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WestSouthwest: Communities in Schools looks to eliminate barriers to education

Kalamazoo Communities in Schools


Kalamazoo Communities in Schools has launched a three-year, $4.5-million campaign to fund its operations. 

CIS Executive Director Pam Kingery and the president of the group's board Carolyn H. Williams sat down with WMUK's Gordon Evans to discuss what Communities in Schools does, the Promise Me Campaign and what they can do if they reach their goal. 

Communities in Schools works to remove barriers that might get in the way of students doing well in the classroom. Kingery says that includes tutoring, but also identifying problems such as health that may hinder education. 

Extended interview with Pam Kingery and Carolyn H. Williams - web version

Williams says Communities in Schools doesn't provide services, but helps connect students with groups that provide what's needed. 

Communities in Schools is a national organization, it launched in Kalamazoo two years before the Kalamazoo Promise was announced. Kingery and Williams say the promise has helped engage the community on the importance of support for students in school.

Kingery says Communities in Schools has grown, but it's important to raise the money in this campaign to serve as many students as possible throughout the district. Williams, a retired Kalamazoo County Probate Judge, says in addition to maintaining current services, Communities in Schools also wants to evaluate what it provides, and increase services such as tutoring. 

When asked about unmet needs, Kingery says there's never enough tutors, especially for math. Williams adds that Communities in Schools screens prospective tutors to ensure that they are qualified and can pass a criminal background check. Health, including mental health services is another major need of Communities in Schools in Kalamazoo. 

The national president of Communities in Schools Dan Cardinali was in Kalamazoo for the launch of its campaign. In an essay for the Huffington Post, he wrote about the gathering of representatives from various groups including the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra. Kingery says it shows an understanding that various players have a role to play in education. Williams say the symphony has a long history with education in Kalamazoo. 

Kingery says more than half of the $4.5-million goal has been raised for the campaign. Williams says it is a three year campaign, and leaders expected it to go beyond the first year. 

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