THAT’S ME WHEN I USED TO BE A GROWN UP

Volunteers (not all pictured) gathering to carry out First Saturday at the Kalamazoo Public Library. Every KPS secondary site in which CIS has a presence was represented by student volunteers and CIS staff who turned out for this February’s First Saturday @ KPL.

“That’s me when I used to be a grown up,” explained Donna Carroll’s grandson, 3 1/2 year old Malcolm, when he saw a picture of Malcolm X on the cover of a book his mom, Ursula, was reading.

How powerful when a child sees himself reflected in another, when we see ourselves in each other.

For many of our young people feeling like they’re part of a larger whole comes from a sense that they’re connected at the larger community level. But how can young people make this connection?

Volunteering is a great way to challenge ourselves and put ourselves on a path of meeting new people. For young people, it’s a chance to gain valuable experience, learn about themselves, interact with people they might not otherwise meet, and explore career interests.

Did you know that teens who volunteer are less likely to become pregnant or to use drugs, and are more likely to have positive academic, psychological, and occupational well-being?  According to Child Trends, other positive outcomes include development of greater respect for others, leadership skills, and an understanding of citizenship that can carry over into adulthood.

An opportunity for students to give back to peers and their communities is one of the five CIS basics.  Our young people are giving back every day. Here’s just one recent example.

In partnership with  the Kalamazoo Public Library, The Kalamazoo Promise® and New World Flood,  Communities In Schools hosted February’s First Saturday at the downtown Kalamazoo Public Library. Free and open to the public, the event welcomes families with their young children to enjoy stories, activities, guests, and door prizes. CIS partnered with the library last year to host one of their First Saturdays and it was a great experience for all involved. But Artrella Cohn, CIS Director of Secondary Sites (and lead for CIS  for organizing First Saturday events) felt something was missing: our older students. “This event,” she said, “is a perfect opportunity for students in our secondary schools to give back.” So, this year, the missing piece to the puzzle was complete. With support from CIS staff, AmeriCorps VISTAs,  wonderful KPL librarians, and New World Flood’s Todd “TJ” Duckett, thirteen middle and high school students volunteered. They ran five different literacy stations throughout the library: Read to Me, Scavenger Hunt, Spelling Bee, His & Her Story Station (writing their own stories), and Fantasy Station (which involved picking an item out of a basket to help build upon a collective story).

Artrella Cohn, CIS Secondary Site Director, reviews with volunteers how the literacy stations will work.

“Seeing the middle and high school students in action truly warmed my heart,” said Artrella Cohn, CIS Director of Secondary Sites and organizer of the First Saturday’s event. “The presence of the WMU Students added to the whole ‘reach back and give back’ message that I envisioned for this event. There were middle school students who were signing in, and with smiles on their faces asked, “There are 11th and 12th graders here to volunteer too?” I could visibly see our high school students—who are already mature young ladies—really jump into their role when they realized that there were older high school students and college students involved. Wearing WMU gear, Carmelita Foster and her team of college volunteers stood out in a real way for those of our students looking to successfully complete high school and obtain that Kalamazoo Promise®.”

Loy Norrix Senior Tiara Blair helps put event bracelet on one of the littlest partiicpants.

“This event ran like a well-oiled machine because the youth volunteers knew where they fit. These young people took ownership of their stations,carried out fun learning activities and served as positive role models for the little ones.”

Colleen Marie Deswal, mother of one of those little ones wrote, “My son Teddy participated in his first story time! He volunteered and stated that the dog wiped his nose with the kleenex since that was his prop in the circle. I was shocked he understood what was going on and added to the story since he is only 2 1/2. Was an amazing moment in time. Glad you all are doing these types of events for the community. One reason I moved back to Kalamazoo is the wonderful community involvement.”

We may be stepping out of Black History Month into March, but many of our young people will continue to give back and make good choices, like choosing to give up their Saturday to volunteer. In giving back, they make history, and our future.

“I see myself in the future of these young people,” reflects Artrella. “It’s a beautiful cycle.”

Do you recognize yourself in our youth? If you do, despite what your mother told you, it’s okay* to point your finger. Point proudly at our young people and say, Yea, that’s me…when I used to be a grown up.

 

*sometimes

 

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What Are You Reading?

