Calling Out That Person Who Is Behind That Face

Think back to when you were young and in school. Maybe you were in elementary school, or perhaps it was middle or high school. Recall that caring adult you felt especially connected to. Who is that special person for you, that, even after all these years, you still carry in your heart?

Who is your caring adult? That is the question CIS has been asking lately of the caring adults we place in the paths of thousands of Kalamazoo Public School students. As part of our mindfulness training, we’ve asked it of our volunteers and we recently asked it of staff during our back to school training. We ask the question because at CIS, we know that behind every caring adult is a caring adult.

So it is not surprising that many of the caring adults recalled by our staff, volunteers, partners, and friends are teachers. After all, teachers help us learn and think. They teach us lessons about abc’s and place-values in math while they challenge us, love us, and help us believe in ourselves and recognize that we are part of something bigger than ourselves. They help us find our place in the world. Maya Angelou said this of teachers: This is the value of the teacher, who looks at a face and says there’s something behind that and I want to reach that person, I want to influence that person, I want to encourage that person, I want to enrich, I want to call out that person who is behind that face, behind that color, behind that language, behind that tradition, behind that culture. I believe you can do it. I know what was done for me.

Below are three letters written by our volunteers and staff. In the months to come, we will be posting more of these letters on our blog. In the meantime, a special thank you to all those teachers—whether you are teaching now, retired, or gone from this world, you make a difference. We can not help but carry the lessons you have taught us and impart them to a new generation of learners.

Mr. Ray Schroeder,

You made everyone feel equal, regardless of their social or economic background. Watching you helped me understand that it isn’t about what you have or don’t have, but how you give back.

 

Dear Mrs. Mein,

You taught our 12th grade Honors English class a valuable lesson through the infamous summer reading project you assigned—doing what you’re asked (and doing a good job) matters, even if no one is “checking up” on you. Your warmth, humor, and willingness to share yourself with us endeared you to all of us. You seemed to understand what high schoolers needed. I haven’t forgotten the time you let me run out of the room when something someone said got the best of my hormonal teenage self.

Thank you for making each of us feel special and cared about—even if we were the umpteenth class you’ve had—we still felt like we were your favorites!

PS. If it weren’t for you, and your summer reading project, I wouldn’t know who Somerset Maugham is or read Machiavelli’s “The Prince” or deepened my friendship with my high school best friend.

Dear Mr. Lake,

You saw me hide my flute case before band practice. I know you saw me because our eyes met even though you wore the thickest glasses. I tried to polish my flute and make it gleam like the other new ones, but it was just impossible. You saw me and my anxiety and in front of everyone, you said, “It’s not what it looks like, it’s what it sounds like.”

Thank you so much for giving me the space and encouragement to continue when I felt inadequate. You gave me courage to play away and stop worrying about what things may look like to others. I still see your eyes behind those big glasses, nodding me along.

Who is your Mr. Schroeder, your Mrs. Mein, or Mr. Lake? We’d love to know and possibly post your letter (signed or anonymous). If you’d like to be included in this “recalling a caring adult” project, contact Jennifer Clark at jclark@ciskalamazoo.org or by calling 269.337.1601 x 213.

 

 

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AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associates: Memory Makers

 

Some of the fabulous individuals who made CIS Think Summer! a success. (From left to right:Rola Emanuel, Lauren Rosenthal, Sarah Woods, Bryce Burnette, Shayla Jones, Vershurn Ford, Angelica Lawrence, Artrella Cohn, Danaequa Yarbrough, Alicia Snell, Maggie Ortlieb, Jeremiah Duncan, Kevin Peterson, Melissa Holman) 

CIS Think Summer! ran for six weeks this summer and served over 150 first through ninth graders and also included the Kids in Tune participants. Fifteen AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associates were hired and supported the students throughout their summer academic/enrichment program.  Many of these AmeriCorps VISTA Associates—or “coaches” as the kids called them—hailed from Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo College, and Kalamazoo Valley Community College. Their energy and enthusiasm was contagious and one of the key ingredients to a successful summer experience for the students. Thank you AmeriCorps VISTAs for your support of our students!

Some of the AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associates took a few moments to reflect on CIS Think Summer! and they are our guest bloggers today.

Between the elementary  and secondary staff, there was a wide variety of coaches working for CIS Think Summer! Each day brought new challenges and everyone worked hard to make sure that all of the students were safe, learning, and having fun. All of us gained wonderful memories of our time in the program, and we want to share a few words about our experiences at CIS Think Summer!

My favorite memory was watching the students explore the zoo. I loved seeing the students’ faces light up at the bird exhibit and how excited they were to point out all the colorful birds. The moment when they fed the lettuce to the giraffes was memorable, too!

-Kelsey-Ann Wessel, AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate

 

Working with these kids this summer has been an amazing experience. Being able to combine an academic with an enriching environment brings fun to learning. Being able to share my own expertise with kids has also been rewarding.

