Kokomo-Center Schools Receives $750,000 Grant
Support from more than 15 local and area businesses and community organizations was a key factor in Kokomo Schools being awarded a 4-year, $750,000 “The 21st Century Community Learning Centers” grant. This competitive grant from the Indiana Department of Education allows the local and area partners to form “KOKOMOMENTUM Community Learning Center Consortium” that establishes after-school programming by opening five city centers for Kokomo Schools students.
This program provides funding to communities for academic enrichment to help students meet performance standards in core academic subjects. These centers, which open this fall (2013), are designed to develop and reinforce the students’ school-day work while integrating new experiences that support achievement, especially in mathematics and science.
Parental involvement will be encouraged as site coordinators and volunteers provide high-quality enrichment activities and homework with a critical focus on science and mathematics immediately following each school day until 6 p.m.
“We are hopeful that many families take full advantage of this new opportunity,” Dr. Dawn McGrath, Director of Programs for Kokomo-Center Schools, said. “Initially, we intend to serve at least 100 students across the city on a regular basis. As the program becomes more successful, we plan to replicate and expand the effort.”
According to Dr. McGrath, a family advocate will be available to offer classes for parents, a special education teacher will be available to support individual needs, and a robotics coach will involve groups in Lego League robotics.
“This is not a day camp; it’s not baby sitting,” Dr. McGrath added. “This is an academic experience. This is huge for the children because there is only so much the schools can do during the school day.”
Dr. McGrath thanked her project co-director, Assistant Superintendent Pennye Siefert, for securing commitments from local community partners.
“This community learning center grant provides a wonderful opportunity for our schools to partner with several local organizations,” Mrs. Siefert said. “These partners made an invaluable contribution in the attainment of funding through in-kind services and resources. We are excited that this program is a community project that will provide learning enrichment in mathematics and science for students and families within Kokomo neighborhoods.”
The partner organizations, and some of the contribution commitments made, include: Kokomo Housing Authority (use of Garden Square Community Room and computer lab … Homework Club teacher), Carver Community Center (facility rooms for activity and enhancement resources), United Way of Howard County (networking with 120 community agencies … volunteers … equipment and supplies for neighborhood sites), 4 Community (faculty conference rooms … volunteers), Kokomo Urban Outreach (program promotion … volunteers), Kokomo Chapter of Indiana Black Expo (Neighborhood coordinator … grant writing), Kokomo-Howard County Public Library (staff as volunteers … planning and programming),
Indiana University Kokomo (parent workshops … field trips), City of Kokomo (public transportation assistance … site development and design assistance), Bridges Outreach (staff and volunteer mentors … bus and 15-passenger van for transporting students), Purdue University Kokomo College of Technology (tours … mentors), Andy Mark, Inc. (robotics education and hardware), Community Foundation of Howard County (advisors for assessing outcomes), Purdue Extension of Howard County (science kits … instructional units, volunteers), Neighborhood Community Churches United (volunteers, mentors, promotion and marketing), St. Catherine University Education Department (LEGO League consultation), Center on Education and Lifelong Learning (brainstorming work sessions … evaluation tools and data collection),, and Wisdom Tools/NASA Ignite (professional development for STEM programming).
Mrs. Siefert noted that the support of the community organizations and businesses shows that the program is sustainable and more likely to succeed.
“This consortium is about community investments,” Mrs. Siefert added. “Our partners are essential. These community centers fulfill some of the goals these organizations already had in place, but did not have the resources by themselves.”
Mrs. Siefert thanked the Kokomo Housing Authority officials for providing the site at Garden Square (800 E. Hoffer Street) and the Board at the Carver Community Center (1030 N. Purdue) for use of its facility. The other three learning sites are located at Central Middle School (303 E. Superior Street), Columbian School (1234 N. Courtland Avenue), and Bon Air Elementary/Middle School (2800 Apperson Way North).
“Kokomo-Center Schools embraces these partnerships as we unite in our collective commitment to provide neighborhood programs that will strengthen students’ success, especially in science and mathematics, in the school setting,” Mrs. Siefert noted. “By offering these learning experiences where children live, it allows easy access for students to participate, as well as an opportunity to reinforce community connections and support to families.”
