A Most Promising Pop Quiz: Phillip Hegwood

CIS After School Coordinator Phillip Hegwood with two Woodward School for Technology and Research students.

Ten years ago on this very day The Kalamazoo Promise was announced! At CIS, we are briskly walking around the office in our Kalamazoo Promise shirts to commemorate this day. Did you know that community stakeholders from around the country have arrived in Kalamazoo for the seventh PromiseNet meeting? From November  10-12 at the Radisson Plaza Hotel they will share best practices around designing, implementing, and sustaining place-based scholarship programs. (To find out how to get your own Promise shirt and to read more cool stuff related to the Promise, check out  the latest issue of CIS Connections, “The Promises You Keep.”)

We could think of no better post than to pop a quiz on someone who graduated from Kalamazoo Public Schools and used the gift of the Promise to go to college and is now giving back through CIS to help future Promise Scholars. So today we feature Phillip Hegwood, CIS After School Coordinator at Woodward School for Technology and Research. Phillip is a graduate of Kalamazoo Public Schools and is part of a great team at Woodward. We popped a quiz on Jen DeWaele, CIS Site Coordinator at Woodward School for Technology and Research a while back. Woodward’s Principal, Mr. Frank Rocco, was interviewed  by KPS student Daquayveon Edmonson and you can read that post here.

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


What is something interesting you’ve recently learned?

Lately, I have been learning about non-western medicine and homeopathic medicine (such as acupuncture, chiropractor, and other holistic professions). Mostly so I can try other ways to heal my body in a more natural way than going to the doctor. It’s helped me with more than my physical body, emotionally and spiritually, as well.

What are you currently reading?

I am currently reading Teaching with Poverty in Mind by Eric Jensen. It has shown me how poverty can affect students in both physically and emotionally ways and it has given me a number of tips in how I can be a better and more effective After School Coordinator.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I want to be a Child Care Licensing consultant for the State of Michigan.

What is your favorite word right now?


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

Honestly, making sure my students in my after school program get the full benefit of being there. I have really been brainstorming ideas for fun activities and field trips for my students and how I can be the best CIS After School Coordinator to them as I can be.

Behind every successful student is a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult? 

My mom has always been by my side. She is truly one of my best friends and I know that we will always have each other’s backs. I love her with all my heart and I wouldn’t be the person I am today without her.

Thank you, Phillip!

(From left) CIS Site Coordinator Jen DeWaele, KPS Principal Frank Rocco, CIS After School Coordinator Phillip Hegwood


Thank you, Phillip!


What Do You Treasure?

Our fearless leader, CIS Executive Director Pam Kingery

Ahoy, mateys!

This past Friday, Pam Kingery, Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo welcomed CIS staff leaders from across the 20 CIS sites throughout Kalamazoo Public Schools.



Agendas may not grow on trees, but sometimes they dry on them,

and on the racks of dishwashers, and bushes. (Especially when they are first crumpled and dunked in tea to give them a map-like authenticity.)

CIS staff took a few hours from their busy day to review the strategic map the CIS Board recently adopted. We also ventured into the Site Operations Plan. (Each year, every CIS site team develops a plan to address identified needs as well as to build and reinforce student assets in their school. This is done in collaboration with the school.)

For the most part, we got along.

That (from left to right) is Lindsay Westfall, CIS After School Coordinator for Northglade Montessori School,  Alexis Arocho, CIS After School Coordinator for Prairie Ridge Elementary School, Phillip Hegwood, CIS After School Coordinator for Woodward School for Technology and Research, Pam Kingery, CIS Executive Director, and Donielle Hetrick, CIS After School Coordinator for Woods Lake Elementary School.

Arghhhh. Pam Kingery and Director of Elementary Sites Linda Thompson (on right) managed to get into a brief sword fight but it ended well.

As CIS has grown over the years, it’s not often we get together like this, but it is wonderful to be in a room bursting with people who treasure kids and are passionate about doing whatever it takes to help them succeed in school and steer their way to the land of Promise.

But wait!

Nathaniel Easlick, CIS After School Coordinator at Milwood Elementary School reminds me of one more thing we treasure.

