Sailing the Sea of Success

Today’s guest blogger is CIS graduate and former CIS board member, Ricki Harris. Ricki graduated from Kalamazoo Central High School in 2012, and later that year she graduated from Naval Station Great Lakes. Her former mentor, Artrella Cohn, CIS Director of Secondary Sites, was there to celebrate with her. (Artrella shared her memories of meeting Ricki when she was just nine years old and how their lives have intersected over the years. If you haven’t read that beautiful post, you can find it here. Ricki’s “Story of Progress” was also featured in the 2010-11 Annual Report. You can read that here.)

Ricki, whose official title is DC3 (SW/AW) Harris, now serves as a Damage Controlman for the Navy. She has been nominated for the Blue Jacket Sailor of the Quarter and has received a Letter of Accommodation from her Commanding Officer.We are proud of Ricki and her accomplishments. We admire her perseverance, intelligence, warmth, modesty, and bravery. Not everyone can spread their wings and fly around the world. So when Ricki came back to visit us a few months back, we were so happy to see her and bombarded her with questions. Her decision to enter the Navy has given her a chance to see the world. We wondered. What were some of her favorite places? Why? How did visiting those places change (or not change) the way she sees “the place” of Kalamazoo? What exactly does she do as a Damage Controlman? What is it that sticks out for her as something that has (or is) influencing her growth as a young woman? What advice does she have for Kalamazoo Public School students? She was kind enough to write this post so we could share this with you…

Since graduating and leaving Kalamazoo, I’ve been to the Philippines, Jebel Ali Dubai, Jordan, Eliat Israel, Singapore twice, Bahrain, Hawaii, and Oman. My favorite places would have to be Israel, Singapore and Dubai. If you are on the fence about what you want to do, then the military may be a great choice. It doesn’t matter what branch you choose as all of them have different expertise and can offer good experiences. Whatever you do, think about the decision. Make sure it’s something you love or can grow to love.

In Israel, I got to visit Jerusalem and the Holy Land and experience the different religions that were there—which was an eye-opener since I’m not too religious. Singapore was very clean and offered different religious sectors, such as “Little India” and “Chinatown.” In a sense, it was like having a little taste of India and China. The people were very friendly and spoke  English very well. Dubai is probably one of the richer countries the world has. They have one of the world’s biggest malls and their King even came on board our ship! With all the lights and night life, you would think the party never stops there. It’s a beautiful city and a nice place to vacation. Being overseas and visiting all of these places made Kalamazoo seem super small, though nothing takes away from how beautiful downtown Kalamazoo is with the older neighborhoods and big houses. Plus Kalamazoo College is so beautiful…

My role within the military is as a Damage Controlman. I’m responsible for the ship’s integrity. This means fighting fires, and combating casualties on the ship. We are the first responders to any casualty on board a ship. We teach people how to do our job and we also work with chemical, biological and radiological (CBR) warfare equipment just in case there was ever a CBR attack. It’s exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time, but I love it.

Being in the military has greatly influenced me. I have received training that would cost a fortune in the real world. It has given me endless possibilities that I would not have had otherwise, especially right out of high school.

My experience with the military has also shown me how to deal with people. The military is a melting pot. Befriending the people I meet has helped me learn and understand other cultures. Altogether, it is a learning experience. People may like you or just down right hate you. That will happen where ever you go in life. As long as you put your mind to it and do what’s right, you will succeed. If you do what you’re supposed to do, you will get recognized.

I would encourage any student who is in school to continue with school. Work hard and make the best of it. Thanks to the Promise, you have your education paid for. I came to KPS in fourth grade so I still received a large amount of the Kalamazoo Promise®. I would also encourage high school students to attend AP Courses. I took roughly about six, and I even tested out of Economics and Algebra.

You’ll be surprised what you can do if you put your mind to it. YOU have to want to do it, though.