KHS Winter Guard earns 4th at State Finals
The Kokomo High School Winter Guard earned 4th among the 18 squads that qualified for the 2013 Class A State Finals in the Indiana High School Color Guard Association (ISCGA) competition last Saturday (March 23) at Center Grove High School. Saturday’s competition marked the 11th consecutive appearance for the Wildkats in the ISCGA State Finals.
The 2012-2013 KHS Winter Guard featured only two seniors – Head Captain Alyssa Wideman and Senior Captain Mercadise Brown; but because of the special bond among the young ladies on the current squad, the senior pair felt they enjoyed an outstanding season.
According to KHS Winter Guard Directors Deanne Wideman and Jack Pursifull, this group has a chance to turn in a strong performance if each girl simply relaxes and performs at the level they have shown during this season’s performances.
Rounding out the 17-member KHS Winter Guard squad are second-year performers: junior Kara Roe and sophomores Lynne Dang, Kynzee Halter, Allyssa Stone, and Shae Teague; and first-year performers: sophomores Rose Eberhardt and Stephanie Wiles; and freshmen Sarah Cheney, Nia Crowell, Sierra Feitl, Brianna Hunt, Courtney Pardue, Stephanie Reece, Alana Teague, and Kelsey Webber.
In addition to the directors, the leadership team includes: Chad Berkstresser, choreography; Billy Cox, prop design; Todd Wideman, classroom teacher; and John Pinson, band director.
After earning Top 3 medals as freshmen and sophomores, the senior captains said they established their goal of a Top 3 finish immediately after finishing 4th at the 2012 State Finals.
“That was so disappointing after winning medals our first two years,” Alyssa noted with a sigh. “If the girls do what we do best … and that is perform, then I believe we can definitely medal. The top 6 teams are so close this year … score wise, only tenths separate the top 6. If we do our best, we can be right there for the title.”
The keys, according to Alyssa and Mercadise, are “breathing, energy, and staying calm … if we do that, top 3 will be a breeze.”
When asked if qualifying for the state this year was still special after having done so for three years, both seniors did not hesitate to shake their heads affirmatively with a giant smile.
“Definitely special! Even though we have done Guard for so long, it is a different group of girls and a different feeling each time because you make a special bond with each group,” Alyssa explained. “The excitement for our new members who are qualifying for State for the first time makes it special for the veterans, too.”
For both seniors, Winter Guard has become a love affair.
“I love Guard because it gives me chance to express myself,” Mercadise explained. “I don’t say much, but I talk a lot through my dance and spins during a performance.”
“Guard is my life, especially during the competition season,” Alyssa said. “This is what I want to do as part of my life. I hope to join a top-level guard as I prepare to be a teacher. When I start teaching, I hope to have my own guard.”
Being the only two seniors and four-year veterans has created a special relationship.
“I think Alyssa and me have a very special friendship because we have been through so much together,” Mercadise said. “Our friendship gets us through everything. We started at the bottom together and have worked our way to co-captains.”
“When we were 8th graders, I convinced Mercadise to try out for Guard, and we have been best friends ever since,” Alyssa explained. “We have a special bond, and I feel like we have become big sisters to the other Guard members.”
As captains, Alyssa noted that one of their responsibilities is recruiting.
“Each year, we go to the middle schools and perform our routine, and then we have an opportunity to talk to the 8th graders,” Alyssa explained. “Yes, it is hard work, but we try to help them understand that Guard is a high school class. We work, but we have fun, too. We are so close because we have after-school parties and pool parties. We form a small family, and we treat each other like sisters.”
The senior duo did not hesitate to explain WORK had to be involved since a competition routine is approximately 5 minutes of non-stop movement as they are “spinning, jumping, leaping, throwing flags, spinning, throwing rifles, rolling on the floor, and spinning rifles.”
Alyssa and Mercadise agreed this year has been special because “the newbies have truly stepped up which has solidified a special bond through great team chemistry.”
“We have a great deal of respect for each other,” Alyssa explained. “We have not seen a lot of drama or tension among the Guard members this season. Our work ethic has definitely improved and that’s why we believe we can medal this year.”
Karisma claims 8th at State Finals
NOTE: Featured in the two photos accompanying this story are the 14 Karisma seniors, while the action photo shows junior Julian Fort taking the lead, while seniors Telisha Davis, Danny Jackson, Taylor Keller, and Leah Coy provide backup.
