Community comes together to recognize Champs for students

"Thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life."

That phrase of gratitude echoed throughout the evening as Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo hosted its seventh annual event honoring community organizations and individuals who are helping to create a place where every child fulfills his or her promise.

Champs Awards were given to eight people or organizations, working with Communities In Schools, using time, energy, talent and resources to bring about such a community. About 200 area leaders gathered at Cityscape in downtown Kalamazoo recently to honor those receiving the awards.

The youngest award winner, Kawyie Cooper, stole the show with her words of what being named a Champ meant to her. Kawyle, a fifth grader, has helped with an environmental club, as a mentor to a second grader, and in arbitrating for classmates, having grown to be a leader in her school.

Kawyle told the group she felt proud to receive the honor and excited about the recognition because it showed how far she had come in math, reading and in improving her behavior. She thanked her parents for providing her with food, clothes and a safe place live, but also for providing good examples -- her mother encourages her to do well in school and her father goes to work every day. "If he's going to work every day doing his job, then I should be doing my job every day in school."

Kawyle also thanked her tutors and for the opportunity to work with the second grader she mentors. "When I walk her to the bus, helping her calms me down, and helps her end the day on a positive note."

Her full speech can be found here.

This year's  other Champs are:

• Terri Aman, KPS Executive Supervisor for Transportation

• RSVP through Senior Services Southwest Michigan, CIS Nonprofit Partner

• Jay Gross, KPS Home School Community Liason, Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts

• Consumers Credit Union, CIS Nonprofit Business Partner

• Rosalie Novara, CIS Volunteer Tutor, King-Westwood Elementary School

• Radiant Church, CIS Emerging Faith-Based Partner

• Kawyie Cooper, CIS Student, King-Westwood Elementary School

• Carol Steiner, KPS Principal, Parkwood Upjohn Elementary School

The CIS Board also awarded the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award to Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Services for Kalamazoo Public Schools Barbara Witzak.

This award is named for Western Michigan University President Emeritus Diether Haenicke.

Previous recipients of this award are Dr. Janice M. Brown (2010), former Executive Director of The Kalamazoo Promise;  CAPS-Community Advocates for Parents and Students (2011); Mt. Zion Baptist After School Homework Center (2012); and Greater Kalamazoo Girls on the Run (2013).

Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo is one of 200 CIS affiliates working throughout the country. The groups work to surround students with a community of support, empowering them to stay in school and achieve in life.

Through a school-based coordinator, CIS connects students and their families to critical community resources.
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