by Sonya Bernard-Hollins, publisher
KALAMAZOO (MICH.)- Entrepreneurs have a level of control over their end product.They work on making sure the consistency of their product is the best in order to have the outcomes they need. However, those in the education system have a lot more challenges when it comes to creating a successful “product” student. Those challenges are what Carolyn Williams, co-chair of Community In Schools of Kalamazoo said makes their commitment to student success worth the challenge.
Today (Wednesday, Nov. 6) community members, educators, parents, elected officials, and philanthropists packed the artium of Kalamazoo Central High School auditorium to support the launch of the Promise Me Campaign to fund CIS. Williams, facilitator of the event, opened with words of praise in regards to the efforts CIS puts into its students of Kalamazoo Public Schools. She compared their model of producing great students to one inspired by a conversation she had with the owner of major ice cream factory.
“While the maker of ice cream may have control over the size of blueberries he uses to make his product a success, we enroll all students, of all advantages and disadvantages into our schools. The role of Communities in Schools is to equal the gap of those raw (student) ingredients, and provide them with the right resources at the right time in order to help the students focus on learning.”
Students and parents held large numbers and moved around to reveal the $2, 162,201 already pledged toward the $4.5 million sought over the next three years. In addition, educators came out to give their support of CIS in connection to The Kalamazoo Promise. Those who gave brief, encouraging remarks included: KPS Superintendent Dr. Michael F. Rice, Western Michigan University President John Dunn, and Kalamazoo Valley Community College President Marilyn Schlack; all whose schools benefit by receiving students whose Promise scholarships are accepted. Kalamazoo College
Provost Dr. Michael McDonald also presented words of praise to CIS. Although Kalamazoo College does not qualify as a Promise college, the private liberal arts school supports their efforts. He said that more than 1,400 students of “K” have donated more than 30,000 to the community of Kalamazoo; many of those in the schools.
The goal of the CIS affiliates is to “surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.” To do that they offer services such as dental service, vision exams, eyeglasses, tutoring during and after school, homework assistance, college and career exploration, mental health counseling, food packs, after school dinners, and school-based food pantries in addition to clothing, personal care products, and extended after school and summer programs. According to CIS information, 19 of the 25 KPS schools host a CIS site coordinator.
Community In Schools’ National President Dan Cardinali was also present and congratulated the local CIS for being a role model for the 375 other CIS sites across the country. He announced that the work done in Kalamazoo has led to them being recognized as one of three CIS programs across the country who will be highlighted at an upcoming national conference.
Cardinali said the success of the local CIS is based on the strong relationships the organization has with Dr. Rice, and other educators in the community who are working together to educate children.
“I am here as a learner,” Cardinali said. “What’s happening in Kalamazoo is opening the imagination of what other communities can do. We want to learn from what’s going on here, share it, and help transform education in the United States.”