-Sarah Woods, AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate

 

I had an amazing summer working with Communities In Schools. I got to meet some truly special kids and help guide them towards success. It was rewarding to work with kids who have so much potential. It’s good to be able to make a difference.

-Kira Boneff, AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate

 

Elementary school-aged children do not often get the opportunity to make choices about their activities, especially in school, but the clubs at CIS Think Summer! gave them exactly this opportunity. Every afternoon, the students spilt up into their choice of clubs, which rotated every two weeks. This approach allowed students of different grades to mingle and make friends, as they were split up into 1st-2nd grade and 3rd-5th grade groups.

The clubs were split into five different topics: STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), Arts and Crafts, Health and Wellness, Life Skills, and Leadership. Each coach got to switch which club they were leading every two weeks as well, which allowed us, as coaches, to meet and work with many students outside of our grade levels.

I was lucky enough to meet a lot of the younger kids through clubs, an opportunity that I might not have otherwise had as a 4th grade coach. Some of the offerings included Hands-On Science, Cooking Club, Debate Club, and Let’s Move Sports Club.

In addition to allowing the kids to have a say in their schedule, the clubs provided an opportunity to help them grow through non-classroom experiences. The kids learned about chemistry and plants in Hands-On Science, about healthy eating in Cooking Club, and about public speaking skills in Debate Club. Providing all of these experiences helped us work toward one of our main summer goals: giving students educational and fun opportunities to help grow up on the track to success.

Kira Boneff and Sadina Sackett, AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associates

 

One great thing about CIS Think Summer! is that every Thursday is a celebration/field trip day. One of the most memorable and favorite field trips among the elementary students was going to Binder Park Zoo. Each coach was paired with around five kids, and was free to venture wherever they wanted. Coach Sadina from the 4th grade Achieve Team had a great time with her group.

All the children in her group wanted to go to Wild Africa first so that they could see the giraffes. To get there, they all  rode in the Safari Tram. Along with giraffes, the children saw ostriches, monkeys, zebras, and a variety of birds. Toward the end of the safari the kids went on an artifact scavenger hunt where they earned their ultimate safari training.

After Wild Africa they decided to go and visit other animals such as the bears, hogs, chipmunks, wolves, flamingos, and peacocks. One student took the liberty of marking down every animal the group saw on the map so that they could try to see them all!

Another fun part of this field trip wasthat all the elementary students got to ride the train to Battle Creek. It was very exciting to see everyone in a great mood riding together as a group. It was a great day for CIS Think Summer!

-Sadina Sackett, AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate

 

Honestly, if you were not a part of CIS Think Summer! you missed out on a lot of fun. I think the number one reason why it was awesome to be a part of it was because of the people involved.

Kalamazoo is a very diverse place to live. We love this because it is really hard to be “sheltered.” It makes for more dynamic ideas and creates a more comfortable atmosphere. That was easily Coach Bryce Burnette’s favorite part of being an Americorps VISTA.

He admits he is a little biased, but believes that secondary had the most fun this summer. The staff were very close and that had a huge impact on the program. It made the experience more enjoyable for the students especially because it was clear that everyone was having a good time.

Lastly, the students were fantastic. The future of KPS is very bright and CIS is doing a lot to make it an even better and more enjoyable experience.

Bryce Burnett, AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate

We currently have ten year-round VISTAs serving in 20 Kalamazoo Public School buildings, and cannot say enough about the important work they do. CIS is currently seeking four more AmeriCorps VISTA service members to help build our capacity to serve youth within the Kalamazoo Public Schools. VISTAs receive a living stipend and the choice of either an education award or cash award at the end of their year-long commitment. This year-long commitment will span from November 2014 through November 2015.

This is an opportunity for someone who is passionate about youth and who wants to learn and grow professionally. If you or somebody you know (who is 18 or older) may be interested in this full time opportunity, click here for more information.

 

 

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Back to School Means…

 

Summer is slipping away and school is back in session.

At CIS, back to school means…

 

 

Believing that the future of our community rests in our children who deserve caring adults to help them

Achieve their potential, academically, socially, and emotionally. Serving as a

Compass, a guide, an adult is placed intentionally on their path by a CIS Site Coordinator or After School Coordinator.

Kid-focused, we surround students with the supports they need.

 

The time is now. Every day, our donors, volunteers, school and community partners, and staff are

Opening the hearts & minds of children who are struggling and have given up or stopped believing in themselves,

 

Showing them a path to success in school, a path that allows them to pursue their dreams and passions….

Connecting the right services, to the right kids, at the right time, CIS restores

Hope in the lives of children and their families. Together, we are working to

Open doors of possibilities students can walk through to greet the

Opportunities they need to succeed in school and life and

Live out their Promise.

 

Thank you for donating, volunteering, partnering and working with Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo. Welcome to the new school year!

 

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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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