Stuff the Bus competition results in new school supplies for Kalamazoo County students

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The 2015-16 school year marks the first in which two school districts in Kalamazoo County partnered with MDHHS’s Pathways to Potential program to host a Battle of the Buses.  Judging from the results, this may become an annual event. 

Nearly a year ago, success coaches in Parchment and Comstock school districts started planning the event, which took place last August.  The goal was to gather much-needed schools supplies and items that many students take for granted, like socks, underwear, and shampoo.  The two districts, which are served by seven MDHHS success coaches, have a disproportionate number of children and families in need because many of those with resources have moved within the boundaries of Kalamazoo Public Schools to take advantage of the Kalamazoo Promise.  Those who could not move often struggle with meeting basic needs.  Once the idea was hatched for the Stuff the Bus competition, it didn’t take long to find a retailer willing to provide a lot for the buses and easy access to supplies.

“Just making a phone call, you can find businesses that want to help schools in their district.  They’re essentially waiting for the call,” said Jason Page, a Pathways to Potential mentor with Kalamazoo County MDHHS. 

And in Kalamazoo County, that business was the Wal-Mart on Gull Road.  “These events are great for the community and help build unity and awareness,” said, Scott Phelps, manager of the Gull Road Walmart. “Whenever you do events in the community, think of us first, not last. We love to help out however we can.”

Both school districts won

Success coaches from both districts, who worked shifts throughout the weekend, were happy with the results. 

“We are thrilled with the amazing turnout for our first Stuff the Bus event. We were able to collect $416 and 13 boxes stuffed with various supplies for Parchment Schools,” said Angela Ladd, success coach for Parchment Schools. Ladd also wanted to extend a special thanks to Jaspare’s Pizza on Gull Road for donating pizza for lunch.  The staff, who hosted the event for eight hours a day over a summer weekend, were very appreciative.

One donor who was more than happy to shop, and load the bus, was Comstock High School principal Josh Cunningham. Cunningham showed up on a beautiful summer day because he is so appreciative of the efforts of Pathways staff throughout the year.  While pushing a cart full of donations, he explained how his success coach, Tracy Beville-Smith, not only helps families meet basic needs but also boosts attendance.

  “The more people involved with a family, the better the outcome,” said Cunningham.

When meeting Beville-Smith, it’s easy to see she loves her job and cares about her students. And, according to Cunningham, she also has a tough love side that gets the kids in the door. “Tracy gets a lot of families to actually call me back. I try and try to reach them, and once Tracy talks to them, they call me back the next day!  She’s the enforcer, but she also supports kids,” said Cunningham (pictured above at right).

Other staff involved in this wonderful event (pictured at right) include: Kathy Schindlebeck, success coach, Comstock Compass High School; Heather Horvath, success coach, Comstock, Northeast Middle School; Dan Isaacs, success coach at three Parchment schools; Juan Ortiz, community resource coordinator, Kalamazoo County, DHHS; Erin Nesen, volunteer, MDHHS; Valerie McNutt, success coach, Green Meadows Elementary; Jill Zonts, success coach, North Elementary; and, Angela Ladd, success coach in three Parchment Schools.

For more information on how you can support students in the Parchment and Comstock school districts, please email us at or click on and scroll down to the Kalamazoo County map to find schools in your area.

This article is one of a series highlighting community partners working with the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services to improve attendance in schools across Michigan.  Through Pathways to Potential, MDHHS has placed success coaches and other employees in over 200 schools across the state. These people work one-on-one with families to identify and remove barriers to children attending school. We are always looking for new partners, volunteers and donors. Visit to learn how you can donate, partner or volunteer.