Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo & Fontana Chamber Arts/Third Thursday Jazz

Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo & Fontana Chamber Arts / Third Thursday Jazz

Hot summer nights, great jazz, and Bronson Park are the winning combination that the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, Fontana, and the City of Kalamazoo have created for their Thursdays in the Park — Mix & Mingle series. In its second year, this series welcomed jazz greats for lively, interactive experiences targeted at a younger, non-traditional audience, jazz that Kalamazoo has never before experienced in a summer outdoor concert series in Bronson Park.

World-renowned jazz guitarist, vocalist and band leader John Pizzarelli opened the season. Featured on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” and “Letterman”, Pizzarelli’s utterly cool and resonant sound wowed Kalamazoo with a standing-room-only performance (thanks to a summer thundershower!) at First United Methodist Church. It may have rained outside but there was hot jazz in the house. Kalamazoo native and local icon, singer and songwriter Nat Zegree brought screaming fans from tweens to seniors out to Bronson Park on a picture perfect evening in July. Performing a combination of jazz and contemporary favorites and work from his debut album, Zegree had the audience on their feet (and on the Rotary Stage) as part of a high energy performance. Possessing confidence, oozing with charm and an amazing voice, it was easy to see why Kalamazoo loves this favorite son.

Closing out the series in August was master drummer Herlin Riley. A regular at Jazz at Lincoln Center, Riley has recorded with artists such as George Benson, Dr. John, Harry Connick Jr., and toured with Wynton Marslis. Riley’s sound is timeless — a sound that has at its foundation the various musical styles that make the New Orleans sound unique. It’s gospel, it’s the blues, it’s the sound of celebration, the sound of life. He left Bronson Park pulsing with soul and celebration.

Watch for another great Thursdays in the Park series in Bronson Park. You won’t want to miss it!

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Communities in Schools of Kalamazoo

Communities in Schools of Kalamazoo

Communities In Schools overcomes the barriers that derail kids, giving them hope and the belief that they can succeed in school, graduate, and be prepared for life.

But how can a single organization working alone serve the needs of 9,310 students? It can’t.

That’s why Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) taps the talents of more than 550 volunteers and works together with more than 90 community partnerships to deliver the services and resources students need to address the needs of the whole child.

In America, 1.2 million students drop out of school every year. CIS uses a proven model for reducing dropout rates and increasing graduation rates. Kalamazoo is part of a powerful, collective approach for communities to respond to needs of students.

This unique model positions CIS site coordinators inside 20 Kalamazoo Public School buildings to assess students’ needs and provide resources to help them succeed in the classroom and in life. CIS site coordinators literally bring the community, and all the ways it can help, into the school. This is how CIS surrounds kids with whatever it takes — from tutors and food assistance to health services and college visits — so they can start strong and keep moving forward.

Children — some facing overwhelming obstacles — are succeeding and taking advantage of The Kalamazoo Promise. Every day, people choose to be part of an engaged community so that every child fulfills his or her promise. Together, we are igniting hope and belief in thousands of kids.

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Community Healing Centers/Coming Together: A Community Conference on Addiction and Recovery

Community Healing Centers / Coming Together: A Community Conference on Addiction and Recovery

In 2007, Community Healing Centers set a goal to bring community members together “To enhance public and professional knowledge, understanding and attitudes toward persons suffering from addictive disease.” We believed that, with this knowledge and with community conversations, we could reduce the stigma associated with addiction and help more people receive treatment. This was the beginning of the Coming Together Conference on Addiction and Recovery.

Each year since, nationally recognized speakers, authors, and actors have come to Kalamazoo to share their expertise and stories to help educate and inform the community while enhancing conversations about addiction and recovery. The Specialty Program in Alcohol and Drug Abuse at Western Michigan University has been a partner in this conference from the beginning. In 2011, the Drug Treatment Court Foundation joined as a partner, and throughout the years, other local businesses and foundations have become supporters of the project.

Presenters have included Dr. Claudia Black, Sis Wenger, Dr. Robert Ackerman, William Cope Moyers, Martin Sheen, Earl Hightower, Mark Lundholm, Dr. Carlton Erickson, Dr. Carlo DiClemente, Dr. Robert Zucker, Dr. Lisa Najavits and Dr. Jeannette Johnson. Our conference and community event have a great reputation in the field and presenters are pleased to be a part of this.

