Kalamazoo County Ready 4s

Fred Rogers once said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

Within two weeks of preschools being closed for COVID, it was abundantly clear to our team at KC Ready 4s that the pandemic was going to dramatically affect the lives of our young children as well as the livelihoods of our partner providers. We knew it was essential to bring our network of program directors together to share ideas and resources, to problem solve and, most of all, to listen and help.

After a year of working together in new creative ways and listening to the needs of the early education sector, we knew there was one statistic we could not ignore: Over 75% of our partner teachers had no health benefits. During the pandemic, record numbers of teachers left the field, and we knew this was one way KC Ready 4s could help.

In July of 2021, KC Ready 4s introduced Thriving Teachers Thriving Children, an employee assistance program that provides all of the teachers and staff in 26 of our partner providers access to telemedicine, counseling, a crisis line and wellness resources at no cost. PCCN Preschool Director Laurie Kreg said, “The Thriving Teachers initiative is going to gift our teachers and their families the opportunity to seek necessary health supports that our programs simply cannot afford. It’s another example of how KC Ready 4s continues to not only support young learners in Kalamazoo County but also the programs that are leading the way in high quality early childhood education.”

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Kalamazoo Experiential Learning Center

The Kalamazoo Experiential Learning Center (KELC), together with our college interns, was challenged to find unique ways to gather and create community placemaking while being safe and addressing COVID protocols. Throughout the year, the event team looked at many ways to host events that authentically addressed the activity’s mission while assuring safety in the event execution. Two important programs emerged through this challenge.

First, challenged with how to keep our food truck entrepreneurs sustainable and help our artists find unique and safe venues to perform, we relied on a very strong partnership with the Kalamazoo Health Department and our local municipalities. Together, we identified the needs of the community slowly emerging from a pandemic and protocols that would support the best mix of blending distanced gathering and an authentic feel of community. Unique outdoor spaces provided a fabulous blend where artists could perform in their “pod” and food trucks could offer the unique experience of street food. The funds helped us to host seven Friday Night Food Truck Rallies and 12 Tuesday night rallies with over 5,000 people attending.

Also in 2021, as the neighborhoods slowly emerged from the pandemic, the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety and the Kalamazoo County Sheriff’s Department understood at their core that kids needed to get out of their apartments to safely engage with others in the community. Working to identify pockets of communities experiencing this challenge, KELC and the team of interns popped up five carnival events where kids and officers played, competed and enjoyed winning prizes. Trust was built and kids simply had fun.

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Kalamazoo Literacy Council

Like most educational institutions, the Kalamazoo Literacy Council (KLC) is adapting to the changing learning environment brought on by the COVID-19 global pandemic. During the first year of the pandemic, the KLC had the largest and most diverse range of virtual options for adult learners in Kalamazoo County thanks to the creation of its Virtual Learning Center and Laptop Loaning Program. The KLC also added an outdoor classroom in the Read and Seed Community Garden and Interpretive Learning Center in partnership with Goodwill Industries of Southwestern Michigan to safely provide multi-generational learning options for adults and their families.

Now, the KLC is building a hybrid learning model to accommodate the needs and preferences of adult learners who choose to learn virtually, in-person or in both settings. Despite the challenges and uncertainty, the KLC has continued to successfully lead the Everyone Needs to Read Adult Literacy Initiative, which has strengthened and expanded instruction for adults with low literacy skills in Kalamazoo County since September 2010. This initiative has aligned services across the adult learning continuum from adult literacy, English as a Second Language, Adult Basic Education and post-secondary education to deliver better outcomes for adults who struggle to read.

In total, KLC served 524 adult learners and their families, including immigrants and refugees who have settled in the greater Kalamazoo area in the past year.

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SLD Read

The National Institute of Health reports that an astounding 20% of children entering our schools face signifcant challenges in learning to read. Their research fnds that if these children do not receive appropriate intervention by the age of nine, 74% of them will never close the reading gap.

SLD Read’s vision is a community working together for literacy that empowers all individuals to achieve their full potential. To reach this vision, we: help individuals with dyslexia, learning differences, and other reading challenges to develop lifelong language skills through our multisensory program; assist educators to identify learning challenges and provide training and techniques to enhance their reading curriculum; and increase community awareness and understanding of literacy issues.

We make reading possible through the following programs:

• Testing and evaluation services that assess reading skills and focus areas to determine an individualized plan of action for each student we serve.

• Highly-trained tutors that provide one-to-one tutoring using an explicit, sequential and cumulative, multisensory approach to address key literacy elements. These services are available to parents who come directly to SLD Read. Fees are on a sliding scale based on family size and income. Tutoring is also available through school-based programs that happen during the school day with no charge to the parents or students.

• Professional development courses that help educators to understand reading challenges and incorporate strategies to help all learners succeed in the classroom. Individual educators can attend these courses, and school-building and district-wide trainings are available.

• Community workshops for community organizations, parents, educators, tutors, and students that promote literacy and increase the understanding around struggling readers.

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Read and Write Kalamazoo

Read and Write Kalamazoo (RAWK) exists to support the growth and learning of youth through the cultivation of reading and writing skills. Founded in 2012, we aim to celebrate and amplify youth voices through a variety of programs: summer writing camps, thematic workshops, secret book club, classroom field trips, in-school programs, as well as partnerships with many youth-serving organizations. At the heart of what we do, you will find the published work of our youth: books, zines, magazines, comics, blog posts, and more. The work we do to provide platforms for youth to experience the joy and creativity of writing is one that empowers youth to use their words and be heard. We believe the success of every student relies on an invested community, so we rely on our growing team of volunteers to provide support at all of our programs and events. Addressing equity and access in our community, RAWK offers all programs at no cost to the youth we serve.

