Four Clues That School is About to Start

Summer is almost over. While Kalamazoo Public Schools reminds us that the first day of school is Tuesday, September 8th, there are a few other clues at CIS that school is just around the corner.

Clue #1:  Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo is bursting with fresh, new back to school supplies for students.

From pencils, to notebooks, and backpacks, local businesses, faith-based groups, other organizations, and community members have been generous in helping our kids get off to a great start. We thank you all! We also give a shout out to our AmeriCorps VISTAS who helped with packing and organizing the wonderful contributions our kids will soon be receiving. A special thanks to our AmeriCorps VISTAS!

(Left to right) CIS Office Assistant Shayla Palmer and Lead AmeriCorps VISTA Lauren Longwell in the CIS Conference room work on packing up supplies.

Clue #2:  We can’t find Elyse Brey’s office. As CIS Director of Elementary Sites, she always keeps her space nice and organized but with all the back to school supplies and boxes we can’t seem to find her desk. (We’re not complaining. Keep the donations coming as our kids need them!)

Clue #3:  We are starting to see our floors again! Allied sent us two great movers—Craig Peterson and Archie Swindle—to get the resources to the right schools where our CIS Site Coordinators and their team can get them to the right kids!

Archie Swindle heading up ramp with school supplies. Craig Peterson inside the truck.

Clue #4:  This week, as part of our “Back to School Launch,” we’re seeing some fabulous “seasoned” as well as new faces. Here’s a few CIS staff who will be supporting our kids and the many volunteers and partners who work with us throughout 20 Kalamazoo Public Schools. What do these wonderful, faces all have in common? They are all proud graduates of Kalamazoo Public Schools!



Mr. Stan is the Man

Woods Lake Elementary School students giving a shout out to Mr. Stan

Today we highlight Stan Lepird, one of eight individuals and organizations honored  at the annual Champ Celebration.  CIS Board Member Carol McGlinn, along with Phillip Hegwood, CIS After School Coordinator at Woodward School for Technology & Research presented the award. 

Stan Lepird, or “Mr. Stan” as he is known throughout the halls of Woods Lake Elementary School, has been volunteering as a tutor with CIS for the past three years. He was inspired to connect to CIS when he heard Lori Moore on the radio asking for volunteers. Originally, he signed up to volunteer one day a week and the CIS Site Coordinator connected him to a second grade classroom. But as the weeks went by, he saw unmet needs of other students. That one day a week? Well, it’s now turned into five days a week in three different second grade classes!

Mr. Stan, an engineer who is now retired from Stryker, has a wonderful wife, Sherry, three children, and seven grandchildren. He shows up every day with a smile and endless amounts of patience. He is a regular fixture in the halls, working one on one with 12-15 second graders in math. He even follows up with previous students, now in 3rd and 4th grade, and will quiz them on their math facts as the pass each other in the hall. He helps students with their homework and asks them how their day is going. He remembers birthdays, sibling’s names and other important events in the student’s lives.

For the holidays, he even took it upon himself to purchase t-shirts Mrs. Cook’s entire second grade classroom. The shirts read: Team Cook.

A humble man, Mr. Stan says this about his volunteer experience: “My time at Woods Lake has been very rewarding, but it has become more than just helping them with their studies. I have met and developed friendships with some very sweet, kind seven and eight year olds whom I would not have had the opportunity to meet in my normal life’s path. I feel very blessed to be able to work with these students and, hopefully, help them learn some of the skills they will need to become successful throughout their remaining school years.”

Mr. Stan is thankful for the CIS staff at Woods Lake, Donielle Hetrick and Maureen Cartmill. He also thanks second grade teachers, Mrs. Cook, Mr. Berlin, and Mrs. Wilson-Bridges for making accommodations in their schedules to enable the tutoring sessions. Their kindness and commitment to their students is a huge help,” he says. “I feel blessed to be able to use the gift God has given me.”

Earlier this school year, when CIS after school coordinator Donielle Hetrick asked him how tutoring was going, he just smiled and said, “I feel like I’m doing what I was always meant to do: work with and tutor students.” Mr. Stan is an integral part of the Woods Lake family. He is a friend to talk to, an ear that listens, and a laugh when you need it most. He is a consistent, caring adult who shows up rain or shine, to be there for students.