Each year, the Coming Together Conference on Addiction and Recovery includes a community event that is free and open to the public and an all-day conference for professionals and community members that offers continuing education units for various professions. Community Healing Centers is proud of the growth of the conference, and especially of the community conversations that have resulted from it.

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Ecumenical Senior Center

Ecumenical Senior Center

In 1982, Arthur and Edna Carlson of Chicago retired and moved to Kalamazoo, where they observed a need for a program to help elderly African American seniors in the community with financial support. In 1983, after sharing their concerns with their priest at St. Augustine Cathedral, the church’s outreach committee created the Ecumenical program. Ecumenical means unity and the uniting of organizations, individuals, and churches, and the program aims to help seniors truly embrace this definition. The initial goal of this program was to enhance the seniors’ self-esteem with dignity and respect, and to deliver services to make their lives better.

In 1992, the Ecumenical Senior Center (ESC) was established by the Carlsons at 702 N. Burdick St. with funding from the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation, the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, the Dorothy U. Dalton Foundation, the Raskob Foundation, and support from St. Augustine’s Cathedral, Mt. Missionary Baptist Church, and St. Thomas More Parish.

Twenty-four years later, the ESC is still operating strong. Over the years, ESC has broadened its focus to include comprehensive resource and referral, health and welfare, and nutritional services, as well as successfully maintaining operations as an activity center. In 2012, ESC leadership implemented a strategic plan that promotes positive giving, enhances an improved quality of life, and increases collaborative
partnerships within the Kalamazoo community.

In the fall of 2013, ESC leadership hired a new executive director, Dr. Denise M. Washington. Dr. Washington’s leadership platform is based on providing the most optimal services for senior clients (55+, handicapped and/or disabled) while maintaining a “home away from home” environment.

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Kalamazoo Astronomical Society/Astronomy Day

Kalamazoo Astronomical Society /Astronomy Day

Every spring thousands of astronomy clubs, museums, and planetariums around the world celebrate Astronomy Day. Its purpose is to bring science alive for the entire community through educational displays, hands-on activities, special presentations, and sharing the splendors of the night sky. The Kalamazoo Astronomical Society (KAS) has been holding its day-long Astronomy Day celebration annually since 1997. Our free event, aimed at families with school-aged children, is intended to widen knowledge and appreciation of science, particularly the field of astronomy.

KAS Astronomy Day features day and evening activities. Daytime activities have been held at a variety of partnering organization locations throughout the Kalamazoo area such as the Air Zoo, Kalamazoo Valley Museum, and the Kalamazoo Nature Center to reach as broad an audience as possible. Solar observing is a popular activity, allowing attendees to safely observe solar phenomena such as sunspots through member telescopes. Displays highlight member astrophotography, light pollution, and our exploration of the solar system and universe. One of Astronomy Day’s feature attractions, hands-on activities, provide a fun learning experience for our key audience: children.

Evening activities are hosted by our program partner, the Kalamazoo Nature Center. Our Astronomy Day Keynote Presentations have featured many renowned astrophysicists and educators, including astronomer and author Phil Plait, retired astronaut Story Musgrave, Caltech astronomer Mike Brown, and SETI scientist Jill Tarter. Astronomy Day wraps up under the stars at our observatory, located on the grounds of the Kalamazoo Nature Center. Guests observe craters and mountains on the Moon, the rings of Saturn, distant galaxies, and much more.

KAS Astronomy Day has garnered many awards and is a four-time winner of the Astronomical League’s “Best Event” in the medium population category; more than any other organization. We have also won their “Quality Event Year After Year” category on three separate occasions. The KAS is proud to promote science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education throughout our community.

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Kalamazoo Center for Youth and Community

Kalamazoo Center For Youth and Community

The Kalamazoo Center for Youth & Community (KCYC), located in the Eastside and Eastwood neighborhoods, has over 400 students currently enrolled. KCYC relies on a collaborative partnership “surround the child” approach, providing a variety of evidence-based programming. Youth may become a member at the Boys & Girls Club at Northeastern Elementary (where Kalamazoo Public Schools provides indoor and outdoor space and dinner for all who attend), or they can drop in for the CHAMPs after-school program, located at the Eastside Neighborhood Association, where staff offer homework help, social-emotional skill building, and experiential learning activities.