The Karisma Show Choir earned an 8th-place finish in the Mixed Division of the ISSMA State Show Choir Competition March 16th at North Central High School. Kokomo High School Choir Director Cherresa Lawson said the Karisma Singers performed well.
“Karisma gave KHS its all, and that’s all we can ask,” Ms. Lawson added.
After qualifying for the first time in Kokomo High School history, the Karisma Show Choir earned the opportunity to perform as a State Finalist in the Mixed Division of the ISSMA State Show Choir Competition.
According to Karisma Director Cherresa Lawson, the Indiana State School Music Association (ISSMA) began conducting the State Show Choir Competition in 2005. One of Karisma’s current choreographers is KHS graduate Brent Holland, and Brent said he was a member of the high school show choir in the 80’s. When the KHS show choir began performing as Karisma is pre-Ms. Lawson.
Ms. Lawson and her 14 senior performers agreed on two major issues: “Hard work pays off” and “We are a family”.
“No words can express the feeling of joy that I experienced after officially being notified that Karisma had made the State Show Choir Finals,” Ms. Lawson explained. “This is historic for Kokomo High School. These students have worked so hard this year. I have had some wonderfully talented students in the past, but the senior leadership in this year’s group propelled this ensemble to the next level.”
After noting that this honor earns these students the distinction of being among the most talented performers in Indiana, Ms. Lawson talked family.
“I love these kids … they are my extended family,” Ms. Lawson said. “I must thank my parents for their support, and for allowing me to work with their children.”
During a brief intermission at a 3-hour rehearsal this week, several of the seniors shared some of their thoughts and feelings about being the first show choir to earn ISSMA Show Choir State Finalist honors.
Arnold Stone: “This group is extremely special. This year, the energy level moved to a new place, and I believe that’s why we are making school history. I’ve been in Karisma all 4 years, and I’ve learned so many things about myself through show choir. I’ve met some amazing people and they have changed my life. Ms. Lawson is an amazing director who teaches more than music on a daily basis. Being in show choir grows self-confidence.”
Leah Coy: “That was the greatest feeling in the world when we learned we were the first to qualify for State. We have worked so hard. I remember our freshman year when we didn’t win anything … even though I still had a great time. The seniors are my family. We all have stories … each of us was broken in some way along the way but we kept mending each other. This year, we came together. I am not sure what I will do without Karisma next year.”
Telisha Davis: “Karisma is family … we are not just a group who meets for 50 minutes on the weekdays for class. On competition Saturdays, we are together from 3 or 4 in the morning until who knows when … especially if we are doing well. These seniors are like my brothers and sisters. I trust them with my life. Ms. Lawson is a great teacher and Rachel Bates has been a great mentor. I feel so blessed to be part of this group. This shows that hard work really can pay off … we earned this, and now we want to place at State.”
Peair Richardson: “To be the first to qualify for State is very humbling. I know some of the talented people who performed with Karisma before us that didn’t qualify. That makes this a special honor … especially for the 14 seniors. This proves that anything is possible if you stick with it and work hard. Qualifying for State was no accident … many long hours were involved. Spending so many hours together has created a special bond that I believe will last forever.”
Mallory Thomas: “I am so proud of each and every member of the group because we worked so hard. We are a big family. Karisma is more than singing to us. This is our passion and during the season, Karisma becomes our lifestyle. Karisma is our love.”
Other Karisma seniors include: Kierston Brisker, Danny Jackson, Drake Johnson, Taylor Keller, Emily McDaniel, Brycen Morgan, Taylor Reynolds, Angela Walker, and Jessica Zook.
Leah Coy noted that she is excited to watch the younger singers in the group carry on the tradition because they are so talented.
Junior Taleah Thurman explained that the seniors’ passion inspired the younger performers.
“I know the seniors are like a big family, and I know how hard they have worked for this honor,” Taleah said. “That made it more special for me, too. We hoped and prayed … but we worked hard, too.”
Freshman Calista D’Agostino added that this show choir season has been the best time of her young life.
“Recently, Karisma has been my life … It will be so hard to see the seniors leave since we are so close,” Calista said. “This is a big happy family. I love Karisma.”