You. You are a part of this fine crew. Whether you are a school or community partner, volunteer, or donate to CIS, our 12,000+ kids are fortunate to have you on board.  The greatest treasure we have is our kids. You are the hope that fuels their future. Eyepatches off to you!



It’s A Scary Time To Be A Kid

Boo!  Did we scare you? No? Well then, here are a few facts that are plenty scary. In America…

  • Currently,  61,423 children are housed in the criminal justice system. Most of these kids don’t have a system of support. Jamal says that if it weren’t for his CIS Site Coordinator, he’d “be dead or in jail or in prison somewhere.” You can hear his story here.
  • Today, 11 teens will die as a result of texting while driving. These days, 25% of car accidents are caused by texting. Text while driving and you are 23 times more likely to crash (National Highway Transportation Safety Administration). Here’s an excellent site that gives helpful ways to combat this growing problem. (Hint: Grownups, if you drive while “intexticating,” you send the message that it’s okay to engage in this deadly habit.) 

  • More than two million kids have been diagnosed with learning disabilities. Fortunately, there are wonderful organizations like SLD Read. Our Site Coordinators love supporting this terrific partner and their exceptionally trained tutors who, through a multisensory program, help students with dyslexia, learning differences, and other reading challenges to develop lifelong language skills.

There is a lot more scary stuff that our kids face every day. The good news is that you can make a difference. Get involved. Donate or volunteer. Find out how you can help, today. In Kalamazoo, our 12,000 plus kids need you.






Lighting Up Learning After The School Day Ends

This afternoon, when bells ring across America announcing  the school day’s end, more than 15 million of the students who pour out the doors will end up home alone. That’s a lot of unsupervised youth.

Children who regularly attend high-quality after school programs are more likely to be attentive and engaged during the school day. CIS after school extends the learning day Monday through Thursday in 15 Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS). As one of our students put it, “To me, after school means to always be loved and helped. CIS after school is a place that I can let my feelings go and be myself. I will always be safe and cared about.” That’s what we want for all our kids!

Here are some photos (snapped by Artrella Cohn, CIS Director of Secondary Sites) of Milwood Magnet Middle School students reading, reading, reading, and reading as part of their Bookclub in CIS after school. Really cool!


This year, CIS anticipates serving more than 1,000 children during after school time thanks to the support of federal dollars awarded through the Michigan Department of Education (21st Century Community Learning Centers). A shout out to CIS after school coordinators, youth development workers, volunteers, and partners who extend the learning day for students. (We are hiring for youth development workers. Click here for more information.)

National Lights On Afterschool Awareness Day is Thursday, October 22, 2015 and KPS students are doing their part to shed light on the need to invest in afterschool programs. You can read more here.

Also, tune in for The Lori Moore Show tomorrow at 4pm on CW7 and hear what Lori’s guests, Artrella Cohn (CIS Director of Secondary Sites) and Elyse Brey (CIS Director of Elementary Sites), have to say.

Watch it now, by clicking here!


Keeping Our Promise: Dr. Janice Brown

Dr. Janice Brown at Champs 2015

We met up with Dr. Janice Brown on the heels of the 10th Anniversary Promise Community Celebration in Bronson Park. A Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo Board Member since 2000, you can read our conversation with her in our latest newsletter which has a theme of “promise.” Here is just a little of what she had to say, including a few bites we didn’t include in the newsletter due to space constraints.

Since the announcement of The Kalamazoo Promise®, what have you learned over these past ten years? What has surprised you? Disappointed you?

I’ve learned many things since the announcement of The Kalamazoo Promise®. The first thing I’ve learned about our youth is how committed and resilient they are in carving their future. I’m amazed at how many times they keep trying. It’s very difficult to go to college. When I see somebody who has struggled and left college but then shows up and says, “I’m here to try again,” that makes me so happy.

How unknowingly smart we were to offer a ten year window. So much growth and maturation can take place in that time. Youth are not stagnant. They can grow over that ten year period and that can help them accomplish their dreams. I’ve learned that the youth understand the privilege and the obligation about such a tremendous gift and they are interested in paying it forward.