KCYC teens can participate in Speak It Forward’s “Speak With Fire” program, where they develop confidence in speaking about the challenges they experience in their lives, or in the Accelerating Student Athletes Progress (ASAP) program, which combines individualized academic tutoring support with collegiate level basketball skill coaching.

Eastside students with high risk indicators for dropping out are enrolled in KCYC’s intensive Check & Connect program, where they are assigned a mentor and may have focused interventions at the Cheff Center (equine therapy), the Eastside Boxing Club, or even attend a local martial arts program.

Some of the youngest students who struggle academically are enrolled in KCYC’s acclaimed Individualized Student Services program, which includes occupational therapy provided by Western Michigan University to help in understanding their personal learning styles, and individualized reading tutors provided by the SLD Read organization.

KCYC also offers Math FUNdamentals, a program with individual tutoring and group activities aligned with the Common Core curriculum. Students with a high interest in STEM (grades 2 – 6) may be selected for KCYC’s new EASEL program, a summer science and arts classroom that joins forces with organizations such as the Kalamazoo Nature Center, Southwest MI Land Conservancy, WMU’s School of Medicine, and you just might find a local
scientist dropping by!

KCYC provides staff training, cross-program student data, and continuous improvement evaluation to all its collaborative partners — creating transformation on the Eastside.

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Kalamazoo Civic Theatre/Theatre Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo Civic Theatre / Theatre Kalamazoo

In the fall of 1998, meetings between the leaders representing the Civic, the University Theatre of WMU and Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College catalyzed the establishment of a collaborative consortium of theatres in Kalamazoo County (Theatre Kalamazoo). The mission of the consortium is simple: To promote the diversity and richness of the many theatre offerings in Kalamazoo, and to foster a spirit of cooperation and support among the theatres in order to benefit all.

Over the past 16 years, with the support of the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation, the organization has grown to include the Black Arts & Cultural Center of Kalamazoo’s Face Off Theatre, Center Stage Theatre, the Civic, Fancy Pants Theater, Farmers Alley Theatre, Festival Playhouse of Kalamazoo College, The New Vic Theatre, Queer Theatre Kalamazoo, All Ears Radio Theatre, WMU Miller Auditorium, and WMU University Theatre. Due to these collaborative efforts, Kalamazoo benefits from more diverse theatrical seasons.

Consortium members promote other member-theatre’s productions in printed programs throughout the season. This consistent effort and presence increases awareness amongst current and potential patrons. Members of the consortium have access to update Theatre Kalamazoo’s website (which includes a calendar of all member events) and social media pages. The consortium also works to promote member-theatre events by having a presence at festivals and events such as the KIA Art Fair, Kalamazoo Pride, and the Black Arts Festival along with more traditional means of marketing. And, during the Annual New PlayFest, Theatre Kalamazoo’s signature event, messaging and graphics are created and provided to all theatres to distribute to their own audiences for consistent messaging and brand recognition of the event and of Theatre Kalamazoo as a whole.

Nearly 125,000 tickets were sold for productions at Theatre Kalamazoo member-theatres during the 2014 – 2015 season. It is the goal of Theatre Kalamazoo to strengthen each theatre as well as enhancing the cultural life in greater Kalamazoo by promoting the arts and enriching our community.

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Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra/Kids in Tune

Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra / Kids in Tune

Kalamazoo Kids in Tune is an orchestra, an after-school program, and as the students love to say, a family. A high-energy, musical family! Students spend four afternoons per week together learning to play instruments and jumping right into big symphonic music, including themes by Beethoven, Dvorak, Mahler, and the students’ all-time favorite, Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition. Major musical works are central to the program philosophy of inviting even the youngest musicians to share in the beauty and power of great orchestral music.