In November of 2017 RAWK relocated into the Vine Neighborhood launching our storefront, The Geological & Musicological Survey Co., which serves as an exciting portal to our writing center and publishing hub. RAWK is committed to deepening youth leadership opportunities for our youth in 2018. Freshly formed, the Youth Advisory Council is setting big goals for the year ahead: developing, writing, and editing a magazine with a theme of social justice, a storefront window installation collaboration with local artists, and creating youth outreach/marketing opportunities for RAWK. This summer, we will grow our Youth Mentor Program that will now consist of a Youth Leadership Camp where we train high school youth to be writing coaches and mentors, and then provide them with stipends to work at our summer camps and our themed drop-in writing mornings. Youth-driven programs ensure RAWK remains an effective organization that speaks to the needs of the youth we serve.

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Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency / Education ReConnection: Connecting Students to Education and Career Success

Education ReConnection is an initiative designed and operated by Kalamazoo RESA’s Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU) to positively impact the graduation rates of youth in Kalamazoo County. This program works to reconnect disengaged youth to an established pathway toward secondary school completion. All nine Kalamazoo County public school districts have been critical partners in the program’s establishment, sustainability, and success.

Through YOU, each student has the support of a classroom teacher and is provided a customized learning plan to fit their learning style. These plans use innovative classroom management techniques including flexible scheduling, a year-round calendar, online educational modules, and smaller class sizes that enable more frequent one-on-one interaction. This individual relationship is critical to ensuring a student’s continued participation in school and, eventually, their success in graduating.

Students also have the opportunity to participate in Work Based Learning, a paid work experience offering students an opportunity to earn a wage and learn valuable insights as to what companies’ desire in employees. Post-secondary preparation and guidance, career exploration and placement, advanced training, and career laddering information are all embedded in the program as well, to ensure student success beyond high school.

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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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Kalamazoo County Ready 4s


Kalamazoo County Ready 4s (KC Ready 4s) is a community-designed organization focused on: providing coaching and mentoring to assist local pre-kindergarten providers in achieving and sustaining high-quality standards under Michigan’s Great Start to Quality system; offering tuition assistance to qualifying families so they can afford to enroll their child in a high-quality pre-kindergarten program; and building a sustainable network of public and private pre kindergarten programs. KC Ready 4s’ goal is to ensure that every four-year-old, without exception, has the opportunity to experience a high-quality pre-kindergarten program.

In addition, KC Ready 4s partners with WMU’s Department of Speech Pathology & Audiology and Department of Occupational Therapy to offer speech, hearing, and language screenings, and gross and fine motor development screenings. To engage and empower families, KC Ready 4s offers workshops to strengthen the connection between what happens in the classroom and the home, and also works with school districts to assist children and families with the transition between pre-kindergarten and kindergarten.

Read and Write Kalamazoo (RAWK) / Vine Neighborhood Association


Read and Write Kalamazoo (RAWK) was born of the need for students to have places outside of school to foster their growth as writers and to nurture confidence in their own minds — places that provide positive adult interaction and supportive community engagement from as soon as students are reading and writing, and throughout their time in school. The importance of supplying these supports is plain: not only is literacy essential for success in school and in the workplace, but it also reinforces communication skills and the capacity for healthy lives and relationships. RAWK offers opportunities for building these fundamentals and a means for the larger community to support students in their growth.

RAWK endeavors to foster a culture of literacy with students and their families, and creates an opportunity for local colleges and the greater community to contribute to the success of each student through volunteer commitments and events. RAWK maintains a warm and creative environment, a safe space in which students may express themselves, develop positive relationships with people of all ages, and build self-esteem. Poetry, journalism, fiction, reader’s theater workshops, and classes culminate in publications and live readings, which the students present to the public. Through projectbased learning, small groups, and a low adult-to-student ratio, RAWK offers students an environment free from the pressures of the school setting in which to develop and own their minds and voices.

Kalamazoo Literacy Council

“We believe that literacy for one means change for all.” The Kalamazoo Literacy Council is a nonprofit volunteer tutor organization dedicated to enhancing the lives of illiterate adults through free one-on-one programs designed to develop reading, writing and spelling skills. Through the council’s efforts we hope to also educate the public about the crisis of illiteracy and bring together a community with a common goal of making Kalamazoo County 100 percent literate. For 40 years the KLC has recruited, trained and equipped volunteers to tutor adults in need of literacy services. Currently, the KLC has 186 active tutors assisting 265 adults in need of literacy education. It has established 10 Community Literacy Centers that provide quality adult literacy services at the neighborhood level. It has built a functional community-wide collaborative whose collective work has positive impacts on a local, regional and state level. The agencies of the Adult Literacy Collaborative of Kalamazoo County led by the KLC are serving more than 1,700 adult learners who are reading below the 6th grade level. The KLC is now the preeminent messenger and advocate for adult literacy in Kalamazoo County. In Kalamazoo County, over 25,000 people or 13% of adults cannot read a simple story to a child, an intersection on a map, a prescription label, or total purchases from an order form. They struggle daily to take part in the world around them and fail to reach their full potential as parents, community members, and employees because they lack basic reading skills. To make some demonstrable progress in this area, the KLC and its collaborating organizations have set a goal of collectively reaching no less than 20% annually (approximately 5,000) within three years, with increasing numbers served each year beyond. To achieve this, the KLC launched the ENT-R (Everyone Needs to Read) Adult Literacy Initiative in January 2011 to mobilize new and existing community assets to build a comprehensive system that provides literacy education to adults in the county and strengthens and sustains the administrative and programmatic infrastructure that provides these services.