Other members of the Karisma family include: juniors Anne Balsbaugh, Julian Fort, Sydney Glassburn, Courtney Hileman, Lateshya Jackson, and Kyla Kirby; sophomores Marita Barber, Kaleb Brown, Neona Burton, Sunnih Flores, Jaez-Shadey Jones, Rachel McDaniel, Imani Morgan, Ky-Rael Snow, and Sierra Yard; freshmen Jacob Farkas, Cristiana Tate-Price, and Austin Young.
During the season, Ms. Lawson noted that Karisma won a nice trophy for being named Grand Champion at the 2013 Lawrence Central Classic Show Choir Invitational Competition.
Ms. Lawson also wished to thank Karisma’s assistant choreographer Joe Sato and the Musicians, including: Billy Cox, drums; Fred McClung, synthesizer; Robby Hampton, sax; Ed Zlaty, trumpet; Suze Reynolds, bass synthesizer; and Cherresa Lawson, piano.
KHS Debate team adds to legacy
This school year’s Kokomo High School Debate team continues the corporation’s illustrious legacy and competitive history by qualifying 4 senior debaters for the Nationals at Birmingham, Alabama in June. For good measure, Max Mohr is a First Alternate for the Nationals.
For 3 of the 4 – seniors Thomas Jiang, Morgan Mohr, and Riley Vyain – this will be their third trip to the Nationals, while classmate Chris Santucci makes his second appearance at the national event. Santucci, though, will compete in two events.
Chris qualified for the second year in a row in Congressional Debate and he will compete in Congressional Senate. He also partners with Riley for the second season in a row in Varsity Policy.
Thomas and Morgan also partner for the second season in a row in Varsity Public Forum after an impressive Top 18 finish at Nationals in 2012. Morgan previously qualified for Nationals in Policy Debate, while Thomas qualified as a sophomore in Public Forum with a different partner.
Waiting in the wings is sophomore Max Mohr, Morgan’s younger brother. According to KHS Debate Coach Jenifer Scott, Max still has a good shot this year of competing at Nationals in Congressional House.
Coach Scott believes this senior quartet is special.
“I am certain all National Debate Qualifiers are worthy of their titles, but I must assert that these four individuals are the most driven, knowledge-seeking, passionate students that I have had the pleasure of coaching,” Ms. Scott said. “Each of these individuals is in the top 15 academically, which makes debate practices very stimulating and thought-provoking. They encourage each other, but they also challenge each other. They truly are a team.”
In between competitive remarks, this senior quartet of National Merit Scholars thanked their supporters.
Thomas, who scored a perfect 2400 on an SAT (perfect in all three categories … Writing, Critical Reading, and Mathematics) this past fall, considers debate an amazing extracurricular activity.
“I appreciate the support Debate receives at KHS. Without Debate, I could never have hoped to achieve what I have done academically,” Thomas said. “I wish to extend my thanks to my coach, Ms. Scott, and my teammates, as well as my parents, who continually support me.”
Thomas’s partner, Morgan, agrees, but issued a challenge to other Public Forum finalists.
“No single activity has contributed more to my intellectual development than Debate,” Morgan explained. “Without the help of Ms. (Chris) Stepp and Ms. Scott, I may not have uncovered the worlds of Policy and Public Forum. Without my outstanding partner Thomas, I could not have earned Top 18 in the Nationals last year. This year, we travel to Birmingham to win.”
Chris knows Debate has made a difference.
“I consider Debate to be the one activity that I have participated in during high school that will be useful all my life,” Chris noted.
Chris’s partner, Riley, wishes more students would take advantage of Debate.
“I truly believe that Debate is an activity that any, and all, high school students can benefit from,” Riley said. “The topics we research are some of the most pressing and pertinent issues of our times. Debate gives us a chance to utilize our critical thinking skills.”
Very true, according to Ms. Scott, who explained these Debate categories.
Public Forum is a monthly topic resolution where students debate current events in 45-minute rounds. The “current” resolution that Thomas and Morgan debated to advance to Nationals was: “Resolved: On balance, the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Committee harms the election process.”
Public Forum debaters must create and defend both affirmative and negative arguments. A flip of a coin decides which side the debaters will defend. For Nationals, Thomas and Morgan must research a new topic.
