Putting the Super in intendent, again.

Dr. Michael F. Rice, Superintendent of Kalamazoo Public Schools, speaking to crowd at CIS event

 

This title is resurrected from the post in which third grade students reflected on Dr. Michael F. Rice, Superintendent of Kalamazoo Public Schools. It was a really sweet post and you can read it here.

Some of the very best and talented superintendents throughout the nation (including right here in Kalamazoo!) incorporate Communities In Schools within their districts to  align community resources within the schools to increase our collective impact on children.

Three of those leaders recently spoke about how the CIS model has helped change the picture of education for students in their communities. Hailing from  Thomasville City Schools, North Carolina (Dr. Maria Pitre-Martin), Santa Fe Public Schools, New Mexico (Dr. Joel Boyd), and Richmond Public Schools, Viriginia (Dr. Jana Bedden), these  superintendents give a glimpse into what is going on beyond Kalamazoo. Watch this! It will take two minutes out of your day.

Worth your time, don’t you think?

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Community Conversations on The Kalamazoo Promise®

Are you a Promise recipient?  Are you taking advantage of The Kalamazoo Promise® right now? Did you already graduate? Are you wondering how to get your Promise back?  If you answered yes to any of these questions, what are you doing for dinner tonight?

This evening at the Washington Square Branch of the Kalamazoo Public Library, the first of four community conversations is being held to identify and overcome college barriers for The Kalamazoo Promise-eligible young people who have not yet tapped that opportunity.

Promise recipients—both past and present—are invited for casual conversation and a short presentation. Do you have a success story about the Promise? Or maybe a challenge to utilizing the Promise? Any suggestions for supporting recipients beyond high school? Retention rates at the community college level are the greatest challenge. What ideas do you have that might help?

So….if you are a Promise recipient, past or present, join the conversation.  Dinner and childcare will be provided.

Today, Tuesday March 17
Kalamazoo Public Library
Washington Square Branch
1244 Portage Street
 
Tuesday, March 24
Kalamazoo Public Library
Oshtemo Branch
7265 West Main Street
 
Friday, March 27
Douglass Community Association
1000 West Paterson Street
 
Tuesday, March 31
The United Way
709 S. Westnedge Avenue

All the events are scheduled for 6-8 p.m. RSVP by calling 269.337.0037 or visiting kalamazoopromise.com to confirm which Community Conversation you will attend.

To mark the 10-year anniversary of The Kalamazoo Promise® announcement, more community-wide and national events are planned including a formal November anniversary celebration. Since it was announced, The Kalamazoo Promise® has paid out more than $60 million in scholarship awards, with the first large group of students earning four-year degrees in 2010. Promise students have earned nearly 1,000 degrees and post-secondary credentials.

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A Day Off With a Day On

CIS After School…making beautiful tiles at Art Bayou

I can’t stop thinking about a recent Friday. It was  a no school day for Kalamazoo Public Schools and my son was quite excited by this fact. He loves school but we both were looking forward to the fun day we had planned together.

First on the agenda, a visit to the Kalamazoo Valley Museum. We wanted to check out the temporary exhibition “Kalamazoo for the Union” and then hit the Planetarium showing of Sky Legends of the Three Fires to learn three stories about the night sky from Native American people of western and northern Michigan. After that, lunch out and then a visit to the Kalamazoo Public Library.

As we bundled up to head out, I couldn’t help but think of all the kids for whom a day off from school is a day off from learning, a day off from having a warm meal. You’re a lucky kid, I told him. Some kids don’t get opportunities to do these kinds of things.

Anyway, we came out of “Kalamazoo for the Union,” the temporary exhibit (check it out before it leaves town in May) and started down the stairs. There was a woman, her back to us, talking to a group of elementary students, all standing in line, eager to go into the Kalamazoo Direct to You exhibit of Kalamazoo history. I was impressed by the children’s behavior. My son was impressed by what the woman said. “Mom, did you just hear what that lady told the kids? She told them to touch stuff!”

The woman continued preparing the students, asking them to pay attention to what they would be learning. “Remember to tell us what you learn about. We want to know what you discover!” she exclaimed and sent them, all wide-eyed into the exhibit. At just that moment she turned her head and I realized it was Calli Carpenter, CIS after school coordinator from Arcadia Elementary School! And there was AmeriCorps VISTA Bumeun Lee. Later, at the Science in Motion exhibit, we ran into Youth Development Worker Aleena Robinson and CIS after school coordinator Alexis Arocho from Prairie Ridge Elementary School. Students were busy exploring science through the hands-on exhibits. When we came out of the planetarium show we ran into CIS after school coordinator Jay Gross from Spring Valley Center for Exploration, CIS after school coordinator Phillip Hegwood from Woodward and dozens of others as students sat on the floor, eating lunch, talking and laughing.