As one second grader puts it, “Mr. Stan doesn’t give you the answers. He shows you how to figure out and get the answers yourself.”

Stan Lepird, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

Lori Moore and Stan Lepird meet at Champs

Tune into CW7 this afternoon at 4pm to watch CIS Volunteer Stan Lepird and CIS After School Coordinator Donielle Hetrick on The Lori Moore Show.



Mother and Daughter Make a Great Team, Part Two

(Left to right) Three generations of wonderful women who are giving back: Sharon Wysinga, Jiselle Anderson, and Janelle Anderson

A few weeks back we highlighted Jiselle and Janelle Anderson, one of eight individuals and organizations honored  at the annual Champ Celebration. Since they make a great team we thought we’d share the acceptance speeches they each gave upon receiving their Champ award. Both speeches capture the beautiful spirits of this mother daughter duo.

We’ll lead off with Jiselle, a student at Lincoln International Studies School:

Hello everyone. Thank you for letting me and my family be here. It is such an honor for you to notice me as a leader. I just want to say thank you to Mr. Ohs for helping me with math and improving my grades. Also, I want to thank Girls on the Run and my coaches for helping me learn how to deal with hard situations and make healthy  choices. So I want to say thank you to CIS for making all this happen. Thank you.

Here is what Janelle said:

Good evening, everyone. I was extremely proud when I was told my daughter was going to be a Champ award recipient this year. Not surprised so much because that’s the kind of kid she is, but I was absolutely shocked when I was told that I would be receiving an award, also! I mean, I didn’t think I had done anything. I am just doing what a mom does: helping my daughter with her schooling, making sure she is healthy, well fed, warm enough on those cold mornings, and doing her homework everyday (even when she says she doesn’t have any), which, by the way, may be true but as my mother told me growing up, “You can always be studying something” or “work on your handwriting.” When your mother is a teacher you can expect to hear that kind of thing, which I thought my mother was. She really wasn’t, but she was always at school, filling in for my teacher, leading small groups of students, covering the front office and doing whatever her real job was. And doing all of that, she still somehow managed to bake the cookies or cupcakes for the bake sale that I volunteered her for and forgot to tell her about until the day before. But that’s my mom. She did it all.

So now that I am a mother myself it only seems natural for me to be involved in what my children are doing. Coaching their teams when I can, finding and securing them whatever academic support they may need, being their biggest fan, and trying to afford them every single opportunity that I can. So working with CIS is a great fit for me. The CIS mission is practically identical to my philosophy for parenting: to surround my kids with a community of support, empowering them to not only stay in school but thrive in school and to achieve greatness in life.

Thank you all for recognizing my daughter and me. It is truly an honor. But honestly, receiving this award would not have been possible had it not been for my mother spending her life showing me what it is to be a great mother and role model, so mom, this is for you. I love you. Thank you.

Jiselle (front right) surrounded by a few of the loving adults who are part of her community of support.


If you missed the recent post about Jiselle and Janelle Anderson and their Champ award, you can read it here.


Seven Sweaty Statements on a Staple that Never Goes out of Season

Today’s guest blogger is Laura Keiser. As the CIS Site Coordinator for King Westwood Elementary School, Laura knows all about sweating the big and small stuff to make sure kids are connected with the resources and people they need to succeed in school.


Whether it’s wet pants (spilled milk, fell in a puddle, had a potty accident), smelly pants (limited or no access to laundry facilities), or no pants (refused to wear anything but shorts to school in March and realized the error of their ways at recess) – sweatpants do matter. Sweatpants get a bad rap.  This unassuming staple of clothing worn by all those exercising, lounging, or otherwise needing a comfortable pair of pants doesn’t usually make the “must have” list in the fashion & style magazines. But did you know that sweatpants are one of the most important items donated to the CIS Kids’ Closet?  As a CIS Site Coordinator, I give out sweatpants every day to the kids in my school and I see the difference they make in helping our kids attend school every day, all day, with comfort and dignity.  Here’s why we think sweatpants should make the “must have” list!7.  Sweatpants are inexpensive.

