A Look Back at Kickoff
Updated: Sep 30
Each year Communities In Schools of Eastern Pennsylvania (CISEasternPA) wraps up their summer by welcoming our site professionals back from the summer months for a three-day training that we lovingly call “Kickoff”. This is an opportunity to gather together to share best practices, agency news, and to team build with one another. This year, Kickoff was held August 16-18th at Kutztown University.
This year’s training was extra special for two reasons. First, because of the Covid-19 pandemic–this year was the first time since 2019 that the agency was able to gather in-person for this annual training. Second and most importantly, we were joined by Communities In Schools founder, Bill Milliken!
Joined by his wife Jean, Milliken delivered the keynote address to the audience of nearly 100 site professionals and administrators. He shared stories of the early days of CIS–then called Cities In Schools–as well as interacting with those in attendance. “You have to turn kids on to living, before you turn them on to learning,” remarked Milliken–referring to the importance of one-on-one relationships with students.
Milliken also shared his connection to the Lehigh Valley which dates back to the 1980s when CIS trainings were held at Lehigh University as a part of the "Iacocca Institute." However, most of the message focused on the importance of advocacy for social justice. He reflected on how CIS has sought to help construct legislation to get more support in schools — a process that took decades of diligent work to just "get a seat at the table." Following the keynote presentation, Bill and Jean Milliken participated in a Q&A session where they answered questions that were submitted by our site professionals.
“We are very grateful for the support of Bill & Jean Milliken,” said CISEasternPA President and CEO, Tim Mulligan. “Having them both join our annual professional development week allows our site professionals to learn firsthand about the decades of work that have gone into the mission of CIS."
Throughout the next two days, site professionals attended various professional development training sessions. Highlights included, LGBTQ+ Allyship led by Lehigh Valley Health Network, Courageous Conversations led by Promise Neighborhoods of the Lehigh Valley, and Dangers of Vaping by the Council on Chemical Abuse-Berks.
Showcasing the talents of our CISEasternPA team was a focus of the Kickoff committee. There was an opportunity for employees to submit a proposal to present at Kickoff. Lower Macungie Middle School site coordinator Jenn Csordas led a session entitled Motivation Through Mindful Movement. Our staff learned self care techniques using movement, and the power to live in the moment regardless of what is going on around you. There was a session focusing on social-emotional learning led by program manager Erin Phillips. Participants the power of connection with students and families and how to enrich those relationships.
On the final day of Kickoff, our site professionals participated in a resource fair. Fifteen agencies from the Lehigh Valley and Berks County came together with the purpose of connecting with one another with the purpose of providing students with the resources that they need to be successful. The participants included: Aevidum, Capital Blue, Center for Humanistic Change, Community Action Lehigh Valley, Council on Chemical Abuse-Berks, Crime Victims Council, DaVinci Science Center, Greater Berks Mental Health Alliance, Lehigh Valley Health Network, National Association for Mental Illness, New Bethany Ministries, Northampton Community College-Fowler Center, Pratush Sinha, Safe Berks, Shanthi Project, Valley Youth House and Volunteer Center of the Lehigh Valley.
The week concluded with a picnic lunch at Kutztown Park where staff were able to play yard games, eat food and enjoy each other’s company. It was fitting that we spent the week learning at Kutztown University. We learned about our organization, we learned about ways to improve our work and we learned more about each other. We are always looking to continuously improve the ways in which we connect with the communities that we serve. Kickoff is a great reminder of the important work that we do with students and families. At CISEasternPA we truly pride ourselves as being #AllInForKids.