In anticipation of National Reading Month this March—in which Kalamazoo Public Schools kicks off literacy activities throughout the schools—we prepare ourselves by engaging in the annual ritual of asking via email: What are you reading? The emails started flying. We think it’s fun to learn what our CIS colleagues are reading…

I thought these snow days were a great time to finally start The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I’m a huge fan of the movies but I’ve never made the time to read the books. I’m half way through The Fellowship of the Ring and can’t put it down!

-Donielle Hetrick, CIS After School Coordinator, Woods Lake

 

I am currently reading the“Ashes” Trilogy by Ilsa J. Bick.

-Orel (Tom) Sosa, CIS Site Coordinator, El Sol Elementary

 

I’ve just finished two wonderful memoirs: I Hate to Leave this Beautiful Place by Howard Norman. Howard grew up in Grand Rapids and went to WMU in the 80s. He’s now teaching writing at U of Maryland. The book is episodic and focuses on his younger years as well as ten years he spent collecting stories from the Inuit in the Hudson Bay area in his 20s. The other book is Gary Shteyngart’s Little Failure, a funny and sometimes painful story of his experience starting life in the Soviet Union in the 80s and then moving with his family to New York when he was 7, and the clash of cultures that he has experienced since that time and that has provided material for his novels. (Interesting fact: Gary was from a Jewish family in Leningrad and they were issued visas to leave the Soviet Union at a time when Russians were not permitted to emigrate. But after a drought and crop failures in Russia the Russian government made a deal with the U.S. which supplied shipments of wheat in exchange for allowing a number of Russian Jews to leave the country.)

-Donna Carroll, Director of Health Initiatives

 

I am reading Key To Success, Letters to a Young Sister, and Letters To a Young Brother. These are books for our upcoming girls and guys group.

-Deborah Yarbrough, CIS Site Coordinator, Kalamazoo Central High School

 

I just finished reading Lessons of Hope by Joel Klein—former Chancellor of the New York City School District under Mayor Bloomberg.  I am now reading Angry Optimist a biography about Jon Stewart (The Daily Show).  I LOVE hearing what everyone is reading.

-Pam Kingery, Executive Director

 

I have been reading The Triple Package, How Three Unlikely Traits Explain the Rise and Fall of Cultural Groups in America, by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld, a Chinese immigrant wife and a Jewish American husband. It is a true story about the vast differences in the values and expectations of the couple about raising their two daughters. The differences are based on the parents cultural differences in their own upbringing styles. I can easily identify myself in Amy’s style. The triple package referred to in the book title is identified as: 1. A Superiority Complex, 2. Insecurity, and 3. Impulse Control. Very interesting reading, but also realistic, and hit home to me!

I am reading another book by Amy Chua, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. You get the idea of what this one is about. A clash of cultures…

-Gulnar Husain, CIS Site Coordinator, Arcadia Elementary School

 

I’m reading Captivating: Unveiling the Mystery of a Woman’s Soul by John and Stasi Eldredge

-Deondra S. Ramsey, CIS After School Program Coordinator, Washington Writers Academy

 

Currently I am rereading A Breath of Snow and Ashes by Diana Gabaldon. It’s a part of the Outlander series. I sadly have not read very many new books in the last year due to my heavy reading for my classes. I can’t wait to be done with school so I can indulge in new books that I can really concentrate on!

-Elisabeth Finch, CIS Site Coordinator, Washington Writers Academy

 

I am reading Snow Mountain Passage by James D. Houston, a pioneer story about the Donner Party and their journey west.

-Destinee Lukianoff, AmeriCorps VISTA

 

I love reading local and Quality Snacks hit the spot. I just finished this collection of short stories written by Andy Mozina, a professor at Kalamazoo College. If you want to munch on something smart and funny, this is it.

I now have two books at my bedside, ready to go. The novel, All the Light We Can Not See by Anthony Doerr, who wrote one of my favorite short story collections ever: The Shell Collector. And Deborah Ann Percy’s Invisible Traffic which has been described as “a stunning collection of desperate and gorgeous tales, set against the backdrop of Michigan’s third coast.” (Yes, the writer Deborah Ann Percy is the same woman who retired a few years back, having served a distinguished administrative career in the Kalamazoo Public Schools, notably as principal of Maple Street Magnet Middle School for the Arts.) Also, it is worth noting that the Richard N. Percy Memorial Fund Scholarships (available through CIS of Kalamazoo) is set up in memory of Deborah’s father, Richard Percy. He served as KPS superintendent from 1960-1969. These grants support professional development for Kalamazoo Public Schools’ teachers and administrators that address the individual’s personal interests, specifically their creative or artistic talents.