KKIT is a unique cross-sector collaboration developed by Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra (KSO), Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS), and Kalamazoo Public Schools (KPS). The program is free to the 85 participants, students in grades 1 – 6 at Woods Lake Elementary: A Magnet Center for the Arts. The partnership relies on the expertise of each agency. KSO provides the curriculum, professional instructors, and instruments through local and national grants. The site framework is funded as a 21st Century Community Learning Center through CIS, providing a site coordinator, after-school coordinator, youth development staff, transportation, and enrichment options, and additional individualized services such as food packs, health and mental health services. KPS provides facilities, evaluation data, access to KPS busses and federal meal program, and band instruments.

KKIT program days are filled with music lessons, orchestra rehearsals, and clubs of choice, bookended by a daily nutritious meal and supported homework time. Embedded mindfulness work helps students learn healthy observation, reflection, and kind self-evaluation skills, all critical to making musical learning fun and transferrable to academic learning. A six-week summer program keeps students playing and practicing with their KKIT family through the break.

KKIT students are not just excelling musically — they are missing fewer days of school than their peers, turning in completed homework more regularly, and re-enrolling in the after-school program at a rate of 90%.

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Open Roads Bike Program

Open Roads Bike Program

Open Roads is a youth development program that teaches social skills and bike mechanic skills to youth in order to better prepare them for their future. What began with four kids and two adults in a classroom at Kalamazoo College in 2009 is now located in the newly-revitalized Riverview Launch and has grown into dozens of programs offered around Kalamazoo. Young people in our programs can build and earn a bicycle, learn to make repairs, gain leadership and vocational skills, and so much more. Instead of telling youth what not to do, with Open Roads they are told what is expected; they are taught how positive behavior looks and sounds, and are acknowledged for demonstrating it. We focus on five simple ideas we call our ROADS expectations: R — Respect, O — Own your actions, A — Attitude counts, D — Discipline, S — Safety.

We collaborate with other organizations and schools in order to reach youth most in need of skill-building after-school programming. This year we are excited to join forces with the Kalamazoo Nature Center and Read and Write Kalamazoo for new summer Earn-a-Bike camps. We will also be helping youth at the Kalamazoo County Juvenile Home, Lakeside Academy, and Comstock High School complete our Earn-a-Bike Program. Finally, we will resume our weekly summer Fixapalooza bike repair clinics with the Vine Neighborhood Association and Peace House.

We are proud of every young person who has earned their own bike and gained new skills through hard work and commitment. It has been a fantastic journey. In the coming year we are focused on creating a community full of safe, active, and healthy young bicyclists with a wide range of social, leadership, and vocational skills.

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United Way of the Greater Kalamazoo and Battle Creek Region/Kalamazoo Youth Development Network

United Way of the Greater Kalamazoo and Battle Creek Region / Kalamazoo Youth Development Network

“What do we want?”


“When do we want it?”


This was the rallying cry at the first community-wide “Lights On Afterschool” event, coordinated by the Kalamazoo Youth Development Network (KYD Network) and attended by over 200 school-aged youth and 75 youth-development professionals on September 21, 2015. The Lights On Afterschool rally, intended to increase awareness of and support for the out-of-school time (OST) sector in Kalamazoo, provided youth with the opportunity to talk about what after-school and summer programming means to them and to receive a proclamation from the City of Kalamazoo recognizing the importance of OST programming.

The Kalamazoo Youth Development Network serves as an intermediary organization to the OST sector in Kalamazoo County. Our vision is that all Kalamazoo County youth are college, career, and community ready by 21. We achieve this by ensuring all Kalamazoo County youth have access to high quality, youth-driven, diverse, inclusive, and equitable OST programs.

Over the past 18 months, KYD Network has transformed from an information-sharing group to a collective action movement. KYD Network is dedicated to collaboratively building a sustainable OST system so that all youth have the opportunity to identify their interests and assets, explore community resources that align with their passions, and gain the skills necessary to become successful adults.

KYD Network provides training and technical assistance, along with networking opportunities, to the entire OST network in the county (approximately 45 organizations) and works directly with 20 youth-development organizations that engage in the Youth Program Quality Intervention (YPQI), an evidenced-based continuous quality improvement system created and managed by the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality. These 20 organizations also participate in our Social Emotional Learning (SEL) initiative, based on the Devereux Center for Resilient Children’s approach to social-emotional learning. The organizations we collaborate with include a number of Irving S. Gilmore Foundation grantees and serve children and youth, ages five to 21.

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