“Look at this!”

Three beautiful words, especially in the context of VISIT THE ZOO, Kalamazoo College’s Office of Admission program that gathers admitted (but undecided) students together during three special campus visits in April.

For Heather Haines, Class of 2003, the second AT THE ZOO last month was an opportunity to say and show “Look at this!” to Nakeya Boyles, potentially a member of the Class of 2016, depending on her decision. (She’s also been accepted at Colorado College, Spelman College, and the University of Southern California, among others.)

Heather and Nakeya have much in common. Nakeya grew up in Chicago, near the southern shores of Lake Michigan; Heather was born and reared in Traverse City, on the south shore of Lake Michigan’s Grand Traverse Bay. Both come from working class families and are first generation college students—Heather the first of her siblings to attend, Nakeya the third.

And both share a high school. Nakeya is a senior at Perspectives Leadership Academy (PLA), a charter high school (450 students in grades nine through twelve) located in Chicago’s south side, and Heather is PLA’s principal.

Heather’s journey helped inspire Nakeya’s decision to apply to K, and then visit. In turn, Heather’s journey was deeply influenced by service-learning, beginning with a first-year work study as a tutor and classroom aide at Woodward Elementary School.

For her sophomore fall term, Heather participated in the Philadelphia Center, which included an internship and case management work at Congreso de Latino Unidos. Her work in Philadelphia stirred Heather’s desire to learn more about the Spanish language and big city living.

She did her study abroad in Ecuador and focused her Intercultural Research Project teaching pre-school children of impoverished families who relied on scavenging dumps to eke out a living. As a result of this experience, Heather added education to her growing list of subjects (like Spanish and urban living) that warranted additional exploration.

By now she’d determined her major would be anthropology and sociology, with a concentration in public policy and urban affairs. Her thirst to work in schools she helped satisfy through programs at the Mary Jane Underwood Stryker Institute for Service-Learning. She became one of the Center’s first Civic Engagement Scholars which provided her broad leadership responsibility in the Amigos Program. That program paired high school students from immigrant families with college mentors.

“I was struck by how easily those students were ignored in their high school setting,” said Heather, “and I was amazed how the service-learning institute empowered us to look at a social issue and then do something about it.” These insights and the opportunity as a CES to organize and train some 30 college mentors had a profound effect on Heather’s life after K.

She was accepted into Teach for America (TFA). She completed her TFA practice teaching in Los Angeles and then returned to Philadelphia for her two-year assignment. She taught middle school English at a public school in the city’s Olney area.

“It was one of the most challenging experiences in my life,” Heather said. “In too many teachers I saw the desire to do good get strangled by an inexorably rising tide of negativity. And I learned that preserving and nurturing that desire required great work in the classroom combined with great administrative leadership.”

After her TFA
"Service-learning empowered us to look at a social issue and then do something."
experience in Philadelphia, and consistent with her love of big cities, Heather moved to Chicago and taught at a Knowledge is Power Program (KIPP) charter school that went out of business but nonetheless provided Heather more experience and lessons in the critical symbiosis between classroom teaching and effective school administration.

She took a teaching position in middle school English at Perspectives Middle Academy, part of the Perspectives Charter Schools of which PLA is a part. Soon she was serving in the position of Instructional Leader, training other teachers, and during two consecutive summers working on a M.S. degree in School Building Leadership at Columbia University. Residence in New York City constituted her fifth (including Quito, Ecuador) living experience in a large urban area. Her favorite of the five? “Chicago,” she says. Perhaps it’s the proximity of a Great Lake.

Heather has been school principal at PLA for two years and, like Nakeya, has a deep affection for the school. Student and principal share similar study abroad experiences (Nakeya traveled to Costa Rica for six weeks last summer) in that each featured a strong service-learning component.

And, who knows, perhaps they’ll soon have an undergraduate alma mater in common. Regardless of how that decision turns out, they did share a wonderful April visit based on an exciting: “Look at this!”

Photo - Perspectives Leadership Academy (PLA) senior Nakeya Boyes (left) and PLA Principal Heather Haines ’03 journeyed to the K campus together for a VISIT THE ZOO admission look-see (Nakeya is considering K as one of her college options) and for Heather’s participation in the Center for Career and Professional Development’s Professional Development Institute. (Photo by John Lacko)

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