-Jennifer Clark, Director of Community Relations

 

I am reading Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga. I read it before in high school, and I loved it so much that I wanted to read it again.

-Phillip Hegwood, CIS After School Coordinator, Woodward School for Technology and Research

 

I am on the tail end of three books right now. One is Adam Fairclough’s biography of Martin Luther King, another is a novel called Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel—a post-apocalyptic tale that follows a caravan of survivors who travel around the Midwest performing Shakespeare—and the third is a poetry collection called Motherland Fatherland Homelandsexuals, by Patricia Lockwood.

I LOVE hearing what all of you are reading. And it also fuels my reading obsession!

-Kaitlin Martin, Volunteer Services Coordinator

 

Let’s Pretend this Never Happened  by Jenny Lawson is smart and HILARIOUS.  The Circle by Dave Eggers is scary and disturbing and smart and will make you never look at Facebook ever again. I recently finished and loved them both.

- Laura Keiser, CIS Site Coordinator, King-Westwood Elementary

 

I Just finished True Notebooks: A Writers Year at Juvenile Hall by Mark Salzman, which is a true story about a writer that goes into a Juvenile Hall in Los Angeles and teaches a writing class to some of the inmates and includes some of their work. A very interesting read.

I also just finished Amy Poehler’s and Lena Dunham’s books. Interesting, but Tina Fey’s and Mindy Kaling’s were better.

And now I am just starting Elephant Company by Vicki Croke about a man during WWII who saved a bunch of lives with the help of a herd of elephants. If you’ve been in my office, me reading a book about elephants probably won’t come as a surprise!

-Elyse Brey, CIS Director of Secondary Sites

 

I just finished This Is Your Brain On Music: The Science of a Human Obsession by Daniel J. Levitin and I’m working through [insert] Boy by Danez Smith and Reading the Muslim Mind by Hassan Hathout.

-Nicholas A. Baxter, AmeriCorps VISTA

 

I just finished The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas and now I plan on starting The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon. I love hearing what you all are reading, it’s a great way to find books to add to my “to read” list!

-Lindsey Westfall, CIS After School Coordinator, Northglade Montessori Magnet School

 

I am working diligently on The Toyota Way to Lean Leadership by Jeffrey Liker and Gary Convis.  Someone recommended it to me.  If you are a fan of continuous improvement for self and organization, this is the book for you.

I also just finished Dad is Fat by comedian Jim Gaffigan (the guy who does the “Hot Pockets” sketch).  It is a fast, funny read – especially if you have kids (of any age).  It’s based on his own life with 5 kids in a two-bedroom apartment in New York City.

-Emily Kobza, Director of Development & Business Engagement

 

It may be the time of year or particular time in my life, but I can never get enough information or begin to research everything that interests me. My thoughts are now drifting to my gardens, grapes, strawberries, fruit trees, and honey bees. I’m currently reading up on organic methods of dealing with fungus, blight, and bugs. I read my magazines, books, and  IPad planning for the upcoming season. Actually, I should be cutting back my grape vines now.

-Maureen Cartmill, CIS Site Coordinator, Woods Lake

 

Positive Energy: 10 Extraordinary Prescriptions for Transforming Fatigue by Judith Orloff. This book guides you through fighting off negative energy and how to cope with everyday life. This is a good read.

-Brenda Johnson, AmeriCorps VISTA

 

I just finished Ina May’s Guide to Childbirth. Just in case you missed the news (or the baby bump) we are expecting a new baby in June. This book is a great reminder to trust women and our bodies.

-Leslie Poucher Pratt, CIS Site Coordinator, Prairie Ridge Elementary School

 

I am reading Mr. Kiss and Tell by Rob Thomas.  It is one of the books about the television show Veronica Mars.

-Cakneeshia Stegall, AmeriCorps VISTA


Sadly, I am only reading After-School Centers and Youth Development: Case Studies of Success and Failure by Barton J. Hirsch, Nancy L. Deutsch, and David L. DuBois.

I did receive a magazine as a Pay It Forward gift recently that I am eager to crack open. It shares/highlights 100 major Civil Rights moments.