 

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Youth Development Workers: Making An Impact

 

CIS Youth Development Worker, Danaequa Yarbrough

To say that things are hopping at Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo as we prepare for the upcoming school year is probably an understatement. A few weeks back, our six weeks of CIS Think Summer! wrapped up. This academic and enrichment program served over 150 first through ninth graders and also included Kids in Tune participants. CIS is now gearing up for the upcoming school year by hiring, hiring, hiring! The majority of these job openings are for youth development workers. These positions will be filled by enthusiastic, energetic individuals who  dedicate themselves to helping students in an after school setting (Monday through Thursday). Youth Development Workers, like their title implies, work hard to develop the strengths and talents of our youth by involving and empowering students in their own development. These enthusiastic caring adults are passionate about helping Kalamazoo Public School students succeed in school and in life. We thought you might like to meet one of them…

My name is Danaequa Yarbrough. I am a fourth year student at Western Michigan University. I am majoring in Social Work and Public Relations with a minor in Dance. I have been working with Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) for two years now but I started back in 2007 volunteering at Edison Environmental Science Academy where my mom was serving as the CIS Site Coordinator. After my volunteer work, I decided to go ahead and apply to be a Youth Development Worker with CIS. I started my journey at Milwood Magnet Middle School.

Ever since I became a YDW, I’ve been able to impact the lives of many students. Through my work as a YDW as well as a dance club instructor, I’ve been able to connect with so many youth in the Kalamazoo community. My favorite part of being a YDW is getting to see the progress of my students from the moment they started until the end of the program. There were definitely times where I felt like I wasn’t getting through to the kids, but then watching them finally understand that math equation or getting that ‘eight count’ in dance club was always a reminder that my dedication to these kids wasn’t in vain.

The kids who come through CIS After School program and Think Summer! impact my life just as much as I make an impact on theirs. They remind me every day that every child deserves a chance to succeed and by being a youth development worker, I am contributing to their success on a daily basis. That’s why I love my job!

Danaequa, we thank you for your passion and continued service with CIS.  

We thank all the many wonderful people in our community who help our children grow through their role as a YDW. We also welcome the many new YDW’s who are joining with us this new school year to make a difference for kids. A special shout out to First United Baptist Church. You opened your doors on Saturday, August 9th and helped us host a successful job fair, paving the way for more children to be connected to caring adults.

YDW positions are still available (48 to be exact!), so if you or someone you know is looking for employment or volunteer opportunities, information can be found here. You can also meet a few other fabulous YDWs featured on the CIS website–Keith Kelsey, DeAnna Russell, Bryce Burnette, and Brandon Jean. YDW training will begin the week of September 8th and students will begin program the week of September 15th.  

 

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Ever Wonder How the Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round?

From left: Jasmine Granville, Larry Manley Jr., Terri Aman

Today, we highlight the work of Terri Aman.  She was honored this past May at the seventh annual Champ celebration. CIS Board Member Jasmine Granville, along with Larry Manley Jr., CIS Site Coordinator at Washington Writers Academy,  presented the award. 

“The wheels on the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round!”  We have the idea that the yellow buses that carry our children to and from school magically appear as they have since ancient times, when parents stopped walking three miles to school, barefoot, in ten feet of snow. Anyone who is a little closer to reality, including parent who’ve called transportation to see if their house keys were left on the bus after the away basketball game or who’ve begged for mercy after their child was kicked off the bus for horseplay, knows there are many buses and hundreds of wheels that don’t go round and round without the woman with the magic transportation wand. That magic wand’s fairy dust is sprinkled around by Kalamazoo Public School wonder woman and Executive Supervisor for Transportation, Terri Aman.

In addition to the thousands of students routinely transported to and from their regular school day, hundreds of Communities In Schools’ participants in after school and summer programs are faithfully delivered via KPS buses, in rain, snow, sleet, hail and yes, dark of night. We are not sure how she keeps her hair from going white or how she maintains her appreciation for humankind, but we are immensely grateful that she continues to oversee a service that neither we nor students and parents could do without. She truly makes life easier for CIS Site Coordinators and Directors by her unflappable aura.

