Know the ABCs of School Attendance

Attendance research is discovering what schools have known all along: Our teachers can teach our children….if the children show up. Turns out, attendance is a significant predictor of student performance. Kids who are absent early and often are at greater risk for dropping out of school as well as a whole host of economic, marital, social, and psychiatric problems in adulthood. What’s more, researchers are finding that even students with good attendance suffer academically in environments where absenteeism is a problem.

While attendance is important at all levels of education, attendance in early grades is critical. Much of the work (not to mention money) that helps a child gain school readiness skills in preschool or Head Start programs is negated if that child is chronically absent during kindergarten and first grade. They may have entered kindergarten with the same level of readiness skills as their peers, but by third grade they are woefully behind. In one study, students with poor attendance in their kindergarten and first grades scored an average of 60 points below similar students with good attendance on third-grade reading tests. In math, the gap was nearly 100 points.

September is National Attendance month. However, just because September is slipping away doesn’t mean attendance goes on the back burner. Far from it. Every school day counts, whether it’s in September, March, or May.

According to the National Center for Student Engagement, achieving high attendance rates occurs when parents, schools, and the community work together to get kids to attend and stay in school.

Thank you school and community partners, donors, and volunteers. Together, we are encircling our children and singing the ABCs of attendance…

Alarm Clocks & After-School Coordinators

Boots & Backpacks

Clean Clothes

Deodorant

Eyeglasses

Food in the belly

Gloves & Good night sleeps

Hats

Interns

Jackets

Kindness

Love

Mittens

Nurse Practitioners

Opportunities

Parents & Principals

Quality Programming

Respect

Site Coordinators, Socks & Shoes, Success Coaches

Teachers & Tutors

Underwear

Volunteers & VISTAs

Warm clothes

Xtra support

Youth Development Workers

Zippers that Work on Coats

A terrific op-ed piece written by Dan Cardinali, president of Communities In Schools recently ran in the New York Times.  You can read  ”How to Get Kids to Class” here.

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Don’t Quote Me

Four of the twelve new CIS interns. The BSW Social Work students (from left to right) are: Lexy Maciarz, Katie Palazzolo, Gretchen Schultz, and Victoria Kiel

As I sit down to write this post, I’ve just returned from being part of the orientation for our new interns. All twelve of them! It’s a CIS bi-annual ritual that I always look forward to; welcoming all those fresh, new faces, excited to be linked to a CIS Site Coordinator and begin their work within a Kalamazoo Public School. Deb Faling, Director of Social Emotional Learning, supervises the social work interns. “Welcoming our interns each year is like going back to school for me. My social work internships played an important role in my life. The joy of direct practice and mentorship by an experienced practitioner is the heart of what makes social work education so unique. An internship is the core process to becoming part of the profession and going on to make an impact on your chosen community. From the standpoint of our children, they benefit from one on one service by students who have specifically chosen this type of work as their life focus. These interns want to be there for our kids and they create opportunities and learning moments that stay with the children long after the internship is over.”

We’ll introduce you to this year’s nine social work and three health interns—all affiliated through our partnership with Western Michigan University—in a future blog post. Yes, we had them take our pop quiz and, being the good college and graduate students they are, they were up for the challenge! But, for now, thought you might be interested in a “behind the scenes” look at the exercise we did as a way to get to know each other better and begin the conversation about what it takes to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.

We placed a quote in each of the four corners of the room. The interns were instructed to read each one and then stand by the quote that spoke to them the most. Then we discussed what they picked and why it resonated with them. Here are the quotes they read:

I might just be my mother’s child, but in all reality I’m everybody’s child.

Nobody raised me; I was raised in this society.

Every child you encounter is a divine appointment.

Children are the living messages we send to a time we will not see.

Children are likely to live up to what you believe of them.

Which one speaks to you? Perhaps several or all do, but which one resonates with you the most right now? Why?

Each quote, I think, speaks to a dimension of what CIS and its school and community partners are trying to do, not just here in Kalamazoo, but throughout the country: recognize that every child is our child. And, if we hold this to be true, we must expect the best and set high standards for all of our children. Every moment with every child is a moment we must seize. As CIS AmeriCorps VISTA Lauren Longwell said at the training, “Our kids need us to be consistent. They need us to be present to them. We need to show up and be there for them.” Our children learn to believe in themselves because we believe in them. And they will, as one of the interns pointed out, “live up to as low or high as we set the bar.” So we might as well set the bar high and see where it takes our kids—and us. Hey, that sounds pretty good. Okay, go ahead and quote me.

Wondering who the four quotes are attributed to? In order of how they appear above: Tupac Shakur, Wes Stafford, John Whitehead, and Lady Bird Johnson. 

 

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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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