We don’t even know yet the implications of The Kalamazoo Promise®. We are in our tenth year and being a ten-year-old is like being a fifth grader. While we think we know everything, we are just beginning to understand the implications and the ripple effect this is starting to create.

Can you talk more about how youth are paying it forward?

I can tell you by a story. One of our graduates has become a nurse and he has consciously decided to work with what I think is one of our most difficult populations—people going through drug and alcohol detox. When asked why he has chosen to do this, his response was, “I love the work and I want to give back to the community that is so good to me.”

This desire to pay it forward was also clearly demonstrated at the tenth anniversary party in Bronson Park. Many pre- and post-Promise scholars attended. I’m just amazed at their enthusiasm. They want to be involved and pay it forward. On Promise Day during winter break over a 100 Promise scholars returned to talk to kids at Loy Norrix about college. I have loads of letters, in a variety of ways expressing gratitude for this gift.

Paying it forward isn’t just emotional or subjective. We have data that our youth are improving their outcomes both at the K-12 and post-secondary level.  For example, we’ve seen a 15% drop in the number of kids that need zero level classes [classes to take to prepare for college]. More students are coming to college college-ready is a delightful surprise. On the community side, businesses, organizations, and individuals have been incredibly generous in giving and participating in the success of the Promise. I can’t name names because there are so many. During my time as Executive Director of The Kalamazoo Promise® I was only told no once in those five years. And even that no wasn’t really a no; they wanted to be asked again in the future, when they were in a better financial position.

The Promise celebration in the park—all the costs were bore by the community, another excellent example of the generosity of our community and the universities that serve them.

What’s surprised me? I didn’t anticipate the national media coverage or that vast amount of communities want to replicate the promise in some way. We are known as the flagship of this type of scholarship. I get phone calls weekly from around the country with communities wanting to replicate their own promise. Here in Michigan we have promise communities—ten promise zones—these are direct spin offs from the promise.

What, in your opinion, are some ways members of this community can help our children reach their promise?

People always ask, “What can I do?” If everyone took on one child we’d have an increased success rate. One very simple thing that doesn’t take a long term commitment that working with one student does is that non-profits, government, businesses can try to do a better job of including and infusing youth in the work they do. Youth are very interested in learning about occupations, non-profits, and how government works. Just doing this could make a big difference. I think it will happen. We will see a convergence of our community really wrapping their arms around our youth—youth that they didn’t know before— which is the beauty of it. Youth like and thrive with that attention and security of adult advocates.

Kalamazoo, as you know, is rich with so many resources to support kids. What is unique about CIS?

I have been a long-time advocate of Communities In Schools. The reason is because it is the organization that helps frame the wonderful work that the nonprofits do. CIS has the capacity to individualize the nonprofit work and get those services to the children who need it. And, of course, the vehicle is through the schools. As an educator, I’m a CIS endorser. We now have an arm-in-arm partner who can take away the burden of the social needs of our students so that teachers and educators can do the best that they can do—and that is teaching for learning. I also believe in CIS because of the measurement system. CIS measures its progress based upon student data from KPS in reading, math, behavior, and attendance.

The anonymity of the donors puzzles people. What unique opportunities does this anonymity give our community?

I’ve never asked the donors why they chose to be anonymous. It doesn’t matter. It places the burden on the development of the community and in the hands of the families of the children and that is where it belongs. The donors have more than done their part by their incredible investment of dollars. We have to figure out the rest. We don’t want to burden them with further work when they have already worked so hard to give this money. Now it’s in our hands.

It’s a brilliant model. Like you mentioned, the anonymity causes us to turn to each other to figure out how to make this work and take ownership.

There are many interpretations out there.

I’m going with yours. Any final thoughts?

Never miss an opportunity to say thank you to the Kalamazoo Promise ® donors. And thank you CIS, for being such a strong organization for bringing our students to the promise.

Thank you, Dr. Brown!

To find out what four words encapsulate The Kalamazoo Promise® for Dr. Brown, what she believes is the biggest misconception about The Kalamazoo Promise®, and more, read the rest of the conversation here.