Terri appears ever able to let others’ frustrations—often laced with angry words—roll off her back. She understands when the bus is delayed and the driver is upset because he had to circle back for a dawdling after-school student who had mistakenly thought his parent was picking him up. Terri listens carefully to the hysterical parent who doesn’t understand how her child could have possibly gotten off the bus at her old address rather than her new one, despite having lived at the old address since she started school.

Terri works tirelessly on behalf of KPS and its students. She keeps the wheels on the bus going round and round.

Terri Aman, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

Terri Aman, 2104 Champ recipient

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Radiant Church

Pastor Lee Cummings accepted the Champ Award on behalf of Radiant Church

Today we celebrate the work of Radiant Church. An emerging faith based partner with CIS, Radiant was honored this past May at the seventh annual Champ celebration. CIS Board Member Dr. Randall Eberts along with Jen DeWaele, CIS Site Coordinator at Woodward School for Technology and Research, presented the award.

When volunteers from Radiant Church plan on giving, they think BIG…so big that their BIG Give Winterfest at Edison Environmental Science Academy involved over 250 volunteers who created a special holiday experience for the elementary students. The centerpiece of the event was a free shopping spree that gave every student a new winter coat, hat, boots, and gloves. No detail was left to chance.

The night before the event, a semi-trailer truck full of merchandise and department store racks pulled up to the school. Volunteers literally decked the halls, creating a winter wonderland to greet the students the next morning. They transformed the gym into a department store with separate sections for boys and girls. Each child was assigned a personal shopper to assist them with finding just the right winter wardrobe. At lunchtime, students were treated to pizza and holiday songs. The teachers were not left out. They  enjoyed a special lunch and each received a holiday gift bag. Every child left school that day with a shopping bag filled with beautiful winterwear. But they left with much more than that—a feeling that despite the polar vortex we all endured this past winter, they were cared for by their community.

Radiant’s warmth spread beyond the walls of Edison and entered Woodward School for Technology and Research, providing winterwear for many more students. Jen DeWaele, CIS Site Coordinator at Woodward, said “We were simply overwhelmed by the generosity of Radiant Church. They were so genuine, not to mention super organized. In addition to providing coats, boots, hats, and mittens for the students, they cooked a delicious, homemade meal for teachers and staff, welcoming and serving them over the course of the afternoon.”

Radiant Church also helped make sure students got off to a great school year by providing mountains of school supplies. CIS Site Coordinators throughout were able to make sure that all students were able to start the new school year with the tools they needed to be successful.

What Radiant Church provides is more than the material things many of our students need for school success. It is the abundant spirit that their volunteers generously impart to our children that is the true gift.

Radiant Church, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

If you didn’t get the chance to read the blog post, “A Gift of Warmth for Edison” by Donna Carroll, Director of Health Initiatives for CIS, then do yourself a favor and read it now. It really captures the beautiful work of Radiant Church in our schools.

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POP QUIZ: Jen DeWaele

CIS Site Coordinator Jen DeWaele (right) with friend, Jordan Martin

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 feature Jen DeWaele, CIS Site Coordinator at Woodward School for Technology and Research. Her Principal, Mr. Frank Rocco, was interviewed a few months back by Daquayveon Edmonson and you can read that post here.

An interesting fact about Jen is that she is one of four individuals who founded Peace House, an intentional community in the Eastside Neighborhood of Kalamazoo dedicated to nurturing the next generation of peacemakers.

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

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

I’ve recently learned about elephant memory. Elephants can remember where water has been decades later when there is a drought or areas have been planted over. Each elephant has a personal greeting that they recognize each other with, and they can remember these long after an individual has passed.

What are you currently reading?

What is the What by Dave Eggers. It is the story of one of the lost boys from Sudan.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Patient.

What is your favorite word right now?

Community. I believe that we are all better when we can work together. When we have our shared wisdom and experience, we can go further and deeper towards more creative ideas and solutions.

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

I’ve been noticing lately that there’s a lot of anger in our culture. I’ve been thinking a lot lately of how I can, and should try to, be a part of changing that in a positive way, even if it seems small.

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

My husband. We take on each day together as a team. He is my sounding board and support for everything. I’m daily grateful for his wisdom.

 

 

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