Lindsey Westfall, CIS after school coordinator for Northglade Montessori noted that, for a number of students, it was their first visit to the museum; they were amazed that the wonders it held were right in their hometown. What a beautiful thing to behold. Young people from all over Kalamazoo having an opportunity to fully explore all the museum has to offer.

“These school kids are really good,” one parent commented to another as we left. And they were. While I credit the students, I also credit our staff.  Everywhere I turned our kids were being supervised by CIS staff who were calm and positive and the kids were modeling their behavior. Staff had clearly prepared the students before and throughout the field trip so it would be an enriching experience.

When I shared these impressions with CIS Directors of Elementary Sites Elyse Brey and Linda Thompson, I learned that, because so many students (over 200) were eligible to participate in the field trip (to reinforce their 90% or better attendance rate for school day and CIS after school program) the museum was just one location of several. Some students tapped into their inner artist while painting tiles at Art Bayou and others, for the first time ever, sank tiny fingers into bowling balls and unleashed energy down the lanes at Airway Lanes.

Creating more beautiful tiles at Art Bayou

“Thank you for giving us an opportunity to work with Communities In Schools today!” said Art Bayou owner, Palee Haney. “I think the kids had a lot of fun painting their tiles.” They did. As one student said, “It was just so peaceful.”

Tiles students made at Art Bayou

CIS after school coordinator for Washington Writers’ Academy Deondra Ramsey noted that at Airway Lanes it wasn’t just about bowling. “Students had a chance to interact with each other as well as staff on a different level, whether it was bumper cars, bowling, team work with laser tag, or playing together on some of the other games.”

When one student who had never bowled before discovered he loved the sport, DaMarceo Thomas was there to help hone this new found passion. A Youth development worker for CIS, DaMarceo worked one on one with the blossoming bowler, sharing techniques and tips, like proper stance, what pins to target, how to hold the ball, and how much power to put behind the release. “Listening and focusing attention can be a challenge and yet this student listened intently. It was really fun to see,” said Deondra. While most students bowled two rounds and moved on to other activities, he spent over two hours bowling and learning from his mistakes. “The more he played, the better he got.”

I am reminded of what Mickey Ciokajlo, editor of the Kalamazoo Gazette and mlive.com/kalamazoo wrote once, “CIS serves as the glue that ties together and coordinates the many services that we already have available in Kalamazoo.” Kalamazoo is rich in resources. Unfortunately, not every kid is as lucky as mine and able to tap into these resources. But this is what CIS is all about. We have friends, donors, partners, and volunteers who support CIS and allow us to replace luck with opportunity. A day off with a day on.

Even staff got in on the fun! (From right to left) CIS After School Coordinators Jay Gross and Phillip Hegwood, AmeriCorps VISTA Cankeeshia Stegall, Youth Development Workers George Khamis and Bri Fonville

 

 

 

 

 

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CARING ADULT: A LETTER TO MR. MORLEY

CIS Site Coordinator Gerald Brown on far right, standing next to Principal Julie McDonald, CIS After School Coordinator Stacy Salters, and AmeriCorps VISTA Nicholas Baxter.

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. You’ve read about  Principal Julie McDonald’s and CIS After School Coordinator Stacy Salters‘ caring adult. Now it’s time to hear from another member of the passionate, talented, and dedicated team who infuse Edison Environmental Science Academy with hope, love, and learning: CIS Site Coordinator Gerald Brown.

 

Dear Mr. Morley,

Thank you for being such a special person to me. I began working in the Kalamazoo Public Schools for Communities In Schools as a site coordinator. Today we did an activity where we had to rub our hands together until they were warm. Then we placed one hand –the dominant one—over the center of our chest. We also closed our eyes and thought of someone who had a special impact on our lives during our time in school.

You and a few other memorable teachers came to mind, but for you in particular I hold fond memories. I remember the world clock picture we uploaded in class and your kind smile. I appreciate your encouragement and patience in making sure I understood the concepts in your math class.

Forever grateful,

GEB

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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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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