majority of students they work with are also on Team Trailblazers. It’s not a coincidence, they say. Anytime there is an issue with a student, be it academic concerns, basic needs, or emotional support, Jamie Miller—whom they refer to as “the glue that holds us all together”—quickly makes CIS staff aware so they can work together to support the student and remove barriers to learning. Working as a cohesive team, they’ve supported students confronted with homelessness, domestic violence, struggling with food insecurity, mental health issues, hygiene concerns, among other barriers to learning.
“They know their kids really well,” say Emily and Jen. “And they know what kids need to be successful both inside and outside the classroom. So they make sure to reach out to CIS so we can connect students to the resources they need. Or, in cases where a student is already receiving resources through CIS, they might make a suggestion that helps us do our job better.”
Trailblazers invites the CIS team to participate in parent meetings and special classroom projects. And when Lenise Williams, Lead Youth Development Worker reviews students’ progress on their homework assignments, Trailblazers provides homework packets. And, after a full day of teaching, they can often be found volunteering and offering guidance to students during the after school program.
If this weren’t enough, Team Trailblazers hosted Peer Mediation student leaders. They contributed to CIS’ efforts to support Maple Street families over the holidays and Trailblazer students collected and donated over $200 towards gifts and winter wear. And when new initiatives arise, a Trailblazers’ member is often first to blaze a fresh trail to the CIS office. Recently, when one of Mr. Toennessen’s students couldn’t stop talking about the garden club he popped in and said, “Tell me more about this . How can I help?”
Kids don’t care what team grownups are on—whether it’s CIS or KPS or day or after school. What they see at Maple Street is one team, on the same page, refusing to let them fall through the cracks. And, even though the school year is winding to a close, the Trailblazers only burn brighter.
Team Trailblazers, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.
Tags: Carol Offerman, CIS, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, Dr. Jeff Boggan, Elizabeth Weaver, Emily Demorest, Jamie Miller, Jen Nitz, Laura Ruelas, Lenise Williams, Lindsay Wilson, Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts, Molina Healthcare of Michigan, Ryan Toennessen, Team Trailblazers