-Artrella Cohn, Director of Secondary Sites

 

I am currently reading through each state’s flexibility waiver from the ESEA / No Child Left Behind act to compare school accountability systems across the U.S., specifically looking at the correlation between a school’s performance and student poverty. I don’t recommend any of these documents to anyone, but perhaps I’ll share my research paper later. I look forward to reading for pleasure again very soon.

Oh, also baby books – I’m reading a lot of baby books…

-James Hissong, Director of Quality and Evaluation

 

Still don’t have enough? Click here to see what people were reading last year. We’d love to hear what you are reading. Let us know! Just drop me an email at jclark@ciskalamazoo.org. We may just publish what are readers are reading in a future post.

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Caring Adult: A Letter to Ms. Diane Lang

 

Stacy Salters, CIS After School Coordinator at Edison Environmental Science Academy.

It’s time again to think back to when you were young and in school and recall that caring adult you felt especially connected to. Maybe it was in elementary school, or perhaps it was middle or high school. Who is that special person, who, even after all these years, you still carry within your hearts?

Members of the CIS team at Edison Environmental Science Academy took up this challenge. A few months back,  Principal Julie McDonald’s letter was featured. Today, we share a letter written by CIS After School Coordinator Stacy Salters, another member of the passionate, talented, and dedicated team who infuse Edison Environmental Science Academy with hope, love, and learning. and in the weeks to come, we’ll share a few more of their letters. Stacy’s letter, just like her, gets right to the point:

 

Dear Ms. Lang,

As we completed this mindfulness activity on thinking back to a person who made us feel special, cared for, and helped us realize that we could accomplish everything/anything, my mind instantly came to you.

You showed me that hard things (algebra) don’t always have to be hard. That enjoying life and celebrating small achievements were very important. I have translated these teachings into most of my life experiences.

You showed me the importance of logical thinking and problem solving. Although I haven’t always used these skills (on myself), I’ve always considered it my gift to others. You always had high expectations for me.

I thank you sincerely for the gift you gave me wayyyyyy back then, a gift  that I didn’t even realize I was receiving!

Love and Forever Grateful,

Stacy Salters

 

If you are up to the challenge of reflecting on and writing a letter to your caring adult, email it to me at jclark@ciskalamazoo.org and we just might publish it!

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Pop Quiz: Dominique Edwards

Dominique Edwards (right) with Artrella Cohn, CIS Director of Secondary Sites

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 Dominique Edwards, a 2014 graduate of Kalamazoo Central High School. A CIS alumni and former board member of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, Dominique is currently attending Southwestern Michigan College and took time out of her busy schedule to participate in the three-day CIS Leadership Town Hall in New Orleans. She made Kalamazoo proud—serving on the Mission Possible: Communities In Schools Alumni panel.

We popped this quiz on Dominique while she was in the New Orleans airport waiting for Delta 1603 to arrive and take her back to Kalamazoo. Alright, Dominique: pencil out, eyes on your own paper. Good luck.

POP QUIZ

What is something interesting you’ve recently learned? 

I’ve learned that you can have fun as long as you are responsible. You must be responsible for yourself.

What are you currently reading?

My favorite book of all time is Maya Angelou’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. I’m reading a lot of psychology and sociology books right now. English too.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

A CIS Site Coordinator. I think I finally found my niche. I love what a site coordinator does. They are the extended family that is with you throughout your school day and they care enough to know and help you after the school day has ended.

What is your favorite word right now?

Barbados. I love the letter b. It’s so smooth and there are two b’s in Barbados. Barbados. It’s just fun to say.

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

My mom. My parent got divorced when I was six. My dad is a fantastic guy and is there when I need him. But I grew up in a single parent home and so my mom was the dominant force in my life and made sure I was taken care of. She went off to be a truck driver for a while but she made sure my brother and I were taken care of.

Another caring adult is Ms. Trella.  A lot of the doors that opened for me wouldn’t have been opened if it weren’t for her. Doors like the Leadership Conference—Ms. Trella put my name in for that—and to be part of the CIS campaign launch party to talk about my experiences. So many things, like, one-on-one tutoring, performing poetry in a talent showcase, a five session career workshop, being part of the Principal’s Bookclub with Mr. Washington. We read the Hunger Games series and we also went to King Westwood and read to kindergarteners. Being a Literacy Buddy and a mentee with the PRO team.