6.  Sweatpants are durable.

5.  The elastic ankles keep the bugs out.  (Just kidding!  We wanted to make sure you were still reading.)

4.  They can be pulled over other clothes to be used as an extra layer in the winter.

3. There are no pockets so you can’t sneak stuff to school – like your pet hamster.

2. They are “user-friendly” for younger students – no buttons, snaps, or zippers!

1. And the #1 reason – sweatpants fit a variety of shapes and sizes and both boys and girls.


So please consider being an avid supporter of sweatpants and donate a new pair or two to CIS Kids’ Closet today!



Mother and Daughter Make a Great Team

Jiselle (left) and Janelle Anderson at Champs

Today we highlight Jiselle and Janelle Anderson, one of eight individuals and organizations honored  at the annual Champ Celebration.  CIS Board Member Tony McDonnell, along with Laura Keiser, CIS Site Coordinator at King Westwood Elementary School, presented the award. 

Here are a few words that only begin to describe Jiselle and Janelle Anderson, our first ever mother-daughter duo to receive a Champ award: hard working, giving back, striving to help others, open, caring, friendly, leaders.

Let’s start with fourth grader Jiselle Anderson. Without a doubt, she has embraced the CIS mission, empowering herself to take full advantage of the community resources CIS offers at Lincoln International Studies School. For example, at the start of the school year, Jiselle recognized that she was struggling in math. “I needed to do something about it,” she said. So when her CIS Site Coordinator Shannon Fuller matched her up with retired math teacher and CIS volunteer Mr. Stephen Ohs, Jiselle embraced this support and readily gave up one day of recess each week to focus on improving her math skills.

“These days,” points out Shannon, “it takes a small army to raise a strong and healthy child…and Mr. Ohs is almost a small army in and of himself. Jiselle has taken advantage of his one-on-one tutoring support. She’s improved in math and feels more confident.”

CIS Volunteer Stephen Ohs with Jiselle and Janelle Anderson

Jiselle says, “I don’t count on my fingers anymore thanks to Mr. Ohs. He taught me some neat math tricks.” She is applying her new found success to reach out and help others. “I noticed one of my classmates struggling in math, just like I was,” she said, “I just helped them, the way Mr. Ohs helped me.”

Jiselle’s efforts have not gone unnoticed. Says her teacher, Mrs. Leah Beltran, “Jiselle takes responsibility for her actions. She exhibits terrific leadership skills and sets a wonderful example for the whole class. I truly enjoy having her in my class.” Math and Science Teacher Kendra Kasinger has similar observations. “Jiselle is a very hard working, dedicated student. She is a leader and likes to help others.”

This young leader is flourishing with an army of support: her mother, grandmother, KPS teachers and staff, CIS site team, volunteers like Mr. Ohs, and partners like Girls on the Run.

Her mother Janelle is a Champ in her own right. Mother, as many of you know, is a verb. An action verb. It’s not just who you are but more about what you do. When Jiselle researched Harriet Tubman, Janelle fully supported her daughter’s efforts and was at her side when Janelle shared Harriet Tubman’s biography live on the radio for Black History month. Janelle is there for her daughter, advocating, working closely with both CIS and KPS to assure her daughter has what she needs to be successful. A role model for her daughter, Janelle also makes it her mission to be there for other children as well. For the past three years, Janelle has used her organizational skills to help CIS support important partnerships like Girls on the Run. This year, she is volunteering as a Girls on the Run coach. In addition, Janelle volunteers in Mrs. Hannah and Mrs. LaPonsie’s third grade classrooms to support students in reading. We are especially grateful as Janelle recently took it upon herself to recruit another great CIS volunteer…her own mother, Sharon Wysinga. Sharon is now volunteering in Ms. Howe’s class, assisting students with reading.

“Giving back to the community runs in this family,” says CIS after school coordinator Bonnie Terrentine. “We now have three generations of strong, beautiful women—Jiselle, Janelle, and Sharon—making a difference for students through CIS at Lincoln Elementary.”

Jiselle and Janelle Anderson, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.