Policy Debate is a year-long topic where students research a national problem and define a solution; and then, in the debate round they determine the benefits and disadvantages of said solution in 1½ hour rounds. This year’s resolution: “Resolved: The United States Federal Government should substantially increase its transportation infrastructure investment in the United States.”
Chris and Riley, with help from volunteer coach Ms. Stepp, developed a case to improve the sub-standard transportation infrastructure on Native American land. Chris and Riley will defend this case at Nationals.
Ms. Scott has high hopes for these National qualifiers in the future.
“I look forward to watching these senior debaters graduate and make their impact on the world,” Ms. Scott said. “I know with certainty that if they approach life anything like they approach debate, their influence in the world will be epic!”
Kokomo Schools adds Kindermusik
The Kokomo-Center Board of School Trustees approved the addition of Kindermusik to the corporation’s curricular offerings during its regularly scheduled meeting Monday (March 4, 2013). Kokomo-Center officials began considering the addition of Kindermusik after being contacted by current teacher Raye Jean Swinehart, who is moving out of state this summer after providing these services to the Kokomo community for the past nine years.
According to Kokomo-Center Superintendent Dr. Jeff Hauswald, Kindermusik will be independently funded by the parents who enroll their children.
“Kindermusik fits nicely into our arts curriculum, and will prepare a foundation for students who select to apply for Kokomo-Center’s integrated arts school, the international schools, and many other programs,” Dr. Hauswald explained. “I am excited to be able to add another quality fine arts program to our growing and successful programs.”
Kokomo High School Band Director John Pinson also is excited to see the Kindermusik program continue in the Kokomo community.
“I am very thankful to Mrs. Swinehart for her services. Kokomo-Center plans to continue offering the same quality instruction the children received from Mrs. Swinehart,” Mr. Pinson explained. “I hope parents want their children to be involved at an early age. We have a century of research that shows the benefits music has on brain development and motor skills, especially for children under the age of 5.”
This music and movement program for toddlers, preschoolers, and young children is the world’s leading provider of music-based education. The developmentally-specific program, which offers a curriculum based on Kodaly, Suzuki, and Orff models, is taught by educators trained in these methods.
Wallace School of Integrated Arts Principal Charley Hinkle believes music and movement are wonderful vehicles for early childhood development, as well as learning, while this combination matches the approach to instruction at the arts school.
“Through music, children may benefit from language development, pre-literacy, and word recognition. Through movement, children increase their fine-motor, gross-motor, and loco-motor skills,” Mr. Hinkle explained. “This program also develops the whole child by learning sharing, self-regulation, and self-control.”
The timing is right, according to Mr. Hinkle, because Kindermusik will be an outstanding foundation for students considering the Integrated Arts school.
“The growth of the Integrated Arts program has necessitated the hiring of a second classical violin instructor for next school year,” Mr. Hinkle said. “That violin instructor also can take the Kindermusik duties, which adds to the enrichment of the arts that Kokomo Schools continues to encourage and develop.”
Dr. Hauswald noted the Kindermusik courses would be open to children, ages 18 months to 7 years old with three categories: fundamental music for children 18 months old to 3; basic music instruction for preschoolers, ages 3 to 5; and instrument instruction for students, ages 5 to 7. Sessions, which will be taught by a trained Kindermusik instructor, will be offered in the morning, as well as late afternoon after school, at the Wallace School of Integrated Arts and the Lafayette Park International School.
“I believe this program will provide a strong foundational base, including early literacy, quantitative reasoning, social-emotional skill development and physical skill development through this creative and engaging educational environment,” Dr. Hauswald said. “Kindermusik is a logical first step for many parents and students since it provides a core foundational music and movement experience.”
Mr. Pinson believes this is a logical step forward for Kokomo Schools and the community.
“Through the hands-on Kindermusik curriculum approach, I believe parents will see benefits in student learning, coordination, and listening skills,” Mr. Pinson added.
Kindermusik classes begin August 2013 at Kokomo-Center Schools, and applications are available online at www.kokomoschools.com. All spots are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. This program is open to all children in the greater Kokomo area. Costs for the program range from $120 to $150 per year per participant. This cost includes all instruction, materials, and supplies. For additional information, please contact Wallace School of Integrated Arts Principal Charley Hinkle at 454-7095.
Click here for the online application.