That is a wide range of activities.

It was a domino effect. Once I got involved with CIS, one opportunity after another presented itself. I would have gone to college but I wouldn’t have enjoyed it that much and I would have dropped out after one semester. All those experiences CIS provided helped me in growing up. And now I get to go to a community college that has dorms and that is awesome.

Any advice you have for students?  

Hone your studying skills in high school so you can carry those with you into college. I also have to say that even though I didn’t feel like I was a leader, I was. So, don’t fight your leadership quality. Go for it. And don’t be afraid to put yourself outside of the box.

That’s exactly what you did this whole week. You were on the Mission Possible: Communities In Schools Alumni panel and spoke from the heart before over three hundred people. That is stepping outside of the box and really putting yourself out there.

Yes. Socially, I tend to be shy. Just attending this conference was outside the box for me. I wonder what if they don’t want to talk to me. But I pushed myself. Hi, my name is Dominique, I’d say. And I shook their hand and it went from there. It all turned out great.

 

 

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Singing Loudly and Proudly of Unsung Heroes

Kalamazoo at 2015 Unsung Heroes Awards in New Orleans, LA. Also pictured, Bill Milliken, Founder and Vice Chairman of Communities In Schools, Inc. (left) and Dan Cardinali, President of Communities In Schools, Inc. (third from right at back).

Question: What does Texas, Georgia, New Mexico, Kansas, and California have in common with Kalamazoo, Michigan?

Answer: They have CIS Site Coordinators and public schools who have just received the prestigious Unsung Heroes Awards.

The Unsung Heroes Awards annually honor CIS site coordinators, and schools and communities that partner with Communities In Schools to change the picture of education in America. CIS site coordinators work in more than 2,200 K-12 public schools serving 1.3 million young people and their families every year. Together, site coordinators, schools and communities keep kids in school, and this award recognizes those that are doing whatever it takes to eliminate barriers and never giving up, on anyone.

Last year, you may recall, Kalamazoo was one of four communities in the country given a “Community of Excellence” award by National CIS. This year, Kalamazoo won in two areas!

(From left) CIS Site Coordinator Martha Serio, CIS Director of Elementary Sites Elyse Brey, Spring Valley Center for Exploration Principal William Hawkins, KPS School Board President Patti Scholler-Barber.

Martha Serio, CIS Site Coordinator at Spring Valley Center for Exploration for the past nine years, is one of five individuals to receive an Unsung Hero Award.

“I am truly honored, humbled and grateful to be receiving this award,” said Serio. “I love being a Site Coordinator for Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo. I am able to connect students with over 40 fabulous volunteers and community partners they need to succeed because of the support I receive from my Principal, Mr. William Hawkins and the Spring Valley teachers, staff, parents, and CIS staff. Here at Spring Valley, we are all a team.”

Arcadia Elementary School, committed to the CIS model for more than 13 years, was one of four sites honored in the school category by the national Communities In Schools’ network. The award highlights successful implementation of the proven site coordinator model in a partner school.

“Arcadia Elementary School is a shining example of what can happen when we work together for kids. This award is shared by all of us—The Kalamazoo Public Schools, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, our volunteers, partners, and donors—all dedicated to meeting students’ needs,” said Pam Kingery executive director, CIS of Kalamazoo. “Along with the talented KPS teachers, staff, and administrators, we will continue working with the community to serve the students at Arcadia as well as students in the nineteen additional KPS schools that CIS is in.”  You can watch the Arcadia video by clicking here.

In addition, Dominique Edwards, a Kalamazoo Central High School graduate and former CIS Board member, attended the three-day CIS Leadership Town Hall and also made Kalamazoo proud—serving on the Mission Possible: Communities In Schools Alumni panel. Keep reading Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids and you’ll learn what she is up to. (We had a chance to pop our “pop quiz” on her as she waited in the New Orleans airport for her flight home.)

(From left) CIS Site Coordinator Gulnar Husain, CIS Director of Elementary Sites Elyse Brey, Arcadia Principal Greg Socha, KPS School Board President Patti Scholler-Barber.

In the meantime, tune into CW7 this coming Thursday at 4pm to watch KPS Teacher Debora Gant and CIS Site Coordinator Gulnar Husain on The Lori Moore Show. You can also read Julie Mack’s coverage of the